Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Netflix

I've been watching movies for my entertainment this winter. To facilitate I have subscribed to Netflix. This is one of those deals that looks really good on paper. You queue up a bunch of movies, they send three of them to you through the mail. Keep 'em as long as you want. Mail them back postage paid when done and you get the next one on your list. I am paying $17.99 per month for this.

The Netflix company looks like it has a lot going for it. But I am very worried that this is really the next big evil company to hate.

My local video store will rent me a DVD for $3.89. It has a weekly dollar night special (must return it the next day) and at the counter I am constantly getting hit up for the $0.10 damage coverage. Call it $3.99 per movie. If I were to rent four regular priced movies and two dollar specials per month locally I would be matching the Netflix rate. Six movies a month for $17.56, assuming I don't get any late fees, for an average of $2.93 per film.

From Netflix I received eight movies in November, eight movies again in December, eight in January. In fact, no matter how fast I watch and return these movies they can't get me more than eight per month. That is an average of $2.25 per film. Considering the postal mail turnaround time, if I mail a movie on Monday, Netflix checks it back in on Wednesday, I get my next film on Friday. A five day turnaround per movie. Since I have three movies checked out at a time I think I ought to be getting slightly more than three movies per week or 12 movies per month.

Here in the first two weeks of February I have already gone through five Netflix films and then my queue mysteriously stopped updating. Dvd's I had put in the mail over a week ago were not getting checked back in. Sure, the post office may have an issue here or there but the mail service has been consistent and quick for my entire life. I am guessing that the U.S. Mail is not the problem. My guess, even though there are two more weeks left in this month, is that the mail service to Netflix will somehow mysteriously slow down to the point where I can't possibly get more than three more movies from them in the next two weeks. I am not the only one with this problem.

Still, at eight movies per month I am saving a little money, $0.68 each, over what the local video store offers. No late fees. Convenient delivery. Stellar selection of movies that the video store can't even come close to matching. Why am I uptight? Why is Netflix so evil? Because they fall short of their promises. Because I feel like I am watching movies at someone else's convenience instead of my own. Because I signed up for an all you can eat buffet of movies and I am not getting that. As one of my Netflix using friends said. "They can't deliver enough movies fast enough, they are never here when I want them so I still go out to rent for movie nights, still get late fees. Netflix is not all that it is cracked up to be."

They have been called on this in a class action suit as well. The results from that were ugly. For a settlement they got to throw a big promotion that conned people out of more money. The lawyers got rich. The consumers got squat. I think that counts as evil. Not exactly a company that inspires my confidence as a customer.

So is Netflix a good deal? That depends. If you watch more than six movies per month or have a problem with late fees, Netflix will save you a little money. You won't save very much money and you won't get very many more than six movies, but you can scrape out a small savings. Don't waste any time on them for less than five per month though and plan on watching and returning them quickly instead of saving them for Friday nights. You can't get enough movies per month to make it worthwhile if you do that. Do you like old and obscure movies that the local shops don't carry? Netflix could help you out there too. Beyond that there is no good reason to give these people your money. This is the kind of company that has no qualms about screwing you over just to get at your wallet. If you believe in corporate ethics you should stay far far away from them and spend your dollars locally.

So what is Montana Jones to do? I like the catalog and the convenience. I hate that I can't get the number of movies I want. Hate that my fees are going to support a corporation with shady and perhaps unethical practices. Perhaps it is just the momentum of being in their system that makes it hard to get out. I think I will compromise. There are still a few more movies I want to watch that I have only found through their catalog so I will stick with them a little longer, but when my movie watching winter is over I will be done with Netflix. They will have to change their ways if they ever want me back.

Comments:
Netflix costs me more than going to the video store. But the point is, with Netflix I don't have to go to the video store. The convenience factor is well worth the extra expense to me.
 
I've been using Netflix for about 5 years now. I have to honestly say that I HATE blockbuster with a vengeance and will never rent from them again. I have the four movies at a time package and always get my movies in one day. Of course, I'm also in Chicago and there's a distribution center here.
 
I like to get up early to go out and breathe fresh air. I feel that it is good for health and a good habit
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