If you are thinking about subscribing to Blockbuster, you may first want to determine if the subscription will provide a good value for you. On paper, a Blockbuster Online (Blockbuster by Mail, Total Access, etc.) subscription looks like an excellent value, but the reality is quite different. Actually, a Blockbuster subscription comes with many hidden pitfalls that dramatically reduce the value. Here are some significant issues you may want to consider before signing on with Blockbuster for one of their various plans.
Few Store Locations
One of the biggest benefits to a Blockbuster Online (Total Access) subscription is being able to exchange by-mail DVDs at stores. With more and more Blockbuster stores closing, many subscribers are being forced to drive longer and longer distances to reach a Blockbuster store. There is no point in spending $10 on gas to pickup or return a DVD that rents for a fraction of that amount. Any Blockbuster store that is not easy for you to reach is a store that is useless to you.
Reduction in Store Hours
The Blockbuster store near you may be reducing its daily business hours. This may be an indicator the store is performing poorly and may be closed in the future, but it also poses an inconvenience. Fewer store hours mean fewer hours for you to pickup and return DVDs,
Insufficient Selection and Quantities of Store DVDs
Once upon a time, you could go to a Blockbuster store at almost any time and find loads of popular titles. Those days are long gone. Blockbuster stores may have loads of DVDs on the shelves, but they are not the titles people want to see. There are plenty of old undesirable titles and bad new straight-to-video titles, but the stock of popular DVDs you might actually want to see is very low, and many of the classic hits are missing from the inventory all together.
Poor Online Availability
Blockbuster's selection of online DVD titles can be a bit limited. Some desirable titles are just not in the inventory. Making matters worse, many titles are in incredibly low supply. If a title has a status of Long Wait, you may have to wait months or years to see it. If a title has a status of Very Long Wait, there is a very good chance you will never see it. Even titles with a Short Wait status may take weeks or months to ship.
Undesirable Queue Shipments
Blockbuster may skip over several Available titles in your queue to ship less desirable titles to you. When this happens, the titles that get passed over are generally newer, more popular titles, and the titles Blockbuster ships are older, less popular titles. Blockbuster must have a philosophy of keeping subscribers busy with unpopular titles while carefully rationing the popular titles. Perhaps Blockbuster intentionally holds back the more desirable titles to ship to its more profitable low-volume subscribers. A more innocent explanation is that Blockbuster is just really bad with inventory management. Regardless, if this happens to you, you may wait weeks to see titles at the top of your queue even though they are marked as Available. The lesson here is: If you don't really want to see a title, you had better keep it out of your queue, because Blockbuster might send it to you when you least expect it.
Blockbuster should be able to ship a DVD to you the day after you have an empty slot in the At Home section of your queue, but Blockbuster may not ship when they should. Blockbuster may choose to leave the empty slot open for an extra day or keep a DVD in Processing status overnight. Every time Blockbuster does this, they deprive you of at least one day of your subscription benefits.
One of the sleaziest things Blockbuster does is ship DVDs to subscribers from distant shipping centers. If you live in or near a major city, DVDs should normally arrive at your home the day after Blockbuster ships them. If Blockbuster chooses to ship DVDs to you from a city that is hundreds of miles from you, DVDs will take an extra day or two to arrive. Every time Blockbuster does this to you, they reduce the amount of DVDs you can receive during each billing cycle, but, of course, you will be charged full price anyway.
Poor Customer Service
Compounding all of these negative factors is Blockbuster's extremely poor customer service. Blockbuster allows subscribers very few customer service options, and not one of them is sufficient. The toll-free customer service works best, but the hold times can be long sometimes. The customer service-by-email system is good only for ironic entertainment value. The incompetence in this area of Blockbuster is staggering. Your chance of getting a simple problem resolved through email with Blockbuster is about one in four. If you have a complicated problem with your account, you will spend days bouncing emails back and forth with Blockbuster and still not resolve anything.
The Bottom Line
To sum up, depending on your needs and viewing habits, there is a chance a Blockbuster subscription may be a good value for you, but there are many hidden factors that could have a tremendous impact on your ability to use your account and enjoy the benefits you must pay for each month. Before giving Blockbuster your credit card number, carefully consider the negative aspects of a Blockbuster subscription and determine if Blockbuster is prepared to meet your expectations as a consumer and provide you with an acceptable value for your money.
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