My capsule review of the Internet-based DVD rental service.
I joined Netflix about two months ago and, in general, have been satisfied with the service. That’s not to say the relationship has been trouble-free. It hasn’t.
Netflix offers four plans for membership. I chose the cheapest plan: $9.99 per month for one DVD at a time with an unlimited number of DVDs per month. The plan is perfect for us in that it enables us to watch, on average, two DVDs per week. That brings the per DVD rental cost down to less than $2 per title — cheaper than pay per view and both cheaper and more convenient than going to the local video rental place.
Here’s how it works. After setting up an account, you browse or search the extensive movie library for titles, actors, directors, etc. that interest you. See one you want to watch? Click an Add button to add it to your Queue. Once a movie is in your Queue you can shuffle it around in the list order. The ones on the top are the ones you’ll see first, in the order in which they appear.
What’s kind of neat is that you can add a movie to your queue before it’s available in DVD — even before it’s been released to theaters. As soon as it’s available, just shift it to the top of your queue to get it right away.
In my plan, I only get one DVD at a time, so the plan is pretty simple. Netflix sends me the DVD at the top of my queue. They send me an e-mail message telling me that it’s been shipped and giving me an estimated receipt date. Since the local shipping point for me is in Phoenix, I usually get the DVD the day after it ships. So something that ships out today will be in my mailbox tomorrow.
The DVD comes in a red tyvek envelope that contains a white tyvek envelope with a sticker describing the movie. There’s no DVD case and no liner notes. Just the movie. I pop the movie into my DVD player, watch it, then pull it back out and stick it back into the red envelope, which has a tear-away portion that removes my address and replaces it with Netflix’s. I drop the envelope in the local mail box and it goes back to Netflix. It usually gets there in a day or so, depending on the day of the week. (There’s no mail service on Sundays, so that’s a dead day.) Then the whole process starts all over again.
At the beginning of this piece I alluded to a less than perfect relationship. That’s because I’ve had two problems so far:
- One of the DVDs was scratched to the point that it would not play properly. Although most of the movie played, there was about a 15-minute sequence that was messed up, with lots of skipping forward. This is evidently a common problem, since Netflix has a customer service form with this listed as a possible reason for contact. They offered to provide a replacement DVD, but it wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t see the movie, so I let it go. Still, I’ve since looked at the underside of each DVD and have been shocked at the number of scratches on each one. Is it that the tyvek envelopes don’t properly protect the DVDs? Or are other subscribers downright careless with them? I don’t know.
- The other day, I got an e-mail confirmation that the movie I’d returned had been received at Netflix. The only problem is, I never saw the movie. It was shipped to me and then shipped back without ever getting into my mailbox. This was a problem that was not on the customer service form and I had a heck of a time finding contact information to report the problem. Netflix responded the next day, saying that occasionally the envelopes get damaged in shipping and, when the outer envelope gets torn off, the DVD simply comes back. (Either that or one of my neighbors enjoyed the movie and graciously returned it for me.) They promised to send a replacement movie while my next selection was on its way — so I could “catch up,” so to speak. Trouble is, they sent the same movie that was next in my queue, so I got two copies of the same movie. I guess that’s what happens when you let a human take the job of a computer.
I use the “three strikes and you’re out” rule with customer service. Netflix, so far, has two strikes — in less than two months! They aren’t the only organization offering this kind of service. Blockbuster, in an effort to save their failing company, has also launched an Internet-based DVD rental service. If Netflix drops the ball again anytime soon, I’ll surf over to the competition to see what they have to offer.