Sunday, November 21, 2010

As video rental stores sink slowly in the west...

There's kind of a downside to having a home-based business.

Not that I'm real big on social conversing -- it's low on my list of enjoyable activities, below washing dishes. Honest. But when you work at home, you really don't want to use the 'net for everything. It's nice to see a human being on occasion, in, you know, actual stores. It's nice to know our shopkeepers and have them know us, and it's nice to have a town of active businesses, instead of a town of empty storefronts and jobless locals.

So we make our weekly rounds. We've become friends with the people who work at the post office. They know us at the grocery store, and do nice things like honoring my discount coupon, good only on an order of $75 or more, even though my total came up $1.73 short of eligibility. And they know us at the diner and bring me a diet cola as soon as they see me come through the door. Yes, at breakfast.

And we rent videos the prehistoric way. We've been regulars at the nearest walk-in stores.

That's "stores," plural, because they keep folding. We make video rentals part of our regular errand run, and the store closes. I mean, with no notice; we show up and it's an empty room with several dvds lying under the return slot on carpeting imprinted with vanished fixtures, a Chik-Fil-A cup abandoned on an empty shelf, and a Dear John letter on the door.

So we feed our dvds into the return slot to join the forlorn pile on the floor, drive to the next nearest place and become regulars there. Then that one tanks. We're on our third one.

It's weird to get nostalgic about a company like Blockbuster, but we've enjoyed it. I like the staff, and get some good ideas and suggestions from them, and yak with them about our cats and their car trouble and so on.

Blockbuster used to give us one-week rentals. That was nice. Then they cut it to 5 days. That's a pain, but basically still means a once-a-week trip, so we adjusted.

Today, we got there to discover that they've switched to 3-day rentals.

Not that 8 miles is an arduous drive, or that much of a fuel economy burden. But we NEVER go that route for any other reason, and there are a bunch of [%$@#!]ing traffic lights to wait at, and that just tore it. The new 99-cent rentals are swell for somebody, but little in that category appealed to us, and engineering our own 5-day rental period by incurring dollar-a-day "late fees" means a [%$@#!]ing automated "reminder" phone call each day, and adds up too fast if you take home more than one.

So. It looks like I'll be following the rest of the human herd to Netflix. I wrote BB to tell them so. Their stores are "competing" with the convenience of the internet/mail order providers by making store use as INconvenient as possible, which makes no sense. I told them that, too. Likely, they want to stop serving through stores and ferry us all into their own net service, but why keep spending money to make the stores less competitive??

Anyway, I guess my BB card will now join my collection of defunct cards.


Catherine said...

We actually have no video rental stores left in our town. It's either red box or netflix. I hate both of them.

Christy said...

Catherine - why do you hate Netflix? We love it! We can watch it via our Wii and online, plus I just found its app on my iPhone and we can now watch it on my phone. Not that I'm going to do that, but we could!

Seriously, why don't you like Netflix?

Mike said...

Our Blockbuster closed but with a long fanfare during which I purchased a fair number of good movies for very little money. The nice thing about being a snob being that my movies weren't the first ones gone. By a long shot.

And I have become a Netflix person, too. I have to tinker with my TV which recently decided it didn't want to talk to my computer anymore, but watching on the laptop isn't bad for one.

As for switching to a 3-day limit, that was, I think, the employment policy at the store. They'd have no more been able to recommend a film than split an atom.

southernyankee said...

What everyone seems to either ignore, or not think about beyond what was stated in the original post is lost jobs. The digitally dependent society is eliminating thousands of jobs with no end in sight and not just at places like BlockBuster.

When a local store shutters its doors, their employees too often learn that their replacement resides in a country where they get paid $1-3.00 a day for working a keyboard. The jobs are gone and nothing will replace them, maybe not ever.

Not even Wal-Mart can throw up China Super-Centers fast enough to take up the slack.

I'm just saying. . .

Dann said...

Hi Ruth,

Our Blockbuster locations went under a long time ago. Hollywood Video hung in there for a few years more, but they have succumbed over the last six months.

Our sole remaining "big" store is Family Video. Their big claim to fame is free kids movies. Unfortunately, films like "Toy Story" and "Up" don't qualify. But lots of other cheap kids fare does count. They have a mildly complex fee schedule where the newest films cost more and you get them for fewer days. Unless you opt to pay the extra buck for a few more days. Older films are available for 5 days for a buck or two. As a bonus, you pay nine bucks and get half off your rentals for a month...or two...I forget.

The biggest problem is that Family Video is on the other side of town. So we don't have many occasions to visit them.

A friend with younger kids that used to love Family Video has fallen in love with Netflix via the Wii. Now the missus and I are planning on working that way as well. The combination of online films with the kind that come in the mail make it unbeatable.

Hi southernyankee,

Welcome to the industrial revolution. That has been happening since the 1800s. The only difference is who we demonize for "stealing" jobs.


ronnie said...

We're dealing with this here, too.

I'd love to be able to sign up for Netflix, which is available in Canada only as a streaming (not mail-based) system.

However, incredibly, Netflix streaming videos are not closed-captioned.

Lazy, stupid - you pick. They're shutting out millions of customers because of one or the other.


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Hot on the heels of my post came a story in the next day's paper that US Blockbuster also wants to phase out videos by mail and go to all-streaming!

This calls for a rebellion.