Since then, Blockbuster has shown signs of experimenting with multiple delay tactics, but the Wednesday shipping delay tactic seems to be emerging as one of Blockbuster’s favorites ways to limit the flow of DVDs to some subscribers.
It appears Blockbuster Online has decided to ship few or no DVDs to at least some subscribers on Mondays and Tuesdays regardless of whether or not the subscribers have open queue slots. This delay tactic makes Wednesday the first normal shipping day of the week for some Blockbuster Online subscribers. Therefore, an affected subscriber could have all of his or her online DVDs checked in by Blockbuster on a Friday afternoon and possibly not see any replacement DVDs shipped out until Wednesday of the following week. Because of transit times, the affected subscriber would not actually receive those DVDs until Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or later.
At this point it is unclear if Blockbuster uses its Wednesday shipping delay tactic on all subscribers or just the heavy users. Regardless, there is a clear trend that Blockbuster is not shipping DVDs to at least some subscribers on Mondays and Tuesdays even though those subscribers may have had multiple open slots in their queues for days.
This Wednesday shipping scheme is the most flagrant and egregious delay tactic employed by Blockbuster since the company began its DVD-by-mail service in 2004. Look for Blockbuster to take more shifty courses of action as it continues to squeeze profits from its shrinking customer base.
If you have had any experiences with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday shipping at Blockbuster Online, please share your experiences here.
Eventually, Blockbuster came to town. The store was bright, clean, and spacious. They had thousands of titles on the shelves. They were well organized, and everything was easy to find. Best of all, they carried dozens of copies of the most popular new releases. At last, you could have it all, and it did not even cost much more than Mom and Pop’s Video Gallery.
As time went by, the customers of Mom and Pop’s Video Gallery started defecting to Blockbuster, and Mom and Pop started feeling the squeeze of a shrinking customer base and declining profits. Since Mom and Pop did not understand economics, they tried to make up for the reduction in revenue by charging their small loyal customer base more money. It worked in the short term, but the loyal customers eventually stopped coming. One day, you drove by Mom and Pop’s Video Gallery and saw a sign that read, “Closing Sale - All Movies 50% Off.” A month later, the store was closed.
It was then you noticed Blockbuster was the only place around to rent movies. It was okay, at first, because Blockbuster had everything, and the prices were reasonable. Things began to change, however. Blockbuster started raising prices and started getting very strict about polices. The counter clerks started getting more aggressive, apathetic, hostile, and dismissive. It was not long before you realized that Blockbuster was the only game in town, and you were at their mercy.
Things got bad, and they just kept going down hill. You turned in some movies late and got hit with some hefty late fees. A Blockbuster employee forgot to scan one of your returned movies, and you were forced to pay for it. One time, your friend returned your movie for you and accidentally returned it into the wrong Blockbuster. As a result, Blockbuster charged you a ridiculous amount of money for transferring the movie back to the correct store. It was then you realized you hated Blockbuster.
You were not alone in your hatred for Blockbuster. Millions of customers across the nation had shared your experiences, and the resentment began to build. One by one, customers began to swear off Blockbuster forever. Some disgruntled customers started driving across town to one of the few remaining independent video rental stores, others starting just buying movies, some began returning to the theaters, others began subscribing to pay-per-view and premium cable channels. The vanishing customers, hurt Blockbuster, but Blockbuster’s market share was so tremendous, the company found it easy to make up for lost revenue by increasing fees on its remaining customer base.
The big change finally came in late 1990s. The newly created DVD-by-mail industry finally gave movie fans access to more movies, for less money, with more convenience, and fewer headaches. It took a few years, but Blockbuster began to feel the pain as DVD-by-mail companies began to spring up and chew away at Blockbuster’s once overwhelming share of the video rental market.
Perhaps the threat of obsolescence caused Blockbuster to have a change of heart, because the company suddenly started being nice again. Blockbuster store clerks started being friendly, helpful, and understanding once again. In 2004, Blockbuster launched their own DVD-by-mail service: Blockbuster Online. They eventually allowed online customers to exchange their online rentals for free in-store rentals. The company ended late fees. Blockbuster offered an excellent value, and customer service was pleasant. In short, Blockbuster was a pleasant place to rent movies, and people started realizing they did not hate Blockbuster anymore. Blockbuster basked in the goodwill of its customers for a while, but they must have realized happy customers are not necessarily profitable customers, because Blockbuster gradually began to return to its nasty ways.
With little or no warning, Blockbuster began hiking prices for existing online subscribers, reducing or eliminating in-store rental coupons, limiting in-store exchanges, etc. Blockbuster’s online (email-based) customer service has become an abysmal disgrace. Blockbuster keeps changing pricing structures and policies. Title selections in the stores have been shrinking for much of 2008. Availability of titles online has become a farce, and Blockbuster Online’s bafflingly bizarre shipping policies are placing considerable limits on subscription benefits. Most recently, Blockbuster reneged on their pledge to end late fees. Soon, we will probably see the Blockbuster store counter clerks once again become aggressive, rude, and rigid toward customers.
The root of all of this bad behavior is money. Blockbuster is a publicly traded business, and they are obligated to generate profits for shareholders. Unfortunately, Blockbuster has not managed to find a way to be profitable while keeping their customers happy. Blockbuster is obligated to pursue profit, but its customers are not obligated to supply that profit while tolerating the company’s disregard.
We used to hate Blockbuster, but they managed to be nice just long enough for us to stop hating them. Now, things are changing, and Blockbuster is beginning to show a renewed disdain for its customers. It’s not too late to get those feelings back. Maybe it’s time to start hating Blockbuster again.
Blockbuster has partially stayed alive by offering an online service comparable to Netflix. Like Netflix, Blockbuster’s online service is not very good and has angered numerous subscribers with dishonest business practices. The online service has proven to be a flawed venture for Blockbuster and will probably be discontinued or significantly overhauled at some point.
Blockbuster’s final hope for survival has been their online stores. Independent video rental stores have been scarce for several years now, so Blockbuster has been one of the few place people can visit to personally rent DVDs. Redbox may be the company who is about to change that.
Redbox (www.redbox.com), a company started in 2002 by McDonald’s Ventures LLC and now equally owned by Coinstar, poses a tremendous threat to Blockbuster’s stores. Redbox is a network of over 10,000 DVD rental vending machines (or kiosks), which are located at McDonald’s restaurants and drug stores around the nation. The vending machines are normally accessible 24 hours per day, every day of the year. They offer mostly new and recent releases for $1 per night. Basically, anyone with a credit card can go find a recent DVD at any time of the day for just $1.
The one thing Blockbuster had going for it was allowing for people to spontaneously rent new releases. Redbox offers the same option in more locations, with better hours, and at a much better price. Why would anyone drive four miles to rent The Dark Knight for $3 to $5 during rigid store hours, when one can simply drive two miles to rent the same DVD for $1 any time of the day?
If Blockbuster management is even remotely competent, they have begun plans to install competing DVD vending machines all over the country. If Blockbuster is not in even competition with Redbox by the end of 2009, Redbox and similar companies like The New Release (www.thenewrelease.com) and DVDPlay (www.dvdplay.com) are likely to tear into Blockbuster’s market share and drive the company down the road to obsolescence—a trip that is long overdue.
Blockbuster has been renting out video games for years, and this always made sense, because there are not many game rental places around. Blockbuster’s move toward retail game sales, however, is puzzling. Many, many major retailers sell video games and gear, and it appears Blockbuster hopes to compete with these retailers. Some of these retailers are very big players. Why would Blockbuster want to sell products, which are readily available at stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc. for low prices? Furthermore, Blockbuster is competing with untold numbers of online retailers who can offer the very same products at lower prices, low or no shipping charges, and no sales tax. Since most gamers are very computer literate, ordering games online is second nature to a large portion of them. What makes Blockbuster think they can compete in such a competitive arena, and why would anyone buy video games and equipment from a big corporation with tiny retail stores?
There is a more complex long-term marketing problem here. If Blockbuster happens to get their movie rental customers hooked on video games, these new gamers will have less time and money to spend on movies. A movie-buying consumer will probably become bored with a $20 DVD after watching it for about four hours ($5 per hour of entertainment), but today’s video games are so advanced and complex, a person could easily spend a hundred hours playing a $50 game before getting bored with it ($0.50 per hour of entertainment). Why would Blockbuster want to convert movie customers who might spend $5 to purchase an hour of entertainment to gamers who are probably used to paying $0.50 for an hour of entertainment? The problem is even worse when looking at rentals. A movie watcher who wants to rent twenty hours of entertainment will need to rent about five DVDs. If that person becomes a gamer, one game rental will easily fill twenty hours with entertainment.
Blockbuster’s video game outlet transformation plan just does not add up. Blockbuster may be greedily going offer the booming market of video game sales, but they may be shooting themselves in the foot. Blockbuster needs to retain the movie fans who have been keeping them in business all these years, and Blockbuster certainly has no business competing in a market, in which they are way out of their league.
The daily rentals are less expensive than the weekly rentals, but both rates come with extra charges for each day the renter keeps a DVD beyond its return date. The weekly rate gives the renter a few extra days to return a DVD, but since it costs a couple of dollars more, choosing the weekly rate is effectively the same thing as choosing to prepay late fees at a discounted rate.
This most recent pricing structure is essentially a return to Blockbuster’s original pricing structure where customers rented videos for short time periods and then paid late fees when the videos were not returned by the deadline. The only significant difference is that the new structure effectively allows customers to pay their late fees in advance. The old late fee structure is one of the main things that customers used to hate about Blockbuster. It seems that this new structure also has the potential for angering customers who are not diligent about returning videos on time.
The good news is that Blockbuster’s new pricing structure is fair, in that it allows customers who wish to rent DVDs for only one night to do so at a lower price while still allowing others to pay more to keep DVDs for days. The bad news is this structure presents a significant problem for Blockbuster. A few years ago, Blockbuster spent a lot of time and money bragging about the end of late fees. If late fees were so awful a few years ago, how are they perfectly fine now? Certainly, many customers are going to see through this hypocrisy.
Another problem with this new pricing structure is that it reveals a considerable problem at Blockbuster. Blockbuster has made several major changes to their pricing and policies over the last five years, and they can just not seem to find a structure that is both attractive to customers and also profitable. Furthermore, the frequent changes at Blockbuster make rental prices and policies seem arbitrary and capricious. At some point, Blockbuster’s customers are likely to get fed up with all of the changes and seek out more stable and consistent alternatives for video rental.
For example, Blockbuster Online subscriber, Bob returns all of his DVDs to a Blockbuster store on Monday night. Even though Bob will have three empty queue slots for Tuesday morning shipping, Blockbuster might ship just one DVD to him on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Bob will still have two empty queue slots, but Blockbuster may ship only one DVD to him on that day. Finally, on Thursday, Blockbuster may get around to shipping out a third DVD to Bob.
This is not how the Blockbuster shipping system is supposed to work. Blockbuster is supposed to ship DVDs to you the day after you return each DVD. Blockbuster is not supposed to let your queue slots sit vacant for days at the time. Just because they try to appease customers by trickling out DVDs one at a time, it does not mean Blockbuster is released from the obligation to fill empty queue slots.
This rationing of DVDs is yet another way Blockbuster is trying to deceive customers into believing the company is living up to the obligations of their plan. Do not fall for this trick. If you have returned all three of your DVDs, you have three empty queue slots, and Blockbuster is supposed to ship three DVDs to you the following day. Anything less is a potential breach of contract in the form of failure to deliver purchased services as agreed.
More details have surfaced about Blockbuster’s new DVD shipping system. The full truth is complicated and unbelievable.
The shipping system works on an expanding hierarchy search method. Presumably, every Monday, the shipping software searches the queues of subscribers with open queue slots. The catch is the software looks only at the first three positions (for a three-out plan) on Mondays. If you, the subscriber, have some immediately available titles in the first three positions of your queue, Blockbuster may ship DVDs to you on Monday. If you do not have any immediately available titles in your first three queue positions, Blockbuster may not ship a DVD to you on Monday. (Do not have great expectations for Monday shipping. Monday is not a full and legitimate shipping day at Blockbuster anyway.)
On Tuesdays, the software repeats the same process. The only difference is the software searches the first six positions of your queue for immediately available titles. If you do not have any immediately available titles in the first six positions, no DVDs are likely to ship on Tuesday.
On Wednesdays, the process continues by searching only the first nine positions of your queue. On Thursdays, the software considers the first twelve queue positions. Not until Friday will the software search your entire queue for immediately available titles.
This shipping system is confusing, so here is the breakdown.
Mondays – Only immediately available DVDs from the top three queue positions may ship.
Tuesdays – Only immediately available DVDs from the top six queue positions may ship.
Wednesdays – Only immediately available DVDs from the top nine queue positions may ship.
Thursdays – Only immediately available DVDs from the top twelve queue positions may ship.
Fridays – Any immediately available DVDs in your queue may ship.
This new shipping system is harsh enough, but here is where things get incredibly frustrating. You might think you can beat the system by keeping the first twelve positions of your queue free from titles with statuses of “Short Wait,” “Long Wait,” “Very Long Wait,” etc. Sadly, it is not that easy. Just because Blockbuster designates a title’s status as “Available,” it does not always mean the title is immediately available in your area.
In Blockbuster language, “Available” means the title is in reasonable supply nationwide; however, the status does not indicate availability in your region. For example, you live in Seattle and have Donnie Darko at the top of your Blockbuster Online queue. Donnie Darko may be abundantly available throughout most of the distribution centers in the eastern United States, but there may be no copies of Donnie Darko at distribution centers in your region. In this case, Donnie Darko could still have a status of “Available,” but since Blockbuster does not usually ship DVDs long distances, the DVD will most likely not be shipped to you.
Making matters much worse, if you had Donnie Darko and two other “Available” titles, which are not actually available regionally in the first three positions in your queue, these three titles could prevent shipments from your queue all day Monday, every Monday. If you had six such titles in your first six queue positions, Blockbuster might not ship to you on Mondays or Tuesdays. If you had nine such titles in your first nine queue positions, Blockbuster might not ship to you on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays. If you had twelve such titles in your queue, Blockbuster might not ship a DVD to you until a Friday. Even on Fridays, you have no guarantees.
If you are thinking all of this is ridiculous and makes no sense, you are correct. This shipping system is absolutely ridiculous, and it is not supposed to make sense. The only logical explanation is that Blockbuster has found a way to systematically reduce the number of DVDs it sends to subscribers each week. This incomprehensible shipping system drastically reduces your ability to manage your account and receive your full subscriber benefits. Now that you know more about the system, maybe you can use the information to your advantage or, at least, gain some understanding about why you are not receiving DVDs from Blockbuster as quickly and frequently as you should.
This is an unwelcome development, which is significantly reducing the subscription benefits for which you are paying as a Blockbuster Online subscriber. If you exchange your online rentals at a Blockbuster store on a Friday night, it is quite possible Blockbuster Online may not ship new DVDs to you until Wednesday of the following week. In this case, the earliest you will get your online rentals will be Thursday, and having to wait on those DVDs until Friday or Saturday is very possible. So, with Blockbuster’s Wednesday shipping tactic, you could be facing a full week or more of waiting for your DVDs.
If your DVDs are not shipping until Wednesday, it will be nearly impossible for you to get more than one set of DVDs per week. Your only hope is that you receive and watch all of your DVDs on Thursday, exchange them at a Blockbuster store that night, hope Blockbuster Online will ship more DVDs to you on Friday, and then hope you receive the new DVDs by Saturday. This feat is going to be completely impractical for the vast majority of subscribers, and Blockbuster must know this. By limiting shipping on Mondays and Tuesdays, Blockbuster has found yet another way to reduce your subscription benefits while still charging you full price.
If you are going to try to hang in with Blockbuster, you will need to become very proactive to make certain Blockbuster does not take advantage of you by charging your credit card for subscription fees while failing to ship DVDs to you. Of course, you need to keep track of all of your business with Blockbuster, but you are also going to have to stand up for yourself and the subscription benefits for which you are paying. The easiest way for you to make sure Blockbuster hears you is to pick up the phone and give Customer Service a call at (866) 692-2789.
A phone call appears to be just about the only way a customer can get results from Blockbuster. The email-based support system is insanely deficient. The vast majority of the customer service representatives responding to email inquiries are incompetent, slow, apathetic, and clueless. If you attempt to resolve a problem through email, you will almost definitely be led around in circles until you give up or happen to get lucky and find someone who cares. Regardless, the email-based support system is abysmal, and you should not expect to get your problems resolved through that outlet.
The customer service representatives working the phones at Blockbuster appear to be far more competent than their cyberspace counterparts. Each and every time you have a problem with your account (shipping delays, poor title availability, etc.), you might want to consider just picking up the phone and getting the problem resolved. Making the phone call is a pain, but it often works. Besides, toll-free phone support is expensive for Blockbuster. Every time you call, you cost Blockbuster money in tolls, time, resources, etc. If customer support begins to get costly for Blockbuster, the company may decide to improve their service to avoid all of the expensive phone calls. (Of course, Blockbuster could also just further reduce benefits and/or raise their rates, but they are already doing that every chance they get anyway.)
Sadly, there is not much you can do about this decline in Blockbuster’s service. If you are not going to cancel your Blockbuster subscription, you are just going to have to heat up the phone lines and fight for yourself. Good luck.
Blockbuster has gotten quite slow about shipping lately. It is possible that Blockbuster will allow you to have empty slots in your queue for days before shipping a DVD to you. When Blockbuster Online fails to ship a DVD to you, complain to Blockbuster and make a note of the incident.
After a few weeks, you may have records of several missed shipping days. Keep in mind that--as a subscriber--you still paid for these shipping days even though Blockbuster did not provide subscription services to you on these days. Given that Blockbuster charged you while providing no benefit, it is only right that Blockbuster should issue a refund to you for missed shipping days.
Here is an example. In any given month, there are around 22 shipping days. If Blockbuster Online failed to ship to you on 8 of those 22 days, Blockbuster failed to honor your subscription for 36% of the shipping days in the month. If you paid Blockbuster $35 (plus tax) for that month, it is only fair that Blockbuster compensate you for the days of unfulfilled service by providing a 36% refund of $12.60 (plus tax).
Make your refund request to Blockbuster in writing. If Blockbuster rejects your request, you will need documentation. With proper documentation, you can pursue a refund through the Better Business Bureau or your credit card company.
It is not right for a company to collect fees for a service it cannot or will not provide. Do not let Blockbuster take your money without giving you something in return. If they cannot or will not provide the services for which you are paying, they need to return at least part the money you paid.
The surprising aspect of this allocation system is the way DVD availability can dramatically affect shipping times. Monday through Thursday, the new allocation system generally selects titles from only those toward the top of your queue. If none of the titles near the top of your queue are available, Blockbuster will not ship any DVDs to you. Only on Fridays, will Blockbuster Online ship titles which are not high in your queue. Therefore, if the top of your queue is loaded with DVDs which are tagged as anything but “Available,” Blockbuster may not ship a DVD to you until Friday even if you have had empty slots in your queue all week.
This new allocation system is going to be very frustrating for you if you have been waiting months to see titles which are in low supply. You may be able to finally get those titles, but they could come from almost anywhere in the country and take a long time to arrive. Also, their presence at the top of your queue could tie up shipping on your account for days at a time.
The best way to beat the new allocation system is to keep a few Available titles at the top of your queue Monday morning through Thursday afternoon. At the end of the day on Thursday, move the titles with waits back to the top of your queue or just arrange your queue to reflect your actual wishes. Rearranging your queue twice per week will be a headache, but it appears this is the best way to work the system in your favor until things change.
If you do not trust Blockbuster to deliver the unlimited DVD rental service for which you are paying, you will want to prepare for the possibility that you, one day, will be furious with Blockbuster and want some justice. A little bit of effort on your part now will help you build your case against Blockbuster should you need to take action in the future.
The most important thing you can do to build your case against Blockbuster is to keep track of each Blockbuster DVD you receive. As Blockbuster sends each DVD, make a note of the title, the date Blockbuster shipped it, the date you received it, the date you returned it, the date Blockbuster acknowledged receipt, and the date Blockbuster shipped the next title. You can record this information on paper or digitally. The easiest way to record this data is in a spreadsheet.
Recording all of this Blockbuster shipping data may seem like overkill, but if you think there is even a remote chance you may want to sue Blockbuster, participate in a class action lawsuit, or have Blockbuster investigated for fraud, this data will be very useful to the attorney or investigators. If you do not have this data available, the only source for the data will be Blockbuster. They, of course, will be reluctant to provide it and may not do so without a subpoena. If you record the data yourself, you will have it readily available, and it can eventually be used to crosscheck and verify the accuracy of whatever data Blockbuster releases.
Also, keep track of all of your communication with Blockbuster. Keep copies of every letter, email, etc. If you call Blockbuster, make a quick note about when you called and what was discussed. This information will be valuable later when you need to establish you have been a responsible, concerned, and proactive consumer.
Lastly, log in to your Blockbuster account and copy your entire rental history. It is important you do this as soon as possible, because Blockbuster controls this information and has the power to remove it at any moment.
To copy your rental history, follow the steps below.
- Click on My Account on Blockbuster.com.
- Verify your login information.
- On the My Account page, click on View Rental History.
- The My Rental History page will appear.
- With your mouse, highlight all of the titles and dates. (Note: Speed up the process by setting the Results Per Page to 100.)
- Copy the data by pressing [Ctrl + C] on your keyboard.
- Paste the data into a document or spreadsheet by opening the desired application and pressing [Ctrl + V].
- Make sure to save the data.
In summary, you can protect yourself as a consumer by taking a few simple actions. By tracking your rentals, recording your correspondence, and copying your account history, you can build an arsenal of information, which will become useful if you should ever need to sue Blockbuster or have them investigated by a government agency.
Official plan caps are not necessary, because all Blockbuster subscriptions come with built-in plan caps--or practical caps--which are imposed by the USPS delivery schedule and Blockbuster’s shipping days. Given that Blockbuster has limited full shipping days, your DVDs will most likely ship only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. This small shipping window significantly limits the amount of DVDs you can receive in any given week.
For example, if you were to maximize your TotalAccess Premium plan by exchanging all of your online rentals for in-store rentals the same day those online rentals arrive, you would not be able to average more than twelve DVDs (six online and six in-store) per week. In order to reach this lofty maximum, you would have to generally receive your DVDs the day after shipping, and here is where we find another problem: transit times.
Not all DVDs arrive the next day. Rare titles, old titles, brand new releases, etc. commonly ship from distant shipping centers and take longer to arrive. These longer transit periods increase turnaround times and greatly reduce the amount of DVDs you can receive in a week. Even if you are diligent about exchanging your online rentals for in-store rentals the same day they arrive, you may find it very difficult to get more than six DVDs (three online and three in-store) per week if some of your DVDs are taking an extra day or two to arrive.
So, there you have it. Limited shipping days and transit times are working against you. Even under perfect circumstances, no matter what you do as a consumer, your Blockbuster TotalAccess Premium plan has a practical cap of around twelve DVDs per average week. If your circumstances are less than perfect, you might experience a practical cap of around six DVDs per week. Realistically, you will probably find that you can average no more than ten DVDs per week on a TotalAccess Premium account, and accomplishing that feat will require a great deal of determination and effort on your part.
If Blockbuster Online ships a DVD to you shortly after its release date, do not be surprised if it takes two or three extra days to arrive in your mailbox. Blockbuster Online must be shipping their newest releases from remote distribution centers.
This delay will extend your turnaround time. So, if you want to keep your turnaround times short, you might want to keep those new releases lower down in your queue for the first several days after their release. Presumably, once demand has slightly waned and every distribution center has a modest supply of the newest titles, you should have a better chance of Blockbuster shipping your DVD from your nearest distribution center.
Of course, if you just have to see that new release as soon as it comes out, the extended transit time might be worth it to you, and you will want to keep that new release at the top of your queue. Also, if your plan allows it, you can simply use an in-store exchange to get that new release. (Note: New releases almost always come out on Tuesdays.)
As time went on, the Blockbuster Online team got their act together. Service gradually got better with each passing month. Eventually, Blockbuster Online subscriptions became pretty good values. Subscribers began to enjoy the service, people were getting all the movies they could want, and the party lasted for a while.
Apparently, Blockbuster determined that offering a good value may make customers happy but does not necessarily translate into a profitable business model. Suspiciously, as if it were planned, service began to gradually decline at Blockbuster Online.
The first thing to start sucking was online customer service. Whereas online customer service used to be tolerable and a reasonable avenue for pursing resolutions to account problems, online service soon became ridiculous. Subscribers in need were greeted with delays, form letters, and boilerplate solutions. Online customer service became mindless. To this day, it seems like the average online service representative does not understand the most basic customer inquiries. Don’t you just love it when you fill out Blockbuster’s online support form to ask why a title has been sitting at the top of your queue for six months and you get a reply telling you to add more titles to your queue?
A new nasty surprise came in the summer of 2006 when Blockbuster quietly eliminated all weekend DVD processing. This was an unwelcome turn that considerably reduced subscriber benefits by increasing turnaround times. USPS works weekends. Why can’t Blockbuster be at least as good as their carrier?
In the summer of 2007, Blockbuster found an absolutely spectacular new way to suck by dramatically raising prices and limiting in-store exchanges for many online customers. Blockbuster basically, turned their standard plan into TotalAccess Premium and then created a lesser plan, which was then presented as Blockbuster’s new standard plan: Total Access. What sort of company does something this outrageous?
Toward the end of 2007, the most egregious of Blockbuster’s sucking initiatives came in the form of tremendous cutbacks on Monday shipping. With the new reduction in shipping days, Blockbuster decreased its normal (full) shipping days to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That’s nearly half the week! The limited shipping days make it extremely difficult for subscribers to get two sets of DVDs in a week. Way to go, Blockbuster. Not only is this an excellent way to suck, it’s a bit sleazy too.
Within the last few weeks, Blockbuster found yet another fun new way to suck by eliminating in-store rental e-coupons for many subscribers. Even those who were getting two coupons per month, got downgraded to one per month. This is just the latest in a series of declines in Blockbuster Online subscription benefits.
When it comes to delivering bad service, Blockbuster has spared no creativity in finding new and exciting ways to suck. What’s next? How much worse can Blockbuster Online get? In the near future, maybe Blockbuster will start limiting online customers to selecting movies from the remnants of Blockbuster’s pan and scan VHS collection. Don’t be surprised when you look into your mailbox and see a thick yellow and blue envelope containing a severely worn tape of Beverly Hills Cop 3 (Full Screen Edition). Oh, and by the way, it will probably arrive postage due.
Some of you had been getting two coupons for free in-store rentals each month. Others were getting just one per month. Others were probably getting something else or nothing at all. Regardless of what you have been getting in the way of Blockbuster e-coupons, you are probably about to get less.
As part of what Blockbuster has called a service “enhancement,” many subscribers will be losing a monthly e-coupon. Those with two coupons might be downgraded to one. Those with one might be downgraded to zero. Those have not been getting e-coupons will probably get shafted some other creative way.
The bottom line is that Blockbuster Online is reducing benefits for some subscribers by withholding e-coupons. These unlucky subscribers will be paying the same fee for fewer benefits.
The problem is, when you return a DVD at a store, you cannot always count on Blockbuster’s system to acknowledge the return. Even though you can stand at the counter at a Blockbuster store and watch a Blockbuster employee scan your returned online DVD into the system, sometimes the DVD’s status will not be updated in your queue. It would be fair to assume that, if your queue shows the DVD as not returned, one of your queue slots will remain occupied until the system is updated or the DVD is eventually scanned at a distribution center. This delay could last for days, meaning you will not be able to use your full subscriber benefits during that period.
To make certain Blockbuster’s system has recorded the return of your online DVD, check your queue after you return each online DVD to a store. If the system has recorded your return, a “Received at Store” tag should appear next to the DVD’s title in the “MOVIE(S) SHIPPED” section of your queue. If you have returned a DVD and you do not see the “Received at Store” tag, assume the system has not recorded your return. You will have to contact Blockbuster Online to resolve this problem or report it by clicking on the title’s “Report” link under the “DVD PROBLEM” column.
If Blockbuster offers a title and a lot of people want to see it, Blockbuster should not skirt around the problem by making subscribers wait for weeks or months. Blockbuster should simply purchase more copies of that popular title. What’s the problem with that? Blockbuster can easily use queue data to gauge subscriber demand. If people are waiting months to see a particular title, is it not reasonable to assume this is a title that interests a significant number of subscribers? Shouldn’t Blockbuster be focusing on stocking the titles their customers want to see?
The next time you complain to Blockbuster about failure to ship a DVD to you and Blockbuster tries to put the blame on you for not having enough “Available” DVDs in your queue, tell them availability is Blockbuster’s problem not yours. Tell the customer service representative to go upstairs and wake up the people in the Purchasing Department so they can take care of Blockbuster’s ridiculous inventory problems, which happen to be limiting the subscriber benefits for which you are paying.
An innocent explanation may be that, when Blockbuster runs low on a particular title in one market area, they use their subscriber distribution system to transfer copies of that title from an area where the supply is abundant. This is an inexpensive way for Blockbuster to move DVDs around the country, but this method does mean more waiting for subscribers.
The good news is that you can get popular new releases from Blockbuster Online. Just be aware that if you have a new release in your queue and the status is “Short Wait” or worse, you may be waiting an extra day or two for that title to arrive after Blockbuster ships it.
This is a nice and convenient account feature, but use it with caution. This duplicate title notification is not reliable. It seems to work most of the time, but the software often misses some rentals and can mistakenly leave a title in your queue. The risk is that you could rent a title at a Blockbuster store and then have that same title shipped to you from your online account the next day. Assuming you do not want to watch the same title twice in a week, you will want to take some precautions.
When you get home from your Blockbuster store, log into your online account. Hopefully, you will get a duplicate title notification, and you can delete the title from your queue. Otherwise, you will need to manually delete the duplicate title from your queue. If you do not make sure the title is out of your queue, there is a very high chance the duplicate title will be shipped to you before you realize the mistake.
Some "Very Long Wait" DVDs can sit in your queue for months and then suddenly convert over to "Coming Soon." Even worse, sometimes Blockbuster will remove these DVDs from your queue and explain the title is no longer available. In a sense, "Very Long Wait" can sometimes mean "Never."
Blockbuster needs to add another classification for DVDs that may take months to ship or never ship. Perhaps, Blockbuster needs to add a classification such as "Rare Title" or "Extremely Long Wait." If Blockbuster is going to keep a customer waiting for months to see a DVD, the company should just be up front about it. If more than three months pass before Blockbuster ships a DVD, they should email the customer to explain the delay and inform the customer about what Blockbuster is doing to fix the problem.
The Blockbuster Underground test account commonly has multiple empty queue slots throughout most of each weekend and Monday. It has become standard that the earliest shipment of DVDs does not occur until Tuesday afternoon each week. This means that a queue slot may open on a Friday afternoon, and the replacement DVD will not arrive until Wednesday, Thursday, or later. This is a substantial delay. The absence of Monday shipping causes a significant decrease in the number of DVDs a customer can receive in a week. This delay must be very profitable for Blockbuster, but it is a substantial blow to the customer’s subscription benefits.
Are you experiencing similar problems with Monday shipping from Blockbuster Online? If so, please report it here. If this shipping trend is consistent, we may be on the verge of discovering a way that Blockbuster has managed to limit (or throttle) the flow of DVDs to some or all of its online customers.
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