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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.


Anonymous said...

Is there a reason the blog owner hides his email address and provides no way to contact him?

Anonymous said...

I've been having this happen as well. I like going to my local store. The people are nice, they have a decent selection, and I buy a lot of used DVD's from them.

Even though I'm grandfathered in at $19.99 for unlimited returns, 3 at a time and a free coupon each month, with in-store rentals taking 3+ days to clear my queue, its not worth it. I'll probably just split a netflix account with my girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Could it possibly be that the returns and exchanges are taking place after normal business hours? The distribution centers aren't open 24 hours a day. It could very well be like a bank where if the transaction takes place after a certain time it is credited to the following day.

Editor said...

Your thought has some weight, but banks do not alter the transaction dates on actual transactions. Banks simply credit the funds deposited after the daily cutoff time to the next day. The money may not be available until the later date, but the bank properly records the transaction date. Check your ATM receipts to confirm this common banking practice.

Blockbuster would be unfair to force a "banking hours" standard. Since these transactions are taking place in Blockbuster stores and involve store DVDs, the transactions are actually taking place during normal business hours for the store. The online shipping system is supposed to operate based on whether or not a subscriber has available queue slots in time for shipping. The online system has no reason to be basing anything on store transaction dates. As far as the queue is concerned, either a store DVD has been rented and returned, or it has not. A slot is open at shipping time, or it is not. What would be the legitimate reason to record store transactions one day late? We already know the Blockbuster Online system is operating beyond shipping centers hours, because the system often displays in-store exchanges quickly after they happen, even when those transactions take place late at night. Why should the system not record the actual dates of transactions?

Also, if Blockbuster's system is based on shipping center hours, their records should not be showing transactions occurring on days the shipping centers are supposedly closed: Saturdays and Sundays. The problem is that Blockbuster Online's system does show store transactions involving store DVDs happening on Saturdays and Sundays. Confirm this for yourself with a calendar and your Blockbuster rental history.

Furthermore, it would be unfair and confusing to base transaction dates on shipping center hours. How many subscribers actually know the hours of the Blockbuster shipping centers? Also, some subscribers receive DVDs from multiple shipping centers, and some of these centers are in different time zones. If Blockbuster wants to pull something sneaky like applying arbitrary time constraints to transactions, they need to be public about their methodology and reveal what the official hours actually are.

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