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Suck It Down, Blockbuster!


December 14, 2004 10:37 PM PST

Blockbuster is going to drop late fees so that they can compete with Netflix. This move will cost them around $300 million US each year.

Now for a local take...

When I lived in Bellevue, I used to go to the Blockbuster across from the Wendy's right near GoAhead. Very convenient. But it sure felt like there was a late fee scam going on. It seemed that every single time I went there, someone in line ahead of me was being charged late fees. Most people feign a bit of indignance, then cough up the dough because there is usually a long line and they don't want to embarrass themselves arguing over over a few bucks. The system is designed to use social pressure and people's general discomfort of arguing to charge them an additional few dollars.

But this happened so often that I suspect that there was something else going on. So I made sure to never ever return movies late to see what would happen. Eventually, while renting a movie, I got the tap: "You have unpaid late fees..."

Thought to self: "HERE WE FUCKING WELL GO!", like an enraged Bigby in Trainspotting: pulls out knife, carves clerk's heart out of chest, and shows still beating organ to clerk with a witty, "No, I don't, actually."

Back in the real world, though...

I made a bit of a scene claiming that I most certainly did not have late fees. They gave me that deer in the headlights look and shrug and the infamous line, "... but the computer says..."

Oh. The computer says, does it? Well, those fancy computers are never wrong, are they?

The drone made me wait while they called up the floor manager (another, slightly older teenage drone) that gave me the same routine about the infallible computer, and all the while not one of them looked me in the eyes. I persisted in my claim and they eventually gave in. The manager drone said that they'd let it go this time, but that they made a note of it in the computer.

[ Side note: the way the people in the service industry refer to these 386 terminals, it's as if it was some all knowning vengeful deity, laying random smite upon the masses... ]

This was all done with a boatload of people standing behind me, making me feel like both a criminal for keeping a movie overtime, and a cheapskate for arguing about it.

I could never prove any conspiracy, and really, without the access to the actual source code running on THE COMPUTER, you'd never know if they were attempting to scam people by claiming their movies were late when they were actually returned on time. It would be so easy for someone to do if they were so inclined... choose:

Now add to the above, the fact that Blockbuster makes $300 million each year from overdue fees! Starts to look a little suspicious, doesn't it?

I now avoid Blockbuster at all costs and I use Netflix, but even that seems a little ridiculous: delivering digital content (DVDs, Games) on a physical media through the mail! Uh, hello! Internet, anyone?

Comments (2)
john, December 15, 2004 12:26 AM:

He he, that Bellevue Blockbuster is evil. I only ever used it once to rent a few games for an Xbox party. After hearing the rumors of their evil tricks I made them scan them back in in front of me the next day and all was well. But almost a year later they called me up on the phone saying I owed them some insane amount for a movie that was 30 days overdue. I tried to remain calm as I explained to them that not only had I NOT ever rented the movie in question (from them or anyone), but I lived 30 miles away and had only ever used their store once about 12 months earlier. After I turned the tables on the discussion asking the clerk what the Better Business Bureau would think of them allowing random people to use members accounts without so much as a membership card or ID, I got to speak to the manager. When I pushed him to produce a receipt with my signature on it proving I had rented the movie, he backed off and offered to add a note to 'request ID' on my account. I countered that it would be even better if he just deleted my account all together as I would surely never set foot in that store again.

Bryan, December 15, 2004 02:43 PM:

Even this latest move is a scam. The deal is that you get an extra week grace period after which they will charge you to buy the movie or game. They are presenting this as getting rid of late fees, but really you just get a little more time before they charge you a lot more.

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