After our first trimester of participating in the Blockbuster Rewards program, I'm not happy, I'm not feeling rewarded and if there was ever any doubt in my mind why this company is financially troubled and young upstarts such as Netflix are so popular, it's long gone.

First, an introduction. The program offers what seems to be a decent incentive: Join for a reasonable fee (roughly $10, but the cost may vary by store) and you get 1 free rental per month. I'm not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I know enough to realize this won't be a new release. Still, their stores are fairly well stocked, and the kids like some of those movies in the middle of the floor, so when the manager-type says that you get to select from anything "not on the wall", once a month, for an entire year, for just $10, it's really not a bad deal. Guess again.

The first rental wasn't bad. The second rental wasn't either. The third time around was like a mugging, only worse, because you paid for the privilege up front instead of just being jumped in a dark alley. After the joy that is watching your kids fight over who gets to choose that month's video, you stand in line and are charged for the rental. When you ask if this isn't free, you then have the privilege of being berated by a high schooler because you don't have your free rental coupon.

What's worse is that the kid doesn't know how to get the coupon. He just says that you're supposed to get it with your rental each month, implying that you are stupid for not knowing it, or perhaps trying to pull a fast one by not bringing it with you. But what if the last time in the store was to get your free rental last month? Maybe you went to another store, he says. No, we don't go to any other stores. One bad experience is plenty, thanks. Perhaps check your email? No, we didn't get it by email, and we're pretty competent on that front. No, it didn't get blocked by the spam filter, thankyouverymuch. After several minutes of feeling like a criminal, he finally gives in, prints out something and gives you the free rental.

So with this experience safely forgotten, we try for month number four. The kids mill about, now realizing that the middle of the store videos pretty well blow, and half an hour later find something that isn't bad at all. So we head for the register to get out while the getting is good. There is one person at the register - perhaps a college student this month - and three or four people in line. It's not looking good. Once again, we're charged, and I ask about our free video.

Again with the suggestion that we bring in our coupon, so being the helpful soul that I am, I try to figure out just when we're supposed to get this coupon. The kid has no idea. He goes to get the manager, who does not improve the situation. I'm generally an easy-going person. But when I start to get impatient, it's not a good idea to flick your hair and add "my friend" to the end of everything. As in "I'm trying to help, my friend" or "let me tell you how we do that, my friend". It's just bad.

So first, the manager tells me how the kids have managed to get a video that isn't one that we can rent. But it was in the middle of the store. So he proceeds to tell me how they rearranged the store and now the middle of the store is no longer what can be rented for free. So I try and find out what can be had for a free rental. And he goes on about the middle of the store can still be rented for free ("my friend"). Except for certain areas ("my friend"). Finally, it's three little bins that are in a particular area that are off-limits for free rentals ("my friend").

The only problem? The movie didn't come from one of those bins.

It came off the wall of new rentals and someone picked it up and put it down in the wrong area. I have no problem with that - really - but why it took this guy 10 minutes to explain why we picked it up from the wrong place when in fact we picked it up in the right place was not the right tactic. Just say "that's a new rental". Don't try and explain it. Why do people try and go into so much detail making you look stupid?

Back to the little coupon. I was determined to figure out how to get it and avoid this next month. Apparently at some time during the month, Blockbuster physically prints these things out. But they do it at various times, so you have to guess when they do it and you can pick yours up (there's a waste of money, my friends). So after they do it, and assuming you guess right, and if you have a transaction, and if they can actualy find your coupon, then you will get your coupon and you can then remember to take it with you so that the next time you can come in and hand it to someone so you can get a free rental without all the hassle.

If you don't, you will need to get a manager to give you your free rental, wasting at least ten minutes of a clerk's time and five minutes of a manager's time, not to mention all the wasted paper and the untold hours of people standing in line - all in the hope that they will get you to come in and rent a movie next month in order to get your stupid little piece of paper so that you can then remember to bring it back the following month. Fat chance, my friend.

I am not making this up. I actually asked the overly-friendly manager if he was serious about this and he was completely serious. He said that if we don't do anything other than pick up our monthly freebie, we should ask to see the manager each visit, because we won't have the printed coupon. As I mentioned, I understand they want us to come in and rent a movie every week.

I understand that a $4 rental is going out the door for less than a dollar when we don't do so (12 rentals per year for $10). I get the economics. But surely someone realizes that making $0.83 per rental on movies that otherwise sit there is better than wasting 15 minutes of hourly employee time on top of that with each one, don't they? I don't know. I don't think they do.

In any case, I guess I'll be checking in with my new friend next month.

The conclusion? If you live in Charlotte, go to the library instead. The selection isn't as good, but the DVDs are free - at least, they are unless you choose a new release, and even those are cheaper than Blockbuster, and in any case, the lines are shorter and the people are generally nicer and at least you won't feel bad if you don't go, because you don't feel like you're missing out on something you paid to get. And you certainly don't have to make friends unless you really want to do so.

Comments (56)

I am having exactly the same experience here in Phoenix. Only they - the kids staffing the nearesst Blockbuster - refuse me my freebie each month unless I make a transaction.

So I have to buy something in order get my "free" something, which actually isn't free, it's just discounted.

I have decided to try your tactic - demand to speak to a manager and get my free coupon without having to make additional purchases in a crap shoot to get the coupon at the right time of month.

And that is the only business they will get from me for now on. There's a Hollywood down the road, and there's always Netflix...

Good luck, Jennifer.

As I say, I understand that they want to drive traffic, so I understand them wanting to do so.

But if they say I get a free rental each month without renting, then they are going to give me a free rental each month without renting, no matter what it costs them.

It depends on the store. With our local store, we don't have to show them the coupon at all, just the reward cards.

I have Netflix and I was using Blockbuster promo (bring Netflix envelope flap for a free movie). It was already over but the manager gave several movies free anyway, and she told us about Blockbuster Online Total Access. Every return envelope is essentially a coupon, so returning 1 online rental to the store will give you 1 free movie in addition to the outgoing one in your queue. This would mean doubling your plan if you return the movies to the store. The store free rental follows the store rules though (7 days, etc). The store is very close to the house, so returning to the store to get a free movie isn't a big deal. The store happens to be an online fulfillment center as well while the warehouse is just 20 miles away. I put my Netflix account on hold and am trialing Blockbuster online.

I have the same issue in Seattle....I never get my coupons even though I give them my address(s) every month...finally the manager gives in and prints a coupon.

We tried for several months, fighting with the manager every month. Finally he gave us the number to a customer service line, and said we should call them and have them print us some courtesy coupons (or something similar).

Unfortunately we went on vacation or something and regular life caught up with us, and we just haven't been back. I imagine that it hasn't changed, but I just haven't been able to update anything. Anyone else had any different experience?

I worked for Blockbuster, back in 2004. This was one of the few programs that I felt good about selling. But then, I like old movies, and the variety tended to be quite good. If you're only in it for new films, then no, it's not a stellar offer. But if you want to watch a few movies a month -- the classics, or anything over a year old -- then strolling in once a week is worth it; rent-one-get-one-free. I never had any complaints from anyone about it, and we used tokens; if you didn't have your coupon, we always took care of it.

But then I wasn't a highschooler then. In fact, none of the employees were. They were all either hippies or university students. -Mike

Hi Mike -

Thanks for your note! I actually thought that the program was a solid one, but unfortunately it was the implementation that was bad. The kids will be kids, and they didn't have to have the newest movies out there. They simply wanted something to watch (and sometimes they would watch it over and over).

It's getting the dang thing rented that was the problem!

As a very recent, former employee of Blockbuster, I'm not really sure how I feel about this review.

Let me just start off by saying that I personally feel the Rewards program is a very good program, and since quitting there and losing my free rentals, I have signed up for the Rewards program myself.

What's not good about it? Monday-Wednesday you get an older movie for free with every paid rental. You get a free older movie every month no matter what. You get a NEW RELEASE free after renting 5 other movies in one month.

Your free coupon prints out at the register near the first of every month when you rent a movie. It's not rocket science, and there's no hidden secret, and Blockbuster isn't trying to scam you.

You probably got your coupon and threw it away. That's what EVERYONE does because it looks the same as your receipt except it has a bar code on the bottom.

Now, there is no excuse for an employee berating you. Not at all. But as a a 26 year old who has had many jobs in the past, let me tell you that Blockbuster was by far the most demanding and stressful job that I have ever had in my entire life, including a bank teller at a busy branch in a business district.

Every day a customer comes into the store and yells at you because they received a phone call about a movie being late that they already returned, or that they were charged for a movie they returned. They yell. They literally march to the front of the line, and get in your face. They make belittling comments like, "Honey, we don't have to sit here and argue with a minimum wage high schooler."

9 out of 10 of these people drop the movie in the drop box about 20 minutes later.

It's hard to not be offended by the way you refer to us (the employees), and maybe you come across that way in person too.

Like I said, I'm 26 years old and am one semester away from having my BA in Psychology and then it's law school for me. Blockbuster was a temp job to just to get me some money in California since moving here from Michigan. I've quit there and I hate Blockbuster for my own reasons. =)

Bottom Line: Your coupon will print out at the register during your first transaction of the month. "Off the wall" movies can be as new as a year old, they aren't really that bad. And a minimum wage employee probably deals with more BS in one day than you do in a month or more, so don't be too hard on them.

Hi Andrew -

Please make sure that you read the entry. The problem is that there is no transaction for the receipt to print. I'm quite sure that if we were regular renters, it would go quite smoothly. But we aren't.

Our only monthly transactions are to get the free rental. If that's the case, there is - or was at any rate - no method for getting the coupon. You have to rent in order to have a transaction. The free rental doesn't count, and then you have no way to get it.

Thanks for coming by, and don't just assume that I "threw it away".

While I'm quite sure it's a difficult job, and that you have a tough time, it's not always easy on the other side of the counter, either - there are those consumers, who while they try and find a good deal, also try and be decent human beings. :)

Excellent post. Blockbuster is really running a scam in many stores with this promotion. I resent what Andrew has stated, and would point out that he contradicts the promotion in his own post... a purchase must be made to get the "free rental" coupon.

I go in once a month to get my free rental--every time the employee tells me "it will print out after you make this purchase," just as Andrew has stated above. This is useless to me, as I won't be back that month. The terms are quite clear--there is no "necessary" purchase to achieve the one free rental per month. As you have posted above, the manager has to come every time to authorize the transaction and I walk away.

Every time I go in, I check to see if they have my email listed. They do. I have yet to receive one email from Blockbuster.

In regards to the $10/year price. True, cheap, but if I listened to the Blockbuster employee, and buy a movie to get my "free rental" every month, that's $5*12 = $60/year extra... as far from free as I've seen.

Thanks for the post and informing others.


in regards to the last post, i do understand as a store manager of one of the top revenue stores in the west that not all employees explain it the best. First of all even if your email is listed ask the employee to click on your email address and enter it again and say yes to receive mail rather than "opt out." also many spam filters catch it because it comes from a blockbuster website, although you will get junk mail for a bit, you can click allow the certain address through, then turn your spam mail back on. And somehow you say that it is a scam even though two movies at my store are $9.26 and rewards is $9.95 you say that it is a scam. Not to offend anyone at all blockbuster is just a job for me while i study for my degree in human communication.

Hi Mike -

It's interesting that you are studying human communication, because what I originally said is that if they are telling you that you can get movies for no additional charge, then that's what they need to do.

In effect (in my experience, anyway), that is not what is happening - Blockbuster is only too happy to give you your free rental coupon, but only after you rent a movie, at an additional cost over and above the cost of the program.

That's what makes it a scam - that they say you can get free movies without additional rentals, and you can't do so without considerable extra effort. Good luck on your degree!

Leave a comment