Blockbuster is so lackluster
April 2nd, 2008 • Posted by SpaBoom Staff • Permalink
Last year, I wrote an article entitled, "So, you think I'm stupid?" which addressed some of the practices of other businesses that assume their customers are stupid.
I just had an experience with Blockbuster Video yesterday that still has me steaming. Even though they credited my account completely, the damage is already done. I will no longer go to Blockbuster. I think it's a story worth retelling, so we as business owners don't forget how important it is to treat our customers with respect … and to not assume our customers are stupid.
The background: I rented four movies two weekends ago. Two were "standard 5 evening rentals," and two were "3 evening rentals," or so I thought. I returned the "3 evening rentals" on the second day, because "3 evening rentals" aren't "3 day" rentals (I'll get to that in a minute) and I returned the "standard 5 evening rentals" a day late – my fault. A week later, I received a postcard in the mail from Blockbuster claiming I owe them nearly $10 for one of the movies, which they claimed was a "3 evening rental," not a "5 day rental." (By the way, the movie in question was Dan in Real Life – it's a fun movie, worth watching).
I walked into that Blockbuster store yesterday, and walked to where "Dan in Real Life" was located. The DVD cover didn't contain the standard blue on yellow print indicating a "3 evening rental," and the actual DVD you rent (enclosed within the white DVD case) didn't contain the standard blue on yellow print "3 evening rental" notice either. However, another movie nearby did have the blue on yellow "3 evening rental" notice on both the DVD cover and DVD case.
I took both movies, "Dan in Real Life" as well as the second movie to the front counter, and talked with the manager. There were two problems with the postcard claiming I owed nearly $10: That it claimed "Dan in Real Life" was a "3 evening rental" when it clearly did not contain the customary blue on yellow notice to that effect, and the implication on the postcard was that I never returned the movie (which, of course, I know I did).
The manager, as politely as she could, explained they periodically run out of the blue on yellow "3 evening rental" notices, and therefore didn't have such a notice for "Dan in Real Life," despite the fact that they have such a notice on other DVD's. She politely asked if I received a receipt, implying that — obviously — this would be on the receipt and I'm stupid for not keeping a $12 receipt around my house for the 5 or so days I'd have the movies.
The manager was also able to look up the actual movie in question, and found that it was rented to someone else, therefore I must have returned it, they just made a mistake in scanning it when I originally returned it. Unfortunately for me, because they don't have a record of when it was returned, I was obliged to to pay the fee up and to when it was rented again.
I morphed into a 6 foot, 210 pound, pissed-off attorney. I really, really hate to throw my weight around or state that I'm an attorney. I avoid it like the plague, except when I get into incidents like this. So, with my head hanging down in shame, I admit now that I turned into a frothing-at-the-mouth nightmare lawyer everyone hates to have in their store. In my defense, it lasted only a minute. The manager backed down, and "graciously" offered to credit my account entirely, even though I was willing to pay what I legitimately owed: A late fee for one night, for two "5 evening rentals."
The problem is, the manager's tone and language (i.e. "I'll let this go this one time, hopefully it won't happen again") misses the point that we were both wrong. They mislabeled their product. They didn't scan in the DVD's properly, when I returned them. To then imply they are 100% in the right, and they are doing me a favor by crediting my account completely misses the point and frankly made me even angrier.
I think my experience at Blockbuster is educational on a number of fronts, from a business owner perspective:
- When we make a mistake as a business owner, we need to suck it up, admit the mistake (even if the customer is also to blame) and make the situation whole;
- If there's an obvious flaw or mistake in a business process, we should never require the customer to pay for it;
- The words that come out of our mouths, when resolving a conflict or problem, are pivotal – we need to choose our words very carefully; and
- Blockbuster's "3 evening rental" is a scam, pure and simple. It's designed to confuse customers so they return the videos they rent a day late. The lesson is: Customers may make a mistake once, but learn quickly from their mistakes – never, ever cheat them with fancy language or cheap curtains that fail to fully hide the facade that lies within.