Friday, March 09, 2007

Netflix Woes

I have had Netflix for a few months now. Since my NYC videostore of choice, TLA, had to close (why oh why!?), it is now my only video rental source aside from the New York Public Library. I haven't had too many problems with Netflix, but I have had some broken discs (about 4 now in roughly as many months). Two of these discs--the original and its replacement--have been The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein. Could it be that someone out there is wreaking havoc on discs of this film (whether for its politics or its aesthetics)? How much has this been a problem for other Netflix users? Is there ever any kind of penalty, i.e., will they suspect me if I report too many broken discs? Because I really want to see Fernanda Hussein, among other broken discs, and I'm afraid to request a third disc for it.

18 comments:

girish said...

Zach, I've had Netflix for about 7 yrs, and have had about 8-10 broken discs in that time. (About once year or so, I guess.) I once mailed 8 (!) discs from a mailbox and they never reached them; but they simply wrote it off, no penalty. I wouldn't worry about the risk of penalties; I think I have a disc go missing in the mail about once every 3 months or so.

See you at the Rossellini à demain!

johanna said...

In two years' time, I only ever had one faulty disc.
It may be the New York mail's fault.

Also, once I lost two of their discs and they allowed me to call it a "mis-shipment" at no charge.

I realize that they're making a killing to be so lenient, but having had video stores chrge me upwards of $75 for a VHS tape, that's a huge relief...

Noel Vera said...

I remember renting an Indian musical--can't remember the title--and they shipped a broken disk every time. I gave up trying to see that.

They're pretty good, maybe not as good as Greencine, but their delivery's better. I'm just surprised there's so little choice in New York--don't you have something like Facets in Chicago?

Zach Campbell said...

Thanks, everyone. I guess I won't worry too much. Johanna, I do wonder if it's the mail carrier's fault--sometimes s/he puts apartment residents' Netflix envelopes outside our (rather small) mailboxes with a rubber band; other times, it's scrunched in with two magazines, three bills, and four pieces of junk mail. But the thing is, I haven't noticed a correlation between how crowded the mailbox is and whether the disc is cracked/broken. But if it keeps happening maybe I should post a note asking the carrier to always rubber-band them.

Noel, there are other NYC options--I could finally sign up with Kim's Video like every other area cinephile does (I never did before because of TLA loyalty). I wasn't really complaining about lack of options so much as indicating, lazily, the two options I've still got going for me without doing anything else.

And Girish, I shall see you in a matter of hours!

Alex said...

Strangely, the copy of Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein that Netflix sent me when I was living in Chicago was ALSO unplayable (not broken, but apparently too scratched up to play).

Anyway, you should consider Greencine as an adjunct to Netflix, because Greencine has a significantly more comprehensive selection of indie, foreign and experimental (and often out of print) things than Netflix.

Ryan B. said...

TLA closed?? Wow. Yeah maybe it's about time you got that Kim's membership. And I have to disagree with the other comments recommending Greencine. Their selection is probably marginally better than Netflix's (though my tastes may not be as far-ranging as yours and the average EL reader) but their delivery service is incredibly slow. I recently switched from Greencine to Netflix and only on a few occasions have I been unable to find a film I wanted to see. And, pertinently for you, scratched or damaged discs were a problem I experienced with Greencine.

Jaime said...

I'll give the same advice I've given everyone with Netflix problems. If they start treating you like crap, put your account on hold. On-hold status is just that: your account remains open (queue intact, browsable, and changeable), but you don't pay anything and you don't get any movies. After a month or so - or longer, if you feel like they need to learn a lesson - reactivate your account and you get treated like a brand-new customer again, i.e. fast shipping, no issues, etc.

Just make sure you do it at the end of a billing cycle, to get your money's worth.

However, like you, I'm very dependent on the library as a source of videos and DVDs, and if they had the key features that draws me to Netflix (the queue, automatic shipping to my home, return from any mailbox), I'd drop Netflix in a heartbeat. Even the libraries in the outer wheat-fields of Brooklyn has a strong selection (new Criterions such as EQUINOX and BORDER RADIO; HYPOTHESIS OF A STOLEN PAINTING; Aleksey Batalov's THE OVERCOAT and The Best of Ernie Kovacs).

Noel Vera said...

Ah, no I'd love to live in a city with a library that had something more than Oscar winners (Amadeus, Braveheart, Dances With Wolves).

Greencine seems to have two Ghatak films Netflix doesn't and has an advantage in anime and martial arts movies. Netflix has a better selection of Bollywood, last I checked (though their Bimal Roy collection has shrunk considerably).

My other big concern is that the 2nd season of Dr. Who has been pulled, re-release date unknown. The webpage is full of complaints that somewhere in the middle, Dr. Who switches to Texas Chainsaw, The Beginning (a horror film, and a remake at that!). I don't know what's up with that.

Z. said...

I sympathize with both the Netflix & TLA (I was a night manager @ TLA; worked there on & off from 8/97-11/05) dilemmas. I'm in Minneapolis now & regrettably rely 90% on Netflix. There's one terrific DVD store here but not a single place carries VHS. Sad, sad.

Have you tried Evergreen Video on Carmine St.? They used to be great & probably still are.

Bill W said...

I used TLA too, and just joined Evergreen. I don't see, say, Broken Sky there, though. Maybe I'll wind up at Kim's.

Having seen Fernanda Hussein in a theater, I don't condone disc vandalism, but I understand it.

Zach Campbell said...

Alex--that's weird about Fernanda Hussein. As for Greencine, I'll consider it. I got Netflix because I needed a minor supplement for TLA, for certain titles. (My girlfriend, with whom I live, already had a Netflix account of her own, and first I just asked her to put a few things on her queue. But she's slower than I am in sending things back, and so I got impatient and signed up myself, intending to keep it for a few months to see 10-12 things. Ha!)

Ryan--yes, TLA closed. One of us should get in touch with our old buddy Dan and see if his little brother ever worked there, because I swear there was a guy at TLA who could have been Dan's sibling. Seriously.

Jaime, thanks for the 'on hold' note. (And I should append that Ernie Kovacs stuff to my queue...)

Noel, Netflix's anime & martial arts sections are large enough for my immediate needs.

Zach, thanks for dropping by! I recall you talking to our class when I was an undergrad taking a writing course with Mr. Price. Have you tried Box Office Video in St. Paul? They keep a blog - http://retailresistance.typepad.com ... I don't know the Twin Cities or how long it takes to get around, or if the place has VHS, but Tod Herskovitz, who has commented on EL once or twice, seems committed to getting a good selection.

As for Evergreen, Zach and Bill, I have perused its used VHS/DVD bins on more than one occasion, but never actually taken a good look at the rental selection. Perhaps...

Joel said...

I've had Netflix for about 4 years now. When I lived in New Orleans, my roommates and I were on the 8-at-a-time plan and discs went missing all the time. I'm convinced this was due to our mail carrier. Since moving from there about 2 years ago, I've been on the 3-at-a-time plan. They once shipped a broken copy of Chabrol's "Une partie de plaisir" to me no less than four times before finally getting it right, and that required an email from me. Someone must have really hated that movie. From personal experience, I can say you shouldn't worry about missing discs. They once put my account on hold due to too many of these (something like 2 in 2 weeks), but all it required was a call and my account was turned back on. I'm not proud to say that in 4 years a couple of discs have gone "missing" into my collection. Why the impulse to own something, steal it no less, that could be seen again at any time as long as I remain a subscriber? I don't know, but it troubles me. And on that note, I'm vowing now to never keep another Netflix DVD again. Confessions of a Disc Eater. Would Baudelaire believe me?

Z. said...

As a matterof fact, I'm going to see Brian next month when I read my poems @ Stillwater. It's nice when the world's small that way. I probably saw you @ TLA, too (yr name rings a bell; I keep an eye out for other Zachs).

Anyhow, great blog.

Jaime said...

>>Baudelaire

De Quincey, you mean?

Joel said...

Baudelaire translated De Quincey into "Artificial Paradises", adding as he pleased based on his own experiences with opium. Specifically, he added a chapter called "A False Denouement" in which he disputed the possibility of ever really being freed from the drug.

jim emerson said...

So, where did TLA's stock go?

I'm lucky, here in Seattle, to have access to Scarecrow Video. But I use Netflix, too, and have never had a problem with a broken or unplayable disc. If a disc is damaged, you can be pretty sure it's the postal service's fault. I do keep some of that CD/DVD "scratch repair" stuff handy, and if a disc looks messed up I use that and it seems to work.

Used to use Nicheflix, but they were expensive and VERY slow -- and some of the foreign discs were pretty bad, either poorly mastered or from lousy prints to begin with. Anyway, I'm told they went out of business.

Now I think I'll look into Greencine, just to see what I can find...

Zach Campbell said...

Fellow-Zach, I'm ecstatic you enjoy my blog.

Jim, I think TLA's DVD stock was reincorporated back into the company--I don't know if their Philadelphia branches closed too, but last I checked they still had a fully functioning online business. The videocassettes were sold off at low prices. I thought about buying a few of the rarer ones, like Borowczyk's La Marge (how am I going to live without this film now!!?), but I spent a few minutes during one of the sales looking at the scattered boxes of tapes, and just got depressed, so I didn't look very hard.

Z. said...

The TLA stock will be redistributed to the other 5 stores (I think it's still 5) or sold off in those stores. That's what happened when they closed the NJ store: we (NYC) got a ton of stuff , both rental copies & movies to sell. My guess is that there's a bounty of used DVDs & VHS tapes in the Philly locations. They've also been known to sell in bulk to other stores (e.g. Video Americain in DC/MD/DE). The fate of the obscure VHS material (Mark Rappaport, for example, or Jon Jost) is likely not a good one.