Blockbuster Eliminating Late Fees

December 14, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Television 

Blockbuster has announced that they are eliminating late fees as of January 1, 2005.  (AP)

Basically, you are supposed to return the movie in 2 days (new releases) or one week.  However, they will now give you an additional week to return it without fees.  If you keep it beyond then, you’ve bought it – although they will allow you to return it within 30 days after paying a “restocking fee”.

This is being done to combat Netflix’s business model.  With Netflix, you pay $18/month and are allowed to have up to 3 movies in your hands at any given time.  Return a movie and get the next one.  All via free First Class Mail.

Personally, I think the Blockbuster idea will fail.  They’ve essentially changed the rules from 2 days or a week to 9 days or 2 weeks.  That means that they’ll have to carry more copies of new releases, at a greater cost to dispose of them later.
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I have one other issue with Blockbuster – widescreen.  I have a widescreen TV.  About 1/2 of the DVD’s being released come in separate versions for standard vs. widescreen.  My local Blockbuster orders primarily standard versions, with a few widescreen copies that are rarely in the store.  Given the choice between standard and nothing, I generally choose nothing (or perhaps another movie).

And then there’s our experience from a few weeks’ back.  We went in on a Saturday to rent.  When we reached the counter, we were informed that the computers were down and we couldn’t pay.  We would be able to pay when we returned the movie.  OK – we went home, watched the movie, and my wife went back Sunday morning.  The computers still were down, so we could return the movie but would have to make a special trip to pay later.  She had to come back later in the week and pay – an extra trip for no reason.  If they had decent customer service, they would have given us the rental for free when they were unable to charge us at return time.

Now that I have a high definition Tivo hooked up – I’ll be recording new movies in HD from HBO or Showtime and watching them in better quality than the Blockbuster DVD’s anyway.  For no extra charge.