Now for Your Grrrs: March 1, 2005

Your Grrrs ...

Adam at a Blockbuster near you: I am 18 years old and have been an employee at Blockbuster for over one year. I am very offended by your ignorant statements.

You are making a generalization about ALL Blockbuster stores from your bad experience at one or maybe two bad stores. I was number one in my store for sales and lead my store to #1 in the region. I know many of the customers that come in by first name. I always talk to them whenever I get a chance, even if I see them when I am out with my friends, I still stop by and say Hi. I know that my store and the surrounding stores focus on customer service as the top priority. If a customer ever disputed any late fee, we always took care of them.

Maybe you, and the New Jersey attorney general, are uninformed about the new no-late-fee policy. Before the new policy was established, customers would be charged up to $20 in late fees if they returned a new release more than a week late, plus they wouldn't be able to keep the movie. Also, you could never be "a few minutes late" because before we still gave you a grace period until 3 p.m. when a film was due back by noon. What is wrong with people not taking responsibility for their actions? Would you get angry with the bank and write an article about how evil they are if YOU were irresponsible and YOU paid your loan late?

Now with the no late fees, you have up to seven days to return a movie (even if it is a two-day rental), without being charged 1 cent. If you keep the movie more than seven days after the due date, you have the option to either buy the movie minus what you paid to rent it, or return it for a full refund but still have to pay a small restocking fee of only $1.25 because it takes it out of our inventory and needs to be added back in again. Did you know that Blockbuster has a movie pass that is three movies at a time at $19.99 for the first month, and $29.99 after that. Then you would be able to watch the Godfather trilogy and as soon as you return them you are able to take out three more movies free. It is better than Netflix. I have seen customers rent anywhere from six to almost 200 in one month. It is definitely the best deal. Then you can be a real movie buff. Blockbuster also has the same deal as Netflix, except it is better.

Blockbuster has a video mailing pass that is currently $9.99 for the first month, plus two in-store coupons for movies or games. Then it goes up to $14.99 for every month after that, along with the two free coupons. The coupons can come in really handy when there is a sudden snowstorm -- just go to your local Blockbuster and pick up two movies or games. Then you can also take advantage of the New No Late Fees. Netflix costs $17.99 every month with no extra benefits.

You do the math and see which one will save you more money ... I am very upset that FOX News would let you print garbage like this. Don't they want current and up-to-date articles, not just somebody complaining about everything that ever happened in his life? Why don't you write in your next column about being teased or harassed in elementary school? I want to hear news or opinions from people who actually have knowledge about the subject.

Jen L. in Cyber-Space: I love your column and look forward to it every week. I wanted to respond to your column about Blockbuster’s late fees. I agree that it is too little too late, but I found out when I went to my Blockbuster that they are not even honoring the policy. The store placed a letter up stating that because they are a franchise they are not required to honor Blockbuster’s policy on no more late fees. Their alternate to this was to allow us another 12 hours to drop our movies off, thus changing the drop-off time back to midnight. Yet, if you are late, you are still charged a late fee. I am so disappointed in this policy because I thought maybe Blockbuster was catching up with the times. What a shame!!

Kristi in South Dakota: You were right on the money with your Grrr! about Blockbuster. I've been dinged for countless late fees, several of which I know I didn't incur. I am billed $1 if I return a VHS that has not been rewound, which I normally take care of but I admit on occasion one does slip by me. Then came the announcement of no late fees, and just hearing about it felt like a big relief. So a few weeks ago when I had a Blockbuster movie to return and a mini snow torm hit for the evening, my husband said, "Don't go out in that mess. Blockbuster doesn't have late fees anymore. Just return it in the morning." With a smile I heeded this good advice and returned the movie to Blockbuster's drop box the next day and didn't give it a second thought. Wouldn't you know it, this past weekend I stopped to rent a movie for my daughter only to be told that I had a late fee on my account. I asked how that could be as the advertisements say Blockbuster has done away with late fees. The nice young lady (she was nice I must say) behind the counter told me that the Blockbuster in my town does not participate in the "no late fees" promotion. However, she added that I wasn't actually charged a late fee, but rather an extended rental charge of almost $3. Grrrrr!

Doug in Indianapolis: Mike, I love your column and normally I’m in full agreement with you, but I need to clarify something for you about video store late fees. I worked for several years in the home video business so I know whereof I speak. Late fees were a necessary evil of video rental. I didn’t like having to charge them to people and I especially dreaded having to collect them from people. But if I didn’t, a third of my inventory would have vanished off my shelf because people didn’t bring tapes back. And this may come as a big surprise to a lot of people, but in the days before DVD’s, a new release VHS tape would cost about $70. That’s what it would cost a video store to put that movie on its shelf. With an average rental period of two days, that would take 25 rentals and about six weeks just to pay for itself, never mind making a profit. And nobody’s waiting six weeks to rent a movie anymore, thanks to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. But now, thanks to the low price point of DVD’s, video stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood are having a harder time turning a buck, because more people are buying DVD’s instead of renting them. And that’s going to end up causing a problem for consumers as more people are buying DVD’s that they’re never going to watch again. Thanks, Mike. Keep the Grrrrs coming.

Bonnie in Fremont, Calif.: Grrr Blockbuster! Their customer service rep told me that I failed to return a DVD and was being charged $40 to replace it. He further stated that "the computer never lies" and that customers "frequently lie about returning videos." I went to the store and went through their entire inventory and found my DVD. Did their manager apologize? No, of course not! Will I ever return? NO!

Sam in Miami on Alex Rodriguez: Love the column but have a bone to pick. A-Rod is a hell of a nice guy and does much for the South Florida community. I've been in social situations with him and have observed a well-mannered person willing to take the time to sign autographs and take pictures with little kids while trying to enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner. He is as classy as it gets, and people shouldn't fault the man because his sport is willing to pay so much. Wish that more athletes took their cues from him. Just because he didn't perform up to unattainable New York expectations shouldn't mean you should call him names. You owe him an apology.

Jennifer in Kansas City, Mo.: GRRRR! to all of the Obliviot “princess” housewives that call in the doctor’s office where I work and get upset when I don’t just drop everything because their husband is out of his medication. I’m sorry that you are both so busy that a small thing like making a phone call to the pharmacy a week in advance to check on your refills is such an inconvenience to you. HOWEVER, it is not my fault that you are not taking responsibility for your own healthcare. Also please don’t think that walking into the office demanding that the medical staff drop everything they are doing for other patients, who by the way thought ahead and made appointments, is the way to get your question/refill/test results taken care of faster. If anything it makes the staff a little perturbed and less likely to be compassionate to your needs. I am sorry to say that this is how it is, but you as the patient need to be responsible for your health and the care of it. I don't have enough hours in the day and neither does the doctor I work for to babysit you.

Respond to Mike Straka

Mike Straka is the director of operations and special projects for, and contributes as a features reporter on "FOX Magazine," and occasionally as a news cut-ins anchor on FOX News Channel. Read Mike's Bio.