Friday, September 10, 2010

Blockbuster Video

As you may or may not know, I am employed part time at Blockbuster. I've been there for a little over a year now.

When I started I was just happy to have a job. I had been out of work for about 3 months and things were starting to tighten up financially at my house.

That was before the company really started hurting. Red Box and Netflix were just starting to really cut into our business and the company was beginning to see a sharp decline.

The first thing they tried after I started working there was selling crap. Hot Topic style stuff. Shirts and pop culture related knick knacks. Then the Twilight swag rolled in.

The company would make a deal with these distributors to sell us a ton of merch cheap. Then the company would turn around and sell this crap to the customers. This didn't work. In some towns it went pretty well but here in the Midwest there are literally hundreds if not a thousand stores that just don't sell that stuff well.

Recently we were told to mark down our Electronics. TiVo went from $149.99 to $49.99. Our Yoostar and Blu Ray player each dropped a minimum of $100 each as well.

So selling stuff like that didn't work.
Then the company decided to bring back late fees. Eliminating late fees in the first place was the beginning of our sorrows.
You would imagine that we would give you plenty of warning that this practice was returning. You however would be wrong then.
We were told about a month in advance that late fees were coming back. We were told that customers would be aware because the company was sending out signage and possibly doing tv spots about this.
What happened in fact was this. About 3&1/2 weeks after we received a memo that they were bringing back late fees I got a text from my manager on a Sat night telling me that we were having a mandatory meeting the following day.
At that meeting we were told that late fees were coming back the very next day and the only notice the customer was going to get was a longer receipt with the info printed on the bottom.
As you can imagine this led to a ton of late fees by people who were still under the impression late fees were gone.

Next was dropping prices. Now this sounds like we are on the right track. However our new releases were reduced in price by .99 our "favorites" which are any movie more than a year old increased in price by $3.

The plan behind that was we would sell more of our "Rewards" program. this program was a good deal especially since our favorites went up in price. As a rewards member you receive a free movie from the favorites for every new release you rent. So you save $4 for every $4 you spend. works out great for people with kids.
Plus you get a free new release for every 5 you rent. It really was a pretty sweet deal. The best part and a surprisingly key point in selling this program was the fact that the computer kept track of your free rentals so you didn't have too.

So there we were, our selling of random crap had failed and the company had decided to force us to sell the rewards program.
This was also the first time we were given sales goals and told that we would be written up if we didn't meet the goal.
I did really well selling this program cuz it really was the best deal we had going.
Here is the rub however. The day after the rewards drive ended we received an email informing us that the terms of our Rewards Program was changing.
The email said that this change has been planned for a while but they didn't want to confuse us during the drive.
Now the computer would no longer keep track of your free rentals. Now instead of your 5th rental being automatically free. Your 5th rental would spur the computer to print out an extra receipt with a bar code coupon on it redeemable on your next visit providing you don't forget it or lose it during the week or two between visits.
I can tell you for a fact that this has saved the company a ton of free rentals. Not a day goes by, not one that I don't have a customer forget their coupon or ask why they stopped getting free rentals.

So that went over like a lead balloon. Customers stopped buying it and many refused to renew it because it didn't seem to do them any good.

Now this brings us to our current "drive".
We are being pushed harder than ever right now to sell subscriptions to our online program. Think Netflix but not near as good. Netflix has streaming movies as part of your deal. Blockbuster charges $2.99 to stream a movie.

I wasn't thrilled about selling this but the company was adamant that if you don't hit your goal you get a write up and 3 write ups means your fired.

it wasn't until last week when Blockbuster announced that they are filing bankruptcy that it clicked.

See it was discovered by the media that broke the bankruptcy story that Blockbuster had met with the major studio heads and that during the meeting to calm the studios Blockbuster said that while brick and mortar stores are failing our online program is seeing a sharp rise.
Well of course it is. You threaten our jobs if we don't get you online subscribers.

So now we face imminent bankruptcy. After that is filled Blockbuster plans to close 500-800 stores.
Bankruptcy protection will get them out of the leases and that will be that.

Ironically a few months ago when our earnings came out for the quarter I asked my District Manager if our store was safe and I was told "you have nothing to worry about because your lease doesn't run out til 2014"
She failed to mention this does us no good if they file for chapter 11.

Now sales are down, my home town is really feeling this recession and hours have been cut.
Don't think that gets us off the hook for sales. I'm staring down a write up as we speak for not hitting my online goal. I was told when I arrived tonight that I am expected to have sales tonight and that I must call the DM with every sale. I receive 2-3 check up calls from my DM and other higher ups each day to see if we hit our goal.

A goal that will eventually completely cost me my job. If not directly by write ups for missing the goal then in the long run from more customers switching to the online program.

Kinda stinks.

Thanks for listening. Please excuse any spelling errors I'm trying out a blogging app on my phone.

God Bless


  1. Wow Alan, I am so sorry to hear about this. I find it quite miserable that your job is based on selling. I had no idea that is how Blockbuster ran! I have been out of a job since June, and it sucks, so I know where you are coming from with stuff being tight, but I don't know how long I could work for a company as Bloclbuster. Again, I am so sorry. Kudos on blogging with a phone app!

  2. Thank you, ma'am I glad I know someone read it.