There are three video rental chains doing business in Carbondale, but the one that tops the list is clearly Family Video. Family Video has a friendly and helpful staff that has a great working knowledge of all types of movies, not just the latest releases. In addition, the prices at family are the best in town. New releases still cost less than $3.50 to rent and if you rent during the week, Monday through Thursday, they come with a free rental of a “nearly new” movie. We make use of this feature often as a way to see small release movies, foreign films, or just bad B movies that were recently released.
Family Video also has a policy allowing customers to pay only a portion of their late fees and continue renting videos. This is a bonus when the customer has forgotten that they have late fees and only has a few dollars to spare. Carbondale is a college town and often students especially only have a few dollars in their pocket at any given time.
Family Video also has a better selection of movies than either Hollywood Video or Blockbuster, getting a large selection of video releases for art house films, foreign films, and releases from smaller studios. It is not unusual to find videos there for things that I’ve never heard of, along with the usual suspects.
The store also offers free kids’ video rentals and free educational videos and gives incentives like free new release or video game rentals for each “A” in a report card.
The store regularly offers promotions such as matching competitors coupons and turning late fees into free rentals. That idea was great! If you had a late fee and paid it, then the amount you paid was offered as a credit toward future rentals.
Family Video is also the only one of the chain stores to offer adult-content films, both in the form of unrated director’s cuts and NC-17 and in more traditional porn videos. The adult content videos are in a discrete, unmarked separate section of the store so as not to offend or require explanations for children in the store, but it is available. I personally find this admirable because so many chain stores have given in to the pressure for censorship.
Carbondale is in Southern Illinois in the heart of the Bible-belt, sometimes making it difficult to even purchase music or videos that someone has judged offensive. The Carbondale Blockbuster Video is also a decent store, but has a very predictable inventory. Rarely is there any video there that I could not get everywhere else.
The store is brightly lit and the staff is friendly, but not particularly knowledgeable about the items they stock. For example, I once called to ask if they had any copies of a recently released wrestling-based video game and the clerk assumed I was asking about a video from a pay-per-view event and put me on hold before I could correct her assumption.
Then, when she returned to the phone and I told her it was a game for the PlayStation 2, she seemed offended that she had to go look again. She was gone from the phone for such a short time, I’m not sure she really did look.
Of Carbondale’s three major video stores, by far the worst is Hollywood Video. The prices are highest and rentals are for one night only, with equally high late fees.
The staff is usually too busy to answer questions about videos and the rental fees for their library titles (older movies) are as high as their prices for new releases. This would not be as annoying except that I can literally go across the street to Family Video and rent those same older titles 2 for $1.
Without a doubt, Carbondale’s best chain video rental store is Family Video. I Have memberships at all three, but I rarely go to any one other than Family. And, it helps that I don’t have to carry a card. My phone number, name and ID, if it’s a new clerk whom I don’t know, are all I need to access my account and that means a lot. The staff takes time to know me and my movie preferences and can suggest movies that are off the beaten path. Without a doubt, that makes Family Video the tops in Carbondale.