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Blockbuster’s New DVD Shipping System Will Blow Your Mind

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.


Anonymous said...

Ha, ha... this is nothing new. Perhaps more noticeable because it is more prevalent. This has been touched upon on this very blog back in Feb 11.

The current CEO has pretty much given up the online business. If the online business makes money, fine. If it doesn't, o.k. too, but Blockbuster will not compete at all costs. Instead, the CEO has been trying to revamp the company more as a retailer, even considered the purchase of Circuit City of all thing.

Blockbuster has been less than truthful for awhile now about shipping on Monday . When I still had an account with Blockbuster, it said it shipped on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesday; but I still only received them on Fridays. One would surmise that all shipments were actually shipped Wednesdays. Blockbuster's inventory has always been abysmal. "Available" means nothing. It is neither real time nor accurate. Maybe even an outright lie on the part of Blockbuster.

Also, the way Blockbuster allocates shipment has always been defeative. The system looked only at a certain spot and then gave up. Gain for Blockbuster, loss for subscriber.

Over all, Blockbuster is simply a bad, bad company to which to do business.

Anonymous said...

I left th e three LONG Feb 11th blogs
after finding out how the new process worked, or you might say doesn't work exactly as planned ;).

After 9 months of this here's how it's going:
1) From "Shipped" date to my mailbox was previously almost always 1 day (Santa Ana, CA warehouse is 5 miles from my Long Beach, CA home). Now it takes 2-3 days from 'shipped' to get to my mailbox, and the DVDs are still return addressed to Santa Ana so THEY ARE NOT East Coast DVDs -which physically would take the post office longer.

Assuming that BB cannot get the post office to agree to slow their carriers, I can only guess that 'shipped' means that BB has them in a box ready to go LATE AFTERNOON after the last postal pickup. This would definitely add another day. Those DVDs that take 3-days might be odd ones that used to take 2-days before.

2) COMPLAINTS now are worthless, they are cut-and-pasted the same each time. Insist on coupons or free weeks since you paid for those days and they did nothing (after one-business-day from 'Returned to Store' , they owe you a SHIPPED DVD, and if they didn't ship one, they have CHOSEN to BREAK THE CONTRACT with you, so owe you for the days you were delayed equal to contract cost divided by 20 shipping days in month (we know mondays are a rare event, oddly their new 'process' evidently changed my account status from "Do not ever send this guy a monday DVD" to "maybe send one monday, sometimes, but ONLY ONE". Expect to have to resend the same complaint several times over and over before getting a reluctant COUPON sent, or none at all because the email thread eventually turns into the next week where they start talking about the DVDs you finally got FRIDAY (having started the thread monday afternoon). Certainly not worth the trouble writing, but I get personal satisfaction in knowing these emails cost BB something. Compensation of any kind has almost entirely stopped. I agree with above that BB has probably told their employees to not worry about unlimited users that average more than 3 per week because they'd rather not have us as customers because we do not make them money. Sadly, it is BB underhanded way of cheating me that has me optimizing my plan in response. I really don't have time to watch even the number of DVDs I get today with their throttling, and I give away most of the coupons I get . . store employees are deserving ;)

3) AVAILABLE titles have to be at top, and since AVAILABLE is up for interpretation, your queue on Monday needs to have the most obvious, locally in-stock DVDs in the top three spots. Such as 2006-2008 blockbuster movies where you know BB has tons of them. Tuesday's queue needs SIX movies and they still need to be AVAILABLE but can be more rare, like foreign films, etc. Wednesday same as tuesday but 9 top slots need to be AVAILABLE; Thursday same but 12 slots. I haven't tried it, but theoretically you could put WAIT DVDs at the TOP and pray that one gets sent by accident, but no harm since friday they supposedly keep looking and will send you the balance of DVDs they owe you. I may try this eventually if I don't cancel BB, but for now I've given up on WAIT DVDs (even before BB maybe sent me jsut a few WAIT DVDs in four years of waiting, that's when I could put WAITs at the top so BB would have to skip over them each time (now they just STOP shipment, so don't do this except maybe late thursday for friday's shipping). Having said this, even I don't have the fortitude to do all this, what I do is on the weeekend I make sure I have 3 shorter length movies at the top for monday/tues/wed so that they are easier to watch the same day I get them (I always return same-day I get them, sometimes if I don't have time I'll return one for the same DVD at the store, otherwise I might watch half and return it for a different DVD but put it back into my queue to finish it later (if I'm unsure of I want to finish it, I'll 20xfast-forward to get a 'quicky' to help decide. Sadly I watch 'bad' movies hoping they get better, 20x helps to 'see' if anything 'interesting' happens to make it worth putting back int he queue if I didn't have time to finish same-day. Thur/Fri Queue can have longer full-length movies because any movie arriving fri/sat you can return late sunday since replacement shipping won't happen until monday at the earliest anyways. My queue on weekend is setup as 1/2/3 short length DVDs
4/5/6 longer full-length DVDs, 7/8/9 short, 10/11/12 long DVDs -3short, 3-long, repeat.

4) Here's the upshot as of today:
Sunday, three DVDs returned to store for 3-in-store DVDs that I can keep for week(s).
Monday I may get one DVD shipped.
Tuesday I may get one DVD in the mail and return in-stoe for ONE.
The remaining 2 DVDs may ship.
Wednesday I may get 1-2 DVDs in the mail and return in-store for more.
Thursday I may get 'delayed' DVDs from tuesday shipping, return to store for more.
Friday shipping seems to resort back to the way it used to be before they changed it Nov 07. They ship however many DVDs up to the 3-at-a-time that my contract states.

Usual week:
Monday: \nothing in mailbox\
1 DVD returned in-store for 1 =2
1 DVD returned in-store for 1 =2
1 DVD returned in-store for 1 =2
Friday: \nothing in mailbox\
2 DVDs returned Sunday
in-store for 2 =4

Average 10 DVDs per week, so I'm paying $1 each. For $1 I could just go to the grocery store's kiosk on a night I WANT TO WATCH A MOVIE and rent one. Limited selection stops me though, and I do have to return it next day (online I always do one-day, store I keep the full week+week+2day-grace= 16 days, giving my kids the opportunity to watch them at their leisure (weekends I usualy have 10+ stacked up for them). I sometimes even pay the $1.25 fee to 'own-it-for-30-days' to give us time to watch especially good ones.

Everyone knows that HD downloads are the future, but DVDs will continue to be delivered this way as long as there is a market and as long as they make money. It is the majority of the LIMITED and UNLIMITED folks that make BB money, they just put up with us because UNLIMITED to a reasonable person probably translates to 5 movies a week, taking days to return envelopes.

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