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Minyan Mailbag: Blockbustin' My Chops


Gosh dangit!


Minyan "Boot" Hill writes:

Hi Jeff, we just cancelled our Blockbuster (BBI) on-line subscription. We've done both Netflix (NFLX) and BBI and must say Blockbuster wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The bonus in-store movies each month are a big plus - as long as you don't have to drive far.

I do want to red flag BBI's policy of charging you the full cost of the movie if you're late returning it. They bang your credit card (if you hold a movie for more than 14 days, in my case it cost $24.95) but then, upon returning the flick, they give you a credit not on your credit card but rather on your Blockbuster account, good only toward future rentals!

Did buy a $5.00 gift card off one of the other customers, he saw I had the Motorcycle Diaries and I guess he thought I would understand his immediate need for cash - or at least bond over our cross country experiences. It was just a trade but it left me feeling somewhat squirrelish to give up dollars today for a future movie. Then again perhaps each store has an employee posing as a down and out cash starved vagrant.


Minyan "Boot"

Minyan "Boot"

Call me a spiritual New Yorker but you don't seem nearly angry enough about this fake "No Late Fees" thing.

I've expressed my ire on Blockbuster more than once but every time I think I'm done I get a note like this and I have to start anew. Allow me some observations; you may draw freely from them as needed to build up your own, much needed, sense of outrage:

  • They charged you full retail price for a movie you rented then allowed you only a store credit. You expressed a specific desire to not purchase this item. That's why you endured Blockbuster to rent (not buy) the movie.

Because you kept the movie for 15 days (and let's just say you couldn't return it because you were in New Orleans, helping clean up, and maybe saving some people, for the sake of more clearly casting you as "Good" and BBI as "Bad") you were charged an inflated retail price then informed that your only recourse, should you choose to once again express a "Rental" preference, was to trade your movie for Blockbuster wampum (good only in trade for overpriced candy and popcorn).

  • Blockbuster has spent much of '05 complaining about the absence of cash-flow created from "ending their late fees policy." As your note demonstrates, they still very much have a late fee. They simply book it less (by making the cut-off 14 days) but charge you much more (again... $24.95?!) and it becomes a retail sale.

  • Blockbuster then goes on their conference calls to whine about the absence of late fees. To keep the call positive they then direct investor attention to the growth in "retail sales." I'm going to make an educated guess and suggest that your $24.95 got recorded as a retail sale already or, at best, will be booked as such when you exchange your credit for one of those trash-bag-sized Skittles they keep at the checkstand.

I don't think that was a cash-starved vagrant you slipped $5. I think it was the Ghost of Blockbuster Shareholders Future.

(I'd link that reference to a related movie but I'm guessing you can't find it at Blockbuster and I don't want to frustrate anyone).


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