Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weeping for Big Box bankruptcies

Life is changing so rapidly I’m starting to feel melancholy about the loss of all I used to loathe.
Take Blockbuster, which is now there for the taking. The company that once ran 6,500 retail stores in 17 countries filed for bankruptcy this week.
And what was once a pivotal part of my life vanishes along with it.
One of life’s great wee pleasures has always been the act of selecting and renting a movie for a night of in-home entertainment. It didn’t matter if it was when I was single, dating, married or with the kids. Pulling open that door with the big blue and gold insignia always felt like prospecting for gold.
There were shelves and shelves of screwball comedies, Hitchcock dramas, John Wayne westerns and all the latest titles I never got around to seeing in the theatre.
Blockbuster felt like home. The staffers were friendly and knowledgable and shared our love of movies.
Of course, it didn’t use to be that way.
I once hated Blockbuster. They were big box bullies responsible for vanquishing the nation’s mom ‘n’ pop video shops.
And I am a mom ‘n’ pop guy, through and through. I love the underdog.
Now the underdog has become the size of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Their tormenters are flea-sized iPods and iPads, the Swiss Army knives of hand-held entertainment for a nation with an insatiable thirst for mindless distraction.
I love Apple products, but wish for one year they’d stop trying to cram 15,000 more 99-cent songs into my shirt pocket and would work on something worthwhile like revolutionizing the internal combustion engine.
I’m one of those guys who finds the experience of buying a movie on Netflix, reading a book on a Kindle or browsing for music on iTunes to be essentially soulless.
Our entire shopping experience increasingly comes through a keyboard and the change is startling.
A recent story said endangered brands include Radio Shack, Borders and, of course, the U.S. Postal Service.
I find myself rooting for these behemoths to suck it and up and pull through. I’m eager to see them innovate and fend off historic business trends stacked against them.
That’s crazy. 
It’s not exactly like I’m propping up Ike Godsey’s old general store on the foot of Walton’s Mountain. These are all major corporations. They routinely price gouge, treat their drone workers like cattle and are run by ruthless executives that make men like C. Montgomery Burns seem, well, cartoonish.
One of the main movers of Blockbuster was once Wayne Huizenga, who made his first fortune running Waste Management. Taking shots at the ethics of people in garbage disposal is too easy -- and potentially fatal.
So I dug a little deeper and found out Huizenga has been cruel to dolphins.
He’s been full or part owner of the Miami Dolphins since 1990. During that tenure, his teams have never made it to the Super Bowl and only once to the AFC Championship game. Maybe it’s more accurate to say he’s been cruel to Dolph-fans.
When he was helming Blockbuster, the company was opening a new store every 17 hours.
The strategy laid waste to independent store operators across the land. They are no more. What these people so unqualified to do anything else did after the loss of their livelihoods I can only guess.
Perhaps they turned to blogging, the last refuge of the under-qualified and marginally motivated.
My problem is I’m a committed bizzospice care volunteer. It’s pronounced biz-ZOS-pice care, like hospice care for failing businesses.
Bizzospice care volunteers like myself are loyal if misguided customers of failing businesses determined to patronize ill-conceived establishments right up until they die a merciful death divined by Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
It’s the way the market should work. Survival of the fittest, a kind of Darwinism that conservatives favor even as they mock the kind of Darwinism Darwin himself espoused.
So as these once thriving institutions one by one fall, I’ll be there to weep at their defeat.
Oh, well, I guess there will always be Halliburton.
Who knows? Maybe it was started by Ike Godsey after the new Wal-Mart drove him off Walton’s Mountain.


The Honourable Husband said...

In the 80s and 90s, video rentals were a huge industry. One third of the industry, though, comprised late fees.

Chris Rodell said...

Wow. What a great business, making all that money just counting on people being irresponsible. We could learn a lot from them. I miss renting videos!

Be kind, H.H. Rewind.