More Info on Blockbuster’s Online Movie Rental Changes

Last night I noted that Blockbuster is revamping their online movie rental service. In short, they’re cutting back on what their plans offer and/or raising their prices. One thing that they didn’t mention was what would be happening to the monthly, printable free rental coupons. These were particularly valuable because they could be used for game rentals, which are just shy of eight bucks a pop. Curious to know if this was just an oversight, I e-mailed them. Here’s their response:

Thanks for contacting Blockbuster Online Customer Care.

I sincerely apologize if you were affected by the program change. Like all retail businesses, we must periodically review our pricing structure. In introducing a wider range of subscription plans, we considered a number of factors including the number of in-store exchanges on a given account. We’re giving our most frequent renters like yourself the option of either continuing with unlimited in-store exchanges at a higher price point or moving to a plan where the number of in-store exchanges is fixed if you’d like to continue with the same rate. Unfortunately, eCoupons are no longer available on all plans.

We feel we are still delivering a great consumer value and encourage you to continue your membership by selecting one of the new plans we offer. You can find the details of what is available via “My Account” in the “Subscription Plan” area. Please remember that if you do not select one of the new plans we have to offer before your next regular billing date, we will not be automatically renewing your membership. Thank you very much for your inquiry.

First off, they start by apologizing if I was affected by the program change? These are wide-sweeping changes that adversely affect all of their customers. Every. Single. One.

Next up, the eCoupons… The wording in their message is a bit strange, as one could intepret it as “the coupons aren’t available on all plans, but they are available on some plans.” Unfortuantely, that’s not the case. The eCoupons are now a thing of the past. Even if spring for the extra 40% to keep the old-style unlimited Total Access plan, you’ll lose the eCoupons.

Finally, their initial e-mail stated clearly that we would be automatically switched to the new $17.99/month plan with 5 in-store exchanges (i.e., same price, but less than “Total” Access). But in this followup message, they state that they “will not be automatically renewing” our membership if we don’t go in and select a new plan. Assuming this to be true, an awful lot of people have been misled by the original announcement, and I’m guessing that this will result in the non-renewal of an awful lot of accounts. Nice move.

If you’re a current customer and want to stick around beyond the end of the month, it might be a good idea to swing by and pick a plan just to be on the safe, even if it’s the $17.99/month plan that was originally described as the default selection for non-respondents.

29 Responses to “More Info on Blockbuster’s Online Movie Rental Changes”

  1. Anonymous

    Ohh ya.. Still cheaper than HBO or cinemax (after you pay for all the crap chanels you dont watch)

    Lets push for pay-for-what-you-want programming not this package crap..

    And BRING MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBAL to BROADCAST, you hollywood jerks! (or take the block of internet broadcasters)

    Sorry, needed to vent.

  2. Anonymous

    I too was very upset with Blockbuster’s chosen communication method. In disgust, i looked into Netflix. The reality is, Even with the price hike, blockbuster is still cheaper.

    Understanding the movie selection is limited at BB, but i have been on the Unlimited plan for over 1 year. I have taken a movie home with me from work just about every night over that time period. (180 according to BB Online) which were exchanged at the store for 180 more.. 360 movies, for $20 a month..

    Its a deal. The turnaround time improved drastically with return at the store, especially considering you got a movie then..

    Limiting me to 5 a month wont convince me to pay more money.. I might live with less, but i am not as inclined to recommend the service.

    personally i am ok with this change, i was running out of movies to rent anyway.. Now when i get through what i can see, i’ll just turn it off..

    As far as watching throught the net with NetFlix, big deal.. and its only so many moves/hours anyway.

  3. Anonymous

    busted by blockBUSTER

    I cancelled my Total Access plan with blockbuster after receiving a canned reply from their customer service online complaint system. They also changed my plan without my knowledge. Ultimately the action that will stand the test of time in any given situation is in the hands of the people who would use the service. Very simply excercise your right to choose another service! I truly hope that the consumers who are unhappy with the way they have been treated will find this solution to be better and quicker than any lawsuit could ever hope to be!!!!!

    NUFF SAID!!!

  4. Anonymous

    Yes, these new changes angered me a lot. What really got me was the no more game coupons. Even with the discount you still have to pay $5 to rent a game. Sorry, but that’s too little of a discount.

  5. Anonymous

    I read one of the above Comment by Emily (#8)and have to ask one question, … whats wrong with you? I use to hate blockbuster refused to even go into the store, then they did away with late fees and I returned as a customer, then joined the online 3 at a time program and was very pleased, even recommended to 100’s of people (my job allowed such). But now I no longer will as it is no longer a excellent program but quite average. I will be exploring netflix and comparing. However Emily’s comment was so unbelievable I figure she either works for Blockbuster or is a very close relative of someone who does, wife, daughter probably, bring back late fee’s .. ha, I was wondering emily if you wouldn’t mind giving me $150, its one time and whats a few dollars plus seems like you have enough to go around? let me know if you got some extra!

  6. Anonymous

    Well, my phone now says I’ve been on hold with BB customer care for 22 minutes and 37 seconds. Haven’t spoken with anyone yet — just been on hold… wait — they just answered… hang tight…

    Ok. I spoke with Emily about why I am not showing an in-store coupon this month and she said they’re experiencing a system error right now and she’s going to send me an e-coupon directly to my email. She said she checked my account and I’m grandfathered in and won’t be affected by the changes you’re all talking about. Well, that’s good news for me, I guess.

    Thanks for the useful information. In case anyone needs BB Online’s unlisted customer service phone number, it’s 866-692-2789.

    Good luck everyone!

  7. Patty: I’m guessing they didn’t care because they’ve been losing money at the current rate. In their eyes, it’s better to have a few customers walk than have them stay and generate a loss.

  8. Anonymous

    I have been discussing this contract change with the local store manager and she couldn’t beleive it either. We have become friends (being I’m their best customer) and so I talked to her about this. She told me that BBV should have grandfathered in old customers and had the plan for all new online customers. She was on the 4 a month plan and she changed over this past week to Netflix 4 plan. I am really put out because this was their plan all along. Their intent was to beat Netflix at all cost. Remember this just left the court system (somewhere) on Netflix suing over how BBV stole their home mailing style and how their online rentals worked. I think the court ruled with BBV. What a shame for Netflix being they were the ones who sterted this! Oh yes that a stock letter above, I have written 3 emails, call customer service , and called corp. headquarters. and today is whan I got this letter. No one has tried to explain to me the reason BBV renigged on my contract with them. I even told them I would move my memebership to Netflix, The Movie Gallery, and Redbox 1.00$ rentals at McDonalds, guest what the didn’t care. Told to except the new plann or leave!

  9. Anonymous

    I got the email about the new pricing structure but deleted it so I don’t remember when it was suppose to change. My subscription renewed today and I was expecting to be on the new plan (2 out at a time, unlimited in-store exchanges to 2 out at a time, 3 in-store exchanges) but was surprised to see I was still charged $14.99 and had the unlimited in-store exchanges plus the e-coupon. Of course this may be my last e-coupon!

  10. Anonymous

    There’s a contractual reason that Blockbuster offers the 2 free E-Game Coupons to some customer and not others. When I signed up it was stated that the current plan would never change as long as I kept the account active and/or didn’t make changes to the account. I think this deal was only offered for one month. Thus, I have always received 2 free game rentals a month. Surprize Surprize when I push the Renew button they un-subscribed me from blockbuster and I have to pick one of the plans without the e- game rental coupons. I wrote to them and I’m sure I will be getting the above letter. I’m okay with the price increase but somehow they should be accountable for holding up their end of the contract. This is so typical blockbuster. They get you in the door and then want to change their end of the deal. Hopefully you will hear from others that were guaranteed the same thing I was and we can insist that BB keep up their end of the contract. Jeez.

  11. Anonymous

    After taking a break from Netflix we seriously considered switching to Blockbuster because of the ecoupons. However, I was pleasently surprised to see that Netflix fees have gone down (we were paying $17.99, now it’s $16.99), for the second time since we started with them 3 years ago. And, the instant viewing feature they’ve just added is great too. I re-upped on Monday night and when I got home from work Wednesday I had three moview waiting for me. I’m very happy with Netflix, thank-you-very-much!

  12. Anonymous

    I was disappointed when I got the email about the change in $17.99 plan. We’ve been enjoying the unlimited in-store returns for awhile now, but we’ll be able to live with five, especially with the fall and football season just around the corner.

    I had wondered about the ecoupons. We really dropped the ball and rarely used the ones the whole time we’ve been subscribers. I’d like to have rented more video games. Oh well.

  13. Anonymous

    I definitely prefer Netflix to Blockbuster. Before Netflix, I had tried 4 different Blockbuster stores in 3 different cities, and about once every 2 months each store would slap me with late fees–even though I always handed the movie to the clerk on time, every time. A Blockbuster employee told me that they got a big chunk of their profits on charging late fees and most people don’t bother to complain. Their business model is to get you hooked and then start raising prices or charging fees when you’re no longer paying attention.

    Netflix has a vastly better selection of movies, their customer service is excellent (to me anyways), and I save on gas not having to visit the local blockbuster.

  14. Anonymous

    I LOVED the blockbuster program. We’ve had it since January and rented many movies by mail and just as many from the store. We’ve been able to rent Wii games once a month with our eCoupon and even get to the third season of The Sopranos as part of the program.

    But this price hike sucks. I’m not paying an additional $8 a month for the same service now. I’m pretty put off by the price hike, particularly when it’s almost double what I’m paying for much less service. A dollar or two I could live with, but not this. Sorry Blockbuster- I’m switching to Netflix.

  15. Anonymous

    I haven’t received any notification about plan changes either. Yesterday I received my normal monthly free monthly rental coupon too. I asked the manager at the local store and she said only some customer were being forced to change plans while others will continue with the unlimited in-store exchanges and free monthly rental coupon. She had no info on what criteria was used to decide who was changed and who was grandfathered. I used to do in-store rentals very often, but for the last few months barely used it, so maybe they’re going by how many free rentals you were getting from the stores.

  16. Anonymous


    the pricing scheme was unbelievable, i agree, but they didn’t make any mistakes, this was planned. they have now pulled a large portion of netflix customers back and are counting on those of us who will stick with them after the plan changes. I will probably stay with them, and I believe most will. Blockbuster projected the revenue loss they would get in exchange for more customers from day one, and are now cashing in by simply removing that loss. it’s bad business, but it works. i can’t say I’m satisfied, but it’s still in my best interest to stick with them. i’m sure going to miss those e-coupons…

  17. Anonymous

    Netflix > Blockbuster

    Blockbuster has horrible customer service. Remember their “No late fees” plan? Where indeed, they did away with late fees but replaced them with an insulting “You Just Purchased This Scratched and Used Disc for 24.99!” Policy. Ridiculous.

    I don’t care about BBV’s ‘in-store’ option. Their in-store selection usually stinks anyway.

  18. Anonymous

    Wow, they wrote back to you? Hmmm. Maybe clicking the “Contact Us” link late on a Friday night after coming back from several pints at the bar in a bad mood was NOT a good idea. Guess they don’t have a pre-packaged response to “Go f yourselves you f’ing cheap f’ing a’holes.”

  19. Anonymous

    I was wondering how Blockbuster would last on offering such low prices and so many movies. I dont blame them at all for their practice and for business reasons I think they should bring back late fees. I mean if Blockbuster goes under that would be just sad (I like having the option to rent movies if I want). So stop complaining about a few dollar increase, remember when movies used to be 5 bucks to rent and $80 to buy? Now you can buy a DVD for 5 bucks. Give it a rest people and stop being such penny pinchers.

  20. Anonymous

    Netflix is much better than blockbuster. The main reason being their online viewing of movies. You still get three dvds at a time but you can watch thousands of movies online instantly. This is the best service ever.

  21. Anonymous

    It seems like Blockbuster decided to process different customers differently (although the e-coupons benefit is lost for eveyone). Hacking Netflix posted an email from a frequent renter which was worded differently from the one you posted:

    The confusion caused by treating different customers differently could potentially cause quite a bit of ill will with current subscribers, regardless of how they feel about the decision to raise prices.

    Personally, Netflix has always worked better for me. I dislike browsing through video store aisles and around here shipping is much faster with Netflix. Recently my plan price has been reduced. Glad I don’t have to sort through the Blockbuster confusion!

  22. Anonymous

    Ah, rats! Their e-coupons were the one thing I really loved about the total access plan, since our local Blockbuster first, had a very limited selection and second, just closed with about two days’ notice, BUT Hollywood video, which has a GREAT selection and very friendly staff, accepts competitor’s coupons. I’ve been getting free Hollywood rentals using Blockbuster coupons for about five years now, and with all these funky new changes it appears that that beautiful era has at last come to an end. *Sob*

    I think this was a dumb move on Blockbuster’s part, but I guess if they were losing money then continuing to offer the plan would have been an even dumber move.

    Looks like it’s time to see what Netflix has to offer . . .

  23. @Ryan: That’s because the changes don’t go into effect until the end of the month. At that point, you’ll either be limited to 5 in-store exchanges at that price point, or you’ll have to start paying an extra $7/month. And you’ll lose the eCoupons.

    Oh, and if you don’t go in and select your new plan, they may effectively suspend your account.

  24. Anonymous

    In all fairness to them, they are right on both counts, even though I do completely agree with you. In the email that I got, they did mention that the e-coupons would be going away. It is also true that the previous plans had different ways of handling the e-coupons–some had them, others didn’t.

    However, it is interesting that they say that you have to pick a plan, even though the email said it would be renewed automatically…

  25. Anonymous

    I can’t stand Blockbuster. They’ve killed off my business with bad customer service manuevers too many times over the years. I’m sure that there are many nice people that work for Blockbuster all over the United States, unfortunately the corporate policy kills their customer experience so that good employees can’t make up for bad policies.

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