Blockbuster’s Deceptive Advertising

January 10th, 2005 by Bob Bly

Blockbuster’s new commercials promise, ?The end of late fees.?

But of course, that?s impossible: if there is no penalty for returning a movie late, you could keep it forever.

The way it really works: there?s no late fee when you keep a movie a few extra days. But if you don?t return the movie within 7 days, you are forced to buy it at the current retail price.

Then, you can still return the movie you ?purchased? within 30 days for ?a restocking fee plus applicable taxes.? After that, you?ve bought the movie permanently and it?s yours.

Does that make ?the end of late fees? a truthful or deceptive claim? In my opinion, the latter ? they are lying to consumers, pure and simple.

?The end of late fees? is trumpeted in Blockbuster?s prime time TV spots. But the ?fine print? of the deal is printed in a little booklet you can get ? at my local Blockbuster anyway ? only if you ask for it.

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34 responses about “Blockbuster’s Deceptive Advertising”

  1. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    I once received an offer for a credit card that said you could transfer balances to it from other cards and pay only 2.9% interest. At the bottom, in fine print, was a URL to “terms and conditions”. When I checked it out, I discovered that the 2.9% rate only latest 3 months… and a 3% “transfer fee” applied. So if you transferred a $5,000 balance, for example, your actual interest rate would be closer to 6% and ONLY those three months. Deceptive? You betcha.

    I know you wouldn’t participate in a campaign like that one, Bob. But I wonder if anyone in your blog audience would?

  2. Joe said:

    I think the FTC should bodyslam Blockbuster for this campaign – the late fees are now disguised as “restocking” fees and the forced purchase of some crappy movie that’s been viewed hundreds of times by other people and scratched so badly that it barely runs in a DVD player is simply BS.

  3. Jim Logan said:

    It is deceptive at best. I have rented my last DVD/video from Blockbuster.

    What Blockbuster is doing is ruining their relationship with their customers. They have big banners in front of their stores that read “The End of Late Fees.” To have any type of late fee now just establishes them as a company that doesn’t take their customers seriously. Any company that engages in deceptive advertising cannot be trusted.

    Common sense would suggest this practice will alienate a good number of their customers and have a negative affect on their revenue.

  4. Shelle Castles-Melton said:

    I KNEW there had to be a catch. Dang it! I was so looking forward to building up my DVD collection! Shoot! Damn those Blockbuster people!

    Shelle

  5. Peter said:

    I rent from Blockbuster based on a convenient and close location, but I have been turned off after seeing this advertising campaign. To put it in perspective, I wasn’t that disgusted when I was reading about this change of plans in the papers (then it was just laughable) – but seeing them market it with these audacious commercials is too much. I think it’s pretty pathetic they are using it as a gimmick to pull in new (duped) consumers.

  6. John said:

    I believe that this whole thing is not to mask additional fees, but to drive people to their “netflix” like services, or their movie pass service. They want to move to a subscription based model, because they’ll make more money that way. With their movie pass program, for example, you have to rent a ton of movies for that service to pay for itself. Chances are most people won’t, but Blockbuster will still be making money.

    BTW… it’s about as deceptive as AOL running commercials that they listen to their users.

  7. rob.hyndman.com said:
    Blockbuster’s No Late Fee Campaign – the Catch
    Blockbuster is making a lot of hay out of its so-called end of late fees campaign.

  8. Kevin Stirtz said:

    What’s even worse is, when you rent a movie from Block Bu$ter they tell you (in a friendly way): “don’t worry about returning it late, cuz we have no late fees” as if they don’t really care when you return it. Me thinks there should be some fine print along with those friendly sounding words. Maybe a little card they hand out as a disclaimer…

  9. angry ex-customer said:

    I had just purchased the movie pass deal before they launched the whole “you rent it you bought it scam” and I was told by the employee the fee is $16.99 a month for the first YEAR. I can deal with that but then this month they charged me $27.15 twice. So I just cancelled and am filing a complaint with the Better Buisness Bureau. BEWARE OF FRAUDULAUNT BLOCKBUSTER

  10. JOE said:

    It’s very fare. Considering their losing millions in late fee monies. The re-shelving fee is nominal compared to what they’d hit you with after keeping it an extra day. The consumer must take some responsibility, correct?

  11. Dean said:

    Did you see the Reuters story about the No More Late Fees investigations some states are doing. I link to the article through my blog. Check it out. Very interesting!

  12. Coleman Carroll said:

    AT&T, and Cingular have deceptive advertising by saying in their TV commercial;(“More Bars in More Places”.)Here in Southeastern Kentucky, Breathitt County their service isn’t any better than it was two y4ears ago.

  13. Sam Dark said:

    I unfortunatley work at blockbuster. The corporate offices have total control of us. Where the isgn go, what goes on an endcap, how many copies of a movie. They will send in secret shoppers to see if we are trying hard to sell movie passes. They now want us to get your email address. Most of my coworkers are idiots and will do whatever to get a movie pass sold.

  14. Cujo said:

    There is such a thing as fine print here people, not all Blockbusters are corporate, some are franchise, in which case DO NOT participate in the no late fees promotion, the fact of the matter is that Blockbuster generates revenue from late fees, in no way is it deceptive, on the commercials it states “participating stores only” and do people really believe that a company will let you just keep a movie if you dont return it? C’mon people its a business, businesses make money off their product, destroyed, returned, not returned or lost, its just a fact of life. The End of Late Fees was a stupid idea for customers, however there are other options to no late fees, for example and this may be a big stretch…BRING BACK YOUR MOVIES ON TIME!!!

  15. Another customer turned off Blockbuster said:

    Another Blockbuster scam. Blockbuster sold me a ‘all the movies you want for a month for 16.22′ pass back in April. I’ve just realised they have been debiting my card each month ever since. There was no mention of this being a ‘we keep taking your money, unless you tell us to stop..’ deal.

  16. Gwendolyn said:

    “WARNING: AVOID BLOCKBUSTERS ONLINE AT ALL COST”

    Well I was with Netflix but cancelled before the trial ended so that I didnt experience the horror stories posted here. However, I got pulled in by Blockbusters boast of better service and FREE instore rentals offer just like everyone else here. I can assure you they are no better they are also a bunch of liars and scammers. First of all in about a month I have only received 2 movies although I am on the Unlimited one at a time plan and the turnaround time is crap as was mentioned. Secondly, they are not sending my movies in the order of my Queue and some movies that they advertise on the website are either not available or they have to go elsewhere to get them. So whats the point of even having the Queue or the service? As for the free coupons well they are not incentive enough to deal with the headaches and besides that I am a member of Blockbusters Rewards which I joined at my local Blockbuster store. I only had to pay a ONE TIME $10 membership fee and I get 2 FREE RENTAL coupons for EACH MONTH for a year anyway. So to Hell with the Blockbuster Online Free rental coupons believe me they are just not worth the headache.

    In addition, The center that I return movies to is in Philadephia, PA its a PO Box and less than 20 miles from me. It should never take more than 2-3 days for them to get movies. During the trial they shipped out movies to me immediately but alas as soon as I became a paying member they have only excuses and delays.

    What is worse is that I contacted Customer Service to complain and threatened to Cancel my service and to deter me from doing this they put my account on hold and are not shipping me any more movies they are claiming that they didnt get the DVD that I mailed back to them over a week ago. Which is a damm lie. I have shipped previous movies to them from the same location and they always get it within a few days. I have emailed over 3 different Customer Service Reps none of them were helpful or have any clue. If you prefer to speak to a live person here is the contact number: 1-866-692-2789- customer Service

    I was even told by one Rep that even if the title of the movie matches the sleeve it is my responsibility to verify that the numbers match on the sleeve and the Disc surface. Well needless to say I gave him a peice of my mind and threatened to Contact Corporate. They are in my opinion full of $#!+. And trust me I plan on cancelling and aint a damm thing they can do about it. There might be no legal entity that will stand up to Blockbuster but they are not above the Laws of this Land! I strongly advise everyone who has been victimized to contact the governmental FTC http://www.ftc.gov and file a complaint and to do so NOW.

    Soo many customers have done this with Cingular Wireless that I heard over the news this weekend that their shady practices have finally caught up with them and they have been investigated and ordered to pay upwards of 12million dollars out because of fraudulent business dealings with Customers. Horray for Justice!! lol

    In the end my strong advice to everyone even if you are considering joining for the free coupons is to just save yourself a lot of headaches and avoid Blockbuster Online altogether.

    OH FYI I thought I would post the Corporate office’s info and contact info. Pass this on to everyone you know who has been scammed by Blockbuster.

    Blockbuster Inc.
    Contact: Chairman and CEO John F. Antioco
    1201 Elm St.
    Dallas, TX 75270 (Map)
    Phone: 214-854-3000
    Fax: 214-854-4848

    http://www.blockbuster.com

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  19. Phil said:

    Blockbuster’s online “service” is now involved in yet another fraud. They claim to “send” movies in accordance with the online service commitment and then a few days later “receive” the movies, when in fact they haven’t “sent” anything. When this practice started with my service, they were waiting 4 or 5 days before “receiving” the movies. When I complained, they merely told me to add the movies involved back to MyQueue and would give me a coupon for a free in-store rental or two. What good is this? If I wanted to rent “IN-STORE” I wouldn’t bother with their online subscription service. Lately the time between “sending” and “receiving” the (reportedly returned) movies has been as short as 32 hours for 9 or their last 12 movies “sent”. That means they are attesting that the movies were sent after postal hours on one day, received and watched the following day, and returned back to them before postal hours on the next day. I know that USPS is FAST (choke, choke) but basically the DVDs would have to have been delivered in a few short hours, watched, and then returned, again within a few short hours – A two way trip and viewing all on the same day. I was pretty sure months ago, when they were doing this over a 4 or 5 day period, that they were involved in this fraudulent practice. When they get so greedy and careless as to let the time window shrink to an impossibly short time, then they leave no room for doubt. I’d like to know if this is actionable legally…

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  22. Linda said:

    It gets better yet!! Blockbuster store wanted me to show them my cellphone bill just to sign up for an account or have a landline they could call right then to confirm? I don’t think so. I went to a different store after signing up for Total Access, they didn’t need anything unreasonable – rogue BB managers abound though. But, the first store did talk me into Total Access online so I could get the movie I wanted they didn’t have in store. Sounds like a good deal. The manager even looked up the movie and found it “available” online.

    DON’T BE FOOLED. Available meant they had the movie, it didn’t mean it would ever ship. You see, they will only ship from “distribution centers nearest you.” But, they show the movie available if it is anywhere in the USA in large enough volume to meet demand. So, they won’t ship it because it isn’t in a “distribution center nearest you” but they won’t tell you that either, not even when you contact their useless customer service multiple times. They’ll just tell you that movies ship from a distribution center nearest you, but not that that movie will never be sent to that DC to meet demand. So, I’ve spent $20.00 on two months membership to see some movies we didn’t necessarily need to see, while waiting for the movie we wanted to see, which they would never ship. I think it is a gag. . .. they know you will wait for a while if you really want the movie. So, they got $20.00 of my money they never would have had!!!! Well, they won’t be getting anymore. Once I use up the multiple free in store coupons (remember this movie isn’t available in store) and the extra week they extended my service. I’m gone. But will make sure to let EVERYONE I can know – DON’T BOTHER with Blockbuster. They’ll just stick their middle finger up with their right hand, while they take your money with their left. Netflix was much better service, customer service and where I’ll head if I ever want to do online rentals again.

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  28. lisa said:

    Yes, I agree, Blockbuster trys to scam people. I just had a bad experience with Blockbuster and I’m very unhappy. I have been a loyal customer for about 9 years. I just changed my program from instore renting to online and that was the worst decision ever. So now I’m moving to NetFlixs. I’m really disappointed with Blockbuster.

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  30. Fiona Fell - websitePROFITS said:

    Lies, Lies, Lies.

    BlockBuster Video, should have phrased it differnetly, or sold a differnt more honest or ‘realistic’ part of their offer.

    “Forgot to bring it back? After 7 days, we charge you the late fees and you now own the DVD” or something along those lines. (I am sure your copy writing mind could sell it stronger)


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  31. Jeff said:

    Lets do the math:

    You rent a movie for $5.
    You get it for a week, 7 days.
    You can keep it an extra 7 days before they charge you anything extra, now 14 days.
    You still don’t bring it back so they charge you ~$20.
    30 days from then you bring finally bring it back.
    You get your ~$20 back minus $1.25.

    So in the end you kept a movie for 44 days and you paid a grand total of $6.25?

    Why are we complaining?

    And if you did keep it beyond the 30 day return window then you kept it for 45+ days and you are forced to pay for it and keep it. But come on, you kept it for a month and a half.

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