In 2004, Blockbuster Video thought they had the perfect gimmick to go up against the new streaming video services. They would abolish their late fees! Everyone would be happy!
Unfortunately for anyone who decided to take Blockbuster up on this offer, they didn't so much "abolish" late fees as "rename" them while "significantly increasing" them. Anyone who kept their movie longer than a week after the due date noticed that costly unauthorized charges were being made to their credit card, because Blockbuster had charged them a "restocking fee," which just happened to be the full cost of the movie.
What the company had failed to mention in the ads was that movies over a week late were to be deemed lost, and the cost of their replacement was significantly more than the late fees would ever have been. To be fair, this fee would be cancelled if the customer subsequently returned the movie within a certain window, but at best it was replaced by a $1.25 administrative cost. It almost sounds like some kind of charge, and all for being less than timely in returning the film. If only we had a term for that ...
Blockbuster also failed to mention in their national advertising that the “no late fees” program was optional, and that not all stores participated. At least that’s what my local store said. Anyway, a few lawsuits later, Blockbuster finally went out of business. That’s only one of the five stories of marketing disasters, including one from Coke that I’d never heard of, at Cracked. -via Holy Kaw!
(Image credit: Rept0n1x)