Working the video-rental system

I’m not a fan of Blockbuster. And when I say Blockbuster, I’m really talking about giant corporations that have flooded certain markets, such as video rentals, and pushed out the mom-and-pop joints of the world.

And when I say I’m not a fan, I really mean I dislike Blockbuster. Much in the same way that I dislike parking services at USF.

The reason for both is simple: As a customer, I give them way too much money.

Why should I have to pay $5.07 to rent a movie? And then, I have to return it before noon on the third day or I have to pay another $5.07 the next time I come in. Or, why do I have to pay for parking that doesn’t exist and then pay for a ticket because I had to find “other” means of “pahking my cah.”

But there’s the problem. I am a customer, and the thing is, I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

However, I am willing to give credit where it is due. (Sorry parking services, I’m not talking about you.)

Blockbuster, for all its evilness, does have a pretty good program going on right now. And if you’re willing to shell out the jack, it’s worth it.

It started with Lord of the Rings. There was a program a few months ago where, if you prepaid for your own DVD copy of Rings, you could get 10 free rentals for 10 weeks (which would normally work out to $50.70). Then on the day the video was released, you walk in and take it home. The price was only $24.99.

Of course, the powers that be at Blockbuster are counting on you spending more money, perhaps returning a few of those “free” rentals a teensy bit late, and they’ll be the last ones laughing.

But again, if you work the system, it’s worth it.

Monsters, Inc. was apparently so successful at this program that the price jumped to $29.99 for Spider-Man. This is the one that I did.

(Note: I’m not advertising for Blockbuster. I’m just reporting the facts.)

So, how it gets you is when you walk in to get your weekly rental, you have to pass these display cases of previously-viewed DVDs. The other program that Blockbuster frequently uses is a buy-two-get-one-free kind of deal.

Is it a greedy, money-making scam? Yes. Is it evil, if not also brilliantly executed? You betcha. Did I fall for it? Boy, did I ever.

Granted, I buy more movies than the average consumer.

And since this Spider-Man program, I’ve rented more than I used to. But I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to be able to say I bought Amelie, Gosford Park and Black Hawk Down, and only threw down a $20 bill for them. And those are just three of the dozen DVDs I have obtained in the past month.

Hey, this deal isn’t for everybody. Am I a sucker? Guilty as charged. And you can be, too, if you hurry.

Now if only the people who run parking services can come up with a reason for me to not despise them.

But hey, that’s just like my opinion, man.

Contact Will Albritton at