Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Online Movie Rental

I think online movie rentals is a great idea. I had been considering trying one of the services for a while and finally decided to give it a whirl last month. I kept seeing billboards for and I checked them out. They were cheaper than NetFlix AND offered video game rentals, so it seemed like a no brainer. I wasn't real jazzed about NetFlix anyway after reading about them "throttling" their high volume users.

So I paid my $16.99 and added some movies and a couple of games to my queue. They quickly shipped 2 movies and a game and I had them within two days. As I started trying to add movies to my queue, I realized why they were so cheap. Their selection was very limited. And when you selected the New Releases category, they listed all the movies that were recently released to DVD. Now, I know that makes it a new release, but I shouldn't have to browse through 6 pages of 70's movies to find a new movie. When you go to the video store, they don't put Smokey and the Bandit 2 in the New Release section just because it was just released on DVD.

Their navigation also left a lot to be desired. When you added a movie to your queue, they didn't provide a way for you to return to where you were when you added the movie. So you end up hitting the Back button and as a web developer, that's never a good thing when you are submitting information to a site. I just looked today to get the link and it looks like they have done a redesign, so maybe that is not an issue now.

Their customer service also pissed me off. They don't provide any phone contact, so it's all done through the website and email. They even have a help request for finding out if they carry a particular movie. I submitted a request because they didn't have The Sopranos Season 5. I found Season 4, but not 5. They just closed the ticket, no response, just closed it.

So I started searching for an alternative. I found a guy on the web (I can't find the link now) who compared all the services and rated Intelliflix highly. I check them out and they had either a $16.95 plan for 3 movies at a time or $24.95 if you wanted to be able to checkout games also. $24.95 is a little steep, so I decided the game rental could be done locally because I really don't rent many of them anyway. Plus, I generally only want them on the weekends A & Z are over and one thing I've learned from this online movie adventure is you can't control what you get or when you get it. So I sign up for the $16.95 plan and add about 50 movies to my queue. I was very pleased with their selection and when you click New Releases, you get new releases.

Alas, things were too good to be true. I notice my bank says the charge from Intelliflix was $18.45. No big deal, probably some sign up fee that I overlooked when registering. So I head to the site, go to Help and submit a ticket. They don't let you type more than 500 characters when submitting a ticket. Now, they do have a couple of dropdowns that let you narrow you ticket type down, but 500 characters is still pretty limiting. Still, no big thing. I send them a quick note asking what the extra $1.50 was. Get an immediate "Your ticket was received and is number ######, we'll get back to you shortly." A day passes and I get an email from support saying that it was forwarded to the billing department. Then nothing. No more response from anyone. I head back to the site and look for somewhere I can enter the number they assigned my ticket to see the status. Hmm, there's nowhere to do that. All you can do is submit new tickets. I just let the $1.50 slide and kind of forgot about it.

While this is going on, I've been watching movies. I got my first 3 and sent them back and then received 3 more. I noticed shipping was a little slower than G&F, because G&F seemed to be shipping everything from Kentucky, but Intelliflix was all over the map. What's an extra day though? After a couple of cycles, I noticed they had received all my returns, but hadn't shipped anything. They had been shipping 1-2 days after receiving a return. I waited 2 days and submitted another ticket saying "Hey, you're not sending movies, I've got 50 in the queue, surely something is in." I got back a response saying "We're sorry, we are looking into the problem and we made sure somethign got shipped to you." Sure enough, I get an email saying something was shipping out that night.

Now it comes time for the monthly charge. I have MSFT Money set to automatically enter the $16.95 and it does. I check my bank and surprise! They charge me $18.45. Another ticket, another forwarding to billing, but this time I get a response. It simply says that it is a processing fee. Hey, don't flood me in information here. What kind of processing fee? I'm not going to let them off that easy. I reply and ask what kind and is it an avoidable fee and if it is not, why is it charged separatly and not advertised? No response. Now I'm pissed.

I had gotten another batch of 3 and returned them. They marked one received on the 19th and the other two on the 20th. As of the 21st, they had not shipped anything, so once again I submit a ticket. And included my questions about the processing fee. I hit the 500 character limit (you knew that would come back up, didn't you?) and probably sounded like an idiot. Hey, it's hard to rant in 500 characters or less. And I get the exact same response (about shipping new movies) as before, just from a different person. So one movie ships on 22nd. I replied to the canned response and repeated my complaints about slow service and the processing fee question not being answered. I requested that my ticket be escalated to someone who would give me more than a canned response because they were in danger of losing me as a customer. That was on Monday, today is Wednesday and I have heard nothing from them. I haven't received the movie that shipped on Saturday and they haven't shipped anything else, even though my other 2 movies have been back for almost a week now.

I don't expect to get 100 movies a month for $17, but I do expect them to provide a basic level of service. If it takes 3 days transit both ways, I should be able to expect to have at least one new movie every weekend. My boys and I watched 2 movies 2 weekends ago and I sent one back on that Saturday and one on that Monday and I still haven't gotten a new movie.

Intelliflix has lost me as a customer. I'm going to finish this month since I paid for it, but I'm looking at the two remaining services. Blockbuster and NetFlix. I know people that use both, so I'm torn. I've never really liked Blockbuster and I don't like the idea of NetFlix manipulating customer's queues but I'm sure all of them do it. They are both the same price ($17.99), but Blockbuster adds the feature that you can print a coupon once a week to get a free in-store rental. Maybe that is my option, so if they aren't shipping movies or I don't have anything kid friendly on my kid weekends, I can just run down to the local Blockbuster and pick something up.

Anyone had experience with either of these and have any input?

Mein Gott! This is a long post. I apologize, I just got started and couldn't stop.

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