The "new" Blockbuster has riddled us with promises of abandoning late fees.
The slogan says, "The end of late fees. The start of more." Good
enough. We rent movies from Blockbuster, and we have returned them to the
store late, paid the fees, felt stupid, absolved our delinquency.
So when a postcard showed up in the mail the other day telling me we owed
twelve bucks in late fees to Blockbuster, you can imagine my surprise. I
was stunned. But your ad campaign, I thought, it promises the
end of fees. Is this the start of more? According to the notice,
we’d returned The Day After Tomorrow five days late when we picked it up
in mid-November. And my memory isn’t the sharpest (still working on
getting the new phone number right every time), but I’m sure The Day After
Tomorrow was a week-long rental. We only rent movies one or two times
each month; the infelicity of a late return is generally fresh with us. We
usually expect the late charge. But not this time. "The end of late fees.
The start of more."
When we rented Hero and I, Robot the other day, D. and Ph. went
to the new release wall while I wandered up to the counter (at the store on Erie
Blvd. here in Syracuse).
"Can I talk with somebody about this late fee notice? It’s for a movie
we rented in November. Says we returned it five days late, but I’m almost
certain it was a week-long rental."
Clerk looks at the note card, eyebrows furrowed accusatorily. "Yeah,
The Day After Tomorrow was returned five days late. It’s [something
incoherent involving long division] per day."
"We’re generally good about returning movies on time [granted, a fuzzy
assertion]. Is it possible that the DVD case said ‘one week rental’?
When we were in here a few weeks ago renting Supersize Me, I saw that
several of your new releases were shelved in mixed cases. Some of the
cases said ‘two day rental,’ others ‘one week rental.’"
Clerk: We run out of cases, but all the new releases are two-day rentals.
If it’s in the wrong case, you have to read the slip inside.
"The slip? Is that the same as the receipt?"
Clerk: Yeah. You should read the receipt to be sure you’re getting it
for a full week instead of two days.
Friends, read your Blockbuster receipts.
Denouement: To delay the charges, sleep on it, etc., we rented on my card
rather than D.’s. Then, to clear our names, salvage our fragile credit
ratings, and restore decency to our lives, D. slinked back to the store a few
days later and coughed up the twelve bucks. But insult to injury, those
goldang ads. "The end of fees. The start of more."