Why I Will Not Miss Blockbuster Video

Why I Will Not Miss Blockbuster Video

If there was ever as stunning a fall for a retail giant as Blockbuster, I can’t recall.  At one time there was a store on every corner, it seemed like.

My first remembrance of a video store was not a Blockbuster.  My dad was always on the cutting edge of technology, and had one of the first VCRs ever made.  The thing was actually made of two pieces, and together had to weigh at least 50 pounds.  I’m pretty sure the remote control was attached via a wire.  (I do have to give my dad credit for picking the ‘right’ technology, as I’m reasonably sure there was still the VHS vs. BetaMax issue which had not fully resolved by that point).  Still, my dad joined a local store, though it was one of many that lasted but a few years following the later proliferation of Blockbuster and other chain video stores.

I was never a fan of Blockbuster for a variety of reasons.

  • Late Fees – It always seemed like no matter how you tried to stay on top of watching mb-201311tapesyour videos, you would find yourself seeing one and realizing that either the due date had already passed or you had 20 minutes to get that thing back to the store.
  • Rewind fees – I understand the logic behind not wanting all of their videos returned without having been rewound, but I always thought that this was petty.
  • Availability – No matter what movie you wanted, they seemed to be out of it.  Later on, I think they had guaranteed availability for new releases, but back in the earlier days, any new release was out of stock.  You could put your name on hold in case it ‘came back in’, but either it never did during the time where I wanted to watch the movie, or the phone just after I’d gotten into another movie.
  • The last straw – I put up with all of these things, but one experience swore me off from ever using Blockbuster again, a promise I was mostly able to keep.  It was probably around 2002 or 2003 when I was still using Blockbuster, and I returned a few videos.  Later that night I went to watch something of mine, and realized there was something in the machine.  Sure enough, it was a video from the store.  But I’d returned the videos, right?  Well, it didn’t take long to figure out that I’d stuck one of my movies in the case and returned it.  The reason this happened is because the movie I returned was one I’d bought as a ‘Previously Viewed’ copy, so it still had a Blockbuster sticker.  Though I can’t remember either movie, I remember that the movie I accidentally returned was one I liked, whereas the one I kept on accident was a real stinker.  I immediately drove the store and explained what happened.  Without even checking, they said that they ‘could not find’ my movie.  My guess is they probably repackaged it and sold it again.  And they were going to charge me late fees on the video I’d kept.  This was a double whammy that I was not going to take.  I knew that the credit card info that they’d taken when I signed up was no longer valid, as I’d closed the account.  I was so mad that I walked out, with their movie, and never returned to that store.  I was half expecting that they’d somehow try to track me down, but they never did. I just knew that store would always have me on record, and they probably did until they closed.

For the record, I went to another local shop that had recently opened.  I knew the place was doomed, as the decline of video stores had already begun, but I did get a few months out of them while I transitioned away from videos and to this new thing I’d heard about called ‘Netflix’.

Also, in fairness, I did rent from Blockbuster exactly one other time.  I did a temporary assignment down in Florida, and had some friends visit.  We got it in our heads to watch a particular movie (again, I have no idea what it was), but the only video store within 20 miles was Blockbuster.  So I relented and signed up, renting just that video.

It was surprising at how quickly things went south for Blockbuster.  They refused to believe that Netflix was a serious threat, and I believe that they simply thought that since they’d dominated the market and forced out so many, that they were entitled to their spot on top.

Not so.

And so with that, I say, so long, Blockbuster.  I sure won’t miss you!

19 thoughts on “Why I Will Not Miss Blockbuster Video”

  1. Wow, you really did hate BBV. I’d like to comment on each of your points if you don’t mind:
    1) Late Fees: C’mon, you can’t blame them for your late fees. They told us every rental when each one was due. However, I do remember the fees were rather steep.
    2) Rewind Fees: Yeah, I can’t argue with this one. There was a 6-month period of my life where I worked for BBV and I kinda brought this one up to the Corporate Managers. I enough power that they listened to me but not enough power to turn the ship on this very old policy.
    3) Availability: Wow. How times have changed! 20-30 years ago videos could only be played off of a physical medium and duplication devices (DVD burners) were not yet mainstream. Since then NetFlix and On-Demand cable have been able to make unlimited digital copies of everything. How soon we forget!
    BTW: We can still experience this shortage of high-in-demand physical items every Christmas shopping season and when Apple releases new phones.
    4) The Last Straw: It sounds like the store you returned the wrong video to was staffed by idiots. They obviously didn’t follow protocol because each case returned had to be opened, checked for the CORRECT video (and that they were rewound, see previous comment), and re-magnetized so the videos would trigger alarms if stolen. All this had to be done before checking the videos back in. If they messed that up and still couldn’t find your video then you have a right to be pissed off!

    As I said, I worked at BBV for a short period of time. It was back when Jerry McGuire was the big release and their business model was strong – that’s why they were the biggest name on the Block (pun intended).
    But you are right, their days were numbered and everyone saw it coming but them. I myself have not missed them for about a decade.

    • 1) Yes, I think you’re right. It wasn’t the fact that they charged them, I think it was the price, and if I recall the fee kicked in at an earlier hour than the store closed, and it was a pretty inconvenient time that I felt increased the likelihood you would get stuck.
      2) DVDs ended up making the rewind policies fall by the wayside, but not before it annoyed many people.
      4) Yes, I was mad that I didn’t get a call letting me know that my return was incorrect.

      Thanks for sharing some of your perspective!

    • Blockbuster will go down in history as probably one of the worst companies of all time. Right next to Union Carbide…

      It was a company that was spawned by Satan himself!

  2. We started using Netflix around 2000 and started limiting our use of Blockbuster for some of the same reasons you mention – especially those darn late fees! Somewhere around the mid-2000’s Mr. LH and I wondered why Blockbuster hadn’t gotten in on the movies by mail wagon. By the time they did, it seemed far too late. And that was obviously the case – they never took their competitors seriously!

    • I remember that right before Blockbuster came out with their by-mail service, Netflix had just increased prices, and they were forced to roll them back in order to match Blockbuster. I suppose that was about the only good that came of Blockbuster.com from my perspective!

  3. I have some fond memories of blockbuster, but they had nothing to do with the actual store – it could have been any video store. They had a store a block from my house, and it was always a special activity for my son (who was a toddler at the time) to ride our bikes to Blockbuster, pick out a new Bob the Builder video for him, as well as a candy snack.

    Love those memories…

    But, the business model is outdated, and digital streaming makes way more sense. I join you in saluting Blockbuster farewell. 🙂

  4. I don’t miss BlockBuster either! Actually, I NEVER got a BlockBuster card because I always thought they were way to expensive (and I don’t really want movies anyway). But RedBox is a much better deal!

    • I’ve only tried a Redbox a couple of times and the experience I had was that they were out of most movies I’d be interested in. Too small a sampling size to say if this is widespread or if I just had bad luck.

  5. Interestingly enough, our hometown Blockbuster went under because of the competition from a very small video rental business that offered $1 video rentals for slightly new videos! That same place still is in business and my mom swears by it!

  6. It seems like so long ago that Blockbuster was a thing. Yet, I have an empty one just across the street from me – it’s crazy how hard it is to lease old Blockbuster’s. I remember going to our local movie store in my small town where there was no such thing as Blockbuster – ah nostalgia.

  7. When supply and demand is in favor of the supplier, it seems like customers have to put up with a lot of things that are annoying. Now, with so many options for movies, prices and convenience are much better. Funny how things change, and things get easier for the customer.

  8. Blockbuster was a big deal around here because we were close to their headquarters. I have many fond memories going there with my dad and having a movie night. As Redbox and Netflix started coming around it was clear Blockbuster was doomed. Netflix was just to easy and you could get any movie you wanted in the mail. Then came streaming and it was game over for Blockbuster.

    • Even after they released their mail order service, I always figured they were ‘too big to fail’, that their name would keep them alive even if they were behind the times. Alas, that may have delayed their demise, but the name or clout that they’d built could only take them so far.

  9. I was never into Blockbuster even before when the technology is still very backward. Not so much fond of it.

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