8 Things Blockbuster Video Doesn’t/Won’t Tell You

I’ve held jobs at several places, most of which were media-based (all of them, actually… a video game store, a cinema, and a Blockbuster Video). While I cannot effectively say that working in a corporate chain of media outlets is better than food service I can say that food service can’t possibly be much better, if any better at all. Corporate-owned chains are notoriously depressing places to work in the first place and Blockbuster Video is not an exception by any means, in fact it may actually be the centerpiece of awful jobs with depressing demands and expectations. After having done my time I ended up quitting because the constantly changing sales demands and lack of stability in the company was having an adverse effect on my actual well being so as per my doctor’s orders… I told Blockbuster where they could shove those excess copies of Twilight.

Having worked there, though, I have a unique insight to all of the company’s lies and stupid practices that they pass along to unknowing customers. Even if some customers are completely retarded there’s still no reason why they should be kept in the dark about such things as:

 

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Remember all the hoopla about “NO MOAR LATE FEEZ” a few years back? Yeah, that was a whole load of crock and was actually a better operating model than what replaced it. Prior to the new system that was enacted a few years ago if you kept a movie out past its due date you were charged a nominal fee (less than $1) for each day you kept the movie out. People hate late fees either because they’re just too incompetent to see “DUE BY: TUESDAY 04/13” printed on their receipt and feel embarrassed about it or simply because through evolutionary changes in the human race the phrase “late fees” causes people to instinctively lose their shit over the stupidest things. What happens if you keep a movie out past its due date NOW?

They charge you the full price of the movie as if you had bought it new.

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A Blockbuster Video trying out a new logo.

Yeah. You spend $5 renting that copy of Iron Man and if you keep it five days past its due date you’d be charged $20 directly to your credit card, if you were stupid enough to let them put it on file with their records in the first place. Once that charge goes to your credit card you have a whole problem to deal with because charges for late fees may actually have an adverse effect on your credit score. If you’re too lax with your Blockbuster rentals there’s a solid chance you may actually end up playing guitar in a seafood restaurant or buying shitty cars and getting 1980’s cell phones from Verizon. If you do the math on average late fees have gone from 25 cents a day to almost four fucking dollars. Legally they can do this to you so long as they don’t call it a “late fee” because that would be false advertising… but should you ever find yourself disputing a claim over it don’t refer to it as anything else other than “late fee”, because that’s exactly what it is only repackaged.

 

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If you ever find yourself owing a Blockbuster Video store money for whatever reason (late fees, etc) you don’t have to pay them. At all. It is company policy that the “customer is always right” and with Blockbuster completely in the crapper financially they will do anything — anything — to keep customers happy. If you rented the maximum number of movies out at one time and kept them all for a month and accrued several hundred dollars in late fees they have to overturn this. Generally they will of course tell you that they cannot do it for whatever reason but if you make enough noise about it they will overturn it regardless of the amount.

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Apparently the sign isn’t one of the “new” things.

They probably realize that nickel and diming the hell out of their customers at every possible point in the transaction is a counterproductive way to stay in business so if you are completely flustered over them charging you for late fees you can get out of it. You could make up whatever story you wanted to ranging from your idiot brother renting it without you knowing to being abducted by aliens and giving them Blockbuster’s only copy of Gigli so that they would let you go in return and the manager will have to pardon the fees, the manager/employee handbook guide says so.

 

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Normally Blockbuster Video would have you believe that their store is absolutely crawling with security what with all of the tempting movies and games sitting out on the sales floor. As it turns out there are only two cameras in the entire store (that’s what the asterisk means): there is a camera pointing at the front door and a camera pointing at the registers to watch the employees. There is also a camera in the back/storage room but that isn’t accessible by customers so it’s not being counted. Blockbuster is more concerned with people taking petty cash from the registers than they are with thieves stealing actual merchandise; while the registers only have about $200 in them at any given time somebody exceptionally devious could cut open the entire Star Wars franchise and other films and make off with more in merchandise than the employees could ever pocket from the registers.

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Also a good option.

It also doesn’t help that in some stores they leave entire retail games out on the floor unsecured. No, I’m not making this up, Blockbuster is almost inviting people to come take whatever they want from the stores and never be seen doing it. Sure the employees might notice you slicing something open but even if they do see you every employee is instructed in their handbook to not pursue or even confront people they think are stealing and also not to notify the police about it because if the suspect has a knife or pulls out a gun Blockbuster would be liable for whoever gets shot and/or stabbed. They’d rather let people walk out with every copy of Land Before Time than they would in being aggressive to take care of their own asses.

 

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You’re this far into this article and you still think that perhaps Blockbuster Video isn’t that bad. Well, okay; fine. Here’s another tidbit they feed you that is 100% untrue. “You need a credit card on file to rent from us,” a clerk might say. You can look this person in the eye and tell him “no” and he has no choice but to listen to you. The way the archaic computer system is set up allows for blank fields in the credit card information. The only time you actually need a credit card is to rent a video game because apparently losing $60 for every game is seen as “bad” by the corporate offices whereas losing $20 on copies of The Mummy III isn’t; but even then if you’re exceptionally crafty you can give them a Visa gift card with a penny on it and they won’t be any wiser.

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I WONDER WHY WE ARE LOSING MONEY THIS WAS A GREAT AD.

If you want to get technical with the person behind the counter tell them to put “VG” as your credit card type and your customer profile will suddenly no longer demand plastic. “VG” is a two character abbreviation for “VideoGuard”, an old subscription you could purchase back in the days of VHS that would protect you from damaged tapes and thus keep you safe from having to pay for it with your credit card. VideoGuard is no longer sold/offered but the functionality is still there because the system is old as fuck so telling them to put it in the field will abstain you from surprise late fees and charges.

It’s also worth pointing out that even though you are given a grace period with late movies by giving Blockbuster Video your credit card information you are letting them put various holds for X amount of dollars on your account until said late movies are returned to the store. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck a hold of $20 on your account can be pretty crippling.

 

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If you are tempted by the sodas, the popcorn, or the candy at the registers don’t buy it… and if you absolutely have to then check the expiration date. People generally aren’t interested in buying a Snickers bar for $2 at Blockbuster when they can stop at a Wal-Mart and get it for 50 cents and because of this the inventory of snacks at any given store is likely poorly circulated. The next time you’re at a Blockbuster Video check the soda cooler and see how many Diet Cokes are past their date and for the sake of hilarity don’t say anything and instead just keep an eye on it to see how long the staff neglects the food. The second it becomes so rancid that it evolves sentience is about the time they usually do something.

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It’s all just one big conspiracy, really.

I can speak from my own experience that the staff doesn’t keep an eye on all of the snacks mostly because there’s too much of it to keep in mind. There were boxes of flavored popcorn that had expired in 2007 and were still out on the sales floor in 2009; I’m fairly certain Orville Redenbacher even had a new logo in that time. There were also bottles of Vitamin Water that were so old they had somehow started growing mold inside the bottle, the entire inside was coated with a thick black goop that looked like something straight out of The X-Files. Mercifully the worst offenders were sitting in the back room and were pulled for expiration long ago but nobody ever marked them defective to be credited back to the store.

 

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In the past decade Blockbuster Video has tried a lot of different ploys to keep people in the store, most of which involved some annual or monthly fee and copious amounts of “coupons” to keep people’s attention. I can’t speak against all of them because some have some decent deals and specials, but I will advise that you familiarize yourself with the terms in more detail than just what the clerk tells you because he only wants you to buy it because if he doesn’t his job is on the line. He’d tell you that purchasing a Blockbuster Rewards subscription would get you laid every single day if it meant you’d buy one.

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Hey so much for that frequent customer bonus, right?

The problem with these frequency subscriptions is that they require you to spend a lot more money than they are worth to get any savings and I’ll use the formerly popular “Blockbuster Rewards” as my example. The deal was nice: rent any 5 movies and your 6th (least expensive) is free! You also got 1 free rental from the 99 cent section (when it existed) as well as “rent one get one” from the 99 cent section on certain days of the week. On the whole it’s not that bad of a deal for only $9.99 annually. The problem with the “rent 5 get your 6th free” thing is statistically nobody rents 5 movies in any given month. Renting a movie is, at best, a once a week kind of thing and generally people only rent 1 movie which adds up to 4 for each month… and your amount doesn’t carry over at the 1st of the next month. The system was devised in such a way to simply scam people from ten extra bucks at the register.

If you’re that much of a die-hard customer than it’s probably something for you but for the casual customer you’re going to be spending more money than you want to and you probably won’t reap the benefits from it at all.

 

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When I worked at Blockbuster Video I hated my job. It was one of the most depressing things I can remember doing in my life. I was forced to dress up as a vampire on Twilight release day and wave around signs and other such nonsense outside in the South Texas sun without sunblock on. It’s a humiliating and depressing job and that opinion is something echoed in every single Blockbuster Video in the world. I’ve advised a lot of awful things against the clerks in the store which may be a bad thing because honestly they don’t deserve it. They’re rude to you largely because they just don’t want to be there and that goes for the managers too. The clerks are generally teens and young adults who just think “The Man” is keeping them down, but the managers are all people who quietly cry to themselves and wish they had stayed in school or done something better with their lives.

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How every employee feels about the company.

Yes it’s inconvenient that you were charged whatever fee because someone on staff messed up and didn’t check your movie in before putting it on the shelf, and yes they will take that fee off because they are the ones at fault. Yes they understand that you’re pissed off because they are sold out of whatever fantastical movie you wanted to see or that they don’t even carry whatever classic you wanted to rent but there’s nothing they can do about it. From an employee standpoint working for Blockbuster is like performing regular maintenance on a sinking battleship, it’s futile and they are aware of it, but it’s the best they can do for themselves right now. When corporate sends out their weekly bulletins about what deals they are supposed to offer generally within a couple of days these correspondences are redacted or replaced with something else; it is a job environment that promotes a feeling of insecurity and instability and to the average worker the thought of going to open the store in the morning only to see a “STORE CLOSED – BANKRUPTCY” sign on the doors with changed locks and people with a crane taking the light-up sign down is actually a very real possibility.

 

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Blockbuster is going down and the company knows this. They have been futilely trying whatever zany idea they can think of to stay in business because in all honesty the “walk in movie rental store” business plan is dying and is getting its ass kicked BADLY by services like Netflix and Redbox offering a much more convenient method of renting and returning movies and at much more affordable prices. Blockbuster has been trying to respond with things like Blockbuster Online and every single frequent renter deal they can think of but all in all it’s not helping. They’ve tried going the Hollywood Video route and adopting the “used video game” business plan  (GameRush) and making some stores into entertainment venues (Rock The Block) but it’s all fruitless and to no avail; Blockbuster is currently operating in the red with a debt of almost $300 million and is showing no signs of recovery. Searching the New York Stock Exchange for Blockbuster Incorporated (BBI) shows that the value of their stock is twenty-eight cents. That’s the price of a fucking gumball.

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Pictured above: 7 shares of Blockbuster Inc.

To a prospective investor for just under $1 million they could become the majority shareholder in the company assuming the stocks were all being offered by their holders. Compared to other companies that is pathetic and many investors and economists have written Blockbuster off as one of the companies that won’t be with us much longer. The insecurity felt by the common sales clerks is the same if not worse as the insecurity felt by the corporate employees of Blockbuster, many of whom built their way up long long ago when VHS rental was a mainstream and lucrative business, and for them in some cases they also have nowhere to go.

Working for Blockbuster is a horrid idea, and out of their own insanity shopping there has become a toilsome task as well. With the commitment potential of a Vegas marriage to their business plans Blockbuster is a company on rocky ground heading straight to that big stock exchange in the sky.

Good riddance.

– Dracophile