Some of you are too young to remember late fees.
Late fees involved renting a $3 movie and paying another $6.42 in late fees. Late fees created that pit in your stomach when you glanced over at your coffee table, noticed a blue & yellow Blockbuster video box, and wondered to yourself “Wasn’t that supposed to be returned last week?”
Blockbuster made $800,000,000 per year on late fees. I’m pretty sure I contributed about $100/year to that pile of money, and it made me angry every time. It is reasonable to assume that most Blockbuster customers hated their late fees. But one man’s problem is another’s opportunity, so a tiny company saw my late fees as an opportunity, and Netflix was born. They did the seemingly impossible: video rental with no late fees.
Wow. What a concept.
When I heard about this new rental company, my next question was: where do I sign up? I gladly paid Netflix a monthly fee for DVD’s to be mailed to me long before Netflix was crowned the world’s largest movie production company.
Here’s the crazy thing: Blockbuster saw all of this unfolding. They could have stopped it. Yes, you know how this story ends, but as the story goes, someone in Blockbuster management with a “C” title (could have been a CEO, CFO, COO, who knows) proposed to their board that they do away with their late fees, as Netflix had done.
The board erupted in laughter. “We ain’t giving up $800,000,000 in late fees, are you effing crazy? We should fire you just for suggesting such…” (this is my fictional account of what happened in the board room, I’m sure they used actual curse words in the real meeting).
Blockbuster could have bought Netflix for pennies on the dollar (just as Yahoo could have bought Google for pennies on the dollar, and the list goes on and on). Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and Yogi always said that “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
Much like the Blockbuster vs. Netflix battle, I’m seeing a similar scenario unfolding with drug treatment. Expensive inpatient treatment centers are not, necessarily, beating out their cheaper government-run competition. A few years ago, an Ivy League college student client was busted for felony drug possession. His parents sent him to a $32,000/month treatment facility. Each month paid in full, in advance. My client spent 3 months in the program (yes, wealthy parents). After his release, he committed more felony drug crimes. Eventually, my client’s parents agreed to try the cheaper, government-run drug court program. Much to their surprise, it worked.
Drug court is one of the best programs invented by our criminal justice system. The program allows folks who have been arrested for a non-violent crime to undergo a bit of drug counseling, but in the end, their felony charges will be dismissed. Basically, if your drug problem is causing you legal problems, this program seeks to fix the underlying addiction so that the court system won’t see you again. This is a win-win situation, right?
Yes, drug court works. Continue Reading