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badice.com ~ travel musings for the masses

My database teacher this semester was constantly pushing the issue of poorly designed systems and what can be done to fix them. I listened to him but did not give much thought to it; until this weekend.

I was at a Hollywood Video that I have not frequented since my freshman year (2002-2003). My intent was to just grab a movie and be in and out in 5 minutes. Instead, I was stuck listening to a woman in front of me trying to understand that she did not have an account at that particular Hollywood Video. She didn’t seem to get it. After about 10 minutes of sitting there I was helped by another person, but that wasn’t the end of my “bad systems design” experience.

When I went up to pay the girl at the counter asked if I had been there before and I said yes and gave her my name. She read me off the address that was associated to the account, it was my old dorm address?! I told her that I moved and gave her my new information. She then proceeded to inform me that my account had a $3.50 balance on it from almost 3 yrs. ago. None of the other Hollywood Videos told me had this fine. Why? Because none of the databases are linked together.

So, when I go to one store and change my address that address is not updated system wide, meaning that everytime I go to a different location I have to give them that info again. Frustration is the only word that describes how that makes people feel and frustrated people are not returning customers. Ok, well maybe it’s not that extreme but it could be.

How does Hollywood Video solve this problem? I do not know what happened to their card system but I think that would be the first step to reducing the amount unneeded re-entry of people’s information. Blockbuster Video used to have the card system as well, but I am not sure that they use it anymore either. If people forget their card then use their name to search the database.

The next step would be to connect all of the stores’ databases to a central location so that they can access each other. That brings up the question of whether they should be linked at the city level, the state level, or the national level. State level makes sense, especially for college students who may go home for the summer but still want to rent movies on their account (and don’t want to get surprised with a late fee when they come back).

The movie rental model should be one of the easiest to model but Hollywood Video has really messed it up.

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