Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Don’t rent at Blockbuster Express Kiosks

Posted in business, fraud, scam, scams by commorancy on September 6, 2010

[Updated: 04/15/2017 — In 2012, Redbox purchased all of the remaining Blockbuster Express kiosks which have now become Redbox kiosks. The original article follows.]

I’ve rented at both Redbox and now Blockbuster. I’ve never had any difficulties renting or returning at Redbox. However, at Blockbuster I had the worst experience when returning my movie. Note, this was the first time I’d ever used Blockbuster’s machine. Note, Blockbuster’s machine sucks.

Poor Vending Machine Design

I’ll start by saying that DVD rentals via vending machine, not the best idea. Yes, that includes Redbox. The issue isn’t renting, it’s returning. If you rent at a store, returning the DVD is actually simple… drop it off in the bin. At a vending kiosk, you’re have to wait to turn in the movie because you have to use the screen to initiate the return function. This means, you have to stand in line and wait until everyone else is done. Stupid.

These machines are monstrous, yet they can’t even provide a proper return mechanism. My experience with Blockbuster returning a rented DVD was horrible. I stood in line 20 minutes waiting to return my movie (singular). After all that, the time was a couple minutes past 9 and Blockbuster still charged the extra $1 fee. Seriously, there is no grace period at all?

The worst part is, however, that when I called customer service, they refused to refund the money. They offered a promo code instead. Hello, no, I want a refund, not a promo code. After the debacle that is the returns process, I don’t intend to rent from their shoddy vending machine ever again. I’d already made that decision right after they charged me the extra day’s fee. This is why I didn’t want a promo code. The bad customer service experience was just the topper that capped it all.

Return Mechanism

These hulking machines are huge. There should be no reason why there isn’t a simple return and go slot (i.e., no waiting). It’s completely ludicrous that you need to wait for someone else to finish their long transaction before you can return a movie. It seriously needs a drop and go slot. A slot that always accepts returns no matter what someone may be doing on the rental side. Their computer already knows that that specific movie copy is tied to my account. There is no reason to have to initiate anything. An always-active returns slot is a no-brainer. Yet, these kiosks don’t have one. Neither does Redbox. However, there are far more Redbox kiosks around. If one is that occupied, I could just drive to another. Unfortunately, with the Blockbuster kiosks, you had to return your discs to the one where you rented. You couldn’t return at just any kiosk even if you did know where another one was.

In this case, the kiosk should shutdown all new purchases for 20 minutes prior to 9PM to allow for express returns. This would put the system into return only mode and allow those only needing to return to push their way through before the 9PM deadline. This prevents those people who want to spend 15-20 minutes hogging the kiosk reading every movie synopsis and hemming and hawing over ever title in the unit from doing immediately before return time.

Blockbuster go boom

It’s no wonder Blockbuster’s kiosks are now a thing of the past. They really had no idea of customer service or how to operate such a rental service to the public. I’ll stick with Redbox, thank you very much. I’ve had no issues with customer service or returns at Redbox. Yet, on my very first call to Blockbuster customer service (I waited on hold for at least 10 minutes), they were unwilling to even do what I requested (refund the extra day fee that they don’t rightly deserve).

So, I called the bank and the bank reversed the charges. Too bad Blockbuster.

Here’s your word of warning. If you want to rent from Blockbuster’s kiosk, you may experience something very similar with returns. Not only is customer service an atrocious process, they won’t even issue refunds when appropriate. Worse, if you go even 1 minute past 9PM when returning, they will stick you for that extra day’s fee (no grace period). I have no respect for Blockbuster and I do not intend to rent anything further from either their stupid kiosk or any store they own.

While these rentals are cheap enough, it’s not worth the hassle when you want to get a refund for ill gotten charges. Believe me, Blockbuster needs to shutter the doors and go away. Let’s hope Redbox makes that happen (and they did) and oh, Blockbuster, you should really take a look at Redbox to see what customer service really is, m’kay?

[03/15/2017 Comment: This article was written before the Blockbuster kiosks were bought out by Redbox in 2012. Thankfully, these Blockbuster kiosks no longer exist. They have all been replaced by Redbox kiosks which are much more abundant and easy to locate and use… thanks to the Redbox app. I leave this article up as a history of how Blockbuster kiosks functioned and as a testament to how bad Blockbuster’s customer service was at the time.]

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7 Responses

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  1. commorancy said, on October 17, 2010 at 1:05 am


    While I appreciate your comment, I am done with this argument and will post no more comments related to this article. However, I will rebut a few of your arguments here as a final close to this article and its comments:

    >I do not like Blockbuster either and I can understand your frustration, but the fact of the matter is you made the choice to rent from them.

    I rented from them once as a test. Once, and only once. The outcome of that test was a failure.

    >They set a time when the movie needs to be returned for a reason. If you exceed that time, you are given and punishment of a late fee.

    No, in fact, there is no ‘reason’. The time they set is arbitrary, most likely based on Redbox’s time to return. It may be the time they chose, but that time IS arbitrary as is any method of doing business. They can choose to allow any time to return films. In fact, I was there well before the time to return it. Unfortunately, due to their policy of returning to the same the machine where you rented combined with a single time to return, this guarantees a line and that line lasted for 20 minutes. I waited 23 f***ing minutes to do something that should have taken 2 minutes at most. Sorry, but your argument doesn’t fly and will never fly. It may be their ‘policy’, yes, but it doesn’t mean that it is a policy that is correct given the circumstances and the fact that it is also an arbitrary policy.

    >I hate Blockbuster as well, but the founder Wayne Huizenga is a genius.

    Not much of a genius when his company is now heading down the path of bankruptcy. Worse, they want to absolve his company of $1.5 billion in debt. There’s no genius in that. That’s actually quite stupid if you ask me. Perhaps he wasn’t directly responsible for the downfall, perhaps he was. There’s no way to know for sure. If there is anyone whom I would consider a marketing and business genius (and I hate using that word to describe anyone), it would be Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison or possibly even Bill Gates. There is no way I would call anyone a genius whose company is lead into bankruptcy with over a billion in debt. In fact, the words genius and bankruptcy do not even belong in the same sentence.

    One last thing, if your arguments had any credibility and merit at all, you completely lost any credibility with this final statement. Why should anyone take your arguments seriously when you’ve just stood up for a person who’s company is now on the brink of collapse?

    *Comments for this article are now closed*


  2. Gina said, on October 6, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Please take this advice be very cautious when renting at any kiosk. But blockbuster is the worst. I spoke to a supervisior regarding a fee for a movie I did return, I advised him that I did return the movie and there must b a problem with the machine. I asked for a credit to my account and he was unwilling to help. I asked to speak to his supervisor and I was told I would have to call back the next day. Watch your bank acount, blockbuster express KISOK is doing something that is totally wrong.

    I Will never rent from BLOCKBUSTER KIOSK AGAIN!!!!!


    • commorancy said, on October 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

      I would be cautious renting from Blockbuster at this point anyway. Blockbuster has recently filed for bankruptcy protection. This means that once it’s in the bankruptcy court, you’ll basically need to get in line for any refunds or cash due to you from this company. So, if you rent from one of their kiosks or even one of their stores, you may not be able to get any refunds due to the bankruptcy protections. For this reason alone, you should probably rent with Redbox or other more solvent companies. Blockbuster is looking to absolve itself of nearly $1.5 billion in debt and emerge debt free. The danger, though, is the viability of this option. If the judge doesn’t think Blockbuster is able to do this, he/she could call for liquidation to pay off creditors. Of course, if you’re holding any disks if or when the kiosks get pulled down, you will likely get to keep any movies you hold. So, that may be a perk if you do rent. Of course, it’s a gamble that that will happen, so that’s a being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time thing. Personally, I’d avoid Blockbuster completely until when or if they emerge from bankruptcy.


  3. Steve said, on September 19, 2010 at 5:50 am

    What a nonsensical posting. So we are told the Blockbuster Kiosk sucks except the sum total of the writers venting is this-
    a) Blockbusters machines are exactly the same as Red Box, neither does instant returns so NOTHING the writer is griping that BOTH Blockbuster and Red Box machines such….why go after just Blockbuster from the start?
    b) He had till 9pm and returned the movie after 9pm. Like with rental cars if you wish you check out grace periods before you fail to return at the time YOU AGREED TO RETURN It. So he’s LATE and demanding a refund. Hey, they then offer him a credit and he ‘s still griping and of course neither does red box offer a grace period so again both the same and again he’s going after only blockbuster.
    c) Why not be HONESTand title your article DON”T RENT AT EITHER BLOCKBUSTER OR RED BOX since you then go on to say they are both THE SAME.


    • commorancy said, on September 19, 2010 at 10:28 am


      I was late by 3 minutes… 3 minutes after having stood in line for over 20 minutes. And no, it is not nonsensical. Here you have a huge machine and one interface that requires using the screen to both rent and return. At a physical movie rental store, I drop rentals in a slot and leave. Takes about 1 minute. At the machine, I have to stand in line 20 minutes just to return the movies through the interface. Considering the size of this machine, Blockbuster can’t even offer a no-waiting return slot? Does Redbox offer such a slot? No, but I’ve never waited in line 20 minutes as there’s a Redbox in nearly every supermarket and convenience mart around. So, one’s busy, I drive 2 minutes to another. With Blockbuster, there seems to be one machine in probably a 10 mile radius or wider (hence, long lines). I can’t even tell you where another Blockbuster kiosk is beyond the one I used. I can name at least 5 Redboxes in the same 2 mile radius.

      When I called to complain, the customer service was atrocious. Not only was I on hold for over 10 minutes, he was unhelpful and would not refund even though he could clearly see the timestamp on the return.

      As far as the credit goes, why would I want a ‘credit’ (i.e., promo code) when I shouldn’t have been charged in the first place? It’s just another way to rope me into yet another day’s rental. No thanks. The point is, if I ask for a refund, it should be provided no questions asked. A credit is not a refund. Now, if I was 5 hours late or even 15 minutes late, I wouldn’t expect them to give me a refund. But, 3 minutes? I expect a refund, not a promo code.

      If you enjoy standing in line to return your films, waiting on hold for 10 minutes to talk to someone and then being refused a refund for being 3 minutes late, have fun over at Blockbuster. For me, no thanks.. and yes, this blog post DOES have merit based on all of the above. And yes, while the physical machines may be similar in design, the service quality and logistics is far far different between Redbox and Blockbuster.

      Steve’s comment sounds suspiciously like someone who works for Blockbuster.


      • Steve said, on October 10, 2010 at 12:04 am

        Mmmmmm…suspiciously sounds life your orignal posting was made by a Redbox shareholder….so that one won’t fly.

        A few things. When all is said and done my main point was that YOU vent on Blockbuster while telling us that neither machine has an instant return, neither company offers a grace period and now you say, ok neither has a grace period but you know the ‘lines are longer at Blockbuster cause there are so fewer of their machines.’ Excuse me…. There is a term that might apply to this situation….self full DVD return prophecy.

        Also, obviously there were no ‘warning’ long lines when you rented. Wouldn’t we all assume that returning a DVD close to the deadline 9pm wishing hour begs to be caught in a long line. After all it is the one time of the entire day one would expect
        there to be a line. So your title could have been: Don’t return any DVD’s to Kiosks close to the 9pm wishing hour…..or suffer the LONG LINE.

        Here’s a random thought…. When planes close to departing and there is a long line the airline pulls people off the line and everyone understands they jump ahead and go now or miss their flight. At the kiosk faced with your situation I would have asked the crowd to jump ahead and do the 10 second return. Even if a person was renting they could let ten returns go ahead and be done within 100 seconds. I know red box takes only ten seconds.

        Nothing ventured nothing gained. We often let people with cash in hand and one item go ahead on super market lines. Worth a try if it happens again.

        Now here is some new territory. I received an email from Blockbuster express saying they have NO relationship to bankrupt Blockbuster….none…nada…they like purchased the name etc. If that is true then a lot of people are under wrong impressions. I rented my first freebie Blockbuster today and learned out of the box I can NOT return it to any Kiosk which can be a big drawback for lots of us.

        So I am sticking with Red Box….so much for your ‘he’s a Blockbuster guy’ theory.
        But I do appreciate your angst…. setting your watch 15 minutes ahead might just do it. See you at Red Box.


        • commorancy said, on October 10, 2010 at 12:31 am

          So, let’s start with your point of not being able to return at any Blockbuster kiosk. This issue only serves to reinforce the ‘long line’ issue. You specifically make a point about me ‘warning’ of long lines in my original post. You say this in such a way as though it’s my fault there’s a long line or that I should have ‘known’ there would be a line. In fact, it is not my fault at all and I had no way of knowing that there would be a long line having never experienced return lines at Redbox. Again, this is Blockbuster’s issue. By forcing people to return movies to only the kiosk where they rented combined with everyone forced to return at 9PM, that ensures long lines during the 8PM to 9PM hour. Again, I reiterate, this is not my problem. This is Blockbuster’s problem to resolve. I was standing in line 20 minutes before 9PM. I didn’t actually return the films until 23 minutes later. 23 minutes. That’s 23 minutes wasted of my life on this earth. 23 minutes for a stupid plastic media disk. 23 minutes that Blockbuster does not deserve. Then, they expected me to pay another day’s rental for standing in line for 23 minutes. That adds insult to injury. Why wouldn’t I be upset?

          That’s 23 minutes wasted that could have been avoided if Blockbuster had designed their kiosks properly. Redbox doesn’t have this issue because, as you said, you can return anywhere and there are so many places to return, the 9PM return time doesn’t elicit long lines.

          This returning issue could be resolved in one of two ways. 1) Staggered returns. That is, you return your films based on the time in which you rented them. For example, if you rent at 2AM, you return at 2AM exactly 24 hours later. 2) Adding an express return slot. No need to touch the screen. Simply pop the films in the slot with a red or green light. Green light indicates successful return. Simple, fast and easy.

          Staggered returns doesn’t require modifying the boxes and prevents long lines at the same time. There is no need for an ‘everyone must return at 9PM’ requirement. This only serves to cause lines and problems. Again, I wasted 23 minutes of my life standing in a line to return a stupid plastic disk. Then, I got charged the extra day’s fee for being ‘late’. Again, none of these events are of my doing. None of them. You make your response as though I had a hand in any part of this. Sure, I could have returned at 7PM or 5PM. But, I didn’t think returning at 8:40PM would be an issue. I full well expected a 5 minute wait or so, but not 23 minutes.

          As far as asking people to jump ahead of them, each person was returning and renting. So, asking any of these people to jump ahead isn’t appropriate in that situation. If the people ahead were simply renting only, not a problem. The other issue was one family was standing there ‘choosing’ for at least 8-10 minutes. They were there when I got there and 8-10 minutes later, we were still standing there. I couldn’t very well kick them off in the middle of what they were doing. However, all the rest of us were waiting to return. It’s also not my place to kick people off of Blockbuster’s kiosk. I don’t work for them and have no stake in it.

          Again, this is NOT an issue that requires ME to rectify it. This is not my kiosk, I’m not on the clock for Blockbuster and I shouldn’t be expected to do their work for them. This is a situation that requires Blockbuster to rectify. Courtesy dictates that as a customer, they need to do the right thing by us. Issuing the $1 + tax refund is insignificant in their bigger scheme and goes a long way to improving customer good will. By not doing this, they are ensuring people do not return to use their kiosks.

          Note, I do not work for Blockbuster or Redbox. As far as your ownership stake argument, no I have no ownership stake in either Blockbuster or Redbox. However, were I to invest in either company, it would definitely be Redbox. At least they’ve worked out their logistics of renting and returning, for the most part. With Blockbuster, we’ve taken a step back in time to 1984.

          Assuming you are the same Steve who wrote the original comment, you don’t specifically refute that you do not work for Blockbuster in your reply. So….


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