The Dark Side of Netflix

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Netflix Customer Service Call Revealed

A particularly diligent Netflix Underground reader recently posted the following story in the Comments section. I normally don't post comments on the main page, but this story is just too amazing to resist.

This Netflix Underground reader took the initiative to record her phone call. She has included the fascinating transcript with her story.

Thank you, Nikki.

March 15, 2005

I stumbled onto your blog today. I am having trouble with netflix. I have had service for 2 months. Everything was great even awesome until my free trial expired. At the end of the free trial I received a mislabeled DVD. I sent it back and repoted it mislabled the day after I sent it back. Netflix claims they never got it. I don't beleive them. That has been the only DVD they never got back and it seems a convenient excuse to limit my account. I am a heavy user and have rented 17 movies in the last 5 weeks with 2 on the way presently. For the last 2 weeks I have been printing our my queue and shipped movie lists. Each day my third position on the shipped list will say " We expect to ship your next available movie by (following day)" The following day it will change to the day after that and so on... infinity. I called netflix today to inquire about the problem. I recorded the call and and informed the agent that the call was being recorded and she said "okay".

Here is a transcription of the call with my identifing info removed.

Me: This is a recording with Netfilx the phone number I dialed is 1-800-279-5688.
On hold for about a minute and a half. recoding of "Thanks for your patience...blah..blah.."

Agent: Thank you for calling Netflix this is Robin how can I help you

Me: Hi Robin, This is "me" I have an account with netflix and I'm calling because I have a problem. I also want to let you know before this call continues that this phone conversation is being recorded. Okay?

Robin: Okay. Can you give me your email address.

Me: Gives address.

Robin: what is the last 4 digit of the account used to make payment on you account with us?

Me: Give info

Robin: Give me one moment. -Pause- Okay I'm just reading your email that you sent today. Now what I want to talk to you about is I completely know why your account is showing that.

Me: Mmm-humm

Robin: You reported a DVD as mislabeled. Names DVD.

Me: Uhuh, yes

Robin: So, when that happens we wait for the movie to be sent back into to us to release that spot in your queue.

Me: It was shipped back.

Robin: No, I understand that. Just let me explain for one second. When you report a movie damages, mislabled that kind of thing we wait for the movie to be shipped back before we release that spot to be available to ship another movie out. So from what I am reading the movie was mislabled.

Me: Yeah and I actually sent it back before I reported it mislabled.

Robin: Okay, ummm, because it's showing that we never received it back. Now thats not your problem, however what is happening there is a quick very easy fix to it. Were showing that we did not get the movie back and I am going to mark it lost so it will free up that slot and we know not to expect it back.

Me: But when it happened I was in the free trial. After I reported mislabled I still was getting 3 movies out at a time. This problem of one slot being held open did not start happening until the trial expired and I started paying for the account.

Robin: No, No, No it has nothing to do with whether you were a paying or free trial member it has to do with the movie being unreturned. It just so happend that it a considence that it got mislabled and you sent it back and it was lost or we haven't marked it in. Whatever reason it is a very very quick fix.

Me: Is this the same problem that all of my friend and neighbors are having because I know that a lot of them are only getting 2 movies at a time instead of three. Is the same thing happening to them too?

Robin: not necessarrially, they need to call so someone can take a look at their account and see what the problem is. This so happens to be the problem with your account. I've gone ahead and cleared it up for you so the next movie will actually ship for you tomorrow.

Me: Okay, I mean it said that for the last 2 weeks that the next available movie would ship the next day.

Robin: I definetly undertand that, but our systems, they don't show the same things. When you have a movie marked mislabled and you send it back, we automatically send another out when we get the report. In that case you'll have 4 movies out. If we don't get that movie back then it is still one that is taken out of the sent list. But it shows that it was marked mislabled on your screen. If we don't have that movie back for whatever reason the we arent going to send you another one out.

Me: Okay, now I have another question, I was reading your terms of service and it says that high frequency users have slower service to allow for less frequent users to get movies more quickly.

Robin: you're not one of those.

Me: Okay what would be considered a high frequency user?

Robin: we have customers that are on 8 out at a time accounts. So they get movies out less frequently just because they pay for more movies at a time. They are renting so much and they are getting an awesome price per disc. They get movies on average at a cost of 20 cents per movie so we limit the turn around time on their accounts. Your account cost about $1.50 per movie on average so you're fine. We will still continue to ship movies out to you the day after we receive them back, at the latest. So it falls more with people who rent more movies.

Me: But aren't they paying more to have more?

Robin: Yes, but they still get great service just a bit slower.

Me: Okay, I see. Okay I appreciate you answering my questions and I'll look forward to seeing that movie shipped tomorrow.

Robin: You're welcome, have a great afternoon.

Me: Thank you.

So as you can see. Interesting. Only time will tell if what she says it actually the truth. I really don't think so because of all the stories I am hearing and see all the stuff posted arounf the internet with people have the exact problem. I am going to give them one more month. I will continue to print out my shipped list and queue everyday and record all calls I make to report problems with them. If at the end of that time I am still having the same problems I will submit all my documentation to the FTC, CA Attorney general, my local new customers watch groups, and my husbands customer is the lead new anchor for the #1 NBC affiliate in our metro area. She might be interested in it as well and I have her home phone number.

So far my thought is that Netflix is a neat idea but they company is dishonest in marketing the "Unlimited" movies when obviously it's not.

Well, there you have it, folks! Wow! I would just love to know what goes on in those Netflix customer service training classes.


Editor said...

Dear Nikki,

Wow! Your story is stunning. Your transcript is absolutely fascinating.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have just come to the startling realization that Netflix is not the great bargain they said it would be. Don’t feel bad about yourself. You’re not a sucker. You just got deceived into doing business with a shady company. Many others have fallen into this trap. I know about this all too well, because the same sorts of things happened to me. We’re all victims of this.

While your story is a little different from the others I’ve heard so far, the end result fits perfectly with the Netflix throttling model: create artificial delays, delay shipping, blame USPS, and make the customer feel greedy for expecting better service.

I’m happy to inform you that you are doing everything right at this point. Things are most likely not going to get better, and you will probably wind up taking action against Netflix. Therefore, you are very wise to be keeping such thorough records. Continue to keep track of everything. You will need it later.

When you finally get fed up with Netflix, you will find some helpful links in my article, “How to Get Revenge on Netflix.” You have also come up with several excellent ideas for taking action against Netflix. I encourage you to pursue those avenues as well. Hopefully, by the time you’re done with Netflix, they’ll be wishing they had treated you better.

Thank you for taking the time to include this information. It’s going to help a lot of people who are going through the same thing.

Best of Luck,

Thomas Alexander said...

I am on the 8 out at a time plan. I average about 8 DVD’s a week. After 3 months I have been experiencing an artificial slow down. It started to take them 2 to 3 days to ship my next movie after they had received my returns.

I called netflix (my wait time after the automated prompts was approx. 30 seconds) and questioned them as to why I am all of sudden it is taking longer for them to send me my next movie.

The explanation I got was "the movie is being send from an alternate distribution center."

My reply to that was "I am still getting my movie that very next day that they are shipped, the problem is how long it takes you to ship it" The Customer Service person said that it is taking longer because the movie is being shipped from Tacoma, WA. My reply was that "there was absolutely no way that any piece of first class mail send from Washington state to Virginia (where I am) would get there in only one day, and that again the problem is not how long USPS is taking to get to me, but how long it is taking Netflix to ship the movie in the first place.

I told her that I felt the service I was getting before was excellent, but as of recent I was experiencing some delays and wanted an explanation as to why. After about 20 minutes of going around in circles she finally admitted that "it did seem that I had only been experiencing this delay recently!"

She also told me that "since the company is still growing, that it is expected that there would be a slow down since that there has been so many new members." I told that "I should not have to suffer just because they are getting more members, and that many of there new members are due to current members telling there friends how get the service is."

Once I told her that "I felt it time for me to try out a different service" she told me that "I should not be experiencing this delay all the time"

When I asked to cancel my account she said that "I had to call back on my renewal date if I wanted to continue getting movies for the rest of the month that I had already paid for. (very similar to what AOL does where they tell you to call back on the renewal date and when you do, they then tell you that the charge for the next month has already been put through)

At that point I had enough, and I told her that I would just cancel online and she said that was fine. (I wonder if the customer service reps are judged by how many cancellations they put through.)

All of this run-around talk I had expected before I even called, but what I found to be weirdest of all that I called back 2 minutes later, and I was on hold for over 20 minutes and then I gave up. I wonder if they have some sort of phone number recognizing software that would put me on old for longer.

The reason for my second call was to find out if they could mail be a statement of how long I had been a member so it could be submitted with my law suit against them for unfair business practices and false advertising.

I guess I will make that call tomorrow.

Any thoughts?

Editor said...

Dear Thomas Alexander,

It seems like many 8-out customers take a lot of abuse from Netflix. I don’t understand why since you guys pay so much for your subscriptions. You would think that Netflix would love to have high-paying customers. (Isn’t it just common sense that 8-out subscribers intend to watch a lot of DVDs? If Netflix can’t make decent money off of 8-out subscribers, why don’t they just raise the fee?)

My advice to you is to keep meticulous records. If you do consult a lawyer or file complaints, thorough and accurate records will be your most powerful weapon against Netflix. Remember, judges and bureaucrats love documentation. You can never have too much on paper.

Just about every detail of your billing and rental history should be available on in your Account section. While your account is still open, you should go in and make printouts of everything. The minute you cancel, you will have limited access to many areas of Netflix's site.

Nikki said...

You're welcome. The 2 movies I was expecting to arrive came on Wednesday. One was again mislabled. Mystic river in a Matchstick Men sleve. I wrote in red on the sleve that it was mislabled since they have stopped printing the label that has the little check boxes saying mislabled or broken. I decided not to report it mislabled so I can make sure it gets back to the DC. I mailed the two I got on Wednesday back today. I am sure they will receive them tomorrow but probably won't check them in like usual. They won't send replacements until monday and I won't get them until Wednesday. I did get my number 3 slot DVD today for the first time in 2 weeks. We will see how long it keeps up.

I'll keep you all posted.


Anonymous said...

My Netflix account has been throttled recently and I've started to notice that several of the DVDs I receive are coming from distant distribution centers: Dallas Fortworth, TX, St. Louis, MO and Tacoma, WA. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and used to receive 99% of my DVDs from the nearest DC. I'd like to know if it would help the situation any if I started changing the address and bar code on the return mailer to redirect the returns to my nearest DC. I have scanned in the barcode from a mailer going to the San Francisco DC and printed them out on adhesive labels along with corresponding address labels. I saw an example of this on another Web site similar to yours. Does anyone know if this will help speed my shipments or am I being limited to 11 rentals regardless of how fast they receive them?

Anonymous said...

I have my address labels printed by a british labels company as they are reasonably priced and they save me the hassle of having to print them myself.