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You might see a sudden surge in film opinions from me over the coming weeks - I successfully bid for a year’s worth of Blockbusters rentals on the crème egg website a few days ago, you see. I’ve always been a massive fan of Blockbusters, but I’ve tended to focus my attention more to the Games section than anywhere else, being a console addict. This prize, however, had to be used on DVD and VHS rentals only, so I’ve now begun to open my eyes to the other opportunities that Blockbusters offers to its customers, even if it did quite literally mean that I had to put all my eggs in one basket. And I’m glad I did.
Blockbusters is the most well-known of all the rental shops available on the UK market. They’re a well-established American company, who specialise in VHS movie rentals, but have recently grown their DVD and games sections to suit the increasing demand. Stores are more than numerous, and dotted around the country in all major towns and malls. Store sizes can vary, although most are large enough to stock a fair amount of movies, mine in particular is one of the biggest ones I’ve seen, where there must be close to 10,000 films spread across a wide area.
---Why you should choose Blockbusters---
The layout of the store is exceptional. I’ve rarely found stores where I know instantly where everything is before I even step in through the door, but Blockbusters is one of them. In my particular branch, new VHS and DVD films are kept on separate opposite walls, with the best sellers nearest the counter for attention. Games are kept close to the far wall, and all other older VHS and DVD films are stored towards the centre, in their respective categories, for example, ‘Comedy’, ‘Kids’ etc. There are also items for sale, such as sweets, movies to buy and popcorn, which are kept at the front of the store. I like the layout, since there is plenty of room to walk around, and, as I said, things are always where you expect them to be.
The range of movies available is astonishing. Although the majority of films that are available for rental are brand new chart releases, there are also a very large number of older films, which are available for rental at a reduced rate, and often for a longer period of time. The number of games available to rent has decreased for older consoles, such as the Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and Playstation 1, but has increased for the newer consoles, which is great, because they sell off the ex-rental games, as well as movies, at an extremely low rate.
A while back, even, they were selling off a load of ex-rental videos for 99p each, as they had lost the cases for them somehow. These were relatively new films too, considering how long ago it was. This seemingly bargain experience isn’t too rare an occurrence. You can often find reduced games and videos, and sale items (which seem to be in place all year round) at prices much cheaper than you’ll find in high-street stores, or even on the Internet. Prices tend to be very good in Blockbusters’ in general, especially when buying products as opposed to renting them. Rentals can range from £1.00 each for a number of nights (there are even some educational and informational videos, which can be rented free of charge) to £3.75 for an overnight new-release rental. The system has recently been changed, so that only a very select few rentals are overnight, most new rentals are now two night ones, which is even better value-for-money.
Blockbusters offer a rather unique promise to all its users – if a rental wasn’t there the last time you went to rent it out, you get it free the next time. Blockbusters are generally very trustworthy on this, and don’t ask for any proof that you were there when all the copies had been rented out. As well as this, there are usually a large number of offers on at any one time (for example, at the moment, you can rent out a VHS or DVD, and get a bottle of Coca-Cola (but, as you all know, I prefer Pepsi Max!) and bag of popcorn for £5.49, or rent out 4 DVDs across the month for £9.99).
The staff knowledge is often very wide, and they can usually tell you the release of a future film or game off-hand, or sometimes by referring to a list behind the counter. The people at the Blockbuster’s I visit are always courteous and welcoming (perhaps because they don’t get any customers at the times when I go, and are desperate for business, but I’ll come onto that later), and are usually very friendly.
There is a monthly magazine available, free of charge, which details the new-release and upcoming movies and games, and contains competitions and reviews. The magazine is a surprisingly great read if you’re a film or game buff, and the reviews are honest, despite the fact that they want to get as many people renting their products as possible. It’s easy-to-read and very well laid-out, and really helps you decide which movies and games you want to rent out.
By creating a clever little post-box at the entrance both inside and outside the main door, it’s possible to post your rentals back 24 hours per day at all times. This makes the returning of rentals much more manageable, especially when you want to take a rental back, even though the store is closed. A clever idea, and a great convenience.
---Why you should choose anywhere else in the world aside from Blockbusters---
What Blockbuster has in value and range, it lacks in other things. For example, parking facilities. Perhaps a strange and rather specific thing to start with, I know, but bear with me. At my Blockbuster’s (I use the word ‘my’ with some hesitation, it makes me sound as though I own the place), it’s extremely awkward to park.
The place was built, alongside McDonalds (the third in our relatively small town, guess our average body-weight?) and a Kwik-Fit, for some reason, in a tiny lot, about the size of three houses in total. Of these, Blockbuster’s takes up the most room, and, because, as I mentioned, there are a lot of movies, there are very few parking spaces, and it’s practically impossible to reach, especially at peak-time. To get to the shop, you have to drive through past the McDonalds and Kwik-Fit and in-between the Drive-Thru, in a road that has just enough room for a bicycle to pass through, before reaching the few (about twenty) parking spaces laid rather haphazardly, one even on a raised platform. The spaces are close together and not easy to get in and out of, and very awkward at peak time. I’ve noticed that this is generally the case with a lot of Blockbusters’ as well, where the main aim has been to consider convenience over common sense. As it turns out, the wait to access the parking lot makes it more inconvenient than walking.
The peak-time syndrome also has another problem. Because there are only four or five cash desks, and little room to queue in my local Blockies (do you think that’ll catch on?), it’s hell at peak time, on Friday and Saturdays in particular, when there are up to fifty people trying to buy or rent items at any one time, and the stress can get a bit too much, with all the pushing in as well. The number of people at peak time renting items though, is the exact opposite to the rest of the time. There never seems to be anyone in the store, other than on weekends, when there are too many. In certain respects, it’s only driving up costs to keep the stores open, but the ability to walk around and choose items at your leisure without having them ripped from underneath your nose is a pleasurable one.
It does mean, however, that if you turn up on Sunday or Saturday morning, expecting to be able to rent out a game or video of a popular new rental, it’s very often not there, because all the copies have gone from the night before, and have yet to be returned. The Blockbuster Promise does mean that you can rent it free the next time, providing it’s stated as one of the valid movies for this promise, but when you’ve made a special effort to get out there, it can be a pain. This problem can occur elsewhere, of course, but the fact that Blockbuster’s is so popular means that it’s more likely to happen here than anywhere else.
Please note that you do have to become a member (to do so you need to be aged 18 or over) and rent any film out, another inconvience (see http://www.blockbuster.co.uk for more information on any questions you might have).
If it’s a particular film or game you’re looking to rent, there are very few places that can provide as good a service, value and range as Blockbusters. On the other hand, there may well be a chance that you want to rent the item at a time when there aren’t any available in stock, or, by the time you get into the parking lot, they also might all have disappeared. A great shop, though, with only a few very minor snitches in comparison with their excellent items both for sale and for rent. Well worth a look if you haven’t been here before, and, even if you have, as their constantly updating stock and sale items will keep you interested.