Netflix plays tricks on customers

It’s never a good sign when the CEO of a major company starts a blog post with “I messed up.” But that’s exactly what Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, did Sunday at blog.netflix.com.

I’m a fairly new customer to Netflix, only having joined about six months ago.

And I have to say that I love it. I started with just an instant streaming plan, which turned into instant streaming plus one DVD at a time, which turned into my current plan of instant streaming and two DVDs at a time.

In Hastings’ most recent blog post, he said he felt the need to apologize for the pricing changes that occurred on the site this summer.

Basically, the Netflix team said it was going to separate the streaming plan from the DVD plan so that members could potentially get up to two DVDs at a time without having to get the package that also includes the instant streaming; it’s added variety, but at an added price.

So, for example, I used to pay $15.99 per month for my package that included instant streaming and two DVDs at a time.

Since I am inclined to keep my current package, my upgraded statement still shows a package deal, but my new monthly fee of $19.98 is the same as it would be if I had separately purchased a streaming plan for $7.99 per month and a two-DVDs-at-a-time plan for $11.99 per month.

Phew.

Now, it’s not like the price increase of $3.99 made me want to cancel my plan. But I did find it a tad ridiculous.

Why do I, a poor college student, have to give this hugely successful company $47.88 more per year to get the same thing I’ve been getting for the past six months?

Really, Netflix just attempted to disguise its greedy price increases by claiming to provide a better variety.

Regardless of what its intentions were, though, people went into overdrive.

In his blog post, Hastings said he has been told through various technological means that he “lacked respect and humility” in the way he announced the separation of DVDs from streaming and the subsequent price increases.

OK.

He could have stopped there. But, just to send people clearly off the roof, he announced that they’re not done yet.

Starting who knows when, Netflix is going to separate DVDs from streaming even more with a new website called “Qwikster,” which will handle all of the DVD business.

So, even though Netflix will still technically run the show, all interaction with DVDs – including billing – will be handled through the new website.

Because I really needed another thing to keep track of.

Thanks, Netflix. I almost wish I didn’t love you.

KELLY MORELAND

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