You may remember shopping here:
Do you notice anything odd about this picture?
Look closely. Through the window. What do you see?
If you said, "there are people inside that store!" then drive down to the local Sonic and purchase yourself a sundae in celebration, because you are right!
I'm waiting for the day these people finally teeter into bankruptcy and never emerge.
And it will happen.
Yeah, I know that almost all businesses will one day cease to be due to the passage of time, but Blockbuster will cease to exist long before the demand for movie rentals ceases to exist.
I think of Blockbuster the same way I think of AT&T and Dell. Blockbuster had a product everybody wanted, and grew to need. But they didn't win by being the first to rent videos. They did it by seeing what local video stores were doing, and created a monstrosity that was guaranteed to kill off the existing competition.
And how could the local stores compete? Why, Blockbuster had 50 copies of "Drop Dead Fred" on the shelves! You were practically guaranteed that you would find the movie you wanted, because, if they didn't have "Drop Dead Fred," then they had "Ishtar" and "Soap Dish" that you had thought about watching, but now had an excuse to pick up a copy because you were already in the store.
However, as the patrons began to use Blockbuster, they began to discover a few annoying things about it.
"Ted promised to drop off the movie last night, but left it in his car and Blockbuster is charging me an arm and a leg in late fees."
"I swear I dropped this movie off, but Blockbuster says that it is missing and now they're charging me a lost tape fee."
On top of that, they had the disappearing deals.
"If you come to the store and we don't have 'Three Kings,' we will give you a free rental of that movie!"
"No more late fees!"
They made these deals sound permanent, but it wasn't long until they quietly disappeared and left perplexed renters standing at the counters wondering "what happened?"
Maybe it was legitimate protectionism that Blockbuster was engaged in, but it became a bit of a hydra. It wasn't quite as bad as AT&T, who would suddenly do away with a long distance plan that you signed up for 3 months ago, notify you of this on page 7 of your bill, and start charging you the flat 10 cent per minute rate so that you would be surprised with a large bill the following month. Nevertheless, Blockbuster started to amass the bad will of the public in the same way that school yard bullies can beat you up for your lunch money: you were forced by law to attend school, and so it meant your choices at recess were to either hide in the bathroom the entire period and have no friends and be laughed at as the weirdo who hid in the bathroom the entire recess period, or you can take your chances in trying to use the playground equipment.
Blockbuster knew how to seclude themselves off in the Ivory Tower and beat back the barbarian hordes.
Then, one magical day, Netflix arrived.
There were no late fees! The prices were reasonable! I can ask for a movie and actually get it instead of playing roulette with what is on the shelves!
They aren't complete bastards!
Netflix, combined with Redbox, were like the barbarian tribes who steamrolled over Rome in its last days. Blockbuster was worried about combining forces with those up and comers called Radio Shack because they got it in their head that their customers actually want to shop for a $300-$1,000 piece of technology while picking up a copy of "In Her Shoes" for date night, and have only the teeny tiny selection buried in the back of a video store to choose from.
Sadly, there were not enough hoarders and bipolar impulse buyers to keep that venture going, so it folded. Netflix pushed forward and looked ahead to what people would be doing within a few years, and their business grew. Soon, people were freed of the schoolyard and finally had somewhere else to go.
And why do I mention that?
It's because its what happened to the legal profession.
Legalzoom and form books helped kill off a lot of our business because it was a monopoly. Even if people don't understand where the money is going, they see that they're written a check with money that could have paid bills or bought a car and watched as some burnout who hadn't returned their calls over the last month, roll into court and put on a half-assed display.
And maybe its the system in general that wears the attorney down. Day after day of craziness. Sometimes, the legal system can be a bit Dickensian in how it dispenses justice. So, even if the attorney had the best intentions and things still turned out shitty just because of other factors, it still plants the seed in people's minds as to why they are paying us to do anything.