Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Netflix vs. Blockbuster

I am one of the millions of people who have subscribed to Netflix for years. I loved the combo of Watch Instantly and DVD rentals, and was extremely upset when they separated the services. The variety on Watch Instantly isn't enough for me to subscribe to it on its own, but I liked having it for when I wanted to watch an entire TV show from start to finish. The combination of the two is what made the service worth it, because I could watch random movies on Watch Instantly while I waited for my DVDs to arrive. The nearest distribution center is an hour-and-a-half drive away, so discs came quickly.

When Netflix upped their charges by $1 earlier this year, I was OK with it even though the economy should have been making the price drop, yes? But when my service suddenly went from $10/month to $16/month less than a year later, I was done. So I decided to start a free trial through Blockbuster, who allows Blu-ray and video game rentals as well as DVDs for the same price as Netflix. You can also trade in rentals in-store for days when you want the next one immediately. Sounds great, right? Maybe not...

I got the 3-disc-at-a-time plan (Blockbuster's highest, unlike Netflix which has 8 at a time as their highest) on my free trial. My movies arrived in a few days, and the shipping is notably slower than Netflix because the nearest distribution center to me is in the next state. No worries, I said... I can just take these back to the store. I use all three discs, mail one, and take the other two back to the store. One of my in-store returns is a video game, one is a DVD. When I get to the store, they tell me I can exchange the DVD for another DVD, but I can't get another video game. I can either return my video game to them, or exchange it for a DVD. Great...

So I return the video game, because I really wanted one they had in-store that wasn't available by mail yet (figures). This was on Saturday. It's Tuesday now and I have no more discs. The one I mailed just arrived, and they still haven't sent me another movie from the one I returned on SATURDAY. I have a 3-disc at a time plan, and I have one disc. I don't know if this is typical, but they're not going to win me over with this kind of service. If they were Netflix, the movie would have been mailed on Saturday, received on Monday, new disc mailed on Monday, and I would have it in my hand on Tuesday. Blockbuster hasn't even mailed me a new disc yet. Edit: 2 discs went out on Thursday, 4 days (not counting Sunday) from when I returned them.

Maybe Netflix just made me have high standards, but Blockbuster is falling flat on its face. Maybe I'll join Netflix's new DVD rental service (Qwikster) when it starts this fall. Even if they do charge extra for video games...

Edit: Even the people at Blockbuster told me it was a better deal to buy their in-store plan, which allows unlimited rentals one-at-a-time for one monthly fee. That way you don't have to wait for weeks on the slow mailers.

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