an open letter to blockbuster

[ You, dear reader, are getting this before they are. They’ll get it once I LaTeXify it. ]


I am tired of you, and struggling to find any reason to keep visiting your store. Many of the people who work at my local Blockbuster store are friendly and try to be helpful, but it seems like you are not interested in giving them the means to satisfy the customers.

A few weeks ago I headed into the store to rent some video games. I wanted to rent Ninja Gaiden and Silent Hill 4. I was a little surprised to find out that the price had gone up to nearly $7 per rental. “You should get our game pass,” the clerk suggested.

“Well,” I said, “the problem is that you don’t have a very good GameCube selection at all, and that’s what I usually play.” She shrugged and said that she had the same problem. She had a Cube and couldn’t rent much from her own store.

A few days later I was working at making a dent in “AFI Top 100 Movies” checklist. I went in with a list of movies I still hadn’t seen: Frankenstein, All About Eve, Bringing Up Baby, the African Queen, Wuthering Heights, and maybe some more I can’t recall. The store stocked /none/ of them. These were all movies from the American Film Institute’s list of the best movies of the 20th century, and you had none of them.

Months earlier, I’d been watching all of the Freddy and Jason movies with my wife, in preparation for Freddy vs. Jason. I couldn’t just get them all from your store, because the stock was atrocious. You had something like “Friday the 13th” parts 1, 3, 4, 6, and 10. The collection of “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies was the same.

So, you’ve shown that you’re not very good at stocking masterpieces or pop pieces. Of course, there’s always a decent selection of soft-core mysteries like Naked Weapon and Teach Me Tonight. I don’t understand.

I was a kid when Blockbusters first started popping up, and my father and I went to our local store all the time. We rented every Hitchcock movie, there. We rented The Prisoner, a somewhat obscure BBC program from the 1960’s. Blockbuster sold us a little booklet that summarized all of the movies to win the major Oscars since the 30’s, so we rented most of them. It was as if you wanted us to rent good movies, so you told us about them and made them available.

Now you don’t. You also seem to stock a lot of movies only in pan-and-scan, so even if you have the movie I want to see, you don’t have all of it.

Your rent-by-mail program certainly has a better selection. Of course, Netflix has that kind of selection, too, and anecdotal evidence tells me that they’ve got a much better turn around time. I’ve been using their service for a few months now, and it’s really helped me realize how much your local store fails to offer. So, I think I’m done. I’ll head over when you send me free coupons, I guess, but that’s it. From here on out, it’s Netflix and GameFly.

I’m not going to pay $7 to rent games from you and validate your horrible choice in stocking. (How could you buy only one copy of Resident Evil 4, one of the most anticipated games in months?) I’m not going to pay four or five dollars to rent the pan-and-scan, bowdlerized version of a movie that I want to see.

And, finally, the duplicity of your recent “no late fees” promotion is offensive. You’ve extended the viewing period and made the penalties for late return more vicious.

I enjoy instant gratification and window shopping as much as the next American. I hope that you will fix the problems with your operation, so that there are things that will be interesting to browse and rent at your retail locations. Until then, you’ll see me once a month, when I get coupons.

Sincerely, Ricardo Signes

Written on January 17, 2005