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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Netflix vs Blockbuster: ...and the Winner Is? (as if you didn't know)

Here's a review I wrote for

About a month ago, I started a one month free trial on both Netflix and Blockbuster. Guess Who won?

The program for Netflix was one DVD at a time unlimited with streaming, 8.99 a month plus tax. The plan Blockbuster gave me by default was their 3 out at a time unlimited, Total Access, with streaming on demand at $19.99.

It would seem at first glance that blockbuster, while more expensive, would be a good deal. But, for me, the "Total Access" was "Totally Worthless". Blockbuster hasn't had a store in my area for years. So the return to the store with 5 in store rentals is useless. Upon learning this, I changed to the 3 out at a time with no store access plan - a mistake that would come back to haunt me later.

Netflix one out at a time may seem austere compared to a 3 out plan, but in reality the large free streaming library plus one in the mail works out to 2 discs a week, and the online viewing was decent even with my throttled broadband connection. A few times we waited up to 20 minutes for the application to recalculate our connection speed, but that was my ISP - and not Netflix. Netflix selection of DVD and Blu-Ray is pretty good, with titles you probably have never heard of. The online selection is better than expected - though you won't be finding new releases. Already, at two discs a week, we are ahead of the game if we were renting at the local Redbox.

I was VERY disappointed to discover that Blockbusters "On Demand" really means; If I demand a movie, they demand payment - Basically, an on - demand PAY PER VIEW! Okay, so we'll forget Blockbuster streaming. But, Blockbuster fumbled the DVD by mail program right off the bat: they sent out 3 discs, and 2 never arrived. They did send out the titles again when I reported it, and I got them 2 days after. But I only got 1 disc from them within the first week as a result. That, I suppose, we could blame on the post office. But the next mistake Blockbuster made left me confused and dumbfounded: I ordered Ironman 2. I am sure of it. The next day, Blockbuster had shipped Ironman. IRONMAN, NOT Ironman 2! By now, I'm not happy with Blockbuster at all. I had (and still have!) 6 movies I put in my first day. 1 is listed as a "Short wait", 3 "long wait" and 2 "Very long Wait". As I remember, none of them were "Long Wait" or "Very Long Wait" when I put them in my queue. Then, we go from bad to worse, my 30 days is up, I decide to cancel (Wouldn't you?). I check my account and discover that I have been billed and my card charged for my free month! Yes, remember when I said I had changed my plan, because there were no stores within 75 miles? Blockbuster took that as permission to cancel my free trial and start charging me! There is no warning of this ANYWHERE on the Blockbuster site... If there was, I would not have changed plans! Calling "Customer Service" resulted in... nothing. They refuse to credit my card for the charge, but they did offer to send me a Blockbuster gift card "that I can use in any Blockbuster store". Great, I remind her that the reason I changed plans in the first place was there are no stores within 75 miles! I am informed I can use it online, also. Seeing where this is going (nowhere) I accept their gift card offer and am told it will arrive in "6 to 8 weeks" So, now its a race against the clock - Do I get my gift card before Blockbusters inevitable bankruptcy renders it useless?

So, at the end of the month, I still have a Netflix subscription. Never a problem. I have no idea if their customer service is good or bad: I never had to use it! Blockbuster, NOT. The value just isn't there for Blockbuster, and they charged me for a free trial. I wish them nothing but success in their endeavor to achieve bankruptcy - as soon as I have redeemed the gift card that I may or may not get from them.

Rock on, Netflix.

Update: Netflix is now $7.99 for streaming, and $7.99 for the "One Out" plan. Even  if you were to pay for both plans, I still think it's a better value.

And, no, I never did get the Blockbuster gift card they promised.

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