Blockbuster is doomed. The online retailers are going to destroy them. This is not because Blockbuster cannot compete online, it’s because they cannot compete in the one place that sets them apart from the online competition – in their own stores.
You see, Blockbuster has a huge advantage over their online competition, and that is their stores. With an online only service like Netflix, you don’t get the option of going to the store to pick out a movie. If you decide one afternoon that you want to see a certain movie, you have to add it to your list and wait for it to be delivered. With Blockbuster, you can just go to the store and get it (assuming they have it in stock).
I want to take a moment here and mention that I’m not including download services in this comparison, as I don’t think they are in the same class yet. It’s not easy, especially for the average consumer, to download a movie and get it to their TV. And, even for those who have their computer connected to their TV, either directly or streaming (like with Apple’s soon to come AppleTV), the quality of downloaded movies is not the same as a DVD, let alone the high-def formats.
Let’s get back to the stores. This is where Blockbuster should shine, this is their advantage. However, this is where they fail miserably.
Yesterday, Carrie and I decided we wanted to see “The Departed”, which had just come out on DVD, so it wasn’t available yet on the “OnDemand” feature that comes with our cable service. So, we decided, for the first time in at least a few years, to drive up to Blockbuster. Now we remember why we stopped going there in the first place.
We found the movie we were looking for rather easily, it was one of two copies left in the store. (Had it been out, Blockbuster has an “in stock or it’s free” guarantee, which is nice.) So, we quickly grabbed it and headed to the counter.
At the counter, all of the cashiers had customers, but there was no line. So, we stood behind one of the open registers and waited. Meanwhile, at the other end of the line of registers, on the other side of a row of shelves of candy and other impulse items, someone lined up behind a different register, and someone else got behind them.
After a short period of time, the other register was free and they took care of the customer waiting on that end. Then, the register we were waiting at freed up, and the cashier called over to the people waiting on the other end “next in line”. (Apparently, that was where the actual line for the registers started, even though there was no sign or anything indicating that.) She then turned to us and said, “Sorry, but they were waiting longer.” She had clearly seen us standing there the whole time.
I replied, “No, actually, we were here longer and didn’t realize that the line started over there.” She promptly ignored us, and turned to call over to the other waiting customers “Next in line, please.” She got no response, since the other customers weren’t paying attention, so she preceded to pretend that we weren’t there, and walked over to get the other customer.
Now, since this took place, more people had gotten into the line, so we were forced to get behind them and wait. When it was finally our turn (at a different register, thankfully), the cashier took our member card, and movie we were holding, and then proceeded to fix the informational computer that was set up for the customers by the registers. Once that was done, he processed out member card, which had to be updated since we hadn’t been there in so long. He then helped the cashier next to him (the same one that ignored us earlier) and came back to try to up-sell us to sign up for their online rental service. Carrie quickly told him we weren’t interested, that we just wanted to rent the movie we had and be on our way. He went back into his sales spiel, and we had to cut him off to finish our transaction.
Finally, out of the store. But, our adventure doesn’t end there.
We went home and popped the movie in and began watching it. Half way through the movie, it began to stutter a little, then just froze up. Great. I took it out of the player and tried cleaning it a bit with a dry cloth (my shirt), and popped it back in. It played for a couple of seconds, then stopped. Arrrgggh! I tried cleaning it again, popped it back in. I wouldn’t go any further. ARRRGGGH!
Besides the piss-poor service, now I remembered the other reason we stopped going to Blockbuster; most of the movies that we’ve rented on DVD there are horribly scratched and stop playing half way through (or, at least, “stutter” through out the entire movie).
Now, we either return the movie and wait for it to show up on OnDemand, or exchange it for a different copy and hope that whoever rented that one before us didn’t treat it like shit.
At any rate, it’s the last movie we’ll ever rent from Blockbuster.