Netflix rules!

For a low monthly fee, Netflix lets you rent as many DVDs as you want. Here's how it works: go to their website, netflix.com, choose DVDs, and they ship them to you, three at a time. Keep them as long as you want, and when you're ready, mail them back in the prepaid envelope. As soon as they get a DVD back, they automatically ship you the next one in your queue. There's no late fees, and their easy-to-use, streamlined website helps you quickly find the movies you'll like.

Read here how Netflix began when its founder, Reed Hastings, was charged a $39 late fee by Blockbuster for returning "Apollo 13" a week late. Or read David Pogue's New York Times article, visit regular-folk Netflix members at Kamel's blog, Quo Vado?, Elkit, Mike's List, and, of course, Cootie Hog. Ponder Netflix's unknowable mysteries with Netflix Fan and Hacking Netflix.

Compare Netflix with Blockbuster:

 

cost

$17/month

No cost unless you rent something, but... $4.92 for each new release movie and $3.45 for each non-new release movie, and each franchise may set their own fee to be even higher!

late fees

None. Keep each DVD as long as you want.

Late fees, Blockbuster's traditional main revenue source, can average $20 per movie per week if you're not careful. Although Blockbuster says they're "ending" these fees, you still have to pay a "nominal restocking fee" if you return a movie even one day past the one-week grace period.

logistic hassles

None. Netflix ships you the top three DVDs you've selected along with a postage-paid return envelope: whenver you're done, put the DVD in its envelope, and put the envelope in any mailbox. Once Netflix gets the DVD back, usually in one or two days, they immediately ship you the next DVD in your queue.

24 separate hassles, grouped under six categories for your convenience:

  1. The drive: you must drive to the store through traffic and weather only during times in which the store you drive to is actually open, and find parking, wasting your valuable time (and costing you gas and car wear & tear).

  2. The store: while the soundtrack to "Shrek 2" blares overhead, you must select the movie you want from their limited offering—good luck if that movie's not "Shrek 2"!—peering between the pillar-like, Spandex-encased thighs of the customer in front of you, try to see if that video in the bottom row is in stock or is it just an empty cover?

  3. The wait: wait in line next to the junk food rack while a customer argues about the new no late fee policy.

  4. The drive, part 2: drive home from the store through traffic and weather, and get home later, scrape the gum off your shoe.

  5. Returning the movie: some movies must be returned sooner than others, so you have to drive back to the store and repeat the whole process whenever the due date of the earliest-due movie arrives.

  6. The late fee: grace period or no grace period, even under the new plan, you still pay a late fee (oh, I'm sorry, a "nominal restocking fee"). All this new policy guarantees is more customers holding on to their movies longer, and that means empty shelves.

    See what I mean: view The Onion's "Blockbuster Video Living Museum" here.

selection

Over 25,000 titles, and growing.

Shrek 2.

intelligent viewing

Easy-to-use, streamlined, and uncluttered, the Netflix website makes finding movies informative and fun.

A powerful database makes surprisingly apt recommendations of other movies you might like that you didn't even know about.

Learn more about movies you might like to check out: see previews, read reviews written by professional critics and other Netflix members.

Dazed by the crowds, the posters, and the blaring "Shrek 2" soundtrack, it's hard to even think straight, much less select anything interesting at Blockbuster.

origami Practice origami with Netflix envelopes, as shown on Netflix origami. Sadly, Blockbuster's inelegant envelopes do not easily lend themselves to this ancient Japanese paper-folding art.

Over time, competitors like Wal-mart, Movieflix, and Amazon may try to copy Netflix's website, but I predict they'll fall short, because behind Netflix's awesome website exists real strength: astute management, key patents, and studio connections. No wonder customers like me love Netflix!

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