Blockbuster’s Twilight

Two months ago I went into the Blockbuster store on Willamette Street and 18th in Eugene, Oregon. As I passed by the counters I tossed into a black plastic garbage can a paper I had been carrying. When the attendent saw me, she did not greet me. Instead, in a disgusted tone she proclaimed, “That’s not the garbage!” I apologized and explained that the garbage can outside was missing. “We had to get rid of it,” she said impatiently. “There were all kinds of drug needles in it.”

Not only was there no polite greeting (despite the pronounced lack of customers competing for her attention), but her tone suggested that I was a something of a fool for not knowing something that not only could I not possibly have known, but which, were I an employee of a public-facing business, I would take care not to advertise.

I told myself I would never go into a Blockbuster again. Prior to that, I could never find the movie I wanted anyway, even if it were a popular new release. But a little while ago my wife really wanted to see the Brothers Grimm, so I clenched my teeth and called, to make sure it was in. When I asked if the store had a copy, the woman who responded would not tell me. Instead, she said, “I can’t hold anything for you!” I repeated my question, stressing that I only wanted to know if there was a copy in stock. “Yeah,” she said, ” but I can’t hold it for you.”

The distance from my house to the store is less than five minutes. I don’t need to tell you that there was no copy in, do I? It was only at that point that I realized the woman who answered the phone told me a copy was in in order to avoid having to go and check. Again, you won’t be suprised when I tell you there were only two other people in the store.

Well, with Hollywood Video, Silver Screen, Flicks and Picks and Albertson all within a mile of my house, there is no need to use Blockbuster again, to say nothing of Netflix.

I didn’t give this awful store one chance to not treat me horridly, I gave it two. And Blockbuster failed in helpfulness, service, manners and product. This experience, if the Blockbuster’s free-falling revenues are any indication, is not a unique one.

Blockbuster has continued to bleed cash on the dreadful subscription scheme it cobbled together to compete with Netflix. It lost its bid for Hollywood Video to Movie Gallery. As it experiences its long, painful twilight, look for it to blame “new technology” and its own customers. It is my experience that, as the old saying goes, “You will know the master by his dog.” That is to say, lousy customer service is, with virtually no exceptions, a direct result of the choices of management.

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