Monday, February 27, 2006

Lawsuit a waste of time and money

Anita Ramasastry, an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle , analyzes the Netflix lawsuit and concludes it was the wrong way to go about correcting the problem:
Since the cost of the suit, and the settlement, may only lead to higher prices for subscribers, one is forced to ask if the game was worth the candle. Perhaps a complaint to a state Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission would have been preferable. Such a complaint might have resulted in a quick court injunction forcing Netflix to disclose its true practices in its Terms and Conditions - thus avoiding a huge expenditure in attorneys' fees.

One thing is for sure: The suit didn't put a stop to throttling. Netflix is still doing it - and so is Blockbuster, which now also offers a rent by mail service for DVDs. The difference is that now, both are doing it openly.

Netflix adds "Buy DVDs" tab

Hacking NetFlix noticed that Netflix Promotes "Buy DVDs" with a new tab on the home page, to the right of the queue tab. I noticed it, too, when clicked on it by mistake.

New Netflix blogger on the scene

netflix - netflix? is a new blog which sees Netflix as "The dark evil giant with the deliciously good white creamy center."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Austin, TX Netflix mail theft inspires ingenius solution by Netflix fan blogger

Inspired by the comments on this Hacking Netflix story about more mail theft of Netflix discs in Austin, TX, I decided to put my considerable brainage to work on the problem. I know some of you have been burned by Netflix discs being stolen by US Postal Service workers, and your account being put on hold as a result, etc.

I think Netflix should start their own mail delivery service, like the United States Postal Service, only for Netflix exclusively. Netflix can call it the NDS. The delivery personnel will drive little red cars and wear little red uniforms. The NDS won't be unionized, so they can instantly fire anyone who steals. NDS will use independent contractors, so they won't have to offer benefits. When Netflix switches over to video-on-demand, they can "downsize" them.

What do you think?

Netflix art

Originally uploaded by kate*.
I love this drawing of a Netflix sleeve. Please, if you have done any other Netflix art, point me to it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Looking for Netflix Friends?

Thanks to having this blog, I have dozens of Netflix Friends who send me recommendations, whose "two cents" I can see, and who challenge me to expand my taste a little.

If you would like to try the Netflix Friends feature, but you do not know anyone who has Netflix, leave your email address in the comments, but replace the @ with "at" and the "." with "dot," so that robots won't spam you.

If you are already my Netflix Friend, be advised that I am saving up your recommendations for a time when I am no longer working on the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

Netflix Settlement Update

Hacking NetFlix is reporting that is reporting that Netflix has agreed to modify the terms of the class action lawsuit settlement so that subscribers who join the settlement class will not be automatically charged for the higher subscription plan after the one month is over.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Netflix works on holidays even though the USPS doesn't deliver

A Netflix fan reader wrote me with an interesting theory. The idea is that if Netflix has a mail drop near a USPS "sectional center facility," then they will process mail on holidays and weekends. I think that this is partly true. I believe it works this way: every morning, Netflix brings an empty truck to the USPS and exchanges it for a full truck which the UPSPS filled up the night before, so even on holidays, Netflix can pick up a full truck and process it. Each evening, Netflix drops off the full truck of outgoing mail at the USPS distribution center, and the USPS works through the night, so that it is ready to be delivered to your home the next day.

This reader thinks that, if you live near an SCF, your Netflix discs are processed faster than if you do not. I have posted the list of Netflix distribution centers with the nearby sectional center facilities indicated, if you would like to test this theory.

Google Netflix module

Blake Schwendiman has created a Netflix module for your Google homepage, which uses the Netflix RSS feed to display your queue.
For more information and configuration instructions, click here.

Don't have a Netflix account? Sign up here [He's a Netflix affiliate, so this link will make money for him]. It's worth it for more than just my cool module!

If you would like to install this module onto your Google Homepage, you can do it, by going to the Add Content link on your Google Homepage, then go to Create a Section and enter the following URL:
Fine print: If you use this, you'll be making your queue vulnerable to Blake, so that if he were a rascal, he could make changes to it. However, he would not have access to your account details.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another viewing milestone: 704 out of 1001

I have seen 704 of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. My goal is to see all of them, but that may be impossible, since there are about 75 titles on the list which are either out of print, never released to home video, or never released to theatres.

When I started my quest, in May 2004, I had seen about 200. Of the 504 I've seen since then, 340 came from Netflix. I now have 219 movies in my Netflix queue, all of which are on the list of 1001. Eight of them are in the saved section, because they are "release date unknown."

I am using the 2002 edition of the book, which is out of print, but you can buy it used, or find the 2004 edition, which has a few different titles on the list.

You can see the list of Films I've Seen of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die on Listology.

The last time I posted a milestone from this book was October 13, so it has taken me four months to see 100 films on the list.

PodFlix Interviews Hacking Netflix

My buddy Mike, who writes Hacking NetFlix has been interviewed by the guys who do the PodFlix podcast, in which they discuss "Netflix, Hacking Netflix, throttling, movies, trivia, and much more."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Third Netflix distribution center opens in North Carolina

Netflix has apparently created a new distribution center/mail drop in Fayetteville, NC, which makes the third one in the state, and the second one discovered in the last month. If North Carolina has three, then other states must be getting more, too. Amazing!

How they know what you like before you do

"Customers have contributed more than 1 billion ratings on the Netflix website, says communications director Steve Swasey, adding that 60 percent of movies rented by its 4.2 million members are based on computer-generated recommendations. Those curious about what films are most popular can check out the Netflix Top 100, or they can enter their ZIP Code and find out what's hot in their neighborhood.

Community-driven Netflix recommendations are useful, says Mike Kaltschnee, who publishes a Web log,, which is supported partly by Netflix and Blockbuster ads. Mr. Kaltschnee, who lives in Danbury, Conn., says he sees friends dropping red Netflix envelopes into the mail, and conversations about what people are watching start there, and then move online. "It's sort of turned into a little club," he says."
Read more about how recommendations work in the Christian Science Monitor and Akimbo Systems Marry Online DVD Rentals with Internet-Delivered Video-on-Demand

This is the first I've heard of an online DVD rental company using a set-top box to deliver internet video on demand.
Via CNW Group:
"OTTAWA, Feb. 14 /CNW Telbec/ -, Canada's leading online video service, and Akimbo(TM) Systems, the first Internet-delivered video-on-demand service for television, have reached an agreement for to bring Akimbo's broad library of content to thousands of members through Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005."

Netflix as a substitute for TV watching

If it's true, as Nielson Media reports, that Americans watch an average of 4.5 hours of television per day, then my Netflix habit is within normal parameters.

I do not watch cable, DVR, satellite, or broadcast television. I use my television to watch nothing but movies on VHS or DVD.

Since January 1, 2006, I have watched 77 movies from all sources, including 24 from Netflix and 13 in theatres. Today is the 51st day of the year. If each film averaged 1.5-2.0 hours in length, then I watched an average of 2.5-3.0 hours of movies per day. So I spent less time on Netflix rentals than the average person spent in front of regular TV.

Inspired by My Netflix Journal-February 19, 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Being online means being on your own

Netflix isn't the only online business with hard-to-reach customer service people:

With the convenience of e-commerce comes a trade-off: lack of personal customer service.

Phone numbers are sometimes hard to find, if they are there at all. E-mail queries often are answered by anonymous customer service representatives writing from "Do Not Reply" addresses.

"Our community has 181 million people," eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said. "A community that size requires efficiency, and because 99 percent of customer support is handled between the buyer and seller, our basic level of customer support is Internet-based."

It's not just eBay. Popular Web-based businesses such as and Netflix prefer you to navigate the FAQs first and to e-mail -- not call -- as a last resort.

Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey says it's about cost-cutting:
"The assumption is that you're comfortable with the Internet and e-mail already," said Steve Swasey, communications director for the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

Swasey also suggested what some believe is another reason for decreased emphasis on live, phone-based customer service -- cost. Swasey said that rather than outsource call-center jobs overseas, where labor is cheaper, Netflix has cut its customer service staff in half, to fewer than 50, and directed more efforts to improving the company's Web-based support.

Getting in touch with Netflix requires
"At least four clicks to send an e-mail: Start by clicking the "Help" link and work your way through a series of questions. Look closely for the "e-mail" option. The customer service number, 1-888-NETFLIX, or (888) 638-3549, is nowhere to be found."

Read more at Newhouse news

"An Analysis of Netflix's DVD Allocation System" has been updated

An Analysis of Netflix's DVD Allocation System

Friday, February 17, 2006

Blogs are important to Netflix and other businesses

"Mike Kaltschnee's site,, became a force to be reckoned with for Netflix, a video-rental outfit that delivers to people's homes. When Netflix said it was not interested in Mr Kaltschnee passing on questions from consumers, he posted the exchange online, hurting the firm's reputation among loyal customers. The company now treats him much more respectfully and his site has gained a large following.

Increasingly, companies are learning that the best defence against these attacks is to take blogs seriously and fix rapidly whatever problems they turn up."


Netflix reviews on Judy's Book

Judy's Book is a site for finding local businesses, where you can get recommendations, share your experiences and create your own book of favorites. Seattle's Judy's Book already has a section for Netflix. Go to the Judy's Book for your area and leave your review of the Netflix service for your neighbors.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Getting to know your Netflix Fan hostess

Mike Hacking NetFlix, has tagged me with the Four Things meme. Since I'm a good sport, here goes:

Four jobs I've had:

Airport security screener
Daycare attendant
Fastfood cashier
Auto auction driver

Four movies I can watch over and over:

The Incredibles
Spiderman 2
Mary Poppins

Four TV shows I love to watch:

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Six Feet Under

Four places I've been on vacation:

Niagara Falls
Grand Canyon

Four favorite dishes:

Suave Chimichanga de carne
Chocolate ice cream
Southern fried chicken

Four Websites I visit daily:

Hacking Netflix
Hollywood Stock Exchange

Four places I'd rather be:

With my family in Massachusetts
With my family in Ohio
With my family in North Carolina
With my family in New York

Four bloggers I'm tagging:

David at
Blondechicke at
Chris at Chris lists
aaron at Opinionated Web

Netflix Greasemonkey Script

Jim at has invented a new Netflix Greasemonkey Script which allows you to reorder your Netflix queue automatically after changing a film's priority.

brrreeeport has nothing whatsoever to do with Netflix

But this Microsoft Geek Blogger recommends using the nonsense word brrreeeport in a post as a technique to get search engines to recognize your blog. This being the fourth day of the experiment, it won't make much of a difference to this blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

GoogleMap of all Netflix locations
Click on the image to see a larger version.
I'm sorry I do not have a record of who sent me this photo. If it was you, please comment.

World of film reviews changed by Internet

Via AZ Central
Two movie sites changing the relationship between moviegoers and critics are and, where a click brings you the best-reviewed movies in release. Recent Oscar nominees "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" have a "fresh" ranking of 92 percent and 94 percent, respectively, at RottenTomatoes. They get Metascores of 88 and 80, respectively, at the more streamlined Metacritic.

"Far more people are reading reviews on the Internet than they are in print," Paddison says. "This has a huge impact on cinephiles and any review-based demographic."
Read more

I recommend using and when deciding what films to add to your Netflix queue.

Singapore has a Netflix-clone

Video Ezy is an online DVD rental business for people who live in Singapore.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Netflix Settlement Gets Poor Reviews

"Steve Swasey, a spokesman for the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company, denied critics' claims that the practice [throttling] is meant to save Netflix shipping costs by coddling customers who don't fully make use of their subscriptions. The most popular plan is $17.99 a month to rent three movies at a time, with no late fees.

Swasey said, '100%-guaranteed customer exhilaration is very difficult for any high-volume consumer company.

'Netflix made the decision that if we had a shortage of DVDs that we would give them to lighter users. We are giving it to folks who have less alternatives for viewing.'"

Via Los Angeles Times:


Netflix fan Von recommends GatorPond, which is a DVD, Video and CD trading subscription service. For $19.95 per month, you get complete unlimited trading, and they supply the mailers. They appear to be in Oklahoma.

I've never used the service, so I can't vouch for it.

Netflix in your home theatre

Unintentional Advertisement
Originally uploaded by mella doll.
Flickr-user mella doll's mom has a sweet new home theatre setup. In taking a photo of it, she inadvertantly captured a Netflix advertisement.

Monday, February 13, 2006

New Netflix shipping centers in Massachusetts and Tennessee

Brockton, MA and Memphis, TN have new Netflix distribution centers or mail drops, according to addresses given to me by faithful readers.

Who are these people?

"A Netflix spokesperson said its Web site is one of the highest rated in the world and the people speaking out against its service are just a few who are extremely vocal.

Oftentimes, the people speaking out are Netflix users who continue to use the service, but they are high-volume renters. One is from Michigan and rents about 20 DVDs each month."

Via WCCO-TV in Minnesota. Includes video of a Netflix distribution center

Report mail theft ASAP

New York Magazine has a brief article about mail theft.
In June, after two months of customer complaints, inspectors arrested Daniella Garofalo, a Midwood, Brooklyn, mail carrier, for stealing DVDs from Netflix envelopes on her route. The inspector addressed an envelope to a fictitious address and equipped it with an electronic tracking device. An alarm sounded when Garofalo opened the envelope. Inspectors have rounded up thieves in Detroit, San Diego, and Lyons, Colorado—where a carrier stole 503 discs before capture. Because civil-service rules make it nearly impossible to fire corrupt mail carriers, U.S. attorneys often agree to dismiss charges in exchange for their quitting.

Via Hacking NetFlix

Manuel Villanueva gives Netflix priceless PR boost

Netflix fan and longtime subscriber Manuel Villanueva, who blogs his Netflix experience on his "Netflix Journal," was recently interviewed by the Associated Press, and his local ABC TV station. The story has been picked up by newspapers all over the country.

Manuel is Netflix's Number One fan. He's been a member continuously since August 2003. As of February 3, 2006, he has rented 713 from Netflix, with a 3.5% failure rate, and 194 from Blockbuster, with a 4.6% failure rate.

Way to go, Manuel!

Netflix fan's SIMPLE solution to the problem of Netflix "throttling"


Friday, February 10, 2006

Observations and insights from the KFMB video

In the KFMB video about Netflix, I noticed they made an error in the reporting. The reporter says that the machine that process 17,000 pieces per hour is "stamping" the envelopes, but that can't be, because the envelopes are all pre-printed with a prepaid permit.

The video also mentions some machines which were kept secret, and not permitted to be videotaped. I think I know what those machines do. They scan the envelopes through the little slot in the back which reveals the disc's barcode. Once the machine knows which title is inside, it knows which subscriber to send it to, and prints the name and address on the envelope.

Regarding "notes to Netflix": If you watched the video closely, you saw how quickly those people were processing the discs. Do you think it's possible they would even notice a note, or want to read it? If they are paid per piece, on a production basis, then a note on the sleeve would be an unwelcome obstacle.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Netflix sends frequent renters to the back of DVD line

Manuel Villanueva realizes he has been getting a pretty good deal since he signed up for Netflix Inc.'s online DVD rental service 2.5 years ago, but he still feels shortchanged.

That's because the $17.99 monthly fee that he pays to rent up to three DVDs at a time would amount to an even bigger bargain if the company didn't penalize him for returning his movies so quickly.

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Mich. -- down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.

The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.
Read more

Inside Netflix Distribution Center in Santa Ana, with video!

KFMB CBS News 8 went to the Santa Ana, CA distribution center this week and captured some of the Netflix sorting, shipping, and handling process on video, featuring Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey.
It begins every morning, five days a week, when the USPS drops off anywhere from 150,000 to 175,000 returned DVDs.

“Our associates here, about 85 of them, rip open the envelope and pull the DVD out. They do it a lot faster that I can. Their hands really fly,” Swasey said.

See the video or read the transcript.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Blockbuster's split personality

Why is Blockbuster online trying to get its online customers to convert to in-store customers?

I was reading this Motley Fool commentary on Blockbuster's new one-per-week e-coupons, when I learned of another downside to the deal. You get only one per week. You do not get the whole month to use them. If you miss a week, then that coupon is gone forever. To get your full value out of them, you have to drive to a Blockbuster Video store every week, with only one coupon. I'm not wasting a trip to the store for only one movie. They must be hoping I'll spend money at the store, perhaps rent an additional full-price title, or buy some candy.

I love the convenience of having movies come in the mail. Why would I want to make four trips to the store each month?

Now's a great time to see the Oscar-nominated films

In the month between the Oscar nominations and the Academy Awards show, there is continuous publicity for all nominated films from the studios and press alike, which is great advertising for the DVDs if they're available," Virgin buyer Chris Anstey said. "After the awards ceremony, most of the momentum has already passed. The films that didn't win are suddenly not as relevant to many consumers."

Many people also want to brush up on nominated films before the Oscars are unveiled but don't necessarily want to invest in a purchase.

"When a DVD is available before the Oscars, there is an extra incentive for people to rent them," said Tom Paine, owner of six-store Seattle chain DVD Now. "People want to judge for themselves."

The Academy Awards will be telecast on March 5 on ABC.

Via DVD Exclusive Online

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Feel So Used

You know I'm on a quest to see all of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. There are still several I haven't seen which aren't available through Netflix. In fact, I've learned that some titles have never even been released on video in any format. I'm on a scavenger hunt to find these videos anywhere, using eBay,Amazon, Facets Multimedia, Nicheflix a la carte, etc.

My friend Jim, creator of Listology, has made a tool which is helping me track these titles on Amazon. It's called I Feel So Used: Tracking Used Amazon Products. I enter the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) for each product I'm seeking, and his Web site keeps track of the price as it changes. As soon as it falls to where I can afford it, I click through and add it to my shopping cart, and Jim makes a little money. Smiles all around.

It's like Netflix, only from Blockbuster

When Netflix started out, one of their biggest challenges was explaining to people how it works. They spent alot of marketing dollars on that, since it's kinda more complicated than going to a videostore to rent something. They relied on word of mouth, because a) it's free, and b) customers are better at explaining how it works to their friends and family.

Well, Rags thinks it will be their downfall. Now that Netflix has educated the public, Blockbuster Online doesn't have to spend any money explaining how it works to their customers. They can emphasize the in-store coupons, which is something Netflix can't compete with. All they have to say is "it's like Netflix, only from Blockbuster" and "you get four free rentals per month for $18." So Netflix spends all this money on marketing their product, and Blockbuster Online reaps the rewards.

Via the un TechBlog

Sunnyvale wins The Golden Groundhog Awards

Sunnyvale wins The Golden Groundhog Award of 2006.

In honor of the first Golden Groundhog Awards, the William Shatner DVD Club is giving away two Free DVDs to anyone who signs up for a 30-Day Free Trial between Groundhog’s Day and Valentine’s Day. You won’t find any mention of this underground offer on the site, but if you join by February 14th you’ll automatically get two Free DVDs sent to you when you join instead of one. To learn more about the underground movies offered by William Shatner’s Sci-Fi DVD club, or to sign up today, visit

Disclosure: I'm a member of the William Shatner DVD club. I've received two movies from them so far. Ginger Snaps is worth a look, and the Wolves of Wall Street is dreadful. Click on the links to add them to your Netflix queue. Sunnyvale is not available from Netflix, yet.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Netflix wrapping paper

netflix wrapper
Originally uploaded by saracress.
What to do with all those Netflix flaps you've fanatically saved up? Flickr-user and Netflix subscriber SaraCress uses her sense of humor to show her Netflix love and reduce waste all at the same time.

New Netflix distribution centers in North Carolina and Mississippi

Thanks to the fine folks who are commenting on my post listing the Netflix distribution centers, we have discovered a couple of new ones. There is now a Netflix distribution center and/or mail drop in Raleigh, NC and Jackson, MS. One Netflix fan reader writes:
Hey, Becky, I just got "Equilibrium" from a new DC in Jackson, MS. Never seen that one before. It actually arrived in 1 day whereas the ones from the Baton Rouge DC (10 miles across town) take 2 days!

Damaged disc bypasses Netflix subscriber completely

Netflix fan Bullwinkle wrote to me:
I just got an email from Netflix about a disc being damaged in transit. I never received the disc and obviously didnt report it damaged. The best I can figure is that there was a USPS problem and the disc was returned to Netflix. The quoted text from the email is below.

We wanted to let you know that CORPSE BRIDE was damaged in transit. We have reshipped this movie and it should arrive on 03-FEB-06. Please accept our apologies for any invonvenience that this may have caused.

-The Netflix Team

Has this happened to you?

I have never seen that happen before. I thought the USPS delivered whatever was left of it, no matter how badly they mangled it. This one must have been in pretty bad shape.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Blockbuster offers me more in-store coupons, conditionally

I received an email from Blockbuster Online yesterday, notifying me that if I would only upgrade from my current plan, I could get additional in-store coupons. Instead of the two per month I now receive, I could have one per week. My current plan is the 3-out at $14.99 per month, which is no longer being offered. For only $3 extra, I could get two more in-store rentals per month. Is it worth it?

I don't think so. Even with the two coupons I now receive, I have a hard time using them. I can't stand going to Blockbuster Video. The selection is poor. I have to browse for hours to find something to watch, or bring a list. I return things late every time. Half the time, the coupons are wasted because I forget to use them. I do not want to spend $3 on coupons I'll feel obligated to use.

This is just a tactic to get online subscribers to spend more money for the exact same service.

Disclosure: I am on the 3-out plan with Netflix at $17.99, the 3-out plan with Blockbuster Online at $14.99, and I use Nicheflix a la carte and Video Library.

Microcinema International has Netflix as a client

Microcinema International is a distributor of "the world's most innovative Moving Image Artists and DVD labels." They distribute films on the Blackchair DVD label.

I got an email from Joel at Microcinema, and he says "we sell all of our titles to Netflix! the thing is we sell pretty arty and obscure titles but Netflix are great supporters of ours!"

If you want to buy an "arty and obscure" title which you've rented from Netflix, see if Microcinema has it.

Greencine is also on the Microcinema client list.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm not a Bzzagent

BzzAgent is a new advertising gimmick which tries to generate open, honest word of mouth about products, by rewarding BzzAgents with points for trying new products and sharing opinions with family, friends, and acquaintances. Anyone can become a BzzAgent.

I looked into it at first because I thought maybe Netflix was using it, or I could use it, but I decided not to sign up. Netflix isn't one of their clients, as far as I can tell. I guess they are already getting enough free word of mouth, without having to pay extra for it. Reading through their forum, I found three BzzAgents who are "bzzing" Netflix for free.

You can learn more about it at Intro to BzzAgent: BzzAgent 101 This is cute: their blog is called the Beelog.

USPS experiences service problems in New Mexico

Via New West
Eric Mack says:
With the U.S. Postal Service in disarray across New Mexico, I’m having a really hard time getting my Netflix in a timely fashion and have been forced to seek my entertainment from less likely sources.


Originally uploaded by bre.
Bre aint gettin' any satisfaction.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I'm getting behind

I watched only 45 feature-length movies in January. I'm getting way behind on my goal to average two per day in 2006. To see if I could catch up, I took my personal DVD player to the laundromat last night.

Turns out, the tiny screen of a portable player is lousy for watching good films. I do not recommend it. What I ended up watching was 1.5 hours of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 4 on DVD, using my Blockbuster Online in-store coupons. I know it's not on my list of must-see movies, but the sitcom format doesn't lose anything on the small screen.