Rachel and I are very casual Netflix users. We have the cheapest plan, that gives us one movie at a time, up to two per month for five bucks a month. We’re not huge movie watchers, so this is perfect. Lets us see some new movies once in a while, very affordable, etc., etc.
A few months ago, we received “The DaVinci Code” in the mail from NetFlix. Shortly thereafter, we lost the DVD. We can’t find it anywhere, and we’ve looked. Either one of our small
housebears children ate it or hid it expertly somewhere, or, more likely, it accidentally got thrown in the recycle with a pile of junk mail, magazines, and catalogs. Oops.
NetFlix won’t send us the next movie in our queue until we return this one. On the NetFlix site, there is the option to Report a Problem with a disc, including an option that only an assiduously honest person would choose:
“OK,” I think. “We’ll just have to bite the bullet.” I click the link, to find out how much they’re going make us pay:
Twenty bucks! For a DVD that came in a paper envelope!? That sucks, but what other choices do I have?
Let’s think about that question for a minute. On the previous page, I had noticed that they had “The DaVinci Code” for sale. “Only $5.99!”
That’s a lot cheaper than $20. What do you get for your $5.99?
A full plastic case with original artwork, AND the bonus disc, just like you’d get from a retail store? That’s a great deal. But that’s where I start thinking.
If I were a less than honest person (I’m not), what could I do to avoid paying $20 for a disc that I lost? What would my options be?
I could choose either of those first two options, say I never received the disc, or that I sent it back and it got lost in the mail. Completely dishonest, but NetFlix probably just figures on this happening sometimes, and takes the loss. I get my next movie, life goes on (except for that nagging, heavy, burning guilt that attaches itself to my conscience).
If I wanted to try to assuage my guilt, maybe I’d choose to buy the $5.99 version of the movie, and then, after it arrives, choose the last option there, “I don’t have the little white envelope to return the disc”. Let them send me a new envelope or whatever they do, return the $5.99 copy of the disc, and again, life goes on. With less guilt, but still an uneasy feeling that something isn’t right.
That’s what led me to wonder, “why on earth would Netflix punish ONLY honest customers with a $20 lost disc fee? Why not let them pay $5.99, a price they’re obviously comfortable charging other people?” Think about it – the only people who are going to pay that $20 fee are the people whose scruples won’t let them pick one of the other possibilities that I’ve described after only a few minutes thought. Who knows how elaborate you could get if you decided to become a dedicated NetFlix scammer…
It would be nice if NetFlix offered a limited amount of forgiveness for lost discs. Maybe one “get off free” chance per customer. Heck, why couldn’t they just say something like “Look, we know you lost a disc, but if you upgrade to a more expensive plan, we’ll forgive you just this once.” They get more revenue out of the deal, and I go away not feeling like I’ve been treated like crap.
So what are we going to do? We’re going to pay the $20 lost disc fee. And I’m going to harbor this bad feeling toward NetFlix for a while, this feeling that I’ve been mistreated, and taken advantage of. And now I’ve blogged about it, so maybe some other people will read about how NetFlix treats their customers. Maybe 10. Maybe millions. Maybe I’ll cancel my NetFlix account. Maybe other people will, too.
The moral of the story? Don’t treat your honest customers like cheating scum, while letting everyone else have a sweet deal.