13 October 2007

Blockbuster Online

My love-hate relationship with Blockbuster Online is fast developing into a hate-hate relationship. The service lets me catch up on classic movies and old TV shows without the supreme unpleasantness of setting foot inside a Blockbuster store or actually watching TV, all at a reasonable price. For this privilege, I have to endure their horrifically bad website, the occasional scratched-beyond-repair disc, lapses in service, and, worst of all, their policy on sending discs that will reach you in less than three days, even if that disc is not next in your queue. This becomes especially problematic when trying to watch an entire television series. I endured it with the West Wing, and am repeatedly thwarted while watching the Sopranos.

Without getting into too much detail, Blockbuster has not sent me a single Sopranos DVD in four months, forcing me to set foot in their store to get the latest Sopranos disc, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of a DVD-in-the-mail service.

For the past two months we have engaged in a game of low-stakes chicken, where I refuse to set foot in their store, and they refuse to send me a Sopranos DVD. This week I finally snapped and wrote an angry letter to their customer service department. I reprint the e-mail chain below (I think it comes through that I have been down this road before):


To: Blockbuster Online Customer Care
From: Jordan
Subject: please stop skipping over the sopranos season 2 disc 3

Every time I return a DVD, I receive the #2 or lower item on my queue. I don't want to hear any excuses about why that is. I don't care. Your website says the #1 item in my queue is "Available," yet for the last 8 weeks you have chosen to send other items in my queue.

Again, I repeat, I don't care about your methodology for making sure I receive DVDs in the shortest amount of time. This disc is at the top of my queue for a reason - I want it NEXT. I don't care if it takes a day longer to send item #1 vis a vis item #2. I want to see item #1 next, period. Just send it. I don't even want a response to this message. I just want to see an e-mail that says, "Blockbuster has shipped The Sopranos, Season 2, Disc 3."

Thank you,



To: Jordan
From: Blockbuster Online Customer Service
Subject: RE: please stop skipping over the sopranos season 2 disc 3

Hello Jordan,

Thanks for contacting BLOCKBUSTER Online Customer Care.

I'm sorry to hear we haven't shipped the DVD you've requested, Jordan. This occurred because your requested title was likely not available at a distribution center near you. Because our goal is to ship movies as quickly as possible in order to meet the expectation of 1-2 business days for delivery, the system reviews all "Available" titles in your queue and determines which movies are ready for shipment from your nearest distribution center. If your requests are outside the 2-day shipping window, they will be skipped over for other DVDs further on your list.

Unfortunately, we won't always be able to send your movies in the exact order you specify in your queue. When we are ready to ship your next selection, we consider your queue priorities and our current inventory. Even though some of your selections may get skipped, continue prioritizing your movies in the order you would like for them to be shipped. We do our best to continuously distribute copies among our distribution centers based on demand.

I also recommend keeping 30 to 40 individual "Available" titles within your queue in order to help you take advantage of the service and to ensure a continuous shipment of your movies. Keeping plenty of titles in your queue guarantees that we will always have titles to send you once we receive your viewed movies back.

In the meantime, Jordan, I would like to offer you an additional e-coupon good for a free movie rental from your local store. Please click on the link below to print your coupon:


I hope I was able to give you the assistance you needed. If there is anything else I can assist you with, please let me know and I would be more than happy to help you.

Always happy to help,

Customer Care Associate


To: Dona, Blockbuster Customer Care Associate
From: Jordan
Subject: RE: please stop skipping over the sopranos season 2 disc 3

Dona, I want to thank you for either not reading my comment, or reading it and then deciding to do the opposite of everything I requested, Dona. Even though filing a complaint with Blockbuster is akin to repeatedly jamming hot pokers in my eyes, I am going to present you with two scenarios, and I would genuinely appreciate if you, in your own words, Dona, would kindly respond by telling me which scenario you personally find preferable, since you, Dona, are a real person and not an automaton mixing and matching 25 different response scripts provided to you by Blockbuster, Inc., or perhaps a 3rd party customer contact outsourcing firm.

Scenario 1:

You are watching the entire Sopranos season and return the Season 2, Disc 2 DVD on August 1. The number one item in your queue is The Sopranos Season 2, Disc 3 DVD. However, you live in Washington DC and the nearest copy of said disc is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So instead Blockbuster ships you the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Frustrated, you watch the Ya Ya Sisterhood, return it, and expect to receive Sopranos Season 2, Disc 3. However, the nearest copy is now in Boulder, Colorado, and you instead receive How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Angered, you watch Angela Bassett get that groove back, return the DVD, and again hope to receive what you wanted in the first place. By now, it's September 1 and you have forgotten the Sopranos plot line, and to make matters worse, Blockbuster sends you Chairmen of the Board, starring Courtney Thorne Smith and Carrot Top. This goes on and on for another few months until you are completely blinking furious, contact a Blockbuster Support Center associate, and receive a befuddling and inarticulate reply completely failing to address your concerns.

Scenario 2:

You are watching the entire Sopranos season and return the Season 2, Disc 2 DVD on August 1. Even though the nearest copy of Disc 3 is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you are in Washington, DC, Dona, and it may take 4 days to ship said disc, Blockbuster sends the disc to you, and you have it safely in your hands on August 5. Now you are watching Tony, Carmela, Christopher, Junior, Paulie Walnuts, and the whole wacky Sopranos gang lie to, steal from, and kill one another. The end.

Personally, I prefer Scenario 2, Dona. To put this simply, I'd rather wait four days to get my Sopranos DVD than two months. Help me. Please. Dona.

Sincerely yours,


I'll keep you posted on any late breaking developments.

Update: I just received the following e-mail:

Jesus Camp

Hello Jordan,

We've shipped Jesus Camp to you. You can expect to receive it on or around Wednesday, October 17, 2007.

If after three days you have not received this DVD, use the Report DVD Issues link to let us know.

Add more titles to your Queue today.

Your friends at BLOCKBUSTER Online®

So it's war then, Blockbuster Online?


Orville said...

Supremely tight, Jordan.

Bodenner said...

a taut taunt, if you will.

The Becca said...

Possibly, the post of the year.

Brenda Starr said...

Golf. Claps.

Tim said...

One of the most well written posts that I've ever seen on a blog. I'm sharing this with all my friends.

mandy said...

You should send Dona/Blockbuster Online a link to this post.

Pepper said...

Dona, Dona, Dona...you had no idea the forces you were riling with that response. You can begin polishing your resume.

Bodenner said...

good idea, mandy. viva consumer activism! viva Netflix!

Chelsa Skees said...

This is why I no longer acknowledge blockbuster's existence (since 2004). Always a bad experience. Great Post!

Jordan said...

chris, does netflix promulgate this same absurd policy? i take issue with their frequent user algorithm, which is why i haven't switched yet. that and recreating my 300-movie-length queue.

Bodenner said...

i've never encountered that problem with netflix, or had any other customer service problem (only a few slightly scratched DVDs over the course of two years, which just comes with the territory).

plus, netflix has a "Watch Instantly" feature, which allows you to watch high-quality movies in your browser, anytime, no extra charge.

blockbuster is a dinosaur that should be put down, old yeller style.

Chelsa Skees said...

I completely agree. Netflix is great and Blockbuster really does need to be put down, old yeller style.

Brenda Starr said...

It would be more poetic to put Blockbuster down Tony Soprano style right ? Given the nature of the conflict?
Maybe not, I guess I'm just a romantic.

mandy said...

Yeah, Netflix fucking rocks. If they've nailed one thing it's their user interface which makes sense - they have to, they're only online. Jordan, I also took offense to the frequent user algorithm until I realized that I'm not returning movies fast enough for it to actually affect me.

That Blockbuster just sent you Jesus Camp is unbelievable.

Also, Bodenner, I actually had trouble with the Watch Instantly feature. I believe it only works in IE (which means bollocks for me and my Mac at home), but I tried watching on my work PC and it just froze; it said it was "loading" for like 30 minutes. I haven't tried since. And yet I still love Netflix, go figure.