The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 January 2006

Lackluster video

I haven't set foot in a Cropduster Blockbuster Video store in about a decade, and apparently I haven't missed much:

Blockbuster has always charged as much as it imagines the traffic can bear. Its late fees were brutally high, and it raised the price of rentals substantially when it removed the fees. Did it think we wouldn't notice?

Blockbuster employees hereabouts are teenagers who don't give a damn. There is no avenue whatever for customer feedback to get to anybody who cares. If, in fact, there IS anybody who cares.

Worst of all, Blockbuster drove out the independent video stores in our area — stores which had knowledgeable and entertaining movie buffs behind the counter and which carried lots of old movies, foreign movies, documentaries, and other things I actually wanted to see.

Blockbuster has instead arrogantly stocked its stores with hundreds of copies of the most idiotic current releases, ignoring "long tail" customers altogether. It followed the old Henry Ford business model: "You can paint it any color, so long as it's black."

I made my first forays into home video in 1981, buying a Beta VCR and a CED videodisc player; I followed with a LaserDisc player in 1982. I split my business between Buttons, a video cousin to the Sound Warehouse chain, which was quick to get hardware goodies, and Kaleidoscope Video, a local store with two locations and enormous quantities of nonhits on tape.

But that was then. Now I rent nothing; if I want to see it badly enough, I'll actually catch it in a theater, or if it doesn't play here — too common an occurrence, alas — I'll figure out some way to get the DVD. (And I'm not above writing to the producer if I have to.)

And should I have actual time for rentals at some point, I'll probably sign up for something like Netflix. Less hassle, better selection.

Posted at 10:00 AM to Dyssynergy


When I bought my first DVD deck it came with a years worth of discount coupons to Hollywood Video. To that point I had always used Blockbuster too. While they may not be much better I prefer them now. I haven't subscribed to any of the mail services because I don't rent that often. To get any kind of a good deal from them you need to see as many as possible. I rent maybe six or eight movies a year.

Posted by: ms7168 at 1:40 PM on 11 January 2006

For $12.99 we get 4 DVDs a month, two at a time. We can normally watch 1 a week but the selection is a LOT better than LackLuster and we don't have to fight the crowds.

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 3:17 PM on 11 January 2006

Netflix is great. I am actually anxiously awaiting VOD.

Posted by: Donna at 3:32 PM on 11 January 2006

Hey Chaz,

Back in the day, I lived within walking distance of Kaleidoscope video at 34th and MacArthur. Got to know the folks there by first name, and probably rented hundreds of obscure flicks of all varieties - 60's drive-in trash, foreign films, indie films, hard-to-find classics, you name it.

They've been gone for over 5 years now, and they are still sorely missed.

I can't stand to set foot in a Blockbuster store either.

Posted by: Mike at 5:25 PM on 11 January 2006

As a teenager, I got a job at my podunk hometown's very first Blockbuster video, in the summer of 1990. I was part of the crew that actually stocked the store and worked there through the first three months of operation.

Most memorable part: Watching the orientation video starring Smiling Wayne Huizenga, who was well on his way to becoming a South Florida business icon (having brought the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers to Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, and currently owning the Miami Dolphins).

I rarely rent videos these days; my reasons mirror yours, mostly. I'm lucky to be in an area that gets a good chunk of the esoteric releases, later if not sooner. Plus, to me, having a disc sitting there, silently nagging me to fire it up before it's due back, turns the whole experience into something like a homework assignment.

That said: I just rented Wedding Crashers, Uncorked Version today. From Hollywood Video.

Posted by: CT at 8:04 PM on 11 January 2006

Like Donna, mine is a Netflix household.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:49 PM on 11 January 2006