From the Department of Mild Consumer Outrage

You may be familiar with my slowly-cooling feelings towards Blockbuster Online. Even though I loved it at first,the annoyances have slowly been piling up.


blockbuster canceled

I hadn’t actually looked at my Blockbuster queue for several weeks. Therefore,it came as rather a shock when I logged in last Thursday and found that 3/4ths of my queue was rated “short wait.”Some things –like the third season of Babylon 5 –were rated “very long wait.”

Okay,here’s the thing:if the third season of an obscure science fiction show from seven years ago is rated “very long wait,”your system is broken.

I browsed around and found that everything I wanted to watch was “short wait.”Second season of Star Trek:DS9? Short wait. Fifth season of The Shield? Short wait. (Incidentally,The Shield season 5 has been rated “short wait”for at least the last four months.) I checked with a friend who has Netflix,he informed me that all of those titles were freely available (no wait necessary),and I went straight over and signed up.

Funny timing on this little incident,since I had just been reading a Consumerist article on Blockbuster’s problems. I had been planning to quit for several months,ever since people started floating rumors about an upcoming price hike. But this complete lack of inventory definitely pushed me over the edge.

Here’s a handy summary:

Blockbuster Online
USPS scans bar codes on envelopes and sends the data to Blockbuster’s systems. Moves are rated as “received”almost immediately after mail pickup,thus speeding turnaround time.Many DVDs are rated “short wait,”seemingly indefinitely. I waited for disc 1 season 1 of Babylon 5 to come off “short wait”for about five months before I finally gave up and started with disc 2.
You get at least one free print-from-web movie rental coupon per month.This comes in handy,because you can often get a new release from the store when it’s listed as “short wait”online. And new releases are always listed as “short wait”for at least a month after release.
Your DVD envelope can be exchanged at the store for a free movie,which also doesn’t count against your quota. This allows you to double up on movie-watching.You have to actually go into a store to do this,and the clerks are sworn to make the hard sell. I had a clerk argue with me about whether or not I wanted their candy card thing.
Every once in a while,their computer would send me an extra movie for no apparent reason whatsoever. This “extra slot”would remain standing for a few weeks before some system task apparently cleaned it up,and I went back to having the regular number of movies.Maybe they’re out of everything because their system keeps sending people extra movies. Or maybe it’s because everyone who comes up to the front counter at their stores is pushed to sign up for the online service.
Because you can exchange your DVD envelope for a movie rental,you never have to mess around with the pre-weekend queue-juggling. (“Okay,I want three movies to arrive on Saturday,which means that I have to watch this movie tonight,and that one tomorrow night,and be sure to get them in the mail Wednesday morning.”)

You also don’t have to worry about getting stuck with three things you don’t want to watch on a Saturday night.

This comes in handy because apparently their online system is COMPLETELY OUT OF MOVIES.
 Netflix has a “suggest a movie we don’t currently carry”form on their website. Blockbuster does not have such a form.

One gets the feeling that Blockbuster’s position on the subject is,“You’ll watch what we tell you to watch,and you’ll like it.”

 Blockbuster’s programming logic for handling a situation where you have a “short wait”movie at the top of your queue is totally broken. I tried putting a “short wait”movie at the top,just to see what would happen.

What happened:total logjam. I received NO movies for four days,before I finally relented and deleted the “short wait”movie. Within an hour,I received emails that four movies were being shipped out to me.

One thing I can say about Blockbuster:they make it easy to cancel. Just click the little “cancel”link on your account page,and you’re done. So,you know. Good for them.

13 comments to From the Department of Mild Consumer Outrage

  • Just watch out for Netflix throttling. For the first few months,you two will be on a honeymoon where they send you all your movies as fast as can be. After that,if you turn around your movies too quickly,they’ll start throttling you. Where you might have had two day turnaround,it’ll start taking five days or more. They’ll deny it of course,but if you contact them and bring it to their attention,it’ll mysteriously clear up. Whatever you do,when they throttle you (because it will happen) don’t get suckered into paying for additional rentals. They’ll still throttle you,you’ll just be paying more for it.

    All that said,after trying several online movie rental services,Netflix still has the best overall stock and turnaround.

  • I just did the 2-week free trial of Blockbuster with no intention of keeping it. I never had them bug me at the store when I turned in an envelope for a free in-store movie,but maybe they would have started if I became a paying customer. I had Netflix ages ago,so I don’t know if it’s still this way,but when I canceled,I was immediately persona non grata at their website,even though I still had movies out. I can still log in to my Blockbuster account now that I’ve canceled (and keep my outstanding movies for 30 days vs. Netflix’s 7). I did notice that Blockbuster had a short wait the entire 2 weeks for “A Room with a View,”a 22-year-old movie. Hmmm.

  • I’ve been with Netflix for over a year and I love it. I’ve yet to be “throttled”(probably because I have a tendency to forget to return things). They quickly replaced a movie that was unplayable (rare) and they just LOWERED my monthly fee.

    Blockbuster sounded like a better deal because of the ability to exchange/return to the store,until I read in the paper last week that Blockbuster is closing a bunch of stores to devote themselves totally to their online service. That doesn’t make sense. Oh,wait,yes it does. Lure them in with the difference,hook them,then dump the physical stores later,so it doesn’t appear that they’re jumping on the NetFlix bandwagon. ;-)

  • Wow. I’ve been with Netflix for years and have been very happy with them –especially since they’ve just dropped my monthly fee (presumably to compete with Blockbuster). Though I’ve never been “throttled”,my mom has –but I’m pretty sure that most of us aren’t the “power viewer”that she is (15+ movies per week!).

    Good luck and enjoy!

  • Kelly

    Huh. We’ve been doing the Netflix game for a couple years now,and have found them to have a great stock,good response time,and a fun queue (we keep adding movies we’ve never heard of–right now we have Diabolique).
    Caveat:broken/cracked/scratched DVDs. All you have to do is whine a little,then turn around and go on the website and tell them the movie was f-d. Immediate reship which is cool.
    I also have always avoided Blockbuster since I found they alter their movie choices based on what they think is appropriate. The fun part was getting around their snootiness by watching foreign films. Omy.

    Welcome to the Netflix borg.

  • Kelly

    Oh–and even though we’re in Chicago (land of the worst US mail system) we get a pretty good turn-around time. We do the 3 movies whenever plan (don’t know how that is really called) and they’ve not messed with us yet. While watching TV shows like Homicide or Oz,you really really want that next disk!

  • Yeah,I got Netflix then read up on Blockbuster when it started to see how it compared,and say,“Meh…”Despite word of Netflix and throttling,I’ve never had that problem;I don’t tend to steadily watch that many dvd’s at a stretch. For Portland,they ship movies from Salem,and they get here the next day,so it’s great turnaround time. And I think I’ve only run into a broken disc or one that for some reason froze and was unplayable all of about 2 times. Maybe 3. Replacements were super-fast. And it only seems to be the really new discs that are ever a long wait,and those I just move further down in my queue for a month or so. I’ve already decided to wait until it’s whatever is out on DVD,so no problem there. I still haven’t managed to get around to Firefly and Serenity,for instance. Too many other things to watch!

  • “…until it’s whatever is…”??? Ok,brain fart. ;) I just had to ladder 3 stitches down about 10 rows on #0 needles to pick up dropped stitches in a sock;I think my eyeballs stopped focusing! LOL.

  • Patti

    I’m lucky enough to live just a couple miles away from Scarecrow Video. I’m a single mom and rarely have time to watch movies –if I got one in the mail that was scratched or broken,I’d plotz.

    I miss Kosmo –they’d deliver a movie to your door within an hour,AND they’d bring you a Mounds bar.

  • I’ve been with Netflix since January and have been very happy with it. I watch one or 2 movies a week,which is fine for my schedule,and yes,they just dropped the price from 9.99 to 8.99. That works for me!

    The Blockbuster store is only a couple miles away,but I didn’t like their attitude.

  • Magatha

    If Blockbuster is run anything like Netflix’s model,and I think it is,availability of shows and movies at the top of you queue is directly related to how many movies you get per month. The more you use,the more they throttle you. This is why I will not use any of these services.

  • Funny how people’s experiences vary so much. We’ve had Blockbuster for several months now,and love it. In fact,my husband is away right at this moment turning in a movie at the store and getting a new one.

    I don’t manage our queue though,so I can’t say that we’ve had any problems as far as not being able to get the items we want in a timely fashion.

  • when can you change back to medicare from hmo

    worked trickled freckles!