Tuesday, 26 June 2012


I like Blockbuster, I do. I know that liking them is irrational and that they do quite a lot to make themselves unpopular but a) I used to work for them and enjoy my free rentals each week and b) I know that a lot of the staff working for the company started, as I did, with a naive idea that if they loved movies then they would enjoy working for the company and could spread their love of movies to others. Some staff still try and you can tell, as you can with any business, which employees genuinely know and/or care about their product.

It's strange to see how many big businesses seem to lose their focus as they grow and grow, even while the situation almost demands that they remove blinkers and get with the program. I'm only using Blockbuster as an example here, from what little I know and to illustrate my point with a recent personal experience.

Here's what little I know (or think I know) about the company at the moment. It's in major financial trouble, I believe, and this has led to some major restructuring and the closure of many stores. I'm not sure if they ever did enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy or not but they are certainly like so many other businesses around nowadays in the way that they need to make every £1 of profit count.

Here's how not to help yourself make money.

I walked into my local Blockbuster the other week and asked the following: "Oh, did you guys get any retail copies of The Muppets on Bluray?"

The guy working in store that day was someone I'd spoken to before and he's a decent lad but he doesn't have the passion and banter that his colleague has. Sorry to say it, he's a less effective salesman in his role because he always seems to be wanting to be elsewhere. Anyway, on this particular occasion he turned to me and said "Oh mate, with releases like that nowadays, unless they're the BIG titles, you have to put a deposit down to make sure they get ordered in or it's just not going to happen". This was said with a wry grin and a whole "we're men of the world" air of complicity that kinda hid the meaning of his words until I left the store.

"Ah," said I, "so I doubt you'll be getting Carnage in either."

"No," said the sales assistant, "that one we could maybe special order in for you but we're only getting a few rental copies of it in and no retail due."

"Okay then, cheers."

And I left. Or, to be more exact, I left and immediately texted my wife that it would be much appreciated if she could pick up a copy of The Muppets on Bluray while she also bought a bit of shopping at the big Sainsbury's along the road from us.

THEN, feeling a bit guilty for so quickly and easily turning "traitor" I started to realise what I'd just been told. The lad working for a company in financial trouble had told me that I was wrong, as a consumer, to expect them to have in stock a title that I thought would sell pretty well. That was the way of their world and a £2 deposit would be required for whenever I thought ahead next time.

Hmmmmm. Actually, as brattish and spoilt as it may make me sound, we live in a consumer-powered society and if I want something at the best price I will tend to shop online. If I want something as a little treat for myself I will tend to stick it in the shopping trolley while I buy groceries. And if I want to help my local Blockbuster and buy a new movie there then I will go in and see if it's in stock. If it's not in stock then it's their loss and I will go to buy it elsewhere. That's entirely my choice. Of course, Blockbuster (and, indeed, any store selling goods) can't possibly have everything in stock that people may or may not want to buy. But when they don't have something in that I wanted to buy then that's not my fault, at all. Nope. The onus is with them to have goods to sell me.

This is not, despite how it may seem, a moan about Blockbuster. I still like them and have fond memories of working for the company and recommending movies to people who took a genuine interest in finding some gems. This is just my own little rambling about how I was genuinely astonished to find such complacency nowadays in an environment which really does put all of the power into the hands of the consumer. If you're never complacent with people then you should always do well, in my opinion. Life doesn't always work out that way but it should and I hope that, for anyone out there giving 100% in whatever the role is, it does.

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