We've Seen This Movie Before

From the way the media is playing up Blockbuster's new late-fees policy, you would think taxes were being eliminated. Instead, the hoopla is over those annoying $3 to $6.99 fees for returning a movie or game late. Dozens of papers ran headlines and stories today suggesting that the fees have been scrapped altogether. Which is kinda, sorta, almost true. As in any good movie, or well-crafted marketing campaign, though, there's a twist.

Make that a catch. Starting Jan. 1, if you return a movie a week after it's due, Blockbuster will automatically charge you the price of the video or DVD. This can run as much as $20. If you return it within 30 days, Blockbuster erases that charge and imposes a $1.25 "restocking fee." Since it goes by a different name, Blockbuster can trumpet "the end of late fees" (see the full-page ad in today's New York Times - A21 in my edition). No wonder the announcement generates more publicity than Jim Carrey's new movie. It sounds more dramatic than, say, "Blockbuster offers new grace period."

The real drama here, of course, is what this says about Blockbuster's future. It could very well be the latest sign that the longtime video-store giant can't compete with Netflix, Wal-Mart, and, coming soon, Amazon.

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  • M. Russell Stewart

    Might it be possible for people to be responsible and simply return the movie when they agree to do so? Blaming Blockbuster for trying to enforce a policy that the renting public is aware of, and agrees to when walking into the store, is like getting upset at Avis car rental for charging you for an extra day if you bring the car in late.

    Personal responsibility for actions and consequences can fall on no one's shoulders but the person. Blockbuster renters indeed do have the choice to stop renting there and start renting from Netflix, Wal-Mart, and (soon) Amazon. They do not have the choice, in my opinion, to blame Blockbuster for enforcing a policy, no matter how much they may disagree with it.


  • Matt

    I think they need to keep it simple. It's too confusing for the customers. Give us two choices, either get an unlimited Movie Pass subscription for $24.99 per month, or purchase the movie.

    They also need to utilize their website more.

  • Kari Sullivan

    Also, if you do return the item within the 30 day period, you don't get your money back - you only get a store credit. So after the week grace period ends, you have to shell out a good chunk of change. You end paying for the restocking fee and and having to spend even more money some where in the store.

    I'm pretty sure some customers who don't understand this complicated policy will feel quite duped.

    As I rather big video game renter, I am pretty unhappy with the new policy. Will I have to spend $40 for a video game I keep out a week late?