Netflix’s Latest, Most-Silent Policy Change

Netflix’s latest stealth maneuver may just be their most ill-advised yet. More unfair than their recent price changes (which really weren’t unfair at all, considering how the extensive streaming expansion has increased viewing options exponentially), and nearly as pointless-stupid as their decision (quickly aborted, mercifully) to bisect and become two distinct entities (one for streaming, one for discs), this new decision, from what I’ve been able to find, has nonetheless gone unremarked-upon at large.

They’ve withdrawn the option you’d had to change your plan mid-month and do the rest of the month at a pro-rated amount. This has long been an attractive feature of the site, for at least as long as I’ve been a member, since the summer of ’02. Maybe that’s just the problem—maybe it’s a little too attractive, from the customer’s point of view, and therefore unattractive from the company’s.

I’ll admit that I manipulated this feature. I would keep a low-disc plan (say, 3 at a time) at the beginning of a pay-cycle, and then, when I saw myself exhausting viewing options as the month wore on, I’d quickly switch to something in the realm of 5 to 8 at a time, receive my infusion of discs for a mere several bucks, and then switch my plan back down in time for the next pay cycle.

I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m not ashamed, either. I was doing the same thing Netflix was doing—working within the rules in my own self-interest. It’s what we all do, if we’re smart. Now Netflix has withdrawn the privilege, and that’s their right, within the rules, because the rules are theirs to write, and re-write–and sure enough, they’ve re-written them, yet again. But is it in their self-interest? Call my tactic underhanded if you want, but I paid Netflix for the extra discs I’d receive for the month, and the price was one that they had set. Now you can’t change your monthly plan mid-month at all, even if you’re willing to pay the full amount—as I’m sure some people are, although I’m not among them. I’m much more likely to just ride out my month while taking advantage of all the myriad other options that have emerged since Netflix, and then just switch my plan up at the start of the new billing cycle.

Or maybe not switch it at all, because by then I’ll have consumed, through other venues, much of what I would have consumed from Netflix with my mid-month increase, and so the new-month increase is no longer necessary, or even desired. Netflix, meanwhile, saved having to send me some discs, but they were discs I would have paid them something for. Now I’ve gotten the content elsewhere, and although it came at a higher price, it was not a price I paid to Netflix. I took my business elsewhere, in other words, as so many are doing these days. This is what happens to a company that refuses to invest in the faith that the customer’s best interest and their own are one, unified and codependent.

Lary Wallace is a contributing editor for The Faster Times. He can be reached at emersonian@ymail.com. ...read more

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