My email to Netflix (@netflixhelps)

This is an email that I would send to Netflix, if they offered an email address allowing their customers to write to them, which they do not. I will mail this by snail-mail to the company.

I have had an account (both streaming, since you have had it, and DVD/Blu-ray) for many years.  Look it up.  Tonight, based on the fact that several best of moive lists highlighted a movie called “To Die Like a Man“, I sat down to watch it on streaming.

Your version of the movie is unwatchable, in that the spanish Portuguese [maybe I would have recognized that had I been able to hear the spoken word] dialogue is silent throughout (at least) the first 15 minutes at which point I gave up watching. The soundtrack music and background noises are there and subtitles appear in English, but the actual speaking dialogue of the actors is totally silent.  This makes the film unwatchable in that not only do you miss the nuance of the spoken word, but it essentially becomes a silent film with periodic text messages.  All that is missing is overwrought organ music.

I called your support number. The service agent indicated that he would report the problem upstream. I requested that someone contact me when the spoken dialogue was returned to the film so I could watch it. He informed me that there is no way for Netflix to tell me the result.

So I call with a problem, and Netflix cannot inform me when (or if) the problem can be fixed. Really?  Any other legitimate online service would reply with a solution or an acknowledgement that no solution could be forthcoming.

But now I understand that Netflix is not a customer-driven company. This was probably obvious with your issues late last year, but now it is clear to me, a long-time loyal customer.

I asked the agent to cancel my streaming account. He said he would do so. When I asked if I would receive a credit for the unused portion of the month for which I canceled he informed me that the cancellation would be effective at the end of my current month. On top of the apparent inability of Netflix to even inform a customer as to the status of a problem resolution, this is crazy and unfair. If I cancel my New York Times subscription or my New Yorker subscription or my New York Review of Books subscription, they will happily reimburse the remaining unused portion of my current subscription. And Netflix won’t?  You all really should consider your current direction.

It seems that your stock price accurately reflects the value of what is left of your customer service. I think you are clueless as to customer retention. But that is your business right. So I will wait until the day my subscription is expired to act.

Thank you for “respecting” my long term use of your service.

Qwikster is dead

Netflix has backed down on its plan to separate its streaming and DVD business. According to Reed Hastings, there will continue to be one company and one website.

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

It was a stupid idea from the beginning. NFLX is up nearly 10% in pre-market trading.

Tech quote of the day

I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.

– Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, apologizing for the manner of announcing the company’s recent price increases.  The service is splitting into two services and Hastings provides the details here.

But the bottom line is that the two services really will be separate: different websites, different queues, separate entry of credit card info, and you would have to enter ratings of a single film on both sites. Further, it appears that you will not even be able to tell on the DVD site which movies are available for streaming. In other words, you would need to search twice for all movies and, even worse, if a movie not available for streaming when you add it to your Netflix queue, but becomes so later, will not show up on your streaming queue and will not show any indication on the Netflix queue that streaming is available.

This seems like a major loss of customer functionality to me, and one that should be manageable with the right technology design linking the two sites to provide the right information to customers to manage their subscription(s).

Tech quote of the day

An independent negative issue for Netflix and other Internet video providers would be a move by wired ISPs to shift consumers to pay-per-gigabyte models instead of the current unlimited-up-to-a-large-cap approach. We hope this doesn’t happen, and will do what we can to promote the unlimited-up-to-a- large-cap model. Wired ISPs have large fixed costs of building and maintaining their last mile network of residential cable and fiber. The ISPs’ costs, however, to deliver a marginal gigabyte, which is about an hour of viewing, from one of our regional interchange points over their last mile wired network to the consumer is less than a penny, and falling, so there is no reason that pay-per-gigabyte is economically necessary. Moreover, at $1 per gigabyte over wired networks, it would be grossly overpriced.

Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, castigating the ISPs who want to charge for data by the gigabyte. He is right to take on the anti-competitive behavior of the large ISPs.

Disclosure: I own Netflix stock.