For several years I managed two different independently owned video stores, both of which were forced to close after futilely competing against Blockbuster. Granted, these were the days before dvd. When I recently was given the opportunity to sample the Blockbuster Total Access program, the Big Blue's online/mail rental service, I was a bit hesitant. Now, please allow me to preface that I have been a happy subscriber to Netflix since June 2001. Nevertheless an opportunity to have more movies at home was too good an opportunity pass up.

Blockbuster's program has been for the most part, a positive experience. In my opinion, many of their discs are in better shape than Netflix's (sometimes newer is better) and the selection is pretty phenomenal (there have been several occasions where I have found a title on Blockbuster that hadn't appeared at Netflix yet). The program also offers several perks (none of which were of particular interest to me, but are, nevertheless a selling point).
  1. You can virtually double your movies by returning your disc to a store. You can receive a new selection on the spot and the next title in your queue will ship out.
  2. A monthly e-coupon allows you to receive a free game or dvd rental.
  3. Recommendations are generated based on previous rentals and ratings.
All in all, despite my happiness with the program, I did run afoul with a situation that does deserve mention. A compute glitch in their system did not ship movies to me for almost three weeks. The customer service telephone number listed on the site was invalid at the time I called and my emails were sent back with a coupon attached and a promise that it would be rectified shortly.

At the three week mark, after calling a different customer service number I was informed that there was a problem on their server and that it wasn't an isolated incident. I was then informed that I shouldn't have any dvds in my queue that weren't available and that I was the cause of the delay because some of my titles weren't available immediately. Finally, the situation rectified itself and I've had no problems since.

The interface is fairly simple to use, though it appears to be much easier to use if you aren't on a Mac (which I am). The only disadvantage is that it doesn't allow you to easily adjust your queue and delete multiple titles at the same time. I also have found that titles are sometimes sent in a random order. Just this week I received a title that was behind a dozen other in stock titles from my queue.

All in all, despite my occasional frustrations and interruptions in service, I can't help but recommend the Total Access Program. If you watch dvd's frequently, it does have the edge over Netflix by giving you the opportunity to double your rentals by returning them to the store. If you love movies, Blockbuster Total Access is for you!