My Blockbuster Trial (vs Netflix)

This is a post about my recent experience with Blockbuster’s Total Access DVD rental service.

Since I disconnected my cable TV over a year ago, I’ve been a Netflix subscriber. It lets me watch what I want, when I want, without commercials. But sometimes due to round trip mailing, I find myself wanting to watch something over the weekend but I won’t have my next DVD until Monday. Recently Blockbuster offered a Total Access program, which ties its online rental service with its brick and mortar stores. You can exchange a DVD from the online service for a DVD from a physical store. The store will then return the DVD to the online service for you. This online and physical stores tie-in seems to be a smart move by Blockbuster because it has a unique advantage over Netflix on this front. Blockbuster has a large network of stores. Netflix has none. I signed up for the free trial thinking I will be able to watch more DVDs that way. Because it’s a free trial, I kept my Netflix subscription for a comparison.

Sign up. I used a promotional 1-Month Free Trial link from American Express. The standard offer is 2-week free trial if you just go to Blockbuster’s home page. Sign up was easy. Nothing special.

Selection. Blockbuster’s online selection is not as deep as Netflix’s. I can’t find some DVDs I want to watch in Blockbuster but they are available in Netflix. I haven’t yet found a reverse case, i.e. a DVD not available in Netflix but available in Blockbuster.

Queue Management. Blockbuster’s queue management is not as nice as Netflix’s. I quickly discovered that you can have only one queue in Blockbuster. Netflix lets you have multiple queues. Multiple queues are nice if you live with someone with different interests. You can have a queue for each person and each person develops their own queue. With Blockbuster, you will be fighting for positions in a single combined queue.

Mail Turnaround. For me, Blockbuster’s mail turnaround time is 1 to 2 business days slower than Netflix’s. Both of them have a distribution center in my metro area. In fact Blockbuster’s return address has the same zip code as Netflix’s. The PO box numbers are just a few off from each other. But still, when I returned a Blockbuster DVD and a Netflix DVD by mail on the same day, Blockbuster’s next DVD always arrived 1 to 2 business days later than Netflix’s did.

Blockbuster’s marketing material implies that DVDs returned to a store are recognized by their online service and the next DVD will ship right away.

When you exchange online DVDs at your local BLOCKBUSTER store your next movie is shipped right away, but it may take 1-2 days for the title returned to the store to clear from your queue. [source]

In my experience that’s not the case. I returned two DVDs to a store on a Saturday evening. I thought they would get checked into the system and my next DVDs would be shipped next Monday. But no, actually my next DVDs didn’t ship until Wednesday and they didn’t arrive until Friday. It took them an entire week for one round trip. Meanwhile, I returned a Netflix DVD by mail on Monday and I received my next one on Wednesday. I returned it on Thursday and I received my next one on Saturday. Two round trips in a week for Netflix.

In-Store Exchange. In-store exchange worked. That was the only good thing going for Blockbuster. I picked my DVD and I gave both the mailer and the DVD to the cashier. The cashier used the mailer to trigger a coupon which offset the rental price. I walked out of the store with a DVD without charge. However if I consider Blockbuster’s slow mail turnaround, I’d get the same number of DVDs from Blockbuster with in-store exchanges as what I get from Netflix by mail. If I don’t go to a store, I’ll get fewer DVDs from Blockbuster.

You probably have guessed it. I canceled my Blockbuster trial. It didn’t work for me. I would get the same number of DVDs as Netflix if I go into the Blockbuster stores for exchange. I don’t want to drive to the Blockbuster store all the time.

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  1. samerwriter says

    Thanks for the review — I’ve seen the Blockbuster ads and have been curious about the service. Looks like I’m better off sticking with Netflix.

    The nearest Blockbuster store is several miles out of my way anyway, so the only real advantage of blockbuster isn’t that much of an advantage to me anyway.

  2. Stephanie says

    Thanks for the link! Weird coincidence, us both posting on the same day.

    Thanks for pointing out the multiple queues with Netflix – I knew about them, but forgot to factor them into my comparison. It’s really nice for my household, which consists of myself and my mom. We can each have our own queue on the same account, instead of the usual “Hey! You went in and bumped your movie to the top!” bickering.

  3. manisha says

    So I sign up anyway -these people charged my acct after two weeks then when i complained offered to reverse the charge and then only charge me 9 dollars -FOR MY FREE TRIAL! after they give me my money back I am canceling! They are really slow anyway- netflix is the way to go! I really like redbox the best but the selection is so limited

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