The Red Box is a movie rental vending machine. Usually they are located outside of convenient stores or grocery stores with the premise that as you do your normal shopping you can quickly pick up a movie for later. The rental process is swift and each rental only costs $1. Sounds all good right? I’m convinced this is actually the worst movie rental process in existence. And here are my findings:
Just the Facts
1. Renting from the Red Box is an experience that has all of the bad features of a movie rental store only they are worse.
2. Red Box actually creates new movie rental perils not present in the rental store or online experience.
3. Red Box fails to deliver on all of reasons you might choose it over other rental places.
All of The Bad Just Got Worse
Lines – nobody likes waiting in line. It’s terribly boring. All movie rental places will have a queue especially if you go at peak hours. Red Box is no different…worse, actually. And I’ll explain it a little later. You know what doesn’t have a line? Online movie rental (get it?).
Stock – When a movie store doesn’t have what you want it makes the trip hardly seem worth it. One of two things has happened. a) they don’t carry the movie you want. b) they have already rented every copy of the movie you want. Either way you are out of luck and suddenly going into search mode. The problem is that space is limited. Space is even MORE limited when all your movies must fit in a 8x3x3 box. Even worse is when all the copies of Indiana Jones and The Temple of the Crystal Skull must share that tiny space with Garfield the Movie and the latest Land Before Time sequel (as an example). Red box has less variety and less stock of the variety they do have.
Scanning – Inevitably you’ll find yourself for one reason or another just kind of scanning to see what Red Box has. Unfortunately, all the movies are represented by little graphic icons rather than a little box that you can pick up and examine/read. If you aren’t familiar with movie titles, you might not have much to go by when selecting something random. Can you read more about the movie on a separate screen? Probably, but you don’t have time for that. If you did, you’d have gone to a movie rental store (again, more on that later).
New Ways of Sucking
It’s not enough that Red Box takes everything bad about video stores and makes them worse, but it must also compound the suck. It’s like where the Bible says, “they invented new ways of sinning.”
Weather – not only are you going to have to put up w/ the stock shortages, lines, and the endless searching for a movie that you only 1/2 heartedly want to see, you must do it in the rain. Or snow, or tornados? Wow at least one good thing about the store is that you can be completely annoyed but indoors. You could say that when the weather is nice, you can (at least) enjoy the outdoors. Except for the fact that you are renting a movie and have decided the outdoors wasn’t even good enough to enjoy instead of sitting on your couch.
Lines (Again) – At the Red Box you have to stand in line BEFORE you’ve done your renting/scanning. This makes the line actually worse. When you get in line at a store at least the people in front of you have the movie ready to go. What happens when you get in line at RB and the people in front of you are about to unleash the indecisive movie selection ritual? Pure suckage. Yeah, just try not to completely hate every single person in front of you before you get a chance to even touch the screen.
Line Pressure – like you’ve never felt before. When you go to a pro ball game and it’s 1/2 time and the bathrooms are loaded w/ people, there is some extreme pressure to perform. Especially for guys. You can’t hide behind a closed door all the time. If you are at the urinal and there is a line out the door, it would common for someone to be standing right behind you in a mini queue for your urinal. If you get stage-fright (like me) you avoid these bathroom altogether. Red Box is kind of like standing at a urinal. You can practically feel people staring holes through the back of your head while you fumble with the touch screen. You get up there, and you are expected to perform, however, as we’ve discussed, it’s common for the thing you wanted to not be there and you must scan quickly. Never do your movements seem so insignificant as when you are feeling to pressure to make every click count. Of course you can always make a phone call for a recommendation, but it’ll be back to the end of the line for you.
Malfunction – it’s a machine and ready and waiting to break down. Happened to me last week…there’s nothing you can do.
Nothing Really Works as Intended
This is where I get the most frustrated. Every way that the Red Box has potential to be great seems to just magnify the disappointment. Here’s what I mean.
Going – Red Box assumes that you’ll find it convenient to pick up a movie while doing your other shopping. It just doesn’t work. Why? Because most people don’t just casually rent and watch movies like that. When I’m picking up a gallon of milk, I don’t see the Red Box and on a whim decide that I’m going to spend the evening in front of the TV. No, people rent a movie when they are ready to commit to watching it. And that only happens when you make plans. And when you make plans, you make a special trip to see a movie. Is it convenient that the red box is also by the store? Yes, but you know what else is…every Blockbuster video in the nation. If I’m making a special trip, why go to the most limited rental location in town? The only way I see Red Box beating the stores here is if you live in a little podunk town where there is no video store. But if you do, you probably choose skeet shooting over movies anyway.
Price – Red Box movies only cost $1. What an amazing deal. I’d have to watch 14 movies per month to make my Netflix.com movies as cost efficient. That is of course, if I have absolutely no life and a perfect memory because I’m getting hit with a late fee every single day that I have the movie. Unless diligence is your middle name, the $1 price tag is a marketing ploy. There’s a reason the stores and the online rentals got rid of the late fees. When you add up the money you waste by forgetting to run back to return the rental (and the low cost of new DVDs for purchase) you start to realize that it’s more cost effective to just buy the dang movie…which kills the rental business.
Simplicity – It’s never as simple as it should be. When you have the good idea of renting the hot new release you can bet that hundreds of other people had the same bright idea. This means your movie will not be there. This means you are going to stand in front of that vending machine like an idiot and if you can’t find something you are going to walk away empty handed like an even bigger idiot. The user interface is not bad, but there’s a reason the stores pay teenagers to stand at the register all night long – they can ring that baby up twice as fast as you can navigate 4 giant red buttons.