Until December 21, Blockbuster is giving a free in-store rental for each Netflix address flap you bring to a Blockbuster store. The part of the Netflix mailer that you normally throw away can now be used as a coupon for a free rental.
To take advantage of this offer, you will need to have or sign up for a free Blockbuster store membership. The free rentals are subject to normal rental terms.
Click here to learn the details.
When you return your online rental DVD to a store, the store will give you a free in-store rental and open a new slot in your queue, allowing a new online rental DVD to be shipped the next business day.
The obvious advantage of the Total Access program is consumer choice. You now have options for obtaining and returning DVDs. You can now use whatever method best fits your viewing plans.
Click here to learn more about the program.
Blockbuster is currently testing in-store drop-offs for online DVD rentals in Colorado Springs. The Same Day Movie Guarantee program allows Blockbuster Online subscribers to return their online rentals directly to the local Blockbuster’s checkout counter and receive a free in-store rental in addition to the standard rentals awarded through weekly or monthly coupons.
There are some drawbacks to the Same Day Movie Guarantee program: 1) You have to go into the store to make the exchange. 2) You will have to return to the store to drop-off your in-store rental. 3) Blockbuster wants you to allow up to two extra business days for the returned DVD to clear your queue.
The advantage to this program is versatility. You may choose to return your online rental to the store or send it through USPS. With every DVD, you will be able to return it based on your convenience and movie-watching plans.
The program is currently available in the test market, which encompasses twenty stores in the Colorado Springs area.
What do you think of the new design?
Note: If Blockbuster wants to hide this beta site from the public, they may deactivate this URL at any moment.
This was a particularly nice feature for those old or rare DVDs that often ship from remote distribution centers. Even though, USPS does not deliver mail on Sundays, they do transport mail 24/7. On a Saturday, Blockbuster could ship one DVD from your local distribution center and another DVD from a remote shipping center, and both DVDs could arrive on Monday. With Saturday shipping, Sunday was like a free transit day for those long distance shipments.
Unfortunately, the benefits of weekend processing no longer exist. Presumably to save on postage, payroll, DVDs, envelopes, and other overhead expenses, Blockbuster has stopped processing DVDs on weekends. They now ship only Monday through Friday.
What does the end off weekend processing mean for you? The answer is your turnaround times will increase in some situations, and Blockbuster has reduced the maximum number of DVDs you can watch for your subscription fee. Essentially, Blockbuster subscribers are now paying the same price for less service. Do not be surprised if Blockbuster continues to cut subscriber benefits in order to boost profit margins.
The $14.99 price was guaranteed only through January 31, 2006. Blockbuster quietly extended the plan for a couple of months, which was probably a measure to retain charter subscribers while Blockbuster attempted to lure them into voluntarily modifying their plans to take advantage of the four-per-month rental coupon deal that Blockbuster launched during SuperBowl XL.
As a charter member, you will still have the option of using your two free monthly rental coupons for games; however, if you make any changes to your plan, you will most likely lose the right to use your coupons for games.
Be sure to check your account information on Blockbuster’s Web site to determine your next billing date. If you think $17.99 is too much to pay for your Blockbuster subscription, you can cancel your service before your next billing date at www.blockbuster.com. Make sure to notify Blockbuster that you are canceling due to the price increase.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco and is likely to launch the biggest legal battle yet in the DVD-by-mail industry.
Online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. on Tuesday accused Blockbuster Inc. of illegally copying its ideas in a patent infringement lawsuit challenging the video store chain's recent Internet expansion.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, focuses largely on the online wish lists that prioritize the DVD desires of about 5.4 million people who subscribe to either Netflix or Blockbuster's Internet service.
Netflix also believes its patents cover perhaps its most popular feature -- the option of renting a DVD for an unlimited time without incurring late fees.
Read the full article here.
“Netflix Sues Blockbuster for Alleged Patent Infringement”
The concern is over what Blockbuster intends to do with this shipping data from subscribers. Blockbuster claims to be using this data to improve shipping times; however, Blockbuster could also use this data for negative purposes. Since rapid delivery of DVDs can actually have a negative impact on Blockbuster’s profits, subscribers have a right to be suspicious of Blockbuster’s motives. Is Blockbuster actually striving to decrease shipping times thereby allowing subscribers to rent more DVDs, or would Blockbuster rather increase shipping times to limit the number of DVDs a subscriber can watch each month?
Have you received shipping surveys from Blockbuster Online? If so, did you respond? How did you respond? Since the day of your response, have you noticed any changes in the speed of your Blockbuster Online service?
Blockbuster customer support via email began to show a noticeable decline in mid-2005. Currently, the email support system has deteriorated to a point where it barely serves an actual purpose beyond handling only the most routine problems.
If you have contacted Blockbuster Online via email in recent months, you have probably received overly generalized, boilerplate solutions that might leave you wondering if a real person actually read and understood your inquiry. It appears that the customer service associates are just glancing at customer inquiries and then pasting catchall solutions for the responses.
If your account problem happens to be a very basic issue, Blockbuster’s standard solutions might be somewhat helpful; however, if you have a problem that is slightly out of the ordinary, you will be hard-pressed to get it an appropriate response or solution from Blockbuster. If your account problem does not fit the common templates, you will probably have to send multiple emails to Blockbuster over multiple days to get a solution that actually solves your problem.
When you contact Blockbuster via email, you may receive a follow-up email asking you to critique the assistance you received. The comments will be recorded through a Web-based survey that takes a couple of minutes to complete. Make sure to always fill out those service quality surveys from Blockbuster. Currently, this is your main weapon against bad customer service at Blockbuster.
If you receive good or bad customer service from Blockbuster, make sure the company knows. Hopefully, Blockbuster will use your submitted data to weed out worst of the customer service representatives that answer customer inquiries.
Given that Blockbuster’s email support is currently so terrible, it is recommended that you call Blockbuster Online Customer Service directly at (866) 692-2789. For some unknown reason, the Blockbuster employees manning the telephones seem to be much more motivated to solve problems than those behind the keyboards.
Apparently, Blockbuster did test throttling at one point, but decided to discontinue the program in 2005. Perhaps, they realized the repercussions from angry throttled customers exceeded the financial benefits of throttling.
Blockbuster left little wiggle room with their official statement on the issue. Shane Evangelist, Senior Vice-President and General Manager for Blockbuster Online, stated, “Blockbuster Online does not throttle. When we say our service offers unlimited rentals, we mean it."
With such a bold statement from Blockbuster, the company had better not dabble in throttling again at a later date. If they do, Shane Evangelist’s quote will certainly come back to haunt the company. The subscribers are watching, and this is one of those “Read my lips. No new taxes” moments.
Blockbuster Online Press Release
To date, Blockbuster Underground has found nothing that points to a practice of throttling. Even though Blockbuster Online frequently takes one or more extra days to turnaround some high-demand and unconventional titles, there have been no trends of unusual activities, delayed check-ins, or increased processing times.
The slight delays for high-demand and unconventional titles would seem suspicious; however, Blockbuster has always had problems getting these titles delivered the next business day, even for new subscriber accounts. The fact is Blockbuster Online was extremely slow when the service started. They gradually moved up to being a little slow, and they never progressed beyond that. Perhaps Blockbuster Online is now benefiting from the very low standards and expectations they created at the beginning.
At this point, Blockbuster Underground has found no evidence of applied throttling at Blockbuster Online, but this situation is being monitored closely. Any new information will appear here as soon as it can be verified.
Blockbuster’s current Terms of Service allows them to throttle heavy users much like Netflix does. If Blockbuster gets caught throttling, they will suffer the same wrath that Netflix is experiencing now but only worse. The backlash will be worse for Blockbuster, because hatred for Netflix goes back only about two years. People have been hating Blockbuster for over a decade. People love to hate Blockbuster, and this will give them another perfectly justifiable excuse to bash the company.
It is simply astounding that, after Blockbuster spent all of 2005 trying to rebuild their corporate image, they would even think about taking a chance on something that could do irreparable harm to their reputation. If Blockbuster Online gets caught throttling, and the general public catches wind of it, there is going to be major trouble among its customer base.
It is true that throttling is a profitable practice, because it limits losses and focuses customer service on the most profitable subscribers, but the issue here is corporate good faith. People do not like to be tricked, especially when money is involved. Yes, Blockbuster can get rid of their most costly subscribers by throttling them, but those subscribers are going to tell everyone, and the word will spread. Even the light and moderate users are going to feel less than enthusiastic about paying for an unlimited rental plan that is filled with limitations.
Here is the section of Blockbuster’s Terms of Service that allows them to throttle users.
Selection and Allocation of Product.
BLOCKBUSTER Online will automatically ship titles to you, up to your maximum number of outstanding BLOCKBUSTER Online Rentals, from and in the order that you have listed in your rental queue, subject to availability. However, BLOCKBUSTER Online reserves the right to determine product allocation among members in its sole discretion. In determining product allocation, we use various factors including, but not limited to, (i) the historical rental volume for each subscriber, (ii) historical number of outstanding rentals relative to a maximum number of outstanding BLOCKBUSTER Online Rentals allowed under a subscriber's plan, and (iii) the average rental queue position of BLOCKBUSTER Online Rentals that have shipped to a subscriber in the past.
At this point, it is unclear if and how Blockbuster intends to apply throttling measures, but the company needs to be very clear about it before they earn the same reputation Netflix has now. Blockbuster’s Terms of Service suggests that Blockbuster Online might reserve more popular titles for its more profitable users. What is unclear is whether Blockbuster intends to actually limit the number of DVDs a subscriber can receive through the use of common Netflix throttling tactics like remote shipping locations and processing delays.
Rest assured that Blockbuster Underground is keeping a very close eye on throttling at Blockbuster. If Blockbuster Online begins throttling, the events will be chronicled here for the world to see.
Subscribers who were getting twenty-four coupons per year will now be able to receive fifty-two, which more than doubles the annual total of coupons awarded previously. The obvious advantage to the weekly coupons is many more store rental opportunities. This disadvantage is that subscribers will have to make four roundtrips to Blockbuster stores to use all of the coupons. (Subscribers using the two monthly coupons need to go to a Blockbuster store only once per month.)
Subscribers on the one-out plan will not be able to use their weekly coupons for new releases; however, subscribers on the other plans will be able to use their weekly coupons for any movie.
It is important to note that each weekly coupon expires at week’s end. Also note that if you currently use your in-store rental coupons to rent games, you do not want to make any changes to your Blockbuster plan. If you switch to the weekly coupon plan, you will permanently lose the option of using your coupons for games.
Answer: Very quietly.
Apparently, Blockbuster Online quietly added a few Playboy titles to their lineup sometime prior to the end of 2005. Currently, only R versions of these Playboy titles are available for online rental; however, Unrated editions are available for online purchase.
You can find these titles by searching for Playboy on Blockbuster’s Web site.
This is probably a marketing test. If the Playboy titles rent well, Blockbuster will certainly consider adding more. If there is a public outcry over Playboy movies being available at Blockbuster Online, Blockbuster will probably retreat and blame the moral lapse on some unlucky underling.
What do you think? Should Blockbuster Online offer Playboy titles?
The $14.99 price guarantee ends on January 31, 2006. Do not be surprised to see your monthly fee go up to the current standard price of $17.99.
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