Quote of the Week:

"He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." (Jim Elliot)

Drop me a line if you want to be notified of new posts to SiTG:

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!
My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Woodlief. Make your own badge here.

The Best of Sand:

The Blog
Greatest Hits
DVD Reviews
Faith and Life
Judo Chops
The Literate Life
News by Osmosis
The Problem with Libertarians
Snapshots of Life
The Sermons

Creative Commons License
All work on this site and its subdirectories is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Search the Site:

Me Out There:

Free Christmas
Don't Suffer the Little Children
Boys to Men
A Father's Dream
WORLD webzine posts

Not Non-Fiction
The Grace I Know
Coming Apart
My Christmas Story

The Craft:

CCM Magazine
Charis Connection
Faith in Fiction
Grassroots Music

Favorite Journals:

Atlantic Monthly
Doorknobs & Bodypaint
Image Journal
Infuze Magazine
Missouri Review
New Pantagruel
Southern Review

Blogs I Dig:

Education & Edification:

Arts & Letters Daily
Bill of Rights Institute
Junk Science
U.S. Constitution


Home School Legal Defense
Institute for Justice
Local Pregnancy Crisis
Mission Aviation
Prison Ministries
Russian Seminary
Unmet Needs


Cox & Forkum

Donors Hall of Fame

Susanna Cornett
Joe Drbohlav
Anthony Farella
Amanda Frazier
Michael Heaney
Don Howard
Laurence Simon
The Timekeeper
Rob Long
Paul Seyferth

My Amazon.com Wish List

Add to Technorati Favorites

May 19, 2005
On the Virtues of Hating Blockbuster

I know what some of you are thinking. He's lost his edge. You remember with fondness the days when I would bring the everloving smack to McDonald's for faulty pickle placement, or rain down barbs on smug, intolerant, self-anointed judges of what counts as real womanhood. That was the real Tony, you think. Back when he was a man.

If you find yourself mildly dismayed by the heavy doses of sentimentality of late, and missing the old, bitter Tony, then this one's for you. The topic today is Blockbuster, also known as the The Company That Robbed My Children of a College Education With Their *$!#%&!! Late Fees. One of the greatest moments of petty vengeance I have ever experienced came the day I signed up with Netflix. No late fees, excellent selection, no bloody late fees, don't have to leave the house, no freaking late fees, an online queue so you don't have to remember everything you want to see, no *$!#%&!! late fees. Life has been great ever since.

Well, the wife and I are nursing a 24 addiction, but it's manageable. I mean, we can quit any time we want. Really. I mention the addiction (and it's really more hers than mine) because it brought us back to Blockbuster. You see, I mismanaged my Netflix queue, and this weekend we found ourselves without the next 24 DVD. "Let's go get it at Blockbuster," said the wife. (See what I mean?)

"Absolutely not," I replied through clenched teeth.

"Just this once."

"Get behind me, Satan."

"Fine, then I'll watch it by myself, and tell you whether Jack Bauer survives the plane crash."

"You hussy!"

Since we were out anyway, I drove to Blockbuster. She was already committed, you see, and I didn't want her driving at night on her own. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Video Store We Don't Speak Of, I saw that its windows were covered with big red signs announcing that we no longer have to live in a world with late fees, because Blockbuster is taking a stand to eliminate them.

At times like this I wish my mother didn't read this blog, because to do justice to what went through my mind, I would have to lay out some really creative cursing, the kind you need a copy of Gray's Anatomy and a stint in the Navy to really appreciate. So let's suffice to say that I was nonplussed. Whatever "plussed" is, I was very much the opposite of that. Definitely without the plussing. These are the people, you see, who perfected the art of the bait and switch in the field of late fees.

Here's your movie Mr. Woodlief. It's due back on Tuesday unless you bring it back on Monday, in which case it's really due yesterday. In fact, it's already late. That'll be $73.47. Thanks for shopping at Blockbuster.

And now they're making it sound like the world was awash in complex late fee arrangements before they stepped into the breach. Of course their "no late fee" policy really isn't; now if you keep it too long they don't charge you a late fee, they charge you the price of the entire fricking movie.

These aren't late fees, Mr. Woodlief, they're Inadequate Timeliness Assessments.

I confess a fiery burning hatred for firms that behave like an East German water utility, and only modify their practices once they are threatened by upstart competition. I like companies that are constantly innovating and finding better, cheaper ways to suck up to me while selling me schlock I don't need at a ridiculously low price. And I like companies that strike at the very heart of a big, slow, stupid behemoth. Hence my love affair with Netflix. It even sends me DVD's in pretty red envelopes, like Valentines.

I'm not obsessed, mind you. Just mildly infatuated. And irritated. So a pox on your house, Blockbuster. You with your movies that don't stretch back past 1997, your endless supply of video games, your bright cheery interior hiding your dark, cold accountant's soul. One day I will set up my portable DVD player and watch Godfather on your freshly tilled grave. Maybe even Godfather II. Definitely not Godfather III, of course. Even my vindictiveness has limits.

Posted by Woodlief on May 19, 2005 at 09:35 AM



you're not bitter.


Posted by: MMM at May 19, 2005 10:03 AM

Last night's financial news says Netflix has struck a corporate distribution deal with Wal-mart.


Breathe. You'll be ok.

Posted by: Michael at May 19, 2005 10:08 AM

Wow. I like someone who gets worked up about random things in life--I do so myself. And you are right about Blockbuster not changing until being forced to. But up until a few years ago Blockbuster was paying an average of $60 PER COPY of a VHS tape (how do I know? I worked there and saw the invoices.) So they couldn't buy 500 copies of the newest hot release to have on hand when they were all rented that first weekend and half of them didn't come back because there was no penalty if they didn't. So yes, now in the age of everything on DVD and every copy only costing $12 it's easy to buy more copies to pick up the slack. But what this really comes down to is this: Learn to accept the consequences of your actions. If something is due on a certain date and you miss it...pay the freaking fine.

Posted by: Former Blockbuster Employee at May 19, 2005 11:07 AM

It's not the late fee policy that soured me on Blockbuster; it was the time they tried to charge us north of $100 for not returning The Ninth Gate.

I returned it in the after-hours slot, as it was after hours. I noted that the slot was pretty full; I expect some enterprising sort came along before the store opened and helped himself to some movies.

Believe me, the only way my wife and I would have stolen The Ninth Gate is for the common good. I still can't decide whether it's merely the worst movie I've seen in years, or the worst movie in the history of all bad movies.

Posted by: Ken Hall at May 19, 2005 11:16 AM

I used to rent games there for my youngster. We got one back a day late and they charged me for a full five days EXTRA. I can accept responsibility for my actions, being a day late, but to charge for five days is well beyond a reasonable "freaking fine". I'm surprised their doors are still open for business.

Blockbuster's grave will be tilled once an adequate movie delivery system is available on the 'net.

Posted by: MarcV at May 19, 2005 2:07 PM


I just finished up a stint working at Blockbuster about six weeks ago. You have no idea. Everything you wrote is right on and we heard about it from customers all the time.

When I started work at Blockbuster, I had to sign a legal agreement not to disclose anything, I mean, anything I learned about the company.

I wish I could post about the debacle in our store the night they announced "No More Late Fees," but tht information is protected, I guess.

However, I did blog a lot about how much Blockbuster sucked on a day-to-day basis, a fact I don't think is a big secret.

Posted by: Dean at May 19, 2005 5:22 PM

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Posted by: Lori at May 19, 2005 11:25 PM

Speaking as a British person it's easy to get the impression the all American's love their wonderful global behemoths.

It's great to see that you like them just about as much as we do.

So why do we feel the need to shop there?

Posted by: Graham Chastney at May 20, 2005 5:18 AM

Don't get me wrong, I love some global behemoths, like Honda, Starbucks, and my sixth grade math teacher.

Posted by: Tony at May 20, 2005 7:16 AM

We are die-hard Netflix folks who breeze in and out of blockbuster every 6 weeks or so to check out the new movies available, which we may not be aware of, being over 50 and all. We then go home and order from Netflix.

Posted by: mary ann at May 20, 2005 11:20 AM

We are die-hard Netflix folks who breeze in and out of blockbuster every 6 weeks or so to check out the new movies available, which we may not be aware of, being over 50 and all. We then go home and order from Netflix.

Posted by: mary ann at May 20, 2005 11:20 AM

Dear Former Blockbuster Employee,

I think I speak for my family when I say the problem is not paying what is due, i.e. a late fee on a late movie. What drove me nuts was that they were untrustworthy about checking in your movie on time; one too many "I could have sworn I turned that in on time." Then you begin to pay attention and you know you did and now you're having to argue your case way too often. I remember thinking I was slipping and then... in the mail comes a class action suit against guess who for charging those fees erroneously.

I rest my case.

Posted by: wife at May 20, 2005 8:59 PM

I'm not obsessed with Netflix, really. In between writing about Netflix and watching movies from Netflix, I do other things. For instance, I took my dog for a walk in the park Saturday and I went to lunch with friends on Sunday :).

Posted by: Becky at May 23, 2005 12:10 PM

I tell you what I hate about Blockbuster: their store layout.

In I go with my three-year-old innocent to rent a copy of Bambi and KAPOW! We're both treated to a grotesque display of porn and nail-in-the-head horror photos.

Needless to say, we don't shop there anymore. I don't like looking at their rot, I refuse to let my children look at it, and I strongly discourage my husband from looking at it—especially when it comes to the ubiquitous, ugly photos of naked women.

ROAR! I hate Blockbuster. May they be infested with a really horrible plague and then lose tons of money! TONS of money! *grumble, grumble, grumble*

Posted by: Dawn at May 24, 2005 12:14 PM

Poor guy. It sucks when you mess up your queue. I would recommend creating another profile just for television series and then set-up a ratio of maybe 2 to 1. Managing television series DVDs are much easier in another profile than the one mixed with your normal movie rentals.

Posted by: Christian at May 25, 2005 11:32 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)