Netflix vs Blockbuster

For years, I visited the brick-and-mortar Blockbuster stores, renting movies first on videocassette (ask your parents, young ones) and then on DVD.

I completed the membership form everytime I changed cities, each instance just slightly less painful that the government security clearance application I had to fill out a few years back.

I dealt with deadlines and late fees and a computer system that insisted month after month that the wife had lost a movie despite everyone in the store saying “No, you returned it, ignore that $100 charge we keep sending you. Honest. No big deal. Your credit report is cool and all.”

Then came Netflix. And the (mythical) angels sang from on high!

We’ve been members for over five years and have nary a complaint. Movies arrive quickly, selection is great, and when a disc happens to be unplayable, it’s usually the fault of our even older DVD player; much like a senile old man, it quickly swings from friendly to refusing to cooperate. I was sure that the end of Blockbuster was nigh.

But, it seems like some of you didn’t get the memo, and they’re still hanging on.

From what I can see, there are two main differences right now:

  1. Blockbuster allows you to return and pick up movies from the store rather than waiting for them to arrive in your mailbox.

  2. Netflix now offers a number of movies on demand for streaming to your computer, included in the price of your membership (and, it seems, without affecting the number of movies you can have out at one time). You can stream one hour of movie goodness for every dollar in your monthly plan charge.

I’m still sticking with Netflix. I dropped Blockbuster because the convenience of mail was better than having to make yet another stop on my way home from work, or a second trip out in the evening. As the turnaround time for us is negligible, adding that inconvenience back and calling it a feature isn’t a really big selling point for me.

However, Netflix’s streaming movies are a nice touch in my opinion. I can watch a movie on my lunch hour if I choose, or at the airport, or… well… just about anywhere given that I’ve got wi-fi and broadband wireless service on the laptop.

For people like my friend Rhett, who have an XP Media Edition PC hooked up to a beautiful television and middle-of-the-road speakers, it’s like having a home theater on demand, with a better selection than Comcast gives you.

And for dorks in their mom’s basement, those with eyeballs glued to the computer 24-7, one would think it would be heaven (note to Netflix: add a looping feature so they can watch nudie scenes over and over… ok, maybe I’d like that too).

So, for this family, Netflix it is, at least until Blockbuster pays to advertise on my site. Unless Netflix offers more.

Not that either has come knocking.

Update: Looks like it has been a good choice to stick with Netflix, as Blockbuster has seen fit to “improve” one of their current plans by stripping away features. Awesome job, Blockbuster!

5 Responses to “Netflix vs Blockbuster”

  1. mr lady Says:

    I have always had a love/hate thing with Blockbuster. They had a store attached to the diner I worked at forever and they refused to share the cost of hallway carpet cleaning, or the cost of the shared security system, or to be decent tenants in any other way. The management company terminated their lease after a few years. And then we took over the space and I gutted, refilled, opened and operated an indi video store in their wake. And then I really, really learned how to hate Blockbuster. Once you learn how movies are ordered, how late fees are assigned, and all the other tasty good innards of a video store, you learn how completely out of their minds Blockbuster really, truly is.

    Um, they suck. Go Netflix.

  2. Gary Says:

    A friend asked me to help her decide: Blockbuster or Netflix…

    We all started talking about our experiences with video rentals, and I realized that almost everyone I know has a Blockbuster horror story. I had my own back in 1992, and I’ll never forget it. I HANDED VHS tapes to the person at the counter, and they called me later in the week saying the tapes were overdue. The store manager offered to “not charge my credit card now” for the missing tapes, but rather “wait until after the store inventory” later in the month, to give the tapes a chance to show up. Of course, what she didn’t tell me was that Blockbuster would be charging me $6 a day while we waited for the inventory day (so they could look for the tapes that the store had lost in the first place). You can guess what happens: I end up having to pay over $300 for two lousy VHS tapes. Total scam.

    In other words, Blockbuster said they didn’t care about me as a customer, and to this day I’ve never given them another dollar.

    Now, I’m a television producer, so I watch a lot of movies. Believe me, I’m a loyal Netflix fan. I even still support two local, esoteric mom and pop, brick & mortar video stores here in Atlanta. So, all in all, Blockbuster was shortsighted. The money they took from me fifteen years ago wasn’t worth the loss of my future business and all the bad referrals I continue to give. No amount of incentives will bring me back.

    What’d I say to my friend? The same thing I’ve been saying since Blockbuster screwed me over years ago: forget the in-store swap out. It’ll never be worth it to go with Blockbuster. They’ll screw you in some way or another.

  3. Diane Says:

    We discovered NetFlix about a year or two ago. We had Blockbuster and a neighborhood video store that escapes me at the moment that we rented from. Hubby loves how convenient it is and I like the fact that I don’t have to do a damn thing. When we’re done with the movie, the hubby drops it in the mail. I do nothing and I love that.

    Seriously though, we like it so much that we’re considering upgrading our account to allow us to watch even more movies. It’s inexpensive and convenient and you can’t beat that.

  4. John Rossi III Says:

    Netflix is what it appears to be. They have finely honed the art of DVD by mail. They have had the sense to build algorithms that are capable of accurately predicting DVD flow int the mail. So, when Netflix ships you a DVD, it accurately advises you as to when you will receive it. Since they have return centers strategically located (for the great majority of subscribers) for 1-day returns, the flow of movies is seldom interrupted. Blockbuster has the benefit of stores. Their marketing concept of allowing you to return movies to stores and simultaneously exchanging the returned movies for ones in the store was ingenious. However, their system is flawed. First, they do not accurately predict when you will receive a movie they ship. So, if you return a movie under normal (according to them, read on) circumstances, they pad the expected receipt date by a day. So, you say, since I can return the movie to a store, why should I care? The reason is that there is a confirmed bug in their delivery algorithm. If you return a movie to a store before you are predicted to receive it, their shipping algorithm can’t deal with it and does nothing. Because you have “confused” the program, it will not ship another new title until all of your shipped/returned queues are cleared. So, you encumber the time it takes for the video store you return it to to send it back, Blockbuster to process it, and to clear your shipping queues. This can add as many as 4 days to the time you return a video to a store and when the replacement is shipped (this is more common than you might first think… Say you return a movie to a store on Thursday and your shipping center is a 1-day mail excursion. Blockbuster receives it on Friday and ships a replacement by close of business on Friday. Their algorithm predicts that you will receive it on Monday, but you receive it on Saturday. If you return it on Sunday, you’re screwed.). I have tried to report/explain this to Blockbuster but that brings mne to point 2.

    Blockbuster’s biggest problem is in customer service. Netflix has real people that will answer your phone call 24/7/365 (although the wait time can be a bit much). Blockbuster has humans you can talk to during business with the correct person/department you need to speak to (of course, during their open hours). The folks at Blockbuster are pretty much clew less. They might as wellp farm out the telephone system to India or China. Nine times out of ten, the person you get (after holds longer than Netflix) knows nothing about the product, how it works, or where you can get more information. What makes matters worse is that their on-line customer service is provided (I’m almost certain) by a bot. For 12 days I sent at least 15 emails to their on-line support. Most times I got back a reply that had nothing to do with my question. On at least 3 occasions I got back a reply that caused me to definitely conclude that I was emailing a parser. The latest was a classic. I had sent 10 consecutive emails highlighting the bug in their system if you return a movie to a store before its predicts arrival date. The last response I got informed me of how easy it is to return movies to a store instead of mailing them back!!! It is a bot, trust me.

    So, in conclusion. With Netflix, you get what they advertise and what you pay for. Blockbuster’s program does not come close to what they say it does. Now that Blockbuster has increased its “Total Access” rates dramatically (say 40%), their customer service is absurd, and that they have major bugs in their automated systems, I wouldn’t use them beyond their 15 day trial period (if they even still have that). Until Blockbuster realizes that they can’t rule the world, use Netflix.

    John Rossi III

  5. Elguapogurn Says:

    I’ve been waiting for No Country For Old Men for 1 month today. I have Netflix. Thinking of changing to Blockbuster.

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