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.