What Happened To People's Late Fees After Blockbuster Closed?

Deep within the subconscious mind of every Gen-Xer and phase-one Millenial lies a hidden fear: that one night, when all seems peaceful, they will stir from their slumber and look up to see a blue-knit polo shirt emerging from the shadows. A voice will slither from the lips of the wraith-like intruder and into your ear like a pencil-thin auditory lamprey, latching onto your decades-old anxiety.

"Looks like you've got some late fees," it will say, before charging you $4,723 for your overdue DVD copy of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde that you didn't want to rent in the first place, there just wasn't anything else out that week.

Late fees, man. They were the clawing, creeping, unfortunate fact of the video rental age. But now that the great beast Blockbuster has been bound in the ancient tongue and imprisoned in a single strip mall in Bend, Oregon, can we finally rest easy knowing that they probably aren't coming for the second disc of Heroes: Season Two that's been sitting behind the TV since Obama's first term?

Don't fear the fee-per

You're fine, dude.

The turn of the millennium was a transitory moment in video rental history, and by late 2004, the brain trust at Blockbuster decided to eliminate their long-held habit of charging folks a premium for keeping movies a little too long. Instead, renters would be charged a minimal "restocking fee," and pay the full price of the physical copy if it wasn't returned within 30 days. According to an LA Times article from way back in the day, the company hoped that the good will generated by this magnanimous policy would more than make up for the $250 million in estimated losses.

Obviously, that didn't pan out, and by 2010, Blockbuster LLC was well on their way to that Great Return Slot In The Sky. Any remaining late fees were waived, though we're sure ex-company president Michael Kelly wouldn't turn you away if you showed up at his door with $3.50.

Funny story, actually: it turns out that those late fees were the petard upon which Blockbuster was always doomed to be hoisted. According to the Guardian, a patron of the video rental service named Marc Randolph was perturbed after being charged $40 for an overdue copy of Apollo 13 and responded, reasonably enough, by creating Netflix.