I'm done with Redbox.
I was never a big fan to begin with, but after the past week, I've decided that I will no longer put up with their poor business model. "What do you expect for around $1?" I expect the company to deliver on its biggest selling point, convenience. Redbox says it has kiosks located all over the country and you can rent a movie and return it to any kiosk! Sounds wonderful, until you get stuck trying to return a movie to a kiosk that is full. Now you're left with having to trek to another location to return the movie or eating the cost of an additional night. Of course, Redbox will gladly make things right, but to them, "making it right" isn't removing the additional cost from your credit card, but rewarding you with a free night rental (in the case of Blu-ray, a discount). Of course, at first glance a promo code and removing the charges might seem like the same thing, but they're not. A promo code has an expiration date and forces me to rent another movie in order to obtain my benefit. Taking the charge off my card keeps me from having to waste time and money finding another Redbox. Basically we have a role reversal on our hands. Someone is going to lose time and money and for Redbox, they'd rather that be you.
Of course, this decision to stop filling the coffers of Redbox didn't come about randomly, so here's a little context: The reason I am done with Redbox is my experience with them in the past week. I am currently enrolled in school at LSU, working on my PhD and from time to time I like to take a break from school and studying by watching a movie. There's a Redbox kiosk located in the LSU Student Union, so it's convenient for me to swing by after class and grab a movie, watch it that night and return it the next day to the exact same kiosk. Last Tuesday I rented The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray. When I went to return them Wednesday I received a notification that the kiosk couldn't accept my return and was given a number to call. I called the number and spoke with a gentleman at Redbox who apologized for the inconvenience and who assured me they'd work with me to solve my problem. He mentioned a nearby kiosk that just so happens to be off campus and out of my way. I was sick on Wednesday, heading to the doctor that afternoon, so I wasn't feeling well enough to trek all over Baton Rouge to return a movie. Thankfully, while I was speaking with the Redbox employee another student rented a movie, so I was able to return one of my films. Having been assured that the problem could be easily remedied if I called Redbox once I both movies, I proceeded to go to the doctor and go home to rest up.
Needless to say, I was so sick that I couldn't do much over the next few days, so I wasn't able to return my movie until a few days after initially trying to do so. I was able to return my 2nd movie to the kiosk in the student center without any problems after a few days of resting at home. I fully expected that I wouldn't get credit for every day it was late, as the problem was technically only present on Wednesday and the additional days were due to my being sick. That was fine, I was the one who got sick, not the machine. I contacted Redbox after the kiosk processed my return and the agent was helpful, but I was upset to learn that I wouldn't be getting credit put back on my card for the extra night, instead I'd receive three promo codes. I was still appreciative that they acknowledged my plight, so I willingly accepted three promo codes.
After class on Monday I decided to grab a movie from Redbox because I had a promo code that expired Tuesday from a text message they'd sent me. I went to return the movie on Tuesday and once again, the kiosk couldn't accept my return because it was full.* I was obviously frustrated, but I perused the kiosk's selection and found another movie that I'd like to rent and decided I could utilize one of my three promo codes to free up room for my one return. I did a "one for one" (rental for return) trade if you will. Frustrated with the situation I decided to contact Redbox to request their technician check the kiosk more often. It was Tuesday evening after all and the kiosk should have had room since new releases came out that day. The representative offered to send me more promo codes, but I already had two more to use and I was just giving them a suggestion to improve their service.
Wednesday morning rolls around and I decide to get on to campus early to grab some breakfast. I make sure I bring my movie as I want to be sure to return it so I don't incur any late fees. Unsurprisingly, the kiosk is too full to accept my return, but chalking it up to the fact the technician couldn't have made it to the kiosk at such an early time, I went ahead and decided to return the movie after class (which ends at noon). When I returned to the student union after class I once again found the kiosk full. I couldn't believe it. Sure, it had only been a few hours, but you'd think that someone complaining about a kiosk being full would result in some sort of action. It was at this point that I had reached my breaking point, I would no longer deal with Redbox. Yesterday afternoon I returned my final Redbox rental, Expendables 2, to a kiosk outside of my local CVS pharmacy.
I know I'm not the only one who has experienced the frustration of a full kiosk, but the fact that the way the company makes things "right" is by having me spend more money on rentals (because promo codes don't cover the entire cost of Blu-ray rentals) is infuriating. Sure there are multiple locations to return films to, but the student union kiosk is convenient to me, especially since I walk to class. Thankfully I have access to an automobile to drive to a kiosk, so I'm not trapped by late fees due to a full kiosk, but not everyone has that luxury. Besides, isn't the point of the Redbox kiosk supposed to be convenience? I fail to see the convenience of having to waste gas money just to return a movie to a red cube outside a gas station or grocery store when the most conveniently located kiosk was full because the company was not smart enough to notice that the volume of sales was so low the machine was accepting more returns than doling out rentals. I'm tired of playing Redbox's nickel and dime game. The fees for extra days and gas money wasted on returns is not worth it.
I stopped receiving Netflix rentals because I was trying to save money, but I'm now reconsidering that stance. Am I really saving money if I have to make unecessary trips to a kiosk outside of a store exclusively to return a rental? I don't think so. Between late fees and gas money I guarantee I'm close to spending the $10 a month it'd cost me to have movies shipped right to me and that doesn't even take in to consideration the fact that Redbox's selection is extremely limited compared to Netflix.
Maybe it is because I'm old school, but I really do miss having an actual video store in town. In Auburn, we had a store called Hastings (it's still there). They rented movies and games. They also sold them in addition to music and books. Sure you had to make a car trip to rent a movie, but when you went in to the store they had multiple copies of new releases in addition to thousands of older films. They also offered rental credit which brought the cost in line with Redbox. With Redbox, you do not have the same level of assurance of the newest releases being in stock and when you go to return it, the kiosk might be full. At rental stores you don't have this problem. The stores take all returns and process them. All you do is drop them off.
I lament the rise of Redbox kiosks because they helped to run video stores out of existence. We traded convenience for customer service. Now we're stuck in towns without a competitor for the kiosk, subject to the tyranny of someone who will never look us in the eye and will only offer us more opportunities to line their pockets instead of making sure they make things right by their customer. It's a sad state of affairs and I've had enough of it.
*Note: Until last week I'd never encountered a full kiosk