Friday, March 31, 2006

Scratched and damaged DVDs

When I first joined Netflix two years ago, I discovered that many of my rentals wouldn't play on my 4-year-old Mintek DVD player. I found a new DVD player at Sam's Club for $89, with progressive scanning, and it did the trick. I experience very few DVDs that are so damaged they won't play. In fact, I've reported only 3 damaged in the last three months. I average about 15 rentals per month from Netflix.

However, Netflix ships millions of DVDs each day to millions of people. It is inevitable that some of them will be worn out. The "life-expectancy" of a typical rental DVD is only about 20 rentals, and then it must be replaced.

I'm assuming you're using their Web site to report damaged DVDs every time it happens. They will send you a replacement DVD right away. However, calling customer service about damaged DVDs won't do any good. The best and fastest way for them to find out a DVD is worn out is when customers tell them through their Web site. They've fixed it so that you can report a damaged DVD even after you've returned it and Netflix has received it. Their sophisticated tracking system will alert them the next time they have the disc, so they can either repair or replace it.

To report a damaged disc, go to your account, to the Rental Activity section, and click on Report Problem.

From the Netflix Help site:
"Q: I received a scratched, damaged, or unplayable DVD. What do I do?
A: If you have received a DVD title that is unplayable, try cleaning the disc first. (window cleaner on a paper towel works well.) If the disc is cracked, damaged, or still won't play, you can report it at the Rental Activity page in Your Account.

Please return the damaged disc, as many damaged discs can be repaired with our polishing machine. Also, for many titles, Netflix must account for, or pay the movie studio for lost discs; your return of the damaged disc is appreciated, and helps keep costs low for all our customers."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Netflix removes other features

As a result of recent design changes to the Netflix Web site, some Netflix Web site features have changed without notice. Netflix doesn't announce when they introduce subtle changes to their Web site, which is annoying, so when I get comments on this blog about "where's this or that feature," I feel like the last to know.

Based on comments here and on the Hacking Netflix blog, these are the changes users have observed:

As I blogged earlier, the Add to List button is gone, although you can still make custom lists. You just have to use a "hack." When you find a movie you want to add to a custom list, replace, in the URL, the words "moviedisplay" with "AddToList." Capitalization matters.

Replace with:

They've reduced the number of cast members they list, or link to, for each movie. This means you can't find every movie every actor was in, if he was not a main character.

You can no longer use the drag and drop method to reposition items in your queue.

Have you noticed any other changes?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Using eBay to buy Netflix

I have observed a few things about Netflix-related auctions on eBay which I need to share with you.

Netflix Gift Certificate auctions:

Beachhobbit tells me that she recently won the auction for the 12-month Netflix gift certificate I blogged about two weeks ago. Although the seller valued it at $120, it turned out to be for 12 months at the 3-out level, which is worth $216 + tax. Although this is a great bargain, Beachhobbit admits she took a gamble with this auction. Whenever you buy a gift certificate, there is no way the seller can guarantee that it is useable, because they have no way of knowing if the buyer is telling the truth if it doesn't work, and there's no way the buyer can prove the seller did anything wrong. The gift certificate code can be used only once, and there's no way to check who used it or when.

Netflix gift certificates expire after one year, so find out how old it is before you bid on it. You shouldn't have to pay shipping for a gift certificate, because the seller can email you the code.

Netflix states in their terms and conditions for gift certificates, that although gift certificates are transferable, you should get a transfer code from the seller. Beachhobbit received no such code, so there was a chance the gift certificate code wouldn't work for her, although it did.

Other types of auctions:

There are frequently auctions on eBay for 2 Weeks Unlimited DVD Rentals at Netflix, which, in my view, is a complete scam, because anyone can sign up for a FREE two-week trial with Netflix any time, without going through an auction. You should never pay for a free Netflix trial. This type of thing is exploiting the ignorant, and a violation of eBay's terms of service.

You must also be careful when buying merchandise with the Netflix logo on it. Anyone can copy the logo and make a product to sell it, whether it's officially licensed or not. It's just a matter of time before they get caught. If you're a real Netflix fan, you don't want to buy bootleg Netflix stuff.

I've been using eBay to buy rare, out of print movies on DVD and VHS, frequently from sellers in other countries, so I think eBay is a great source, but I've learned to be cautious.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Support the AIVF

As a Netflix fan and subscriber, I am a huge supporter of independent film and filmmakers. As such, I want to ask you to support the AIVF, which is the Association of independent video and filmmakers. They publish The Indpendent Film & Video Monthly and the SPLICE! e-zine. They are experiencing a financial crisis which is threatening their existence. You can support them by donating online, signing up new members, or spreading the word.

Want to start your own Netflix?

VNH Systems is an Australian company which will help you launch your own online rental business using the Netflix model.

"The Online DVD Rental industry is estimated to be worth over $1Billion!
Are you getting a slice of the action?
Generate new revenue by establishing an Online DVD Rental Business.
VNH Systems is helping companies all over the world to increase profits by launching online rental systems. "

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Netflix graffiti!

Originally uploaded by dubsyuhs.
I love Netflix art, and this is a terrific example of "postal graffiti" on a Netflix envelope, which I found on Flickr. Before this, I didn't even know there was such a thing as "postal graffiti."

More, please :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Star Wars Episode 3 Lining Up event--Netflix commemorative t-shirt sale

Auction ends March 22!

"From Netflix and the Grauman's Chinese Theatre 2005 Revenge of the Sith 7 week line up!
eBay: Star Wars Netflix Episode III Sith T-shirt & COIN! (item 7600615353 end time Mar-22-06 16:07:58 PST)
Netflix/ Episode III Exclusive Line Member T-Shirt!
This exclusive 3/4 sleeve t-shirt was only distributed to the hard core fans who lined up throughout the course of 7 weeks for Star Wars Revenge of the Sith outside the Grauman's Chinese Theatre! T-shirt bears Netflix logo on front, and logos and line members roster on back! Shirt is brand new, never worn, size XL!"
I have nothing whatsoever to do with the seller of this item.

Netflix has trouble policing advertising affiliates

Netflix has a strict policy of not affiliating with advertisers who install adware or spyware, but even with the best intentions, it is extremely difficult for them to control the actions of all their affiliates.

From Center for Democracy & Technology's report on "How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend"

Netflix is one example of a company we contacted that already had an advertising policy in place to address adware. Netflix expressed concern that its ads are appearing via 180solutions software since the Netflix policy explicitly prohibits the display of ads through any adware or spyware program. A Netflix representative investigated the situation and assured CDT that the example found was unique and random, and that the behavior that caused the ad to be served by 180solutions software had ceased. However, within hours of receiving this notification, CDT found three more examples of Netflix ads generated by adware programs. It is important to note that Netflix is one of the largest online advertisers that CDT contacted. To CDT, this illustrates the difficulty that large companies have in enforcing their policies given the current online advertising environment, and the complex web of relationships involved with placing ads. Some companies have instituted detailed auditing processes to address this concern, but more emphasis must be placed throughout the advertising industry on policing advertising networks and dealing only with trustworthy affiliates.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Greencine adds video sales

Via Video Business Online:

West Coast Netflix competitor Greencine "--which counts its subscribers in the tens of thousands, mostly on the West Coast--has opened five distribution centers across the country to handle its new sales business. The company’s film selection includes more than 80,000 mainstream and independent films, which it plans to price competitively with online competitors such as Amazon and mass merchants."

Follow-up to 3-day shipping

The movie that Netflix told me would arrive in three days, did exactly that, but it didn't come from San Jose like I expected. It came from Denver, Colorado.

However, even if it did come from San Jose, it doesn't have to mean throttling. Netflix has said that when a movie comes in, if it's not in anyone's queue, it goes back to San Jose, to storage, because the local distribution centers do not have storage facilities. It's possible that this happens to a small percentage of films. It's probably random. If you are digging deep into the Netflix catalog for your titles, it will happen to your films, too.

Netflix gives you your own personal Netflix store, made up of personalized recommendations, based on your own unique taste, so you can't expect every title to be on hand at your local distribution center all the time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Queue progress report

For the first time in two years, my Netflix queue has finally dropped below 200. It was at 500 at one time, which was the limit then. Now, with Profiles (sm), you can have as many as 1500 in your queue, with 500 under each of three profiles.

Technically, my Netflix queue is at 206, but seven of the titles are in the saved section, with "release date unknown." Everything in my Netflix queue is from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I have seen 743 of the titles in the book. If I have 199 in my Netflix queue, that leaves 59 which I must obtain from other sources, unless they become available from Netflix. I feel like I'm on the home stretch.

I'm working my way through the list chronologically. Right now, I'm in the Seventies. At a rate of 20 per month, I will be done in a year, if I succeed.

I still subscribe to Blockbuster Online, but I am not using them for this project, unless they have a title Netflix doesn't have.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

3-day shipping!

I've never noticed this before. Netflix shipped Don't Look Now to me on Tuesday and gave it an estimated arrival date of Friday. I live in Greensboro, NC. My guess is that the disc is coming from San Jose, CA.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Personal milestone

I just rented my 400th movie from Netflix. I have been a member since January 2004, mostly on the 3-out plan, but I've also spent a few months on the 5-out and the 8-out. I rent between 13 and 20 titles per month, and I have never experienced "throttling."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Netflix on eBay

I have discovered two eBay auctions of interest to Netflix Fans. The first is a 1 - Year Netflix Gift certificate which the seller values at $120, but which the seller also describes as being for the the 3-out plan, which would make it valued at twice that amount. The seller won the gift certificate in an online sweepstakes. This auction ends March 14.

The other auction is for a Netflix t-shirt. I have not verified if this is an officially-licensed Netflix product. According to the photo, it has the old Netflix logo on it, which looks like this:. This auction ends March 18 and has a "buy it now" price of $8.99 + $5.99 for shipping from Alabama.

Netflix site re-design

Hacking Netflix noticed the New Netflix Site Design, with screencaps. I like it, because it emphasizes our interaction with the site more.

As a result of the new design, it looks like they've abandoned the "custom lists" feature. NocturnaLucid on Hacking Netflix noticed that the link to add a movie to your personal custom lists is gone, but you can still "hack" it by typing "AddToList" in the URL where it currently says "MovieDisplay." Nice.

CJ noticed the new Parents' "commonsense" information, to help you decide if a movie is appropriate for your family.

I love how Netflix is continuously improving their site and their service.

P.S. I want to thank Chris for emailing me about this.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reporter seeks Bay Area subscribers for interviews

I think I was contacted by the same reporter who contacted Mike at Hacking Netflix, about interviewing Netflix subscribers who live in the San Francisco/Northern California area, possibly for a story regarding the Netflix class action lawsuit. If you're interested, email me or Mike. I'm netflixfanatic at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I spy...a Netflix distribution center

I know the street address of the Netflix distribution center in Greensboro, NC. I have thought about going dumpster-diving there, or trying to get a photo or even trying to get a job there, but I have dismissed all of those ideas as being a little too creepy. I've never seen the place. I am not a spy, but I would love an invitation to visit sometime.

Therefore, it hurt my feelings when I read in the Greensboro News and Record that Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey apparently came to Greensboro for an interview at the Netflix distribution center here, and he didn't even look me up. Folks, that should prove to you I'm not a shill. A shill would get more respect.

According to the article, "the Netflix building is unmarked for security and competitive reasons, Swasey said, but "mainly, we don't want customers stopping by to drop off their DVDs."

The "security reasons" he's talking about are people like me, just curious, who might embarrass them or give away trade secrets by publishing details on a blog.

The other danger, of customers dropping off their DVDs there, is genuine. Think it through: if Netflix processes 30,000-50,000 DVDs per day, each one of those represents a person, in a car. Where would they park? What time would they arrive? If they all arrived within an hour or two, the traffic jam would shut down traffic for miles. If they arrived throughout the day, Netflix wouldn't be able to process until 5 PM, after all the discs had arrived, because they would have nothing to send out until everything had come in.

Imagine the traffic on a Saturday night after a Rolling Stones concert lets out. That's how many customers we're talking about. Do you know of any business that can handle that kind of traffic on a daily basis?

It's not about "throttling." It's just plain simple logistics. It really is better to let the USPS do the work.

And Steve, next time you're in town, let's do lunch :).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Netflix Causes Family Strife

Zatz says:
I’ve had The 40-Year-Old Virgin at the top of my queue for over two months, during which time Netflix has failed to deliver. I’ve even resorted to cheap tricks in hopes of improving my situation. Either Netflix is throttling the movies I get or they just don’t have enough inventory. I’m not sure which is worse… penalizing an active customer or poor planning. And if it is poor planning, how come they haven’t seen the error of their ways and purchased more stock?

My fiancĂ© thinks I’m throttling her movie selections in favor of mine. She wonders how it’s possible Battlestar Galactica DVDs continually arrive but her DVD selection never does. Seems a little suspicious, don’t you think?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Smarter searching at Netflix

Faithful reader Matt has a great suggestion for finding TV shows on Netflix. Use the search term "season 1" to find every TV show on Netflix, without having to know the exact title.

Can you think of any TV shows that this wouldn't work for, that don't have a "season 1" in their name?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Congratulations to Crash, Best Picture of 2005

I am so glad Crash won Best Picture. It's a great movie! Rent Crash today. Director Paul Haggis was ripped off. He should have won Best Director. At least he got the screenplay award.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Three easy ways to add new movies to your Netflix queue

If you hear about a movie currently in theatres which you would like to see, but you'd rather wait for the DVD, you can still add it to your Netflix queue.

Browse Yahoo! Movies, where you can find reviews and ratings of current theatrical releases. Each movie's home page has a "Netflix-save to rent" button.

Browse Laqat Movies, for news and reviews on upcoming and current releases. Click "rent" link under "coming soon" to add a movie to your Netflix queue.

Browse for movie ratings, create a "Watch list" of theatrical movies, and they will alert you by email when movies on your watch list are in theatres near you, or available on DVD. Movies on DVD have an "add to queue" button.