Why I Canceled My Netflix Account

Goodbye NetflixDamaged discs and idiotic customer service.

Last night, I canceled my Netflix account. I hadn’t intended on doing so when I called customer service, but it’s the bullshit I encountered on the phone that made the decision easy for me.

My Netflix Account

I had a Netflix DVD-only account. Well, until recently, I had a Netflix unlimited three DVD plus streaming account. But when Netflix decided to split the two types of service and charge customers for each of them separately, I did away with streaming. After all, I’m living in an RV and get all my Internet access via a MyFi wireless device with a 10GB per month cap. Streaming video with my setup is not only impractical, but stupid and costly.

Of course, since I’m parked on the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley, I don’t have cable TV. And I don’t have a satellite dish. And my antenna picks up about 6 television stations. My inability to get live television doesn’t bother me much since I simply cannot tolerate commercials. At home, any TV I watch is via DVR with the remote in my hand. Here, I catch up on television series — normally a few years after the show has aired — via DVD. Hence, the Netflix account.

The trouble is, it’s gotten to the point where more than half the discs I receive from Netflix are damaged. Although I’ve had a few cracked discs, more often, the damage is scratches that cause the video to lock up, skip, and do other annoying things. While I’m willing to accept an occasional annoyance — perhaps once every month or so — when every second disc that arrives is screwed up, I run out of patience.

Last night, it came to a head. I received my third damaged disc in a row and I wasn’t satisfied with checking a few boxes on the Netflix Web site. It was pretty obvious that they were ignoring the check boxes. It was time to make some noise, to vent.

The Call that Ended it All

Calling Netflix customer service works like this:

  1. Log into your Netflix account.
  2. Navigate to the Contact Us link.
  3. Find and click the link for calling customer service. A toll-free phone number appears onscreen along with a six-digit code to expedite your call. This code is evidently unique to each account or call you make.
  4. Call the phone number.
  5. When prompted, enter the code.
  6. Wait, on hold, for a human to pick up while crappy hold music plays in your ear. Yesterday, this took about 5 minutes.

Of course, the longer I wait on hold, the more annoyed I get. So even the calming voice of the guy answering the phone at Netflix customer service at 10 PM on a Monday night wasn’t enough to cool me off. I immediately went into a rant about the number of damaged discs I was getting and how completely unreasonable it was. I wanted them to note my complaint on my customer record and tell me what they could do for me about it.

He made various sympathetic noises and told me how sorry he was. And then he did something that pushed me over the edge: he asked for my name.

“I just entered a six-digit number that appeared onscreen for my account while logged into Netflix. Doesn’t it pull up my name?”

“Yes, it does,” he confirmed. “But I need you to verify it.”

This made no sense to me. “But I’m logged into my account. My name appears at the top of the screen. Even if I wasn’t the account holder, I could easily read that name off the screen.”

“I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

“But I verified my name when I punched in those six digits.”

“No, that just brought up your account. I need you to verify your name.”

“But the only way I could get those six digits was to be logged into my account.”

“I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

“You’re reading off a script.”

“No, I’m not,” he said. He must have been lying. Then he repeated, “I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

I cannot begin to explain how angry this conversation was making me. “I refuse to play this game,” I told him. “I have proven who I am by entering that code. I will not allow you to drag me into your game.”

“It’s not a game,” he said. “I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

“I want to talk to a supervisor.”

A pause. I guess he punched the button to bring up the screen that tells him what to say when a customer asks to speak to a supervisor. “I can see if a supervisor is available, but I’m sure I can help you.”

“But you won’t.”

“I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

“I want a supervisor.”

“I’ll see if one is available. I need to put you on hold.”


He put me on hold. More of the same crappy hold music. Each minute that ticked by made me angrier. I was so sick of playing bullshit customer service games. I’m not an idiot. I don’t like being treated like one. By this point, I was already beginning to think that my Netflix account wasn’t worth the headache it was giving me that night.

About three minutes later, he came back on the phone. “I have a supervisor on the line. I’ll conference you in.”


The supervisor came on the phone. He introduced himself as Daniel — I think; do I really care? He came right to the point: “Can you tell me your name?”

“Sure,” I said. “I can tell you my name. But I won’t.”

“I need you to verify your name before I can help you.”

“You have my name on the screen right in front of you. I typed in a code so that screen would appear. I don’t see any reason to tell you my name when I’ve already verified my identity by entering that code, which could only appear for my account.”

“I can’t help you unless you verify your name.”

He made the decision for me: “Then cancel my account,” I said.

“I’d be happy to cancel your account if you’d give me your name.”

Maybe he thought he was being funny. I didn’t think so.

“Well, since I’m already logged into my account, I’ll just cancel it myself.”

I hung up and clicked the Cancel Membership link. I then filled in the survey to indicate that the reason I was canceling was that there were too many damaged discs and I had a problem with customer service.

Netflix Doesn’t Care

Does Netflix care that it lost a customer due to its bullshit customer service scripts? I’m sure it doesn’t. And I think that’s part of the problem.

Companies don’t care about their customers anymore. All they care about is collecting our fees and providing the minimal service they can for what we pay. They make us jump through hoops when we want to contact them — get online, log in, navigate to a screen, dial a number, enter a secret code, wait, and then repeat information they don’t need. I’m tired of it, I’m tired of paying for inferior service and then facing aggravation when I want to complain.

So I’m done with Netflix.

I’m probably better off without Netflix. I certainly will save some money. And the time I don’t spend staring at the idiot box is time better spent reading or writing or even doing crossword puzzles. Stuff that might actually improve my brain instead of sedating it.

23 thoughts on “Why I Canceled My Netflix Account

  1. Maria,
    I’m really close to the end of my rope on this as well. The sad thing is their service will only get worse with talk of them expanding into Europe and Asia.

    Good rant!

    • The story makes me sound like I’m irrational, but I get that way when I’m pushed. Sure, I could have just told them my name and gotten on with it, but why bother? They really don’t care, they probably wouldn’t do anything to improve the situation — i.e., stop the bad discs from coming — and I’d still feel used at the end of the conversation. Netflix needs to understand that its days are numbered anyway; there are better alternatives for streaming that’ll only get better (and cheaper) as time goes on. Pissing off niche customers isn’t the way to stay in business; someday, they might be the only customers left.

  2. OMG (oops!), you don’t sound irrational AT ALL! We’ve almost had it up to here with Netflix as well. We haven’t had the problem with defective discs that you describe, but their streaming has gone to the dogs while they have the nerve to raise their prices?!?!? Believe me, we sympathize! Take care.

  3. The situation you are in is unique as far as your environment. A small percentage Netflix is happy to ignore- don’t expect a lot of help. I have never tried their customer service, but always assumed it would be terrible since everything can be via web. I’m not paying what amounts to double the cost in an 8 month period. They promote how great using a gaming system is for downloading, yet the movies pause constantly due to poor quality download buffers. My wireless has a high speed router and I don’t have problems elsewhere. If you think damaged discs and commercials are bad- wait until you have to restart a movie 7-8 times before it’s completed.

    • I think it was the scratched disks — too many in one month! — that put me in the mood I was in when I called customer service. Their stupidity really pissed me off and was the last straw.

  4. The agents who answer common customer service calls will ask you every time to verify your name. They should have explained this to you on the call. While you did enter a 6 digit code and pulled up your account on their side, it does not always. There is a reason why they “verify”. Emagine the system pulls up an account under your name from a different person and they add charges to your account? At the end of the day both sides need to cool down and go on. The issues of the past are past and now it should be about making it better, but if a person asks you what your name is to help, it should not be an issue that gets so big as to be discussed on the internet. Customer service is the same on all companies, PERIOD. You might have a person for a great company having a bad day or you could have an exceptional person answer for a truly horrible company help each and every person. Honestly I truly believe you might have anger issues.

    • Sorry, but I don’t buy it. If the code did not bring up my account, then why do they need me to “verify” it? They’d need me to provide information to bring it up. And they could just as easily have asked if my name was Maria to verify it. I would have answered that question.

      The point is, I’m tried of responding to unnecessary machine-generated questions. It’s just another layer of bullshit between the company providing the “service” and the customer. I have had similar conversations with other companies. Their staff was smart enough and well trained enough to skip the bullshit when dealing with an irate customer. Netflix isn’t. They lost a customer.

      If you’re wiling to play the games and jump through the hoops thrown your way when trying to get customer service, that’s great. But there comes a point when I’m just plain sick of it and refuse. I’m the one paying, I have the right to call bullshit when I’ve had enough. And I did.

    • Its easy Mary, just as you closed on him by not telling him your name, He closed on you by insisting on it. You said you’re not going to play their game, but what you did was to create a new one that is almost exactly like theirs. Neither side benefited at all from the call, but the supervisor that made a joke on you clearly had a good laugh out of it.

    • You think he laughed? I don’t see what was funny about it. He lost a customer for Netflix. But obviously, Netflix doesn’t care much about customer retention. They lost nearly ONE MILLION customers over the past 6 months. I’m just wondering why it took me so long to realize what poor service I was getting.

  5. We’ve noticed a large number of damaged discs from Netflix in the last year. It became such a big problem for awhile that we bought a new DVD player in case our machine was the problem. It wasn’t.

    We’ve been Netflix customers from their beginning and we’ve always been really happy with their customer service, except for awhile in their earlier days when I couldn’t find a way to contact them in person, but then they changed that.

    We’ve noticed since we complained about the damaged discs we’ve received far fewer. I’ve been wondering, though, if they aren’t phasing out DVDs gradually because the quality of the discs are allowed to degrade so much and the list of titles waiting to be replaced in their library of choices has grown much longer than they used to let it grow.

    I had a moment like that with Cox cable company when we lived in Tempe. I was in their store for some reason and I asked a question about one of their charges. The customer service rep behind the counter kept giving me some lame answer like I was stupid and I snapped. I removed everything but the $10.00 a month basic cable and kept it that way until we moved, much to my husband’s dissatisfaction, but I’d had enough. We went from an almost $100.00 a month cable bill to $10.00.

    Our mail order pharmaceutical company was so incompetent, and then rude and disingenuous on the phone when they made major mistakes, and kept making the same mistake over and over, including not being able to correct my phone number in their computer system after multiple calls to them in the space of a year, that I snapped with them too and stopped using them altogether. I pay more and go to my local pharmacy where people have to look me in the eye when they talk to me.

    I know what you mean about all the b*** s*** questions customers are put through whenever we call about anything. It annoys the hell out of me that I am required to type in all of my information or input it into a phone, only to be asked for the exact same information again once I’ve reached a human on the phone or online. I can’t think of a business or financial institution I conduct business with that doesn’t do that. After rattling off long member numbers on the phone or punching them in, once a person answers, they ask me for it again! And too many websites force us to search for contact information on top of it!

    Bank of America has the “live” online customer service, which I prefer because I detest going through the long phone calls, but not once have they ever actually helped me with anything when I’ve used it. Every single time, they’ve just given me a phone number to call to “discuss it,” even when it was something simple. I finally asked they why they even bother to have the service since they don’t really use it for customer service.

    Like you, I’m also sick of being treated like I’m stupid. I’ve even had a cell phone company tell me they couldn’t process a payment online unless I gave them the last four digits of my social security number. I was paying for prepaid minutes. They didn’t have my social security number, and if they did, they had it illegally because I never gave it to them. I went round and round with them over that one, because I won’t give my social security number, or even part of it, to any company that I’m not legally required to give it to.

    And I’m sick of pharmacies and physicians offices telling me they are required by law to scan my driver’s license and input my driver’s license number in their computers when it isn’t true. They are required to see a photo I.D. They may have a photo of us in their computer, but it does not have to be a driver’s license photo and they are not required to have our driver’s license numbers. Yet, I’m told they are both legal requirements every time I challenge the store pharmacies’ and medical clinics’ policies. Then there’s the physicians demanding social security numbers too, which I refuse to give them and tell them I’ll cancel my appointment and go elsewhere if they keep insisting on it.

    You’re right. Big corporations don’t care about us. These days customer service amounts to not much more than phone numbers and/or email addresses and/or snail mail addresses for contact, but no actual service once we contact them. They put all the costs of doing business on our back, both emotionally and financially.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who gets fed up enough to take my business elsewhere when customer service is so bad. If more of us did it — and if more of us insisted on speaking to US-based customer service representatives — we’d all benefit from changes forced through the system by organizations interested in keeping us as customers.

  6. A six digit number isn’t exactly the same as your entire credit card number plus your zipcode or last 4 ss#. The 6 digits I got the other day were as basic as 333-000. It would be pretty easy for people to just start calling up with random numbers and phishing for customer information this way, they talk to the rep and after awhile con the rep into giving up some of the information on the screen, or into changing the email address on your account, thus making it very easy to reset the password, deliver some DVD’s to some address and steal them, among other things. It’s called social engineering and some people are really good at it. Companies are pretty touchy about privacy because you would be just as pissed off if someone discovered information about you or conned someone into doing something with your account because customer service policies didn’t keep customer info safe.

    • David: You need to re-read the post. It is not possible for me to have contacted them with a RANDOM six-digit number. The number I provided was unique, and just for that call. It should have provided enough identification information; anyone who had that number would also have ALL my account information because they’d HAVE to be logged into my account — that’s where the number came from. It was just another layer of bullshit.

    • I do realize though, you could have randomly made up a number and hoped it connected you with a valid account. Then when they ask, “Is this Such-and-such?” you just say yes and then you’re in: you can change around the account or whatever other things people do with other’s information.

      I don’t think it was unreasonable at all to ask for your name, but perhaps they could have explained better why they needed your name. Of course, the odds are insane that randomly guessing numbers on the phone would actually get a person anywhere, and someone could much easier just hack an account online. But I guess I see their logic behind the decision and the customer service reps could get in trouble for not following through with policies.

      I do agree though, that customer service has been degrading into useless number-punching for computers and circular conversations with people who don’t speak English. I really wish that customer service was tailored to actually help the customers and not the companies, which is not the case with most companies, it seems.

      I never had a problem with the Netflix service, but I did cancel my membership when they raised the price and halfed my services.

    • I do agree though, that customer service has been degrading into useless number-punching for computers and circular conversations with people who don’t speak English. I really wish that customer service was tailored to actually help the customers and not the companies, which is not the case with most companies, it seems.

      This zeroes in on the problem. I’m sick of talking to mindless drones when I have something to say.

  7. Check out what just happened to me.! After being a long time (since 2004) customer of Netflix, they apparently got upset with me and canned me as a customer! What gives? I mailed them back the 6 discs I had about a week ago. Netflix never received them, so I reported them as missing. I never heard anything back from Netflix. Then, I tried to log in to my account. I got a message telling me that my request could not be completed. So, I phoned the customer service number. I told the customer service rep what was happening, so he put me on hold. He returned to the phone a few minutes later and informed me that as of today, I was no longer a customer of Netflix. I was just stunned to say the least. The *** then went on to tell me that the decision had been made by the company, not me. The reason for their decision was that I had lost too many of their discs. I didn’t lose ANYTHING, I sent them back like I was SUPPOSED to do. The f’n post office lost them. They said they understood, but once a customer reports too many as lost, then it raises flags, or some kind of crap, and they have to take action. So, they “fired” me as a customer. Now, my question is, how do I make Netflix regret this. I don’t mean doing anything drastic, but I want my story to go public, letting people know what kind of company Netflix is. Blaming me instead of looking into the post office, which is the party responsible for losing the discs. Not to mention, the insinuation that I am a thief! I mean, WHAT THE *&%%!!!! I’m so angry right now, I can’t see straight. After 7 and a half years of loyal service, these jerks terminate my account. What type of company just up and terminates a loyal customer’s account?

  8. Scratched disks are one thing, but this drama over a painlessly simple account verification was kind of silly, for two reasons:

    1) If they have a policy of verifying your name, then the support agent needs to ask for it, regardless of whether you think it’s stupid. You just can’t bully a customer service agent into violating policy.

    2) They actually DO need to confirm your name. Netflix has over 20 million subscribers, with potentially hundreds of thousands of users online all at once. 6 random digits could easily produce a valid code. They need to make sure you did not enter a type-o or just mash the keypad.

    • You (like the customer service representative and his supervisor) are missing the point.

      I DID verify my identity through the use of a special code that only I had access to. How many times do I need to verify my identity in one phone call? And why can’t I make a complaint about scratched and broken discs without being subjected to the third degree?

      Netflix has terrible customer service and is now overpriced for the service it offers. Is it no wonder they’ve lost thousands of subscribers in the past six months?

      The good thing about all this: I no longer have to deal with it.

  9. You did not *legally* identify yourself by typing in that code.

    Every customer care phone service states “All calls are recorded ‘for quality an training purposes'” — this is a lie as the real reason is they record the call, especially where you as you state “I am person x” so they are legally protected that they did verify your identity. Sure, you could lie, but you saying you are person x protects them from litigation that they did not attempt to properly identify you, if it ever came to that.

    • I know there’s some vital reason why you felt it necessary to tell me this. I just can’t for the life of me figure out what it is.

      I’ll say it again: I typed in a code that was generated on the spot for my account FROM my account to be used within a short period of time. How else could it be anyone but me? If they’re going to ask me to verify my identity, don’t waste my freaking time by making me type in a code.

      That’s not customer service. That’s making customers jump through hoops for no reason other than to piss them off and waste their time. And THAT’S why I cancelled my account. I’m sick of getting jerked around.

  10. Maria,

    Simply guessing random character is a way lots of “hacking” occurs. Not all hackers are computer geniuses – and being one doesn’t always allow someone trying to take advantage of you to do as they wish.

    Social engineering and straight-up guessing play a role in lots of hacking. Just because you had received this code doesn’t mean someone could not have just guessed the digits you provided.

    More dangerous than that, though, would be if someone fraudulently accessed your account. By requiring the hacker to say “I am X,” they are providing a way of making sure they can prosecute people who target their customers – in addition to the obvious fact of covering their own rears. This actually protects you, also, not just them.

    Obviously it doesn’t sound like they exactly tried to be friendly, but the simple request of name verification was hardly unreasonable – it was for both your safety and theirs.

    • You know what I’d like? I’d like someone to actually READ WHAT I WROTE IN THE POST and see that “hacking” my account or “impersonating” me WAS NOT POSSIBLE in the circumstances. The Customer service person was reading a script, making a complete BULLSHIT request. Only I could have been on the phone. Don’t believe me? Read it again and figure out how someone else could have been on the phone under the circumstances I reported.

      Jeez, people. STOP LECTURING ME. I’m not an idiot.

      And, for Pete’s sake, stop commenting on posts you don’t fully read or understand. You’re just wasting your time and mine.

What do you think?