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Blockbuster Sometimes Post-Dates Store Transactions for Online Subscribers

The next time you exchange an online DVD for a store DVD at Blockbuster, check the date on your rental history on Blockbuster's Web site. You might notice that Blockbuster's system will sometimes indicate you rented and/or returned a store DVD one day later than you actually did.

For example, if you exchange an online DVD for a store DVD on 5/25/09 and return that same store DVD on 5/27/09. Your rental history on Blockbuster's Web site may sometimes erroneously indicate the transactions took place on 5/26/09 and 5/28/09.

Even when considering time zone differences, there is no logical explanation for these errors. Oddly, the process does not seem to work in reverse. These errors seem to only show some transactions taking place later than the actual dates. The system does not seem to be indicating transactions are taking place earlier than the actual dates. Why are the errors only resulting in apparent late transactions?

This practice of post-dating transactions might benefit Blockbuster, because--on paper--it might seem a subscriber held an online DVD one day longer than the subscriber actually did. This would artificially show a Blockbuster Online subscriber as being less active than the subscriber actually is, which would look better on Blockbuster's balance sheets, because subscribers who are less active are generally more profitable. The errant record keeping might also hide that Blockbuster took too long to ship an online DVD after the return of a store DVD. Post-dating a transaction makes it appear Blockbuster took one day less to ship a DVD than it actually did. In short, post-dating store transactions makes the subscriber appear to be slower and Blockbuster Online appear to be faster. Since store transactions take place in person, Blockbuster cannot directly delay when a subscriber gets a store DVD, but Blockbuster can delay when that subscriber gets the next online DVD by adding an extra day through the practice of post-dating.

Another strange thing is Blockbuster's ship and receive dates for online rentals seem to be fairly accurate. The post-dating seems to be isolated to some store DVDs upon rental and return.

To investigate this post-dating issue for yourself, click on the Rental History link located just above the At Home section of your Blockbuster Online queue and crosscheck Blockbuster's reported dates with the actual dates from your own records.

Make sure to keep accurate records of all of your transactions with Blockbuster. You may need these records to defend yourself against Blockbuster at some point. These records will also come in handy if you choose to take action against Blockbuster at some point in the future.


Blockbuster Store Returns May Sit in Queue's At Home Section Indefinitely

Be aware that you must check the At Home section of your queue at least once per day. Blockbuster Online seems to have a system problem or be engaging in an intentional delay tactic that will allow a returned DVD to sit idly in the At Home section of your queue for multiple days.

Even if you personally return a store DVD to a Blockbuster store and call the manager of the Blockbuster store to confirm the DVD has been scanned into the system, the DVD can still sit in your queue and occupy a shipping slot indefinitely. Every day a returned DVD incorrectly remains in the At Home section of your queue is a day you are not able to fully benefit from your subscription. Please note that Blockbuster will continue to charge you the full subscription fee even if unnecessary shipping delays of this nature are Blockbuster's fault.

The best thing is to call Blockbuster at the first sign of any shipping delay. You can reach Blockbuster toll-free at (866) 692-2789. Blockbuster may ask you to wait twenty-four hours before reporting a delay, but this is a ridiculous request. Blockbuster's system should be able to update at least hourly. If their system updates less than that, they need to fix it.


How to Investigate Artificial Blockbuster Store Check-In Delays

During the last several days, the Blockbuster Underground test account has revealed a peculiar new trend that might negatively affect some Blockbuster Online subscribers. The possible delay tactic limits the DVDs a subscriber can receive each month by allowing or intentionally creating a lengthy delay between the time a Blockbuster subscriber returns a store DVD and the time the Blockbuster Online system updates to reflect the return. The issue could easily add a day or two to the turnaround time for each DVD.

The most troubling thing about these delays is that they have the appearance of being artificial and intentional. Past system update patterns and current system update patterns show some inconsistencies that seem to have no reasonable explanation.

Under this new possible throttling tactic, store DVDs returned at the same time and at the same store may not clear the Blockbuster online system at the same time. This inconsistency strongly suggests the delays are not due to a legitimate system update schedule issue. For example, if the Blockbuster system were updating only once every twenty-four hours, generally all store DVDs returned at the same time should be clearing the system at about the same time. If two DVDs are returned at exactly the same time and they are clearing the Blockbuster Online system at very different times, that suggests the delays are artificial and, therefore, intentional.

Certainly, a Blockbuster employee might scan in one DVD and then not scan in another DVD for hours. This might account for discrepancies of a few hours, but this would not account for delays sometimes far exceeding twenty-four hours, especially since a couple of weeks ago, DVDs returned to the same store were normally clearing the Blockbuster Online system at nearly the same time and in less than a few hours. Often, returned store DVDs would clear in less than an hour.

Another reason the system delays seem artificial is that in-store exchanges (i.e., online DVDs exchanged for store DVDs) still show up in the system rapidly. This feature of the system seems to be mysteriously unaffected by the new delays. In-store exchanges commonly show up in the Blockbuster system within an hour of the transaction. How could the system so quickly update to show when store DVDs go out but then take a full day longer to reflect when those same DVDs came back?

You can test all of this for yourself and see if you are being throttled by Blockbuster in this manner. Here is how to conduct your own investigation.

  1. The next time you exchange your Blockbuster Online DVDs for store rentals at a Blockbuster store, make a note of the time, go straight home, and check your Blockbuster Online queue.
  2. Your in-store exchanges will probably already be reflected by your queue, indicating the Blockbuster Online system has updated.
  3. If the new store rentals do not appear in your queue, check your queue every hour or so until the new store rentals appear in the At Home section of your queue.
  4. Make a note of the time.
  5. When you later return those store rentals, take them into the store to a Blockbuster counter clerk, and ask the counter clerk to scan the DVDs in front of you. Ask the clerk to verify the DVDs are showing up in the system as being checked in. (The store's system update should be almost instantaneous.) You may even want to ask for a receipt or other form of proof for the return. Regardless, make a note of the time the DVDs were scanned at the store.
  6. When you get home, check your Blockbuster Online queue periodically until the store rental DVDs clear the At Home section of your queue.
  7. Make a note of the approximate time you notice each DVD clearing your queue.
  8. If your returned store DVDs clear at significantly different times, or if the DVDs remain in your queue beyond 6:00AM (Eastern) the following morning, there is a problem, and you are probably being throttled by Blockbuster.
  9. Contact Blockbuster, ask them why you are experiencing such long delays on your account, and request a refund. If these delays are the result of a legitimate system delay, Blockbuster needs to offer you a full explanation, a detailed plan for how they are fixing the problem, and a refund for the time you were unfairly deprived of the subscription benefits for which your are paying.


Blockbuster Takes Throttling to the Next Level with In-Store Check-In Delay

Blockbuster appears to be engaging in a new throttling tactic, which may border on blatantly fraudulent activity and may put the company in jeopardy of a major class action lawsuit. The latest suspected delay tactic is taking the form of delays in Blockbuster Online's system updates for returned in-store exchanges from some Blockbuster Online subscribers.

Under Blockbuster's current rules, a Blockbuster subscriber must return an in-store exchange DVD before Blockbuster Online will ship another DVD to the subscriber. The problem is that if a subscriber returns a store DVD to the store, has that DVD properly scanned in at the store, and the Blockbuster Online system does not update properly, the returned DVD will incorrectly appear to not be checked in. Even though, the DVD was properly scanned in at the store, the online system may not reflect the return, and that DVD will unfairly occupy a Blockbuster Online shipping slot until it clears the system. Every day that shipping slot appears to be occupied is a day Blockbuster Online will not ship another DVD.

The real problem is that the subscriber is expected to wait twenty-four hours for the returned DVD to clear before reporting the problem. Even then, Blockbuster Online wants the subscriber to personally contact the store by phone to fix the problem. Of course, Blockbuster store hours are limited, and most problems cannot be addressed until the early afternoon, long after Blockbuster Online has selected all DVDs to be shipped that day. This means that a subscriber can return a store DVD to the store, and Blockbuster can use their computer system to easily add a day or two to the turnaround process. This is assuming the Blockbuster subscriber is diligent about maintaining his or her account. A subscriber who does not check his or her account frequently, could see this shipping slot go occupied indefinitely.

Just last week, returned DVDs were able to clear the system in less than an hour in many cases. Why is it suddenly taking Blockbuster up to twenty-four hours to clear DVDs? Slower turnarounds benefit Blockbuster by making it possible to send out fewer DVDs to subscribers.

In short, Blockbuster appears to either be having major system problems or is engaging in intentional shipping delays to throttle subscribers. Regardless, watch your account vigilantly, report problems at the first sign of trouble, and be relentless in your dealings with customer service until they fix your issue. If you are paying a subscription fee to Blockbuster, you deserve to receive the benefits for which you are paying. Blockbuster has no right to hide behind system delays that coincidentally increase profits on the backs of subscribers.

If you think there is a possibility you may want to sue Blockbuster or simply demand a refund from Blockbuster or your credit card company, keep records of your rental history and all contacts with Blockbuster. You will need this information to support your claim and demonstrate Blockbuster's breach of contract.

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