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:
|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.