I was a rather recent convert to the world of Netflix (back before they had instant watch), and regular user of local video stores for those “need to watch now” movies. The idea that a self-service kiosk would somehow do better than either of those options seemed amusing to me, especially considering the fact that video stores themselves were on the way out.
Fast forward somewhere around 10 years later and I find myself in a world where not only does Red Box still exist, but it thrives. I recently read that they estimate that Red Box accounts for approximately 36% of DVD rentals across the nation. Sure, this could have something to do with the downfall of video store giant Blockbuster, but seriously? This company started by the same company that puts those silly coin changing machines in grocery stores everywhere?
Anyways, my wife rather recently began talking about her own interest in the company, citing that it must be big enough to be worth it. I agreed that I was curious about the process enough that it warranted a trial run. So, rather randomly when we’d see the red boxes, and have a few minutes to spare, and thought we might actually like to watch a movie that night (which happens more often than you might think), one of us would run to the box, click some buttons, and ultimately turn around dejected as we were unable to find a movie that we really wanted to watch that evening. Seeing as a quick little foray into wikipedia about these machines tells me that they hold over 700 dvds, this seems crazy to me. (okay, so, to be fair, my wife was the only one to ever do this. . . I never touched the machines until last night).
Finally, a few days ago I went to the redbox site to see if I could get any info on how difficult of a process this might be, signed up and got a free rental code, and sat on it for a few days as I waited for the right time to use the code. Honestly, the website was intimidating. I could see all of the kiosks in town, look at their inventory, and be completely overwhelmed by all that was available. I have to admit. . . there wasn’t much that looked too immediately interesting to me. . . and there was just too much for me to care to wade through.
Last night, after hitting up the pizza buffet and discussing our plans for a relaxing evening at home afterwards, I decided it was the perfect time to open up the pandora’s (red) box and check it out. I loaded up the app on my phone and saw that there were around 500 (or, you know, 4) kiosks in our immediate vicinity at the restaurant, loaded up the page that said what all was in the nearest of the boxes and told my wife to pick something as I drove over there.
The process was simple. Within seconds I had the disc we wanted in my hands, no money down (because, you know, of the free code).
But it was then that I realized my first issue. Sure, this thing was cheap, even without the code. I mean, $1.20 for a new release DVD, that’s pretty fantastic. And if I wasn’t so cheap and actually had a blu-ray player. . . well, yeah, even more so (I think it was $1.70 for BRs). But. . . I had to come to this location to drop it off the next day. Note: I rarely leave my house outside of picking up kids and doing things within walking distance of my home. . . this spot was well outside of that range of movement.
And honestly, that’s the only real issue I see with the service, outside of how much more work is involved in dealing with a defective disc (which ours definitely had some issues playing). I mean, I can see this service being relatively fantastic for those with a daily commute that takes them directly past a kiosk, especially if that commute is on foot. But if you’re not going to be near a kiosk, I really don’t see how much better this is than going to a regular old video store. The prices might be cheaper, but the $1.20 a day is per night, as opposed to the typical multi-night fees at brick and mortars. And. . . it most definitely is more difficult to find your way around the selection, although I’d be willing to guess that gets better the more you get familiar with the software.
There is the additional benefit of being able to reserve a disc at your local kiosk to ensure it’s there when you are. But, honestly. . . this all seems like a lot more work that I care to do, especially since most film companies are imposing those same 28 day restrictions on redbox as they are with other companies like netflix.
In the end, I really doubt I’d use the service again, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there just isn’t one close enough to my daily routine to make it worthwhile. If they placed one downtown, I may be singing a different tune. However, when I have an impulsive need to watch a movie that’s not already available on instant watch…I can usually get it through Amazon’s Instant Watch service. It will be a little more expensive, but I don’t even have to leave my couch. . . and, I never have to deal with a scratched DVD. Just have to hope the internet doesn’t go out in the middle of watching :-). Luckily we’ve got a pretty solid connection to the ‘net around here, so that’s rarely an issue.
Anyways, I’m totally interested in hearing about other people’s thoughts on the services of the red-colored box. I’m pretty heavily against it at the moment, just because it seems like it’s success is mostly due to the gimmicky nature of a serve-yourself service, but I’d love to be proven wrong by regular users, or even just semi-regular users who happen to be fans.
Gotta run. Have fun!