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Rant #504
(published September 16, 2010)
by Thomas Sullivan
To: Blockbuster Video Customer Relations
From: Thomas Sullivan
Re: Rewards Program

Dear sir/mam,

The other evening I was in your store on Gleason Avenue here in Atlanta. I ended up there because I had no Netflix movies at home and a nasty confrontation between a drug dealer and one of his minions was raging in front of the Redbox machine I use at my local 7-11. Sorry to say, but your company was my third choice (for many of us you are like a third lover we visit only when we are desperate). But I digress from the real reason for my correspondence.

I was standing in the checkout line when the store manager scooted up behind a register and offered to assist me. I gave her the film and my little plastic card. She began to ring me up, working the keyboard lightning quick with one hand while she slid my card through a machine with the other.

So far so good.

But then she paused, looked up at me, and said "I need to tell you about something."

I froze. The only time I need to be "told of something" in a checkout line is if my fly is unzipped (which happens often, I am absentminded by nature) and an employee is attempting to save me from future embarrassment. That is true customer service in my mind. But no, this was about the Rewards Program.

The gal indicated that there were three advantages to the program. She got through the first one, speaking rapid-fire fast like a high school junior giving a classroom presentation, before I cut in and performed a mercy killing. In a soft tone I said "Tell 'ya what, I'll pass. But thanks anyway."

I figured that was it. Over and done, time for everyone to move on. But then. . .

The manager took my money ($5.48 for a film released in 2006, quite the bargain) and then restarted the sales pitch while I stood there feeling about as relaxed as a guy getting ready to walk the DUI line for a cop. The gal, a pleasant seeming young woman with smart eyes and an adorably bumpy nose, slid me a brochure and told me it was a sixty dollar value for only fifteen bucks.

At that moment I was tempted to tell her I'd join the program if she took me into the back office and performed unspeakable sex acts (a $60 value). But I didn't. That really isn't me. I was just utterly frustrated. Like everyone else in the store (two people on a Friday night, a veritable stampede) I just wanted to rent a film and go home.

So, the whole point of this long-winded correspondence is a simple request. Could you just spend a few minutes in your next meeting there at the corporate headquarters pondering how this strategy impacts everyone who isn't sitting in the headquarters? And then, could you stop forcing your employees to act like door-to-door salesmen? I imagine your managerial-level turnover is akin to that of the Nixon administration. These are nice young people just trying to do their jobs. Despite what they might say during a team meeting at The Olive Garden, they hate having to ask these questions. I know its not just your company—a sad-faced woman behind the counter at Walgreens looked at me the other day and pointed at The Special before saying "You probably don't want today's special." She eagerly assented when I offered to write a letter to her company. Quite simply, you're KILLING us out here and forcing us to shop elsewhere.

So I would like to make YOU an offer. If you end this abhorrent practice I will stop telling everyone I know how badly Blockbuster sucks. And, as a special bonus, I'll stop filling empty boxes of Milk Duds with chocolate-covered tar balls from the Gulf and putting them on your candy shelves. Yes, that was me. Sorry about the lawsuit. I heard that the kid survived.

Thank you for your time,
Thomas Sullivan (alias)
Atlanta, GA

Thomas Sullivan is the author of Life In The Slow Lane.

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