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BLOCKBUSTED: the Return of the DVD

You read that correctly, it’s not a typo. Blockbuster fails to deliver even as they promise you total access. This past couple of weeks I’ve had my fill of promises not kept at the local store. It wasn’t the first time; it was the most egregious.

You read that correctly, it’s not a typo. Blockbuster fails to deliver even as they promise you total access. This past couple of weeks I’ve had my fill of promises not kept at the local store. It wasn’t the first time; it was the most egregious.

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It is no secret that new online movie rental Netflix has been eroding Blockbuster’s share of the market. You can bypass going to a crowded store by creating a convenient list of favorites online, with plenty of titles to choose from. Order with a couple of clicks, and receive the envelope containing your entertainment free of shipping charge.

Now here’s the part of the offering that sent Blockbuster scurrying for customers: you can keep each DVD as long as you want. The deal is: if you want a new movie, you need to return what you have at home in the prepaid return envelope. Even the most social of us can trade crowded stores and empty shelves for a couple of clicks — as long as we can plan in advance. Fair enough.

Blockbuster has stores with shelves, employees, and copies of DVDs that the company decided would be popular. So instead of rethinking their business model and taking the movie rental story to a new place, what did they do? They matched — or so it seemed — the offer to let you keep the DVD for “as long as you want”. This is a direct quote from store clerks. Let’s take a look at the experience with a figurative camera.

On February 2 we rented a 2-day movie, which we returned the next day by placing it in the convenient outside slot. We received a notice that our video was late on February 12, 10 days later — what happened to keeping the movie for as long as you want? Not only that, when we called to communicate that we had returned the video, we were reassured that all was well.

Then on February 13, the very next day after our call, Blockbuster charged the credit card on file at the store in the amount of $15.89. We received a second late notice on February 16 and went to the store to clear up the issue. The following day, the charge appeared on the credit card statement. On February 18, when we called the store to find out what was going on, we were put on hold for 16 minutes. So we drove to the store once again while on hold.

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What a waste! Here’s the explanation we received. When the videos are returned in the slot by the door, sometimes the clerks miss them. Not to worry, there’s a check built in: one week later, before billing late charges, each shelf is rescanned to make sure that nothing was missed in the first go. If the video is rented during that week, a flag in the system will tell them that it was not checked in properly and the check in is performed.

They must have missed it twice, because the video was not found and the account charged. It gets better. After we cleared the confusion and the video was finally found, the charge was reimbursed minus a shelf stocking fee. Wait a moment. Wouldn’t they have stocked the shelf in the first place? Blockbuster, you’ve been busted on your return procedures and much more. Here’s my suggestion:

– Don’t just mimic a competitor’s offering, create your own story and stand behind it.
– Designing a Web site and communicating a program don’t equal being truly integrated and providing that experience to your customers.
– Scan those videos when they are dropped in the slot — you put it there for your customers’ convenience. Don’t make it a hassle for them to correct.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • ConversationAgent@gmail.comwww.conversationagent.com

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