If the kids just understood how the world used to work, life would be better

Earlier this month, the Corridor Business Journal reported that Iowa City was all but video store-less. Mr. Movies and others have closed, and That’s Rentertainment, a local independent shop, was soon to follow suit, leaving us with a just single Blockbuster. This is gets back to the news business, just stick with me.

That’s Rentertainment has clearly seen better days. When I was a kid — when you had to physically schlep to a store if you didn’t want to settle for the TV edit of National Lampoon’s Vacation — That’s Rentertainment had at least three locations and seemed to be doing well. Now, it has receded into a $250-a-month piece of the Hall Mall, an off-the-beaten-track home to tattoo parlors and head shops. (The Hall Mall has gone downhill since my childhood, too).

Netflix, Redbox, iTunes, Hulu and other online-stream services have got to be just killing That’s Rentertainment’s business. It’s more convenient to have movies show up in the mail and to browse the selection online. And cheaper two; That’s Rentertainment charges $4 to rent a new release for two days, $3 to rent anything else for three days. I pay Netflix $9 to have a single DVD out at a time and all the streaming I can handle through my laptop, wifi-enabled Blu-Ray player or my Nintendo Wii, and nothing to watch movies and television shows on Hulu.

The recent change of location probably didn’t help business since it’s now more inconveniently located for most movie-renters, but, here’s the interesting part: instead of saying “yeah, there’s just no way I can compete with that infrastructure and convenience,” the CBJ quotes That’s Rentertainment’s owner saying:

I’ve really noticed a generational shift during the past few years with incoming University of Iowa freshmen and sophomores, who grew up watching things on the Internet, where everything’s free, right? … It’s not just educating them about your new location, it’s educating them about the video industry.

Yes, blame the customer for being ignorant of what your older model has to offer. See, if the kids who grew up with free Internet stuff were educated in the ways of the video industry, they’d understand why they should pay more for less convenience. It strikes me as similar to the bitter old-school print guy’s lament about how the Internet is devaluing the core product by letting jerks take this stuff for free. But why adapt when you can complain that the young ’uns are ign’ant, and go out of business?

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