Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Netflix irritates me for the first time ever

Okay, that's not entirely true; I've dealt with occasional lost or scratched discs, and when I first joined the service and there wasn't a shipping warehouse in Vegas, sometimes discs would take up to a week to arrive. But in general I've been very happy with Netflix for many years, until they announced today that they'd be doing away with their Profiles feature (here's the info at Hacking Netflix). According to the Netflix reps, this is a feature that very few people use and that apparently bogs down their system when they do upgrades, so obviously eliminating it will save them some money. But I sure hope it's a lot of money, since they are making some very vocal customers very angry (the commenters at Hacking Netflix are pissed).

I personally have two queues now, one for movies and one for TV shows. This is convenient for a very simple reason - when I send back a movie, I get another movie; when I send back a TV disc, I get the next disc in that series. Otherwise I would either end up with a bunch of TV series discs and no movies, or be stuck constantly juggling my queue to put the right thing at the top (which is what I will apparently have to do now). This is an incredibly useful feature that I have been very pleased with. Unlike some people, I don't think I'd consider downgrading or cancelling my subscription because of this decision, especially since other services like Blockbuster or GreenCine don't have the Profiles feature anyway. And a lot of things that people are complaining about don't apply to me: I don't have separate queues for family members or roommates, I don't have any ratings or reviews on my secondary queue that will be lost, and I haven't already hit the 500-title limit on my main queue, so I'll be able to add in all the stuff from the secondary one.

But this is still a huge pain, and Netflix seems to have handled the announcement horribly, offering vague promises of "improvements" in service but not saying what they may be, and not allowing users any convenience in transferring their movies either to their main queue or to a new account (they actually suggest printing out your queue, perhaps the most low-tech solution possible). Already many people suspect that this is a way to force people to pay for multiple accounts; even if that isn't the case, that's the impression that the company has created. For anyone who didn't use the Profiles service, its existence or nonexistence is irrelevant, but for the people who did it represents a huge inconvenience and, even worse, a sense that Netflix doesn't care about its customers. One of the company's main selling points versus Blockbuster has always been its customer-friendliness, and it loses big points in that area with this decision.

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