Saturday, March 27, 2010

I love Redbox, I hate Redbox...

Gone are the days of packing the kids in the car and driving across town to the closest Block Buster store only to find out that the movie you wanted to rent was unavailable. And your second, third, and fourth choices were all taken too, so you grabbed an old stand by just to keep the kids happy and then entered the longest line in history to rent a movie you didn’t want in the first place. You inwardly swore but outwardly smiled as the clerk asked if you found what you were looking for, and you peeled your kids away from the humongous bubble gum machine ingeniously placed right at the exit door. So you couldn’t have been happier when Satellite TV started renting movies you could watch anytime that day for $1.99 and you didn’t have to drive anywhere to return them.

Unfortunately, what started out as a good thing soon turned bad as Satellite TV got greedier, offering fewer and fewer movies for rental and raising the price three times in the past three years. Rentals are now $4.99 per movie, and there are only half a dozen titles to choose from-not a good deal in my book, so we stopped renting.

But a new technology is in our midst-Redbox. You just can’t beat a video rental for $1.06 (with the included tax) that you can have all day and then return by 9 PM the next night at any (yes, I said that right) Redbox machine-and if your area is anything like mine, there are Redbox kiosks everywhere, including the grocery stores. They started getting a little greedy too, raising their rental price to $2.00 a night until they began getting competition from the old video powerhouse Block Buster with their new Block Buster Express machines.

At first, Mr. Redbox and I had a love-love relationship-I could usually find a movie the kids or I liked, and we would all go home happy. Then, as more and more people started visiting our favorite kiosk locations, we would have to wait in areas not big enough for lines, while people searched the kiosk for a rental. Less and less movies were available and after waiting for 20 minutes or more, we sometimes walked away from the kiosk empty handed and unhappy. I silently cursed Mr. Redbox for letting us down until this tech savvy mom found out about reserving a Redbox movie online-now I didn’t have to waste a trip to a machine that didn’t have the movie I wanted. I could now check on that movie’s availability at a particular location, reserve that movie, and pick it up by 9 PM that night.

All was right with the video rental world again until the kiosks started having problems. It all started one particularly cold and rainy day when my kids and I went to pick up a reserved movie at the Walgreen’s outside kiosk. I still had to wait while a woman scrutinized the movies for over 15 minutes before finally walking away, but I only had to swipe my card and go right? Wrong. I reserved two movies but only one came out of the machine, and a line was forming around me. I called customer service, and after about 5 minutes in the cold and rain, an operator told me the movie was stuck in the machine. Uh, yea, I knew this, but when and how would I get it “unstuck.” The operator said technician would look into the matter the following day, but there was no charge and she gave me a promo code to use on another rental.

That incident started a downward spiral of continual evils with Redbox (“stuck” movies, unable to process my debit card, charged twice for the same movie…), and I amassed several promo codes in the process. But you can’t use promo codes when reserving online, plus offering promo codes used to be standard, but now I am just supposed to be happy that I won’t be charged for the rental, so in my eyes the company has never made things right. I am also worried I will still be charged for these movies since customer service says it takes up to 3 business days for the rental charge to be credited to my account, but there is no way to check this until I get my monthly statement.

Last night I reserved two movies (what can I say, I am the eternal optimist and movie watching is our Friday night entertainment) but when I went to get them, the one machine said it didn’t recognize my card and the other did. Once again I called customer service and here is an excerpt of our conversation:

Me: Hi, yes, I reserved two movies online and got one from machine B but machine A says it doesn’t recognize my card.

Operator: Give me the last four numbers of your account. (I did)

Operator: Ah, I see the problem.

Me: What is the problem?

Operator: Sometimes when the machine authorizes a rental it really isn’t authorizing a rental.

Me: What?

Operator: That machine didn’t authorize the rental and you can try to find that movie in another machine.

Is this guy from outer space or am I brain dead?

Me: It did authorize the rental-I got the confirmation.

Operator: No it didn’t really, you see it can’t authorize a rental. It didn’t authorize a rental and I would suggest using another machine.

Me: I think I follow you now-the machine is faulty?

Operator: Yes. Don’t worry because you won’t be charged (yea, I know) but it will take three business days to credit your account. (I know this too.)

Now my relationship with Block Buster Express hasn’t really taken off even though Mr. Redbox and I have had our share of troubles. You see, the Block Buster kiosk is only about 5 minutes from my house, but I had such a hard time retrieving my rental (the touch screen kept highlighting everything other than what I had selected) that I gave up. Heck if it’s that hard from the start, what else may be in store for me? Will Mr. Redbox and I continue our relationship? Sadly yes, but I will approach our meetings with a little more caution, and maybe if I expect the worst, he might surprise me…


  1. I just rent the ones available on my On Demand channel on the TV. SO much easier! I just watched The Blind Side. (so good!)

  2. I just rented Princess and the frog for the kids. I love Redbox, but usually end up spending $7 for a rental since I always forget to return it!

  3. Janie, I might reconsider this too. More cost less hassle?

  4. Molly, that's the movie that I couldn't get out of the machine! I was able to get it from the machine next to it, and I finally used one of those prom codes, so not as painful.

  5. Welcome to the world of technology and easy living. Eventually, all these new machines disappoint us. I used to love the Redbox with the kids. Now, I have wait in line for 15 mins as other people decide what movie they would like to watch and my kids are taking all my quarters to get bubble gum, trashy toys, tattoos from these random coin machines. I now have my faith in Netflix and watch movies instantly from my laptop!

  6. Seriously, you MUST try Netflix!!!!! We have had it forever and it is the best thing ever.

    Try it, you'll like it :-)

  7. Areeba and "The Girl": I seriously considered Netflix at one time but didn't want a constant balance on my credit card. If they do it by debit card it might be worth a look. Thanks for the advice!

  8. Hmm. I guess one plus side to having two young children and no free time is that I haven't watched a movie in ages and ages. At some point I guess we'll have to join the modern world and start getting movies from somewhere, but now I'm a little freaked out at the idea of trying any of these kiosks.

    Back before we had kids, I worked in administration at the public library and would just check out the latest movies for free as soon as they came in! Sigh. That's all ancient history and it's cartoons and being annoyed by SpongeBob for me now.

  9. What about Netflix? My daughter swears by it, but I'm scared to try it. I haven't tried Redbox either. My real problem is that I am stuck on reality tv.

  10. Xenia, Sponge Bob annoys the heck out of me too! We started doing game and movie nights with the kids a few years back and that's how we got trapped into this...

    Blue Violet, I mentioned Netflix to my husband and friends of his told him they can never get the movies they want, so I am undecided about it still...

  11. How frustrating!

    I like Redbox, but I keep forgetting to return the movie until 3 days later, hence bringing up the bargain price a tad. I think I'll have to return to Netflix someday.

  12. I really need to watch some movies again! We were thinking about Netflix. I'm also thinking about using our FIOS free movie choices. There must be something for me there. At least, it's not a kid movie :)

  13. Don't you hate it when something that should be relaxing adds to stress instead? We have On Demand now through cable which usually works out Ok if I keep track of how many we watch.

    When I'm done with my shovel do you want to borrow it for the next time you visit Redbox, in case you want to whack it one?:)

  14. Oh my! We don't have such technology yet, but it sounds like it needs a bit of ironing out the kinks.

    We just go to our local video store and they have all movies in the store for $1 on Cheap Tuesdays. The quality of the DVD leaves a bit to be desired because so many people take advantage of this deal on a Tuesday, but for $1, I guess I can't complain too much.

  15. We love Redbox and have never had any problems. What a bummer for you. I'm tempted by Netflix too and I think we'll be trying it soon when it can be streamed through the Wii.

  16. Tesa, I do love the convenience of it (I am always making a "quick" trip to the grocery store and there are two machines there), but lately it has been a gamble.

  17. Tropical Mom, the machines are great when they work, and since you can look things over online and then reserve it is nice. These are all new on DVD and some older titles for that dollar rental... I will take the problems with this over the video store.

  18. Zen Mom, I like it to when it works...

    September Mom, I usually rent one movie for the kids and one for my husband and myself. Heck, if I can't get to see the movie in the theater at least I can watch it when it comes on DVD. It's our "hot" Friday night activity. LOL!

    MOPG, that shovel might just do the trick. Maybe jiggle any stuck movie? Or maybe even make me feel better... LOL!

  19. I've used Redbox once and it was ok. I am lazy and have done the buy through my cable provider thing for $4.99. Figure it's still cheaper than my husband and I going out to the movies. Good luck ! :O)

  20. Destrella, I used the pay per view with ours until it hit $4.99-plus I can never find anything I like with it, so...

  21. I am so glad that I haven't had that problem...YET! I don't know if I would have the patience for it. I hope you get your relationship worked out soon. I would hate for the two of you to part ways. LOL

  22. I didn't know about these kiosk machines. I always think I'm living under a rock, lol! That or they are not available in my area. I don't know if I would have the patience to use them though. I hope the kiosks don't give you anymore problems. I'm crossing my fingers for you. :)


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