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No More Late Fees

February 5, 2005

Blockbuster has ended late fees. Great news, right? Now you don’t have to worry about it if you can’t make it to the movie store the day they are “due.” If you need a couple of extra days, take ’em. If the weather’s lousy and you don’t want to venture out, wait. This is fantastic! So convenient. No more embarrassment at checkout when the clerk announces that you have a balance on your account for bringing back Gigli a day late. Hey, instead of making a mid-week trip to Blockbuster just to drop off rentals, I can just wait ’till the next time I go in, right? Yes, so convenient! I could get used to this.

But, alas, there is a kicker. After a certain amount of time elapses from the “due date,” Blockbuster will hit you with a “restocking fee.” I knew this because I am always looking for the ‘catch’ when someone is trying to sell me on something, and they really are selling this “no more late fees” campaign.

So, I’m in Blockbuster today and it’s right around dinner time and the place is packed with folks renting. I know the last movies I rented were returned well past the “due” date. I get to the front and hand the fellow my card and the movies I am renting. He says “You have a $2.50 fee on your account.”

I play dumb, I smile. “A late fee?” I ask.

“No it’s not a late fee. It’s a re-stocking fee.” See, after a certain amount of time elapses, they just assume you’re keeping the movies and will charge you for them next time you come in. Unless you return the movies, then they hit you with a restocking fee.

Nonetheless, I act incredulous, “But it’s a late fee, you just have a different name for it.”

“It’s not a late fee. It just costs us $1.25 when we have to enter it back into the system.”

What?! It costs $1.25 to enter it back into the system? Right, I’m sure the process is as complicated as scanning a bar code. Whatever, fair is fair, I know the score. I said, “I’ll pay it.”

I kept heckling him though, just for grins. He kept repeating “It’s not a late fee.”

A guy in the line behind me heard this and laughed incredulously and repeated the mantra chuckling, “it’s not a late fee.” So it was funny.. sorta.

But it isn’t funny to draw the connections as I always seem to do. They put out a message via a massive PR campaign, (“No More Late Fees.”) In order to create a certain perception or belief, (that there are no more late fees.) But through semantics, if not outright dishonesty, they still get their pound of flesh. ($1.25)

The same strategy can be used in other areas. For instance, get all of your loudmouthpieces talking about “prisoner abuse” in a massive PR campaign to downplay what happened, (it was like fraternity hazing, it was like cheerleaders making a pyramid.) This will create the perception or belief, (“We don’t torture.”) But we can, through semantics and outright dishonesty, along with a healthy dose of denial and delusion, still get our pound of flesh: (“soften” prisoners for interrogation, deny prisoners POW status so the Geneva Conventions don’t apply, contrive a favorable definition of torture to suit the situation.)

[Aside: by the way, why is it ok to change the traditional dictionary definition of “torture,” when the definition of “marriage” must remain sacrosanct? But this is another topic.]

Well, reader, you get the point. You see what these “people” (read: institutions,) are up to. Blockbuster’s roll in this is that they make this kind of duplicity more acceptable, or at least more conventional for the complacent propaganda consumer. Whether Blockbuster is complicit in this effort, or is merely capitalizing on the current climate, they are trying to railroad the gullible.

Watch yourself, my friend, for they will try to get you too. We are bombarded with this stuff

all

the

time.

===UPDATE===
Blockbuster Settles ‘No Late Fees’ Case (washingtonpost.com)

Blockbuster Inc. said yesterday that it would change how it promotes its “No Late Fees” policy to make sure customers know they may incur some charges if they keep videotapes, DVDs or games seven days beyond their due dates.

In a settlement with 47 states and the District of Columbia, the nation’s largest movie-rental chain also said it would offer refunds to aggrieved customers who were charged fees under the policy that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the company also agreed to pay the states a total of $630,000 to cover investigative costs and lawyer fees.

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