March 31, 2009

Netflix Giant Price Increase Causes Customer Relations Fiasco

My new name for Netflix is Netfux. If you are a Netflix customer who rents Blu-Ray DVDs, by now you have probably received an email from Netflix announcing a huge price increase for Blu-Ray DVD rentals. The increase is supposed to take effect on your next Netflix monthly statement, on or about April 27. This is the second time in six months that Netflix has added a Blu-Ray surcharge, and this time the increase is much greater. In my case (3 DVDs per month plan), after a $1 increase last October, Netflix wants to charge me an additional $3 per month. Based on my $17 per month rate ($16 before last October's surcharge), these surcharges amount to nearly 25%. That's not going to happen.

The large Netflix price hike makes no sense. Netflix states that the price for it buy Blu-Ray discs is higher than regular DVDs. But Blu-Ray is becoming the DVD standard. Additionally, as more customers buy Blu-Ray DVD players and opt for Blu-Ray discs, Netflix will purchase more and more Blu-Ray discs in relation to standard DVD discs. So, Netflix is trying to have its customers pay a lot more for its regular and replacement product.

Also, Netflix is a huge buyer of DVDs. It should negotiate better prices for Blu-Ray discs from its suppliers, instead of paying through the nose for Blu-Ray discs (if Netflix is to be believed) and simply passing on the costs to its customers. The planned Netflix price increase is also unjustified based on the paltry number of Blu-Ray titles (currently only about 1,300 out of some 250,000 DVDs, or .52%) that Netflix makes available. I'm not going to pay more than 20% extra per month for a product that I only receive one-half percent of the time.

Perhaps most importantly, we're in the depths of an economic recession, or even a depression. Many businesses, including airlines, restaurants, home builders, and stores, are lowering their prices in order to retain customers. It's insane from a business standpoint to raise prices by such a large amount in the middle of an economic crisis, and not expect to lose customers and revenue.

Finally, we know from the history of DVD prices that Blu-Ray prices will eventually come down as production increases. Note how Netflix makes no promise to lower its prices when the prices it pays to buy Blu-Ray discs declines.

The planned Netflix price hike is also abysmal from a customer relations standpoint. Just go to the Neflix blog and check out the more than seven hundred responses received in just 24 hours thus far to the price increase announcement from Netflix VP of Marketing Jessie Becker. Virtually all of the comments are from angry Netflix customers who say they are either downgrading their service, or leaving Netflix entirely. How does less revenue and an army of irate customers, including bad press on the blogs and elsewhere, grab you as a business plan?

If you don't want to pay the Netflix price increase, do what I did:

1. Write a comment on the Netflix official blog post. Tell VP Jessie Becker what a dumb and ill-timed idea the price increase is. Tell her that the amount of increase is way too high. Tell her that you plan to downgrade your service or leave Netflix altogether for a competitor (such as Blockbuster, RedBox, or DVD Express) if they try to push their full price increase through. I checked the prices at Blockbuster, and they are cheaper than Netflix's planned prices, with no Blu-Ray surcharge and the ability to rent from and return movies and video games to Blockbuster stores. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

2. Call Netflix at 1-888-923-0898 or 1-800-585-8131. Calmly tell the representative why their price increase is unacceptable. I called today and was told that Netflix is not negotiating price for "customer retention" purposes at this time. That, however, may change in the coming days or weeks. If Netflix does not offer to negotiate with you over the increase or wipe it out altogether, tell them you plan to downgrade to a lower level of service (or terminate your Netflix service altogether). Point out how it makes no sense for their price increase to result in less revenue to them as customers are downgrading or leaving altogether. Note that cancellation of your service takes effect immediately, so you can wait until just before your next billing date to do so.

3. If you have nothing left to say to Netflix by phone and have made your decision to downgrade or cancel your service, you can also do so at the Netflix website. I haven't done it that way, but hopefully there is a "Comments" section where you can explain why you are taking this action. If not, hopefully there is the ability to do so in the "Contact Us" section of the Netflix site.

4. If you're a zealous letter writer, send letters to Netflix's CEO and top officers. Their names are listed here. Netflix's corporate address, according to Hoover's Online, is:

100 Winchester Cir.
Los Gatos, CA 95032
Phone: 408-540-3700
Fax: 408-540-3737

5. Publicize your views about the Netflix price increase, and the steps you have taken to counter it, on your blog and in other media to which you have access. It's hard to overestimate the power of negative publicity.

Perhaps when enough people take these steps, Netflix will realize the tremendous error they made, and either change their plans, or, if customers downgrade and leave en masse, ask us to return at our previous level of service at or near the old rate. If not, Blockbuster will do just fine.

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March 30, 2009

"The Cougar" -- it's all about Women's Empowerment, Right?

I just saw a promotion for a new television program called "The Cougar." On the program, which premieres on April 15 on the TV Land network, twentysomething men will vie for the romantic attentions of a fortysomething woman. The "cougar" will eliminate the guys one by one, presumably for not being boy toyish enough.

I find it a bit odd that older women who lust after younger men are now so widely referred to in terms of a deadly cat that pounces on its prey. Even "Saturday Night Live" has jumped on this trend, with a recurring skit featuring a talk show called "The Cougar Den," where desperate, hair-teased women with considerable mileage on them pounce, sometimes literally, on their younger male guests. It is not a flattering portrayal.

What would television executives call a program where women competed to be the most successful corporate executive -- "The Bitch"?

(Photo of cougar from Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)

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March 15, 2009

How to Blog Like Frank Rich

If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, do what New York Times columnist Frank Rich does in his columns posted on the New York Times website. Check out this latest example, regarding the shrinking influence of the "culture warriors" in the face of economic crisis. First, Rich packs a novel's worth of information into one column. His writing is about as tight as it gets. Second, Rich generously links his sources, his facts, and his quotes. I counted thirty links in this column alone. Unfortunately, too few bloggers do that, even so-called "journalists" who should know better. Simply arguing and name-calling, without providing the evidence, may provoke people who don't already agree with you, but it won't convince them.

You may or may not agree with Frank Rich's rather strong point of view, but it's hard to argue with the skill and thoroughness with which he presents it. That's a good model for any blogger to follow.

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March 05, 2009

I'm Blogging Less; Are You?

My blogging frequency is steadily decreasing. Interestingly, so is the blogging frequency of several of my blogger cohorts, the one impressive exception being Barbara at Looking2Live. As for the others, I won't single you out. You know who you are.

Why am I blogging less? For one thing, most of my earliest blog posts were about political or policy issues. That quickly got boring, especially given the number of blowhard bloggers who bloviate about politics. Also, moving outside the Beltway and to California has refreshingly changed my perspective on politics. "Inside the Beltway" is a genuine mindset.

Since I rarely write about politics anymore, and I don't write about my sex life, celebrities, or the television shows "Lost" or "24," what the hell am I gonna blog about? I've gotten very choosy about blogging subjects. I will only write and publish a blog post if (1) the subject is really on my mind, or near and dear to my heart; and (2) I think it will have wide appeal to readers.

Speaking of reader appeal, the other change in my blogging thinking involves the target audience. I no longer blog from the "inside out," to try to attract a following of readers/commenters. I don't bug my busy friends to read my blog. If they read the blog, fine, if not, that's fine too. On the other hand, the number of site visits I get from the "outside in," i.e., searchers on Google and other search engines, has steadily increased over time. My months-old blog posts on certain random subjects (layered t-shirts, Grouply, Sambo's restaurant, and euphemisms) consistently get hits every day. Perhaps some of those searchers are converted into regular readers.

I am also cheating on my blog with another group blog where I am a contributing writer. That blog is occupying an increasing amount of my blogging energy.

Ironically, however, the less frequently I blog here at Media Concepts, the more site visits, links and citations it receives, and the more popular it gets, according to the rankings. Is this a case of something being more attractive when it's more scarce? I don't know, but, given these results, what is my incentive to blog here more often?

I would be interested to know, however, if other bloggers besides the ones I have in mind are blogging on their personal blogs less frequently, and, if so, why? Did they get bored? Did the novelty wear off? Are they committing blog adultery with another blog? Or are their blogs, like mine, counterintuitively becoming more popular the less frequently they write?

This almost sounds like one of those government subsidies where farmers are paid not to grow crops. Oops, that's political, forget it.

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