Sunday, October 07, 2007

More Blockbuster Stupidity

I've written in the past about different ways Blockbuster has messed up (in my opinion).

One of their last big shenanigans was to roll out and advertise to death a "no late fees" policy that was anything but "no late fees." More recently, they've been trying to bit into Netflix's subscriber base by pushing Total Access, a service where their online rentals can be returned to the store and used as a voucher for a free rental--effectively doubling the number of rentals you could get for the same subscriber price.

Blockbuster recently announced that they were raising prices for this service. Okay, that doesn't bother me too much. Price wars are nice for the consumer, but they have to end eventually. More irritating is that they put a cap on the number of in store trades ins on several of their subscription options. But again, I could live with it. After all, the decision is mine whether I want to pay the premium for unlimited in-store trades (where it's easier to find TV on DVD available then it is to get high demand titles shipped) or have a limit.

I selected the option where I get five (5) in-store rentals each month, and that's where my current beef lies.

I was at a store yesterday and asked what had to be an anticipated question with the new, capped trade in service: "How many in-store trades do I have left in my billing cycle?" The inexplicable answer? "We don't know."

It was explained to me that the store had "no way" to access (no pun intended) that information. The register/computer simply spit out a denial whenever the customer was over his or her limit, at which point they asked if he/she wanted to continue with the transaction.

Now lets think about this for a second. There is absolutely no legitimate customer service reason why the register can tell you that you are over but can't tell you how close you are to being over. The computer can tell you when your Blockbuster Rewards is up, how many rentals you need until a free rental, and when your rentals are due.

The only rational conclusion I can come to is that Blockbuster doesn't want you to have that information. Why? Well, if my receipt tells me, "Hey this is your last trade in until the end of the month," then I'm going to stay away from the store for a week or two until I have another trade in. But if I go to the store, wind through checkout, and at the point of exit am told, "you are over your limit" then I might be more likely to say (standing at the register with the DVD I want in my hand), "Oh, bother...well, I'll just pay cash for this one rental and then come back when I have more trade ins." Now, instead of walking out of the store happy about my transaction and service, I'm walking out angry and feeling fleeced of extra couple of bucks.

This is just bad customer service. It is penny wise and pound foolish. Blockbuster is spending all this advertising money to try to get new customers and then going out of its way to alienate rather than satisfy them. If Blockbuster spent a fraction of the effort keeping customers satisfied (rather than squeezing them) that they did trying to get them to try the service in the first place, they would be better off. They may wrestle an additoinal $5 rental out of a loyal customer only to find that customer cancelling a monthly $20 subscription.

And they wonder why Netflix continues to kick their butt.

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