Rental Advisory: A Redbox Etiquette Primer

Where indecision and impatience intersect.

It happened again.

It always happens this way: I’ve got somewhere to go, but I need to drop off a movie at the Redbox across the street. It’ll only take a minute, I tell myself, but of course, it never goes that way. It’s always a good 10-minute wait, because I get stuck behind the dopey couple that can’t decide what to rent. They’ll peek over their shoulders every few moments, and I’ll try to keep my patience, but it seems like a long wait just to drop off a movie.

If you’ve rented a flick from a Redbox, you’ve been through this experience, too.

You’ve also probably used the noun Redbox as a verb, as in, “Yeah, we’re going to stay in and Rebox it tonight.” Movie rental stores are shutting down across the country as vending machines and subscription services like Redbox and Netflix, respectively, become more popular. It’s important we understand what this change means to our culture and how it affects us. It’s also high time we develop some language to better define just what the hell is taking place now days when you go to rent a movie.

I’m all about instant gratification, so I don’t subscribe to Netflix. That’s some other blogger’s cross to bear. I want to focus on the Redbox experience and what I’d like to call “Redbox rage.” (Copyright that — it’s going to catch on.)

Redbox rage occurs any time there is more than one person at Redbox machine whereby an individual will feel extreme impatience and the discomfort of being rushed in consecutive order. It starts when you saunter over to the Redbox, but someone’s already at the machine, scrolling through every movie available, reading synopses, comparing movie lengths, deeply questioning their desire to see another movie featuring Jennifer Aniston or Seth Rogen. They might be with a significant other, which springs the possibility they’ll discuss what each has seen, what they would like to see, why one is stupid for wanting see something, why the other is more stupid for not remembering having seen it in the theaters on a date, and the ordeal is finally settled 23 minutes later when they select the one movie you were hoping to see, which just so happens to be the only copy that was available in the machine.

Then, it’s your turn.

Your judgment and grasp of alphabetical order are clouded by your outrage at how anyone could take so long to be pick out a movie, as if it were a health insurance plan. Second later, you feel someone behind you as your paging through the options. They’re sighing. They’re shifting their weight from foot to foot, arms crossed as they bite their lips. Suddenly, you don’t recall ever seeing a movie your entire life and you have no idea what you would like to see. The person behind you, they’ve got their Blackberry out now, and they’re texting frantically, possibly ordering an abduction or assassination to shorten their wait. You remember the one movie you wanted to see, and it’s checked out. Nothing else looks good. You dash away from the machine apologetically, sweating, completely flabbergasted.

And that’s Redbox rage. You’re the protagonist and then the antagonist. You’re the thrown punch, but then the resulting broken wrist. It’s a miserable experience that, at best, results in a movie you wanted to see. But more times than not, it’s a choice that felt rushed and was ultimately regretted.

This never happened at traditional movie stores. There, the only worry you had was returning movies on time to avoid foreclosure-threatening lates fees and having to banter with the cashiers who, more times than not, were elitist movie snobs with their endless Indie cred. Otherwise, you could spend all your sweet time browsing up and down the aisles, stumbling upon the movies you’d forgotten you wanted to see or movies you never knew existed. It was a more peaceful process that bucked the idea consumerism need be so streamlined. We’ll fondly remember the era of movie rental stores as simpler times.

We know Redbox isn’t going anywhere. I propose the following rules to lighten the experience and erode feelings of homicidal rage. Here is what I suggest be accepted as Redbox etiquette:

  1. If you’re selecting a movie and someone is behind you, check to see if they only intend on returning a movie. If yes, allow them to do so. If no, thank them for their patience but be mindful they’re waiting.
  2. If you’re in line to select a movie, use the time to consider what you would like to rent and what you might rent if your first option is unavailable. Allow the party ahead of you time and space to make a decision without feeling rushed. Remember, you’ll be in their shoes soon.
  3. If it’s a make-or-break trip to the Redbox, and you need assurance the movie you want is a) there and b) waiting for you, visit the Redbox Web site prior to your visit and reserve it.
  4. If any of these rules seem impossible or even difficult to follow, subscribe to Netflix.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Anyone have any nightmarish Redbox experiences? Amendments to my Redbox etiquette proposal?

6 thoughts on “Rental Advisory: A Redbox Etiquette Primer

  1. “Redbox rage,” I like it. Sorry I wasn’t more help. But why is it that simple tasks like picking out a movie makes us sweat? It must be the inner fat kids in us, but I’m sweating like a hog any time I have to step up to Redbox or any self-checkout service. I feel your pain, Miller.

  2. If everyone simply hopped online before going to the redbox, redbox rage would be minimized.
    You should submit “redbox rage” to urbandictionary.

  3. It also takes what seems to be 3 minutes to even return a movie once you get up to the vending machine. I also would suggest people just go online to the site to find which machine has the movie they want and reserve it ahead of time to avoid extra wait time. There are also the sites that give out free movie rental codes as well.

    I completely agree on letting people go ahead to return a movie, as long as they don’t spend 20 minutes checking out another one.

    Great articles!

  4. This is funny, and very true. I’ve experienced most of the above and its reassuring to know that its not gone unnoticed to others.

    I’ve had some experiances, some which are entertaining, some frustrating.

    I’ve been second in line to return a movie at 8:55 while a family of 4 discusses and debates what movie they want to see and eventually pick two movies. The father was on retrieval duty and apparently expected three movies to come out because he stared at the machine with his arm prose expecting another movie to come out, after 20 seconds I asked politely if I could return my movie since the machine was clearly done delivering movies, he at first got upset at me then realized his error and apologized.

    At one particular location a very long line was built up. Of the people in line there were some that were simply there to return movies, the people browsing did not think to yield to these people even though it was nearing 9pm, a young man pulled up on a sport bike and overzealously strolled right up to the front ignorantly assuring the people he was just returning a movie, to which the unimpressed crowd quickly snapped back “so are we.” The man stared at the long line and left. People huffed and puffed and eventually accepted the extra dollar charge they would recieve as a result of the dawdling browsers.

    Eventually it was my turn, I knew what movie I wanted and quickly selected it, and as I was looking through the pages for it I heard the people in line behind me proclaim to their friend that they were going to select “The Crazies” which was coincidental as it was the same movie that the box was dispensing to me. From my car I observed them looking for the movie to no avail(as expected because it was in my passenger seat)and walked away disappointed and empty handed, I couldnt help feel somewhat guilty, but at the same time couldnt stop myself from snickering as I found myself in the fortunate position knowing our roles could have been reversed if I had arrived moments later.

    Oh redbox…

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