It’s a feature, not a bug

I love Netflix, but now I might have to use the past tense. I sent 2 movies in last Saturday and I’m finally getting the first replacement back today. That’s one whole week before I get a movie I normally would get 2 days after sending it in. I thought it was a glitch, so I just let it go, but that’s not the case:

“In determining priority for shipping and inventory allocation, we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service,” Netflix’s revised policy now reads. The statement specifically warns that heavy renters are more likely to encounter shipping delays and less likely to immediately be sent their top choices.

Few customers have complained about this “fairness algorithm,” according to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

This throttling was brought to light by a lawsuit, which I waved off at the time because I was very happy with Netflix:

A September 2004 lawsuit cast a spotlight on the throttling issue. The complaint, filed by Frank Chavez on behalf of all Netflix subscribers before Jan. 15, 2005, said the company had developed a sophisticated formula to slow down DVD deliveries to frequent renters and ensure quicker shipments of the most popular movies to its infrequent _ and most profitable _ renters to keep them happy.

Netflix denied the allegations, but eventually revised its terms of use to acknowledge its different treatment of frequent renters.

So after nearly a year of using this wonderful service, I somehow get marked as a heavy user and get screwed. The funny thing is, my rental activity is fairly low compared to when I first got into the service. Apparently it’s not hard to get marked as a heavy user. Netflix claims that most users only get 2 to 11 movies a month. Two?! Dude, just go to Blockbuster. One of the nice features of the normal 2 day turn around time is that you know when you’d get your next movie. If I sent back a movie on Monday, I knew I’d get my next movie by Wednesday. I relied on this everytime I wanted a movie for a time sensitive occasion. In fact, this past Thursday I was relying on getting the 2 movies to arrive for a guy’s movie night. They didn’t come, so we couldn’t watch the movies like we had planned a week ago. Now, I have no clue when my movies show up.

It’s really strange that Netflix starts doing this to me after Blockbuster starts to really push it’s online movie rentals. Good thing we got competition.

(via Slashdot)

One thought on “It’s a feature, not a bug

  1. You’d better hope their proposed settlement in that lawsuit gets rejected by the court. It’s pretty piddly – the FTC filed a brief against them saying it’s basically a promo for their service that will actually hurt some in the class suit. The main problem is still there’s no decent download service, which itself is hampered by the difficulty in connecting a computer to a TV for viewing.

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