December 15, 2004

When the truth becomes a press release, print the press release

You may have seen the headlines: Blockbuster to end late fees.

While I have no doubt that this is how the chain announced its new policy, it's amazing that so many news organizations accepted that spin without question.

From what I saw, only the Chicago Tribune read its own story closely enough to write a more accurate headline: Blockbuster Relaxes Policy on Late Fees.

I mean, there's still a late fee, you just get a week's grace period before it kicks in. After that the fee is either between $10 and $21 -- and you get to keep the movie -- or $1.25 if you return it within 30 days. Netflix, anyone?

Update: Just saw the fullpage ad promoting the change. "There are NO MORE LATE FEES at BLOCKBUSTER... If you need an extra day or two, go right ahead." Zero mention of the fact that if you take an extra seven days, you automatically get charged up to $21. How long till the first lawsuit?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Nice catch. Here's the kooky thing -- in the ad in today's Times, the tag line reads thus: "The end of late fees. The start of more."

The start of more? More what? Late fees? Is this all part of an elaborate mind-game?

I've said it before (on my blog) and I'll say it here, late fees, no late fees, relaxed late fees...FUCK BLOCKBUSTER!

The Wall Street Journal's main headline was "Blockbuster Backs Off Late Fees." The first two paragraphs of the story:

In a bid to shore up its eroding position in the movie-rental business, the industry's largest chain is significantly curtailing its reviled late fees.

Blockbuster's new policy, which takes effect New Year's Day, is a response to the growing popularity of mail-order services like Netflix Inc., which let renters keep movies as long as they want with no late fees. However, there's a big catch: If you wait too long to return a movie from Blockbuster, you go from renter to buyer.

See, journalism's not so hard! The Times piece, appropriately short and buried, which is why I hadn't seen it when I posted this, was also pretty on target.

Now, what would make sense, is if they always charged it to your blockbuster card, not to your credit card sometimes, so that the next time you visit, you can return the rental and only be charged the $1.25 restocking fee, if you had it for over 14 days and under 45 days.

Also, I think renting a movie for 5.25, and getting to have it for 44 days, ain't too bad...

Didn't take too long. They've been taken to court already. A customer at my store (a video rental company) told me yesterday, and it was in the paper today. Hahahahaha stupid Blockbuster. Not only do they have stupid policies... but their staff are rude too.

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