Back when NetFlix was the only option in town I tried the free trial offer just like everyone else and watched more movies in 30 days than any sane person should and then like some people I cancelled. The pressure of watching enough movies per month to justify the fee was too much for my particular liking. So I used my local blockbuster store to rent the 1-3 movies per month at a schedule I liked. The store was 15 minutes walk so it was all convenient.

Then they lost their lease to a bank that was prepared to pay higher rent (well so one of the neighbour businesses told me). Now the closest ones are a 15 minute drive each way - not so bad but caused me to go and look at blockbuster online and netflix.

About that time WalMart cancelled their DVD rental scheme and converted their accounts to NetFlix. Blockbuster responded by offering some super deal to anybody who sent them a NetFlix cancellation email. They didn't seem to realise that a netflix cancellation mail was trivial to get by just signing up for the 30 day trial and then cancelling so I'm sure they got burned on that one. Once the offer was over I dutifully paid my $10+ per month and figured I was getting a good deal especially as the price of gas went up. The prices were similar to NetFlix but you got 2 coupons a month to use in the store while you waited for delivery which IMO gave them the edge. So I got about 2 DVDs a month in the mail and mostly used my coupons to get 2 more.

Then they added the total access - where you can take the DVD back to the store and use that to get your free DVDs... they cut you down to one coupon which was reasonable. In a good month I would get 2 DVDs, exchange them for 2 more and use my coupon. 5 DVDs a month is pushing it for me and I started to feel some of the pressure so I looked to see if they had a lesser deal. To my disgust I found that at some point blockbuster had introduced a scheme without unlimited rentals. I was paying $10 a month for unlimited (and doing only 2 exchanges) and they had a scheme for $4.99 where you got exactly that deal. 2 DVDs by mail, 2 exchanges in store and 1 coupon to use at any other time. I was a bit annoyed that they hadn't bothered to tell me about this deal but like most big companies they realise that there is little profit in encouraging customer to a cheaper plan. So I switched - I was still using about the same number of DVDs but at $4.99 I didn't feel too guilty if I didn't use all 5 DVDs.

Then a month or so ago I got an email telling me that blockbuster had scrapped the plan I was on and upgraded me to a new one. Oddly enough the new one was 30% more expensive (yes I know I'm only talking a couple dollars here but 30% is 30%), still limited me to 2 exchanges and got rid of the coupon. Nice! So for my extra 30% I get oe less rental per month. That's one hell of a upgrade.

Its a shame really since they just added the one killer feature that I've been waiting for for over a year - automatic queue updating when you rent from a store. For example if I have 300 in my queue and I exchange in store then it will automatically realise that I've seen 300 and remove it from the queue.

I understand prices go up, I understand that your profits are down since you had to stop charging late fees to compete with NetFlix but when you send me emails PLEASE quit sounding like you are doing me a favour. Charging 30% more and delivering less is not a good way to keep customers. Of course you have discovered like the cable company that most people are mindless sheep and they would rather not go through the bother of changing service provider once they have got a queue full of videos and, also like the cable company, you offer your best deals only to your new customers instead of to your oldest and best customers.

So now as a matter of principle I feel obliged to shop around and go through all the hassle. I have, of course, sent a couple of my best grumbling emails to the idiot customer service people who, of course, just send me back "standard reply #127" as written by a team of marketing consultants at a cost of $12,400 per word. The reply, of course, fails to address any of the points in my email:

Thanks for contacting BLOCKBUSTER Online Customer Care.

I appreciate you taking the time to notify us of your concern, Andrew. Unfortunately, eCoupons are no longer available.

We feel we are still delivering a great consumer value and encourage you continue with the new terms and rate or consider one of the new plans we offer.

Note the loving insertion of my name to make me feel good.... is anybody fooled by this? Why are they not available? Because your executives need new BMWs? One day I hope to get an email like this:

Dear Andy, We're really very sorry we had to change your service. However postage costs for shipping DVDs have gone up 15c per delivery and our staff got a very reasonable 5% pay raise this year. As a result the cost of your service has gone up by 6%.


Dear Andy, We screwed up - we're really sorry. We thought that by offering a cheaper plan we would make up in in store purchases volume what we lost in profit margin. However it appears that our online rental customers are not actually buying any candy when they go to the store and as a result our revenue is down 10% for online rentals. We would like to give you the option of taking a 10% increase or reducing your service my losing your coupon. We hope you understand.

I can dream eh?

Published 01 October 2007 05:02 PM by zman
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