The first time I heard of Redbox, I thought it was a business model doomed to fail. DVD rental for a dollar made absolutely no sense to me. Yeah, I knew they could operate with a fraction of the work force of a Blockbuster. Yes, it removed the postal fees from the Netflix equation. And yes, they could get by carrying fewer titles than either competitor. But how could they make money?
Then I rented from Redbox. Four days later when we returned our first movie, it hit me. Redbox is pure genius.
By taking your credit card info, they don't ever have to hassle you about paying late fees or returning movies. Frankly, they don't care if you do . . . you pay a dollar a day and will end up buying the movie for $25 dollars if you keep it that long, and they'll still think of you fondly.
And if you go to their Web site, you'll see what clever geniuses they are, too. While you'll never see a single employee face to face, the site does a brilliant job of communicating clearly and--shockingly enough--personally. They get the idea across in two- to three-word sentences for the benefit of those with no attention spans, they overcommunicate to those for whom the most common knowledge is far from intuitive, and they supply a steady string of tongue-in-cheek jabs to keep their wiser customers laughing instead of feeling like the brunt of school-marm condescension.
The beauty of Redbox is, allegiance isn't required. You don't need to be a member to be a customer. You can sneak a quick Redbox flick from time to time, and your friends at Blockbuster and Netflix never have to know. You can sneer at the cheery, cherry vending machine . . . but if you get the urge to spend a buck on Kung Fu Panda, you can snatch it while you wait for the mailman to bring you the next installment of The Wire.
Hooray for you, Redbox. I'm sorry I ever doubted you.