Remember Blockbuster Video when you were a kid? You’d be eating pizza after a Little League game and you just convinced your parents to allow [insert kid you don’t know anymore] to sleepover when the urge would strike. Your childlike brain would be thinking about the limitless possibilities of staying up late. The best possible thing was a trip to the big, blue awning where you could get the same movies over and over [Flight of the Navigator for me] and get so much candy you’d go diabetic under one roof.
Blockbuster used to have personality. Remember when they’d have sections for specific stars? Like a Bruce Willis section. You’d go in and think, “Man, I forgot how awesome Bruce Willis was” and then end up watching all three Die Hard movies in one night (there were only three in the magical time I am referring two).
I was a child and loved Blockbuster. I loved the responsibility of late fees. I loved Sour Patch Kids. I loved video game sections. Remember when you could RENT video game systems there?! What?!
A recent altercation at my local Blockbuster hath led me to this point, where I must write them a letter to explain that my feelings are hurt. The contents of the sent letter is as follows. I will be sure to post their response although I emailed it to their website and I suspect they have no contact with their stores in general. It’s like a town if all the adults vanished and kids took over.
Let me start by saying I have been a loyal customer for over two decades. When I was a child in New Jersey, there were two things we didn’t have nearby at the time: Blockbuster Video and 7/11. I spent my life dreaming about a day where I could get a Slurpee and rent a movie conveniently.
I moved to Texas and both dreams came true. It was marvelous. I have fond memories of your store. There was the time I convinced my father I was mature enough to rent the uncensored Mortal Kombat without growing up and murdering anyone (so far, so good!). I remember one time when I had to use the bathroom really bad and your Oak Park, California story let me use the employee toilet. That was super cool. I remember the days when you’d call other stores to see if a movie was in stock. I miss those days.
Netflix must have hit you hard. I know because lately, I have no idea what you guys sell. It’s like the Island of Dr. Moreau in there. You are one part movie rental store, one part supermarket, one part art gallery, one part Best Buy with a ticket kiosk thrown in for good measure (although I am pretty sure your staff doesn’t know how to use it). Times seem tough.
Still, I like the analog in life and there’s something about renting a movie and taking it home that adds to the experience. That’s why I’d say I only return maybe 1/3 of the movies I rent. I am lazy, but at the same time, if I like a film, I’ll keep it. I dug the system. I had a long grace period to return it. Worst case scenario, you’d charge me a restocking fee for returning it.
Recently, well within the grace period, I came back to return three films. One was good, one was pretty bad, and the other was the worst movie I have ever seen. I went for a run and brought with me the DVDs so I could return them. I brought them in and was told that your grace period policy had changed and now I owned all these films.
This would have made me angry even if I now owned great films like Chinatown, Shawshank Redemption and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Imagine how I felt when I realized that I now owned the film Year One.
Do your realize the 25 dollars or so I was charged to keep that film literally represent 1/3 of the domestic gross of the film?
I asked your clerk if they were informing people that the policy had just changed. He said yes. I asked why I wasn’t told about it. He said he “guessed whoever was working didn’t tell me”. I asked what I was supposed to do with the movies. He told me that I owned them and now they were mine. I could do what I wanted.
I got a little upset and an older employee told me he could refund my money for store credit, but that he would not honor the old policy (which existed when I rented the films). He said if I wanted my money back I’d need to talk to the on-site manager who was, predictably, not on-site.
I then realized that perhaps my unintentional purchase of Year One was what was keeping the lights on for the business. My heart softened. Year One is pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as working for a business that is relying on tricking people into purchasing Year One as a means of staying afloat amidst a sea of competition from more convenient, transparent and well-run businesses.
As much as I want a refund for Year One (there is a chance in watching it I have permanently dumbed myself down to the point that my sperm count has lowered and what is left most likely forgot how to swim), consider my amicably resolving the issue as my early Christmas present to you. (Please note that if you celebrate Hanukkah, the Xmas comment was innocent. Blockbuster doesn’t seem like a Jewish last name.)