12/14/2004

Blockbuster Eliminates "Late Fees." Right.

The WSJ reports (link requires WSJonline account):
Blockbuster announced Tuesday it will continue to set due dates, with one week for games and two days or one week for movies. But the company will give customers a one-week grace period at no additional charge, starting on New Year's Day.

Renters who want to keep movies or games longer can buy the products, less the rental fee. Or, Blockbuster says customers can return products within 30 days for credit to their accounts, with a restocking fee.
Oh, this is too rich
  • First, Blockbuster's blood-sucking late fees is THE reason we ran our Blockbuster cards through the shredder. I'm sure I'm not alone here. What iced my cake was when I returned a video 15 mins past the due time. Sigh.
  • Second, it is clear that Blockbuster is actually extending the default lending time that applies before additional rental (i.e., late) fees kick in.
  • Third, while technically banishing "late fees" Blockbuster has instituted a "restocking fee." "Hmm ...., " I can see hear the management gears churning: "... if we eliminate "late fee" and use "restocking fee" maybe no one will notice that we haven't really eliminated 'late fees.'" Um, yeah.
  • Fourth, Blockbuster is transitioning to a subscription model. I suspect this shift is part of an attempt to wean customers off of a la cart rental to subscription priced lending. Blockbuster is fighting off competition by subscription price video lending services from NetFlix, Amazon.com, and Wal-Mart. From another quarter, Time-Warner Cable, ComCast, and other cable TV services are rapidly expanding distribution of their video on demand services. Why battle the ice and snow to drive to the nearest Blockbuster store when the movie of your whim is available as close as the remote in your hand?
The real question: How much longer will Blockbuster, and other video rental stores, survive?

1 comment:

  1. For a while longer, I'd wager. I'm a subscriber of NetFlix and have been extremely happy with them for over two years. A friend, however, liked the concept but hesitated due to his preference for impulsive rentals. He likes to be able to go get a movie right now!Now that his local Blockbuster has gone to the subscription model, he signed up right away. So, they've kept him as a customer, and I'm sure he's not alone.

    As for me, screw Blockbuster. I love me some NetFlix. In particular, I like the way that you can hear about a movie you'd like to see, and add it to your list. Then you don't have to remember what it was next time you go to the video store.

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