Monday, February 21, 2005

Blockbuster blows it. Nobody surprised.

I've never been a big fan of Blockbuster. The lines are slow-moving, the selection pretty uninspired and the whole store environment makes me think of a 7-11 and things like cheese nachos. Along with most of the Wall Street analysts, I also think their whole business model seems hopelessly out of touch with the changes technology will surely bring.

For some reason I can't explain, I still haven't converted to Netflix. I'm sure I will someday. Right now, it's just that somewhere in my head I have a limit to how many monthly subscriptions I should have. And maybe I wonder if Netflix isn't about to be usurped by something else.

Anyway, when I saw Blockbuster boldly tout NO MORE LATE FEES — sans asterisk, sans fast-talking disclaimer language — I, for a moment, thought that perhaps they were truly turning things on their head. To me, I always thought Blockbuster should move to a version of the Netflix model. They could have no late fees but simply not allow you to rent another movie if you had two that were overdue.

But no, it seems Blockbuster figures it's the 1950s and they can still just steamroll consumers. Over at Adrants, they did a pretty thorough dissection of the sordid details. Why would a marketing department try this? Or was the plan initially bolder before it was run over by someone in finance or operations? Whatever. The thing's a dud. In fact, they can be sure to finally convince me to sign up with Netflix once they try to ding me with a late fee. Fact is, their whole approach makes me want to find out just how long I can keep a movie past its due date. It feels rather empowering to test the limits of a misguided strategy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deceitful? Quite likely. Apparently, even their “associates” weren’t clued in.

Before the program started, Blockbuster managed to get “No More Late Fees!” t-shirts to all their employees. Apparently, however, their education about the new program was limited to the same barrage of television commercials we all saw. A week or so before the program began, I quizzed an employee in a bright, fresh yellow shirt.

“Nope. No more late fees,” she said.

“Really?” I pursued.

“No, you can keep it as long as you like. There won’t be a late fee. Although we’d appreciate it if you brought it back sooner or later so other customers can enjoy it.”

Poor kid. She had no idea that on the eighth day they’d charge me double what I could buy the thing for on-line.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Black Lab Five said...

Well, they did it. We got a Netflix account for the office. Sharing one seemed like a great idea, since we're all too busy to watch as many movies as we wish we could.

8:16 PM  

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