Special tribute to those not-so-dearly departed late fees and expired candy
We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Blockbuster Video, which announced this week they were shutting down the last of their remaining 300 stores.
“What?” you’re saying. “I thought they died years ago.” No, my friends, it only seemed that way. Like when you’d go into the store and it’d be so empty, in the horror section you’d see cobwebs and dead people, only they weren’t decorations, and where the “New Releases” section included “Driving Miss Daisy,” and where the check-out stand contained Milk Duds so old, they had grown legs and were challenging the Twizzlers to a fight.
Friends, I’ve been asked to give the eulogy because to the deceased I’ve been a loyal customer and a trustworthy friend. And because during our relationship, I’ve must have paid over $250,000 in late fees to the greedy SOB, I mean, to the dearly departed.
Despite what you may think, Blockbuster was my favorite video store. Sure, some of you keep telling me how you always see my car parked out in front of the dirty video store on 24 Road, but I can assure you that you’re mistaken. My car is pretty common. It’s, like, a very popular color and stuff, so you probably got it confused with somebody else’s car.
In any case, we look back fondly at our friend Blockbuster. We remember happier days of old, when we’d excitedly rush to the store on 12th Street to not only rent a video cassette, but a VCR as well. Then we’d haul both home by horse and wagon, where Ma and Pa would tell us we could watch “The Breakfast Club” just as soon as electricity got invented.
Then Redbox came in with movies that cost just a buck a day for new releases and everything! Of course, Blockbuster would constantly remind us that a metal kiosk didn’t have the personal touch Blockbuster had, however we had seen firsthand Blockbuster’s “personal touch” in the form of a 17-year-old zit-faced punk who seemed to take sick pleasure in telling us we couldn’t rent “Wedding Crashers” without first paying $3.26 in late fees.
So Redbox’s cheap prices and low late fees scared our friend Blockbuster, to the point where they were forced to change their complicated pricing scheme.
If I recall correctly, new releases cost more, and you could keep most movies for something like three days, unless they were older releases, in which case you could keep them for five to seven days, except for documentaries.
It was a pretty complicated timing and pricing formula that no one could understand, including the world’s top scientists, who said they would try to solve it right after taking on easier problems, such as curing cancer. The only thing that was clear was that either way, you were going to pay a late fee.
Cheaper competition and high late fees were a big reason for the store’s troubles. But our friend Blockbuster wasn’t just going to roll over and let a glorified candy machine like Redbox take over. No sir. This was a multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate with naming rights to a lower tier college bowl game. They were intelligent enough to understand that customers were angry over all the late fees, and they did something about it.
They renamed the late fee.
Instead of late fee, it became a “re-stocking fee.” Because customer surveys revealed that by charging a “re-stocking fee” instead of a “late fee,” angry customers were just slightly less likely to set off explosives in the store.
But even that didn’t work, so now we’re forced to say goodbye to Blockbuster. You’ve left us with nothing but fond memories, empty retail spaces and millions in debt. In fact, you can’t even pay the charge for the funeral home to lower your corpse into the ground.
Or as you’d call it, a “re-stocking fee.”