When you sign up for an unlimited service or product, you expect to get exactly that. Is Netflix deceptively or falsely advertising a promise of "unlimited rentals" while knowingly and deliberately placing limits? I have reason to believe not. After researching and writing this blog for the past 10 months, I have not seen data or evidence of any systematic slowdown of service that cannot be explained by other factors, by understanding the nature of the online DVD business, the USPS, the laws of supply and demand, and the nature of information available on the Web. I do not rely on the unverifiable, anecdotal complaints by individuals on newsgroups or blogs, when it is not backed up by data.
Although there is plenty of information on my blog about how Netflix operates, here is a brief overview of the process: when you return a movie, Netflix scans it in as soon as they receive it. If your local distribution center has the next movie in your queue, you get a message that it is "shipping today". If they don't have it, the system will search for the disc at the next closest DC until it finds one in stock.
After the length of time it takes for all DCs around the country to scan in their discs, report this data to Netflix headquarters in San Jose, CA and process your request, your disc is prioritized according to factors such as these: is the disc number one in your queue? How long has it been in the number one position? How many other people have it in their number one slot? Is your number two disc available? How many "number ones" have you received lately?
It is conceivable that they occasionally receive more discs than they can possibly scan in one day, due to machine problems, unexpected fluctuations in usage, or staffing shortages. Tuesday is their busiest day, because most people return their discs on Monday, after the weekend. Seasonal or regional fluctuations in the number of subscribers cause each DC to experience delays as they adjust.
Netflix is not responsible for delays caused by the US Postal Service. The distance of the DC will determine shipping times. There's also employee or mail negligence or theft. If you experience this, you should report the loss to your Postmaster.
Netflix has more than 30,000 titles and more than 16 million DVDs total. On average, Netflix ships more than 3 million DVDs per week. When you're dealing with that volume, it is inevitable that some customers will be unhappy. Customer "churn", that is the number of customers who join, versus the number who leave, is less than 5% most of the time.
They estimate that 85% of us receive our discs the next day. That means 300,000 people are getting their discs two, three, or four days later.
I believe it is an unavoidable result of Netflix being a Web-based business, and the viral nature of the Web, such that one complaint can reach 100,000 people in one day, that problems seem much larger and more widespread, than they really are. Netflix is providing such a good service to so many people, that the vociferous minority is not as big as it seems.
If you continue to believe that you are being singled out for extraordinarily bad service, or that Netflix is deceptive in their practices, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or your State's Attorney General. However, if you keep it all in perspective--the nature of the business, the factors outside anyone's control, and the nature of information on the Web--you will conclude that Netflix is not deliberately placing limits on your rentals, and is the best, most reliable, and most economical online DVD delivery service.