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Blockbuster Commercial Over the Top

7 Mar, 2005 By: Stephanie Prange

The first time I saw the Blockbuster commercial touting “no more late fees,” I thought it was a bit over the top. The ad features a crowd of onlookers cheering as if the Berlin wall were coming down or they just won the lottery or something. Come on, that's a little much, isn't it?

Apparently, the New Jersey attorney general thought so. The state filed suit against the company for violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act. The cheering section and other documents from the company didn't properly illustrate the “restocking charges” or sales price a customer could be slapped with for keeping a video too long, New Jersey contended. It also didn't illustrate the fact that certain franchisees were not on board with the new policy.

I applaud Blockbuster for attempting to generate excitement around rental and for trying to take on one of Netflix's main draws — the prospect of no late fees. Heck, after Blockbuster's “no more late fees” ad, Netflix's ads about not having to pay late fees looked out of date. But there's something frankly hysterical about the “no more late fees” commercial Blockbuster staged. Rather than being upfront with the customer and simply saying that, instead of a late fee, they would be charged a lower fee for restocking or the sales price of the title, Blockbuster chose the free lunch pitch.

I know this business is brutal, but I don't think a company will get anywhere in the long run by trying to fool the customer. Many customers have been turned off over the years by Blockbuster's “extended rental” fees or whatever they used to call them (funny that they now admit they were late fees). Only an honest, upfront approach will draw back the cynical.

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