A Day in the Life of a redbox Ninja

by | Apr 12th, 2010 | 9:15PM | Filed under: Redbox Insider

How one man in the field wrangles boxes, spreads the love, and keeps your movies moving

David Dunning oversees 189 redboxes in the Chicago area, and like a doting father, he knows them all by heart –  right down to their quirks.

Dunning is a regional operations supervisor (ROS), but many people might call him by his code name: redbox ninja. That’s what some customers have dubbed the mysterious figures who swoop in to stock, repair and spiff up redbox kiosks before disappearing in a flash.

Not that there’s anything very ninja-like about Dunning. He wears a bright “redbox red” shirt, which matches his shiny red Chevy HHR. He’s also a gregarious guy who engages people at each location and hands out promo codes when a customer must wait for him to finish.

Dunning and his team of seven field-service representatives work mostly during daylight hours, but there are field agents around the country who — like true ninjas –  prefer the cover of darkness.

“A lot of people like to work in the middle of the night,” David explains. “It’s easier to get in and out.”

That kind of schedule flexibility is one of the perks of ninjahood. Tuesday releases can be stocked at any time during the week, and then lie in wait to go live at the stroke of midnight each Monday. Many field agents set their own schedules — all that matters is that the boxes are stocked for the ramp-up to the weekend.

As an ROS, Dunning isn’t necessarily the one stocking each box. He coordinates his ninjas’ activities, tracks where boxes are having technical problems and follows up on maintaining his 189 kids.  At one point during his morning rounds, he takes a call from a field rep. After a few minutes of on-the-fly problem solving, he hangs up and remarks, “That’s three-quarters of my day right there.”

Aha, so it’s not all tooling around Chicago’s colorful neighborhoods and chatting up customers. The first and last thing Dunning does each day is consult his laptop. The wireless diagnostics of redbox kiosks provide an amazingly robust stream of data showing where the rentals are positively flying (meaning that he better be sure those kiosks get restocked quickly).

David works from three locations: his car as he goes on site, the warehouse where cartons and cartons of movies are received and sorted, and his home where he can do a remarkable amount of work on specific kiosks over the Internet, from the comfort of his chair.

Each redbox has a digital interface that controls much of the machinery inside. Is a disc jammed in the depths of the box? Dunning just might be able to fix that. With a few keystrokes on his laptop, he can jiggle the mechanism — the Computer Age equivalent of smacking the side of a jukebox. “It’s great to be able to manage so much of the small stuff remotely,” he says.

That’s because there’s plenty else to do. Stocking a box each week is a monumental task; in his busiest week, Dunning and his team loaded 15,000 disks into kiosks. When filling a machine, they must also swap out the 40-plus translucent movie ads in each “lightbox” (the display of titles next to most kiosks) in order to reflect the current week’s selection of DVDs.

Each lightbox’s configuration of movie ads is the same, and while it might take the average person the better part of 10 minutes to fiddle with the floppy plastic sheets, a ninja’s fingers fly like the wind.

“My field reps would kill me at this,” Dunning admitted, despite a pretty nimble two-minute turnaround.

Dunning expects his team to tend to kiosk appearance, too, by giving the boxes regular wax-downs and replacing deteriorating signage.

“I’m a stickler for the aesthetics,” he states proudly. “If you keep the machine and display clean, it welcomes you to the box. Even if that only draws in 5 or 6 more visits a week, that matters.”

As he pulls into his last stop of the morning, a new grocery store on the edge of a warehouse district, Dunning points out the box location. It’s situated at a side entrance, away from the parking lot entrance, and hardly visible to anything but sidewalk traffic.

“This was one of our slowest locations,” he says. “Then I hung out for an hour and a half handing out promo codes. Now it’s one of our better renters.”

Hardly the way of a ninja. But Dunning left his positive mark on customers nonetheless.


20 Responses to “A Day in the Life of a redbox Ninja”

  1. Trevor L.
    Posted on April 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I know the guy who does it in my town, since the Redbox stands only 20 feet from where I greet people at Meijer.

  2. Glenn Berkshier
    Posted on April 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Cool job. Sign me up!

  3. Jeremy F.
    Posted on April 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Dang…i wanna work for Redbox!!!

  4. Spaz
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Yeah, I’d love that job too.

  5. kellyk
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 7:22 am

    I went on a field day with David, he was very nice and a learned a lot from the experience! Go Ninja! :)

  6. Joe
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Anyone know how much this job pays?

  7. Leslie Christy
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I was surprised to see a rep at my small town Tipton Indiana McDonald’s Redbox actually cleaning the top of the machine where no one could ever possibly see it. She was quick, friendly, really knew what she was doing and a senior citizen! You go girl!

  8. Anthony
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I know this guy, and he is the BEST. Smart, high energy and very personable. Hope the exec’s at Redbox are keeping their eye on him.

  9. carol
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    i am a redbox customer service agent and read this about our ninja,,just wanted to say thankyou for your prompt and efficient attention to our redboxs as we deal with the customers from the start and send the order for service out,,our customers are also very happy with the prompt attention to the machines in their area.Keep up the good work guys and gals!

  10. moviegoer123
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I never saw that guy doing his job!

    And yeah, Jeremy F: I wanna work for Redbox, too, and yeah that means moving to the headquarters Oakbrook Terreace, Illinois. By the way, I would love living by Erika and\or Locke, but that’s not happening anytime soon because I live in the cheese state Wisconsin.

    Dang, can I meet that guy David Dunning? I would be interested. Does anyone oversee the redboxes in Wisconsin? I do wanna know, who stocks the films in the box? I will look out for David Dunning…

  11. Teresa
    Posted on April 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve waited for a Redbox rep to restock a machine and never got a promo code while I waited for them to finish. I wish the Redbox rep I had was this fast. I gave up waiting after a few minutes and went inside the store and came out 20 minutes later and they were still there. Maybe they were a newbie.

  12. Fiirvoen
    Posted on April 14, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Wow. That sounds like a fun job to have.

  13. Colton E Carpenter
    Posted on April 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I had to wait one time while the guy was stocking my redbox. he also gave me a code for my movie since I waited. Nice peeps! And that would be an awesome job. sign me up!

  14. csa #1
    Posted on October 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    why do the service techs get nice collard shirts when we get the plain white ones we take the brunt of problems here

  15. Lisa
    Posted on April 12, 2011 at 1:14 am

    What specific technical skills do you need to be a Redbox ninja?

  16. John Armstrong
    Posted on July 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

    How can I be a red box ninja

  17. Phil Edwards
    Posted on November 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Why is it so hard to work for Redbox?
    I know someone who applied three times in one year, the first time they
    got an interview, and the person interviewing them gave them good feed back as if everything was a go, then never responded again in either saying yes you got the job or no you didn’t.

    Then the other two times the application just sat in receive status indefinitely.

  18. Kristen
    Posted on February 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    What an interesting article as I have never seen anyone restock themachine and always wondered how that worked. Seems like this guy is passionate about his job and is a great people person. I hope Redbox takes notice and continues to employ people such as him. Keep up the good work! :)