The Blockbuster Total Access Fallacy

Tech Stories

In theory, Blockbuster has a better offering than Netflix in that it “lets you rent online with the flexibility to exchange movies in-store, so you never have to wait for a movie.” That is, according to the marketing pitch plastered all over its homepage. But I decided to see just how “total” Total Access is, and I found it pretty lacking. In short, over half the movies in my Netflix queue are not available at my local Blockbuster.

So I could switch to Blockbuster and have the added “flexibility” of exchanging movies in store. But it would honestly be more of a headache to micromanage the discrepancy between what I want to see and what’s available in the actual store. I’d rather wait and see what I really want to see.

I remember when Blockbuster locations had decent selection. But nowadays, the stores located closest to my past two addresses have all been half the size of the Blockbusters I browsed growing up. And let’s not forget the focus: hundreds of copies of new releases so as to be “guaranteed” in stock while other movies get demoted to only one copy that is often checked out indefinitely (yes, there is a downside to no late fees).

And what if you’re not interested in box office candy released within the last five years? The sales associate hovering uses it as reason enough to ask, “Have you tried Blockbuster Online because that movie isn’t available in our store.”

So why don’t I try using Blockbuster Online then? Well, I did, and it seemed fine. The problem? I don’t have a single friend who uses Blockbuster Online. All my friends who rent movies online use Netflix. The social side of movie watching has never been better; I use it as a way to stay in touch with high school / college buddies. We see what each of us has been watching lately, rate movies, leave comments, etc. It’s great fun.

Will I never go to Blockbuster again? Not necessarily. There do seem to be those few times a year when I impulsively want to “browse and pick” (even if my wife isn’t a big fan of that move). Of course, now that I have access to streaming movies via Netflix (which so far seems to work extremely well for me), my token in-store browsing time may shrink even more…

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