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12/13/2007


Finally, DVD Rentals I Like!

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 3:16 am

I’ve always hated renting movies or television; back in the days of Beta vs. VHS, some national chains grew up knocking all the local stores out of the market, and I stopped renting. Invasive required questionnaires, rude and demanding store employees (heck, I’m not a customer of Blockbuster, but still had to deal with the rudeness of the manager at the South Queen Street, York, PA store - I’m a neighbor who had problems with their parking lot lights, and was told by the manager there it wasn’t her problem and basically to buzz off), it just isn’t worth it. And to spend four dollars a night for a DVD I can buy for $12 seems pretty stupid, too. So I bought what I really wanted to see, borrowed from friends discs that they wanted to loan me, and ignored anything else until it showed up on a UHF station at four in the morning.

But no more, baby. I’ve found Redbox.

Ok, there’s this website at www.redbox.com where people with a sense of humor programmed an amazing example of useful technology. Create an account (no invasive information; an email address and a password is all that’s required), tell it your ZIP code, and start browsing. When you find a movie you want to rent, select it and it’ll tell you at which Redbox kiosk in your area the disc is available. I happen to have one within walking distance, and another at the Giant grocery store up the road although in many areas these are sitting at the ubiquitous McDonalds, so almost anything they have available is close to my house. Rent the disc by giving the website your credit/debit card number, and hooray and huzzah - the disc is reserved for you! Wander by the kiosk, swipe the card you used to rent the disc, and the machine spits it out. When you’re ready to return the disc, stop by a kiosk, tell it a disc is being returned, drop it in the slot, and you’re done.

Oh, did I mention all this is available for $1.00/night, with no late fees?

You read that right…the deal is, it costs a buck a night to rent a film. If you don’t return it by 9:00pm the following night, you pay another buck…heck, at that price, it doesn’t seem to matter if you don’t get the chance to see it, since even a second night is about half the cost of the Rudebuster’s one-night fee. And no late fees ever - if you keep the disc for 25 days, they stop billing you and the disc is yours. With the big chains getting roughly thirty percent of their revenue from late fees, this alone should be enough to keep them quaking in their boots in terror that their customers will discover this Redbox kiosk system.

If the closest kiosk doesn’t have the disc you’re looking for, the system will search for other kiosks in the area that do, and you can reserve it at another. The discs can be returned to any kiosk (no need to drop it off at the same one), so you can pick one up near your work and drop it off near your home. The system is tightly integrated, and though there are some problems (you can’t search for a title, you need to page through them), all in all the experience is…I can’t believe I’m saying this…fun. I’d love to see inside this machine, to see how the system, using the data in the two-dimensional bar codes, moves the discs from the slot to the storage areas - it must look a little like the door warehouse in Monsters, Inc…

Last weekend we picked up two films for the Katester (Shrek the Third and Ratatouille although both were enjoyed and highly recommended by all) and a guilty pleasure for the grown-ups (Fantastic Four: Flight of the Silver Surfer); last night we picked up a couple for a cold winter weeknight. We’ll probably rent a film or two this coming weekend, all without being treated badly, or being over-charged per night, or being charged ridiculous late fees for not making it to the store on time.

Boy, no wonder Rudebuster is losing boatloads of money every quarter, while Redbox, a joint venture between McDonalds and others, is doing really well. I know we’re going to be coming back!

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