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The Brazen Return of Blockbuster Late Fees

If you have visited a Blockbuster store in the last few days, you have probably noticed that Blockbuster has managed to eliminate the seven-day return grace period and slip late fees back onto the menu. The fees are not called late fees, but that is what they are. At Blockbuster stores, you now have the option of renting videos on a daily or weekly basis. (Although, it should be pointed out that Blockbuster thinks a week is five days.)

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.

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