Monday, February 13, 2006

Shady Netflix Practices.

Ok, ok, I have been neglecting you all (all 5 of you out there who are reading) lately, but I'm back with a slightly stale piece of news: Netflix is admitting to some sleazy practices.

About a year ago, all Netflix users got a notification of a class action lawsuit. Netflix's info on the subject suggested that the plaintiff's beef was that Netflix promises "unlimited" DVDs every month, and this customer was shocked and dismayed to find there were, in fact, limits. Ummm... yeah, and junk food isn't good for you. Hello? So most of us shook our heads and dismissed this guy and his complaint as just plain silly. One thing that should have tipped us all off that it was something a bit more suit-worthy is that Netflix had agreed to give all of its current users an upgrade of service for one month, by an additional DVD at a time, in exchange for the users agreeing not to file further suits against the company. By the way, when are those extra DVDs supposed to kick in?

Last week, however, many media sources reported on the topic with a bit of clarification. See, Netflix (for those who haven't caught on yet) is an online DVD rental company that sends DVDs through the mail. The customer (who has signed up for 1, 2, 3, up to 8 DVDs at a time) has a "queue" of DVDs in their account that are automatically shipped out as soon as Netflix receives one of the customer's selections back. Some people hold on to their 3 (or whatever) selections at a time for months on end (you know who you are) and some of us are desperate to get as many rentals as we can out of our 3-at-a-time limit and watch and send and watch and send like mad. Well, apparently some Netflix customers began to notice that their movies per month had dropped unexpectedly. So even though they were watching and sending just as fast as they had been, they were suddenly receiving a lot fewer per month than they had been. Still other customers started noticing that some movies on their queue say "very long wait" while on their friends' queues those same movies are listed as "short wait" or "available now."

What does this mean? Well, some brilliant Netflix customers started gathering data and came up with an answer: Netflix employs at least two methods of reducing the number of DVDs sent to high-renting customers. In other words, if you watch and send and watch and send, like I often do, they delay your shipments so you can't get too many DVDs per month, and they also send the more desirable DVDs to low-use customers first. So if you are a huge movie watcher, and you want to make the most of your service and possibly see a movie made this decade, you basically get screwed. For a long time they denied it; until the lawsuit. Now they have changed their policy to read: "we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service..." whuh?

Well I was so mad when I finally read all about this last week, I wanted to cancel my service. But my other option is Blockbuster, and I am not a big Blockbuster fan, so I don't know what to do. UGH!

Here is one website by one of those genius Netflix users, and here is another. The second one is the guy who did all the data-gathering on this practice termed "throttling."
And here is the article I read last week that made me want to "throttle" Netflix.

Back to the full blog...


Rahim Rahman said...

I thought the deal is you'll get one free month if you agree not to file class action suit against Netflix. That was back in November and I still haven't seen that free month.

Anyway, I don't watch and return like you do. I usually watch my movies (usually 1-2 on weekdays and the rest on weekends) and return all of them on Monday. That way, if there are new movies release on Tuesday, Netflix usually will receive my movie back by then and I'll be (almost) first in line for the new releases.

I guess because of the amount of movies I rent a month, I'm not really affected by the whole throttling scheme.

Teddi said...

It now takes two days for us to get used to take just one. Does that mean we are being throttled? That SUCKS.

manuel said...

I enjoyed reading your post. However, I'd like to make a minor clarification. HackingNetflix is a pro Netflix propaganda site. I'm the person featured in the CNN article. I've been keeping a journal of my experience with Netflix ever since I started having problems. As far as Blockbuster Online, their service is still improving, however Netflix has better selection. I subscribe to Blockbuster Online, GreenCine, and Netflix. GreenCine is my favorite for anime.


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