|O Netflix, Where Art Thou?|
|Part 1: Can the online DVD rental service keep its promises?|
When I came home from the electronics store with my brand new DVD player and ripped open the box, there it was: a coupon to join a wonderful new service that lets you rent movies right through the mail. It wasn't the first time I'd heard of Netflix.com -- you can hardly click anywhere these days without finding an ad, coupon, or rave review -- but, unpacking my sleek new DVD player, it was the first time that a DVD online rental service made sense.
The premise is simple: you join for a monthly fee of $19.95, and you get to watch as many movies as you want. That's right: take out as many DVDs as you please, as long as you don't keep more than 3 at a time. No late fees, no limits: you can keep the same 3 films for the whole month, or (and this is what I was interested in) watch them right away, mail them back in the provided prepaid envelope, and get new movies a few days later. Wow!
At first, everything was rosy: movies arrived within 3 days, I'd watch and return dutifully, I had my three rentals spaced out so I was hardly ever without a fix from Netflix. I kept my rental queue, from which new movies are sent, always stocked with rarities and oddities: hooray!
Then, sometime around Christmas, it all went straight to hell. First I got a broken disc for which I was never reimbursed (and I still haven't seen the film, Mifune). More and more movies on my queue were out of stock. Delivery times slowed down, and my returns didn't seem to get to Netflix for 5 or 6 days -- making for a 10-12 day turnaround!
When things got bad enough, it was time to complain to customer support: