Monday, December 17, 2012

The sad kitten that is Blockbuster

Note: As I said in yesterday's post, these two were written before I learned about the events in Connecticut Friday morning. Although it felt appropriate to be silent this weekend, to grieve the bottomless grief of this shooting, I have instead decided to publish these posts. Last night when I watched Saturday Night Live, which went on with the show after acknowledging the tragedy only in the form of a youth choir opening the show singing "Silent Night," I realized that the world needs laughter at a time like this. The world needs lightness. The world needs things that do no matter. And though there's a terrible kind of irony in the first two paragraphs in this post, I'm leaving them as first written, because they remind me of a time when sadness didn't have such a terribly specific root cause.

The show must go on.

I may have gotten the saddest email ever from Blockbuster on Friday.

(And when I say something is the "saddest ever," I don't mean that it is sadder than genocide or famine or intolerance or the Chicago Cubs, I just mean "here is a sad thing I want to tell you about.")

The email's title was "Oops! We goofed! Take 50% off Unlimited movies and help clear our conscience."

Seeing that title, I was all ready to leap on that email, figuring it was another gaffe or case of false advertising that just proved yet again how far Blockbuster has fallen.

But when I opened the email, this is what I saw:

Apparently, the way they "goofed" was not doing enough to keep me as a customer.

This sort of crushed me, I must say. It's not like I had to go off and have a moment alone, but something about the face of that kitten -- and Blockbuster's willingness to associate their own desperate corporate image with it -- had exactly the emotional impact on me it was intended to have.

See, I never really wanted to leave Blockbuster. I always liked their customer service. I always liked the rental plans they made available, one of which made it possible to have six movies out at once (three from the store, three through the mail) for a minimal low price, if you played your cards correctly. I always liked that they had brick and mortar stores where I could peruse a wall full of titles, exposing myself to movies I might not otherwise have heard of.

But a couple years back, my wife and I realized that it was stupid that she had a Netflix account and I had a Blockbuster account, and that we really needed only one. This was also about the time that Netflix streaming was really taking off. To this day she cares almost exclusively about the streaming, so my selections can totally dominate the two-disc through-the-mail portion of our plan. What we've done makes sense for us.

Only, it left Blockbuster, a corporate entity I've always felt fondly toward, out in the cold, like a cat whose owners have forgotten to re-admit him from the yard on a frozen winter's night.

The effectiveness of this kitten image on me has something to do with the fact that Blockbuster was always loyal to me, always like an innocent pet who has no idea why you left home and never came back. While Netflix has provided me uneven customer service at best, Blockbuster always immediately sent extra discs if theirs got lost or came damaged, and often gave me a credit for an additional rental as well. There were no questions asked -- unless that question was "Are you fully satisfied with your Blockbuster experience?" And my answer was always "Yes."

And now, like that cat whose owner has disappeared, Blockbuster is starving to death.

I know I write about this every six months or so, as though my own conscience needs expunging. And no matter how many times I write about it, nor how matter how many deals they offer, I'm not going back. The decision for our household has been made, and it's the right one.

But it doesn't mean I'm immune to the suffering of this company, once such a fixture in the way I watched movies. Just as I wouldn't be immune to the suffering of a kitten who didn't have enough to eat.

Too bad they can't score this email with a Sarah McLachlan song, or I'd probably be crying in my beer right now.

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