Help A Consumerist: What Netflix Alternative?

It’s not always bitch bitch bitch here at the Consumerist, so we like to turn over a thread to readers looking for some practical consumer advice every once and a while. Maumita writes:

I don’t believe I have seen this discussed on your website, but I’m sure some of your readers can give me some advice. I am a former Netflix customer and left because I was sick of the way they treated long term customers–specifically because they gave preferential treatment to new customers. I was wondering what your readers think of competitors such Blockbuster Online and Intelliflix. from what I’ve seen, Blockbuster seems to have a limited selection as far as foreign films. However, I have seen a few positive online reviews for Intelliflix because they offer movies, games, and adult titles.

Yes, the availability of hardcore pornography would certainly appear to be a point in Intelliflix’s favor. On the other hand, my father swears by Blockbuster and judging by the television top queue when I was last home was able to secure several soft-core smut documentaries of Betty Page being spanked.

So it’s a tie so far. Which service do you, o readers, recommend? Let us know in the comments section.

Comments

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  1. Billifer says:

    I’m a current Netflix customer, and I’m actually curious what Maumita means by “I was sick of the way they treated long term customers–specifically because they gave preferential treatment to new customers.” I’ll admit that I’ve only been a member since April, but I’d like to know what your experience has been and why it has led you to leave Netflix.

  2. Paul D says:

    I’m curious as well. I’ve been a Netflix customer since 2000 and have scarcely had any problems.

  3. aka Cat says:

    Maybe he’s referring to Netflix’s tendancy to throw a one-day delay into the turn around time for accounts that are getting a lot of DVDs out of the service. (ie, someone who sends discs back fast enough to get 12+ DVDs out of a 3-at-a-time account.)

    It’s also alleged that the same accounts have to wait much longer for the new releases, even though the movie is sitting at the top of their queue.

    Personally, I’ve been with them since before they went to the monthly fee; the only problems I’ve had were with the post office.

  4. Pelagius says:

    No problems here, either. A happy Netflix customer since 2004. That’s a pretty rare event, too, since I’m a serial whinger.

  5. Clare says:

    We have Blockbuster and we really like it. We like that you get two free in-store rentals per month.

  6. Mike Fahey says:

    What he is talking about, I believe, is the fact that a customer who is on a 5 movie at a time plan and rents constantly will often a: have their returns held up before sending out new movies to curb usage and b: have people who only rent a few movies a month get ahead in line for new releases and popular films.

    I was a 5 at a time Netflix subscriber for a long time, and I found that the longer I kept my movies out, the faster I would get the new ones. I was trying to work (and I mean work) my way through the entire Deep Space 9 series. If I got the five discs on say a Friday, watched them over the course of a weekend, and then returned them Monday, my normally overnight turnaround would be stretched out to a week, and sometimes more by receiving the movies but not having the returns processed.

    Netflix was actually involved in a class action suit because their claim of unlimited movies was proven to be false on account of these very practices.

    That being said, Netflix is still amazing for anime. Blockbuster seems to stock its online library with used movies that customers return to stores. Where Netflix has an enitre anime series, BB will have discs 1, 4, and 6.

    Man I am talky in the morning.

  7. Ben Popken says:

    Hollis writes:

    “No one has yet suggested my fave DVD subscription service: I have been a long time subscriber to GreenCine, and LOVE the selection, service, website, and the general goodness of the owners- they give a percentage of their profits to arts organizations. Best anime selection by far.”

  8. rdm says:

    I am currently using Blockbuster and am experiencing some weird delays (but we are heavy users). I do like the 4 in store rentals per month, but the selection in stores is pretty lame (unless you want a new release). If the delays keep up I’ll be switching but not to Netflix (for the same reason – throttling). Maybe I’ll check out Intelliflix :).

  9. Kornkob says:

    *shrug* The only ‘delays’ I’ve ever experienced have to do with the fact that sometimes I get my shipments from Wisconsin location (per the return address) and sometimes I get them from Chicago.

  10. Harlan says:

    Until recently, I avoided NetFlix and used two other services, CafeDVD and DVDOvernight. Both allowed rental of single movies, rather than NetFlix’s subscription plan. They were both OK, but it’s obvious that they never really caught on and that their stock of films is not really increasing. So now I’m trying out NetFlix’s $10, one-film-at-a-time thing to see if that works for me… Joining the borg! At least NetFlix has a distribution center 5 miles away, so my movies are always here next day…

  11. gundan says:

    I find Maumita’s comment hearsay. I have been a Netflix customer since July 2000 and I have always had a great experience with them. They have kept up with changes in the market place very well and my experience has only grown better.

    One has to be reasonable about the usage of their service, if a user expects to rent out 20 dvd’s every month year after year and for most part just to primarily copy the dvd’s the system detects the usage pattern and throttles if not it is just fine for most users.

  12. Maumita’s referring to throttling, which doesn’t affect long-time customers as much as long-time customers who are on one of Netflix’s “unlimited” plans. It’s the same as the mobile company policies Consumerist posted about yesterday: if you cost Netflix nearly more money than you’re paying in–i.e., if your complementary postage is nearly adding up to your monthly subscription–Netflix delays your shipments.

    They make no secret of it. It’s something in their Terms of Service Agreement now.

  13. Maumita’s referring to throttling, which doesn’t affect long-time customers as much as long-time customers who are on one of Netflix’s “unlimited” plans. It’s the same as the mobile company policies Consumerist posted about yesterday: if you cost Netflix nearly more money than you’re paying in–i.e., if your complementary postage is nearly adding up to your monthly subscription–Netflix delays your shipments.

    They make no secret of it. It’s something in their Terms of Service Agreement now.

  14. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    Andrew has a good point, it must cost at least 37 cents to ship a netflix movie, probably slightly more due to weight. If you are renting 30 movies a month the postage alone puts a serious damper on thier profit margine.

    Of course, that’s their problem and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to throttle customers. It’s the cost of doing business with a model like theirs. If it’s not profitable for them, they need to rethink the model and not punish the customers for taking full advantage of the service they pay for.

    That said, I’m a new Netflix customer and I’ve been enjoying their services. I’m only on the 2 out at a time plan and I usually watch about 2 a week. It’s been pretty reliable for me, I mail a movie on Monday morning, they get it Tuesday and ship another, I recieve the movie on Wednesday.

    My ex and I had Blockbuster when we were together when they first started offering the service. It was great at first, but I did notice some weird delays as the service got older. It was especially strange as we hardly ever watched our movies. We probably only watched 2 a month and we had the 3 out at a time plan.

  15. Elvisisdead says:

    The best Netflix trick ever is to create a “dummy” profile. My wife and I have 2 profiles under 1 membership. One is our queue and one has nothing in it. When you want a movie fast or to avoid the delay, put the single movie you want in the empty profile. They ship it out immediately.

    Learned about the tip from Lifehacker: http://www.lifehacker.com/software/netflix/turn-netflix-ve

  16. alexchoi@gmail.com says:

    http://www.greencine.com/main has been recommended to me by a friend. They have adult movies and apparently more obscure selections …

  17. mariser says:

    I’ve been with Netflix continuously since 2000. never had a problem worth mentioning (a couple of times DVDs wouldn’t play, got replacement right away). sometimes I watch a lot of movies, sometimes I don’t. can’t say I’ve noticed any change in the speed of returns.

    I feel I must say something in re: throttling. without wanting to generalize, “some” of the loudest complainers of the “OMG Netflix doesn’t let me rent 100+ movies a month! they’re throttling me!!!” also seem to be the ones that get a movie from Netflix, burn a copy and send it back the next day.
    “to me” this behavior violates the spirit if not the letter of the agreement. I realize that if Netflix says “unlimited rentals”, then they have to put up with this; however, if Netflix ends up going under due to jackasses exploiting them, I’ll be upset (not that anyone cares).

  18. Ben Popken says:

    Jamie writes:

    “Has anyone tried out Peerflix? The concept is pretty interesting, and I am somewhat pleased with them myself.”

  19. trixare4kids says:

    I’ve been a Netflix user since 1999-2000 and have experienced only a little bit of throttling in the summer when I tend to watch more movies. I like the mostly 2 day turn around, no problems with shipping, very little throttling, great selection and immediate email updates about receiving and sending your dvds. I’ve also had 2-3 discs go missing in the mail since I started and they’ve been very nice about it each time.

    I’ve been trying Blockbuster this month because there was a promo code for a free month, courtesy of the netflixfan blog. Use code 40037 http://netflixfan.blogspot.com/
    I’ve been with blockbuster for 3 weeks now and what I have found is far less selection that netflix and way more turn around time. It takes one day for them to receive the discs I send them, but two days for their DVDs to reach me. Also, they don’t always take the movie that’s at the top of your queue, which bothers me deeply. I want to see what’s at the top of my queue, dangit. You do get 1 free in store rental per week, but since the blockbuster near me has probably won the “worst customer service” lifetime acheivement award, I hate them with a white-hot passion. Also, parking is a bitch. For all those reasons, I won’t be switching over to blockbuster.

    I haven’t had experiences with the other sites, but there’s some personal accounts of them at the netflixfan site (above) and at http://www.hackingnetflix.com/

  20. bonnie says:

    Several posters seem to be suggesting that only those who burn discs and send them back the next day will get throttled by Netflix. Nope, there are those of us out there who just plain watch the darn things every night, send them back the next day, and get throttled. Make all the judgements you want about me watching too much TV, but I’m not doing anything illegal and I’m paying the price that Netflix designated for their service.

    The throttling is extremely frustrating when it is Netflix themselves who choose claim their service is unlimited. That’s what I signed up for, so that’s what I expect. I know they do have their throttling policy on their site, but I think they should bite the bullet and also list the maximum number of discs they’ll send you in a 30 day period for each plan. Lowered expectations can be a good thing sometimes. I’ve been tearing my way through all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wouldn’t have been quite so upset about the occasional week-long delays in getting a disc to me if I had some way of knowing that I’d hit whatever the magic number is.

  21. limiter says:

    I was a Neflix subscriber for 2 months and quit because my queue had 200 titles on it all listed as “available now” or “short wait”. When the second month came nearly all the new releases and popular movies moved to “long wait” at the beginning of the month (in one day they changed from “available now” to “long wait”) and then halfway through the month they switched to “very long wait”. If that’s not pandering to new subscribers I don’t know what is.

  22. Elvisisdead says:

    I know you shouldn’t have to do it, but I’m telling you guys the extra profile trick works. We average around 3 movies a week with no problems (we’d rather watch movies than broadcast TV).

  23. GenXCub says:

    I paid for a year on blockbuster.com for my Grandmother since she doesn’t drive. Never one issue, and she always got the movies she wanted (I cancelled because she said she’d seen all she wanted to see, and wanted to wait for more movies to come out before continuing). As was said above, the part that made the sale were the free coupons you can print out from the site for the walk-in store. My mom used those, my grandmother used the service, it was a great deal. Hint: They sometimes have introductory prices that go up after x months.. if you try to cancel your service, they’ll move you back to the introductory rate to keep you.

  24. Hitchcock says:

    I cancelled Netflix because of throttling. I was running about 6-8 movies a month, so I was not a “heavy” user. As a test at the end, I deleted all but 1 new release from my Que and returned all my movies (3 movie at a time plan). It took them 3 weeks to send it to me. That’s why I left.

    Blockbuster isn’t perfect, but I have 2 stores nearby so if someone comes over and wants to watch something, or I just gotta watch that new release, I can just pop over to the store to get it.

  25. Poormojo says:

    I cancelled Netflix because of their selection–they didn’t have a lot of the rarer and odder films I wanted to see. I switched to GreenCine.com, which is a nonprofit in San Francisco that gives a lot of its proceeds to charities.

    They have a vastly different selection from NetFlix, ship as fast, and are cheaper.Through GreenCine I was able to see the un-butchered Shaolin Soccer and also Battle Royale. Try finding those on Netflix.

    They also have pr0n, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  26. hardcle says:

    I’d also like to recommend GreenCine. They have a great selection: foreign, obscure, anime and adult titles. Fast and friendly customer service is only an email away. There’s also a great community of movie lovers who contribute to the site with reviews and lists. No throttling ever! The only caveat being they only ship from San Francisco, so turnaround times can be longer than with other services.

  27. nan says:

    I third the suggestion to try GreenCine. They rock!

  28. etinterrapax says:

    I’ve been with Netflix since 2002, and on the whole, I’m happy with it. I seem to have slightly quicker service in MA than I had in MN for some reason, but only on one occasion was I noticeably throttled. Like bonnie, my feeling is that if I’ve paid for unlimited rentals, I’d damn well better be getting them. But it’s never been bad enough for me to cancel.

  29. spacehaven says:

    Second for Green Cine.. unfortunately my wife and I are guilty of sitting on discs for weeks at a time. Don’t try to rent Young Poisoner’s Handbook for a few weeks, ok? ;)

  30. Billifer says:

    I’ve got 247 movies in my Netflix queue. Of those, 13 haven’t been released yet and only 20 are short wait and 2 are long wait. I’ve got 2 at home right now, and since April 10, I’ve received 31 others. For my $19.38 per month (taxes are a bitch), it beats the hell out of going to Blockbuster and paying $4.84 per movie.

    It also beats BB Online; I used that service not long after it launched because I was attracted to the free in-store rentals and the idea of “if a friend comes over, we can get something else.” It doesn’t work out that way if you don’t plan it that way. Also their catalog is extremely limited: nothing NC-17 there, and good luck finding a fair number of foreign, indie, and art films. (Which I happen to like and which compose about 85 percent of my queue.)

    I checked out Intelliflix last night after seeing this post, and I’m not magically drawn to it for a couple of reasons, even though the idea of adult rentals is really appealing. The good pricing only applies if you prepay for a year. Talk about a bum deal if you don’t like the service. Without creating an account, I found it difficult to browse by category, but on the plus side, I did find movies that I want to see that even Netflix won’t carry. Tinto Brass and Bruce LaBruce, anyone?

    Now I suppose I’ll check out GreenCine. I hadn’t heard of it, but since there are many recommendations and it’s right up my alley (and also right up the coast; shipping time shouldn’t be major) it might be a viable add-on to a lower-priced Netflix plan or even occasional in-store rental.

    One more thing I like about Netflix is their open API. It allows 3rd-party developers (which you can read all about at the site someone mentioned above, http://www.hackingnetflix.com) to interface with their system. I rarely even login to the Netflix website; instead I use an app called Netflix Freak for Mac OS X.

  31. bifyu says:

    I’ve been a netflix customer since 2000 and have had very few complaints with them. I think they’ve shipped me something from my queue (pretty consistently at 490+ movies) out of sequence only three times or so, and that only matters to me if I’m in the middle of a series. The I’ve only noticed the throttling a few times as well — but that was kind of irksome since on average I’m not high volume, but I can be bursty.

    I’ve never tried them, but a friend who has used both netflix and blockbuster says blockbuster sucks, err, blocks by comparison. they were slower, screwed up the shipping order frequently, and the selection was poorer.

  32. rdm says:

    I just wanted to follow up – this post was the first I’d heard about Intelliflix, which supposedly has more shipment centers than Netflix, and the price is right about the same. BB started being a pain so I switched and started porting my 60+ movie queue over (IF does NOT give a free trial!). 2/3rd of those movies I had in my queue (nothing very obscure, mostly TV series, really) are currently in a separate queue which indicates I won’t get them for at least a month (30 day plus waiting time). I joined on Monday, they shipped out 3 movies Monday night, it’s Wednesday night and I’ve only received one movie. I live in Dallas and it takes BB or NF one day to get the movie to me (most of the time). Also, IF has a cancel anytime, but we won’t refund your money policy, so I’m stuck. Thankfully it’s just one month.

  33. Lindalu2 says:

    Just say NO to Blockbuster. I had Netflix, and stopped because we weren’t renting much any more – not much new we wanted to watch. After several years, I’ve joined Blockbuster because a store manager said they had the title I have been looking everywhere for. They gave me a code for a free 2 week trial. GREAT!! I was going to be able to get the movie and for FREE. What’s better than that?

    Well, if it sounds too good to be true. . . .

    After two weeks of my #1 choice not shipping, I wasn’t suspicious, I just figured it always was out for the 2 seconds my choices were selected. So, I signed up for another month to wait it out. Really wanted to see this older movie. I also contacted Customer Serive after reading the bit online and was assured that they ship from distribution centers near me to make sure I see as many titles as I want. I also got a free e-coupon for in store (which didn’t have the movie I wanted).

    Another month has gone by and now a couple more movies that never ship sit at the top of my queue. Now, I’m not as patient. It has cost $20 to watch a lot of movies other than the movie the store associate told me was available, and BB online says is available. It would have been cheaper to buy the movie online and resell it at Amazon after watching!

    Now, I’ve become embroiled in a back and forth e-mail escapade with Customer Service (an oxymoron at best, but mostly I consider it a lie). I kept getting the “distribution center near you” line even though I told them I understood that and just wanted the movie force shipped from a further distribution center and didn’t mind waiting 7 days. I also asked to be forwarded to a manager which never happened.

    I finally got a CSA today who did escalate the issue after she told me that there was no way I would ever get that specific movie shipped to me.

    So, what good is selection if you are still limited by the choices in a local “store.” (Or distribution center) Netflix shipped my titles in order, unless they specifically showed as temp unavailable. I never had a title not ship.

    AT BB you will have titles not ship – and they will not tell you they are titles that will never ship unless you corner some poor CSA like I finally did on the phone today.

    Netflix has my vote. . .hands down, hands up, all hands on deck.

    I might reconsider if the CSManager offers me 3 free movies for keeps and a 6 month free extension of my membership. But, I’d definitely cancel on the 7 month. ;-)

  34. MrHegemony says:

    This is about a year too late for this article, but in case anyone ever reads it – STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM INTELLIFLIX! That other commenter who said that a good portion of their movies got moved into a different queue which indicates waits of up to “one month” has no real idea what’s in store for any hapless consumer who purchases their one year plan.

    Currently, I have about 5 movies that I have been waiting over 10 months for, I have 6-15 movies I have been waiting about 8-10 months for, I have 16-25 movies I have been waiting 5-8 months for….let’s just say that my ‘extra queue’ is much longer than my normal queue.

    “But they’ve got games and adult titles!!” Out of about 30 games I have added to my queue, I have only received 2 or 3 and those were never near the top of my regular queue. As for adult titles, you may as well forget it. I’ve received one or two total and have added many adult titles in hopes that one would come.

    To make matters worse, with Intelliflix you have NO idea what movie you will receive from your queue, pretty much ever. In a queue of say 50 movie titles, you might get shipped the 26th title one week, the 16th title a different week, and the 45th title the week after. There’s no discernible pattern and no way to know what you’ll get. To call it a “queue” is an insult to the English language to put it mildly. That there’s an additional queue for items that are going to be put on hold is more than an insult – it’s a slap in the face and a punch in the kidneys.

    To sum up, there is not a single redeeming quality to this company’s product and I have every intention of bringing their practices to the BBB. Heck, I’ve already threatened to do this multiple times to their Customer Service…to no avail.

  35. world-inferno says:

    I think Intelliflix is dead. I’m on day 15 of no movies. Take a look at my trouble ticket history.

    [i39.photobucket.com]