Photo Gallery

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's Called Customer Service – Don't Bury The Small Video Rental Store Quite Yet

In my world sometimes old technology still beats out the latest and (supposedly) the greatest.

In the constantly evolving arena of home movie entertainment the hottest names right now seem to be Comcast, Netflix, redbox, Direct TV and AT&T. I recently had several strong personal recommendations for a movie called 500 Days of Summer, however, it quickly became a personal quest to find it. Although I don't subscribe to every latest whistle and bell I am not exactly in the Dark Ages when it comes to home entertainment. My monthly bill with Comcast averages $200 including their high speed internet service. I thought finding this fairly popular movie would be as simple as navigating the choices in On Demand. Think again Carl. Neither was my movie part of the Comcast repertoire, nor was not available from the redbox machine at my favorite supermarket. The only place I didn't bother looking was at our local Blockbuster which has now become an auto supply store to no one's real surprise considering the level of customer service they provided.

I have nothing against the redbox concept which is actually pretty solid. Instead of paying minimum wage clerks to ring up simple video rental transactions like Hollywood Video or Blockbuster they've replaced it with vending machine technology. And for only .99 cents it makes for one very convenient movie grab at the grocery store. However, just like their Blockbuster predecessors they ONLY stock the hits. Netflix also has its advantages but paying their monthly membership fee is not practical for the less frequent movie renter like myself.

My frustrating search finally came to an end when I pulled into what many call a dying breed, the Ma & Pa video rental shop. It is simply called "DVD To Go" and it is tucked away in a nondescript strip center complete with a missing letter on the center's main sign.

But don't let the funky front of this place fool you. You are greeted by a specials rack on the sidewalk and a special kind of attitude that is sadly missing in big box stores and malls.

And that special attitude comes directly from the owner, Linda Walton, who says she's been working in video stores for 15 years. The second you step inside this place something is different. She greets every customer as they come in the front door and knows most of them by name. The air is filled with reviews and recommendations. It sounds more like a movie club than a retail store. Linda knows her inventory so well she seldom has to visually check it to tell you if a title is in stock. Getting a movie here is like shopping for golf clubs at a pro shop instead of wandering around Sports Authority trying to find a sales clerk.

After scoring a copy of 500 Days of Summer I could not wait to return to test this little place on some other movie rentals that have eluded me like the popular Sean Penn film Milk and the more obscure Flash of Genius starring Greg Kinnear. And sure enough this little store delivered again and again. The display racks are nothing fancy but rather just plain wire racks. The difference is they are filled with a decent depth of catalog instead of JUST THE HITS.

My parting shot is of Linda Walton herself. I found huge irony in her name and joked with her about being related to Sam Walton who founded the world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart. However, Linda and DVD To Go simply could not be any further from the Wal-World. When I tried to interview her for my blog she blushed and could only describe herself as "just a nice person." But that "nice person" has built a loyal clientele who keep coming back for a great experience. It's great to see tea cozy and old school customer service is still very much alive. Thank You Linda!