Mind your Redbox manners

Published 3:27 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

I remember the first time I really noticed a Redbox. Oddly enough, it was in McGregor, Minn., on a drive home to Duluth from Fergus Falls to see my family.

Maybe I had seen the big clunky machines before, but never had I actually taken the time to figure out what they were.

Upon further inspection, I came to the conclusion that each box was a condensed version of a video store. I was thrilled, but also a little wary.

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First, it was cheap — $1 per movie. Too good to be true. Second, it required a credit card. It sounded sketchy.

A few minutes after my high-tech discovery, I was back on the road and had forgotten all about my Redbox concerns.

A few months later, I was confronted yet again at my local Walmart. This time, I caved.

What I realized was that the process was quite simple – using a touch sensitive computer screen, I was able to browse through all sorts of new releases, read the generic blurb about each one, and, with a click of a button and a swipe of a card, have the desired movie in my hand. I didn’t even have to deal with another person – perfect.

For months, I rented movies from my red friend. Things were wonderful. But as time went on, I noticed the electronic movie rental concept began to catch on. Soon after this, I found find myself having to wait in line to rent or return a movie. Redbox, which had all along been appealing because of its convenience, was becoming a little too inconvenient for me to handle.

From there, things only got worse.

While attempting to return a Redbox movie, my friend D and I began to discuss proper Redbox etiquette. With a long line forming behind the Redbox outside of Austin’s Walgreen’s, I hesitated to “cut” in line to simply return a movie. D, on the other hand, said it would be preposterous to wait for everyone to do their browsing and renting when all we had to do was press return and wait for the machine to eat the movie back up.

I watched as D walked to the front of the line and explained to the next person that it was simply for a return. No one got mad — at least they didn’t express it.

Still, I have my doubts. I wouldn’t mind if someone cut in line on me to return a Redbox movie, but I can see how others may object. This is sure to lead to some problems, possibly violence.

The second problem is the whole unofficial time limit rule slowly being established by people in Redbox lines around the country. When you’re at a movie store, you’re allowed to browse through hundreds of movies and read as many blurbs as you want. When you’re good and ready, you make your way to the checkout line. In the Redbox world, if someone is behind you, there’s the feeling that someone is waiting on you. This has led me to make some pretty poor movie decisions. Panic has caused me to watch hours of films that had no right playing in my DVD player.

If Redbox officials asked me, I would say the machines need three screens: one for browsing movies, one for renting movies and one for returning movies. While one person was in the process of renting the movie, the person behind them could be spending their time browsing. The rental machine could be left open for those poor people who just want to return “2012.”

But until Redbox officials call and ask me for brilliant solutions to their newfound problem, I’ll continue to visit Redbox at the most inconvenient times to ensure a convenient transaction.