In Blockbuster, Please, Please Change Your Habits, Austin Carr has a great analysis of why the video superstore continues to misread trends and head blithely in the wrong direction, even in the face of longterm competition from Netflix and its own massive debt troubles. Blockbuster’s latest wheeze: rent-by-mail, a service allowing consumers to go into the store, choose a DVD to rent (average $5.99) which will then be mailed to them. After seven days, the customer has to mail back the disc. And while there’s “no late fee”, there is a fee of $19.99 if you’re more than three days late returning the movie. You know, a late fee.

What’s possibly more offensive, however, is the tone struck by Blockbuster’s own blog. Carr writes:

“Some of you out there are massive commitment-phobes. Seems like you don’t want to have a monthly subscription,” Blockbuster wrote on its blog. “Why does commitment scare you so much? What are you afraid of?" The answer to that question is obvious: Consumers are afraid of Blockbuster.

Not least because their willfully chummy tone tries to strike a note of shoulder-punching bonhomie but totally misses the relationship between user and provider. I’m all for wit and attempts from brands to craft meaningful relationships, and service providers certainly don’t need to act cravenly towards their customers. But not every brand has to be my cool best friend daring me to strive for more. In this instance (and granted it’s entirely possible I’m over-thinking this) but asking me what I’m afraid of strikes me as aggressive and distasteful and entirely the wrong tone.

(Story via Tom Weaver. Image via Trebomb on Flickr.)