Dear Netflix: You Are No Longer a Verb to Me.

by rachael g king on September 20, 2011


Dear Netflix,

A couple months ago, you screwed up. (Note that the operative part of that sentence is not actually “you screwed up” – all brands make mistakes – it’s the “couple months ago” part that hurts.)

You announced a sizable price hike with little to no explanation, and zero community management in place to respond. Thousands of tweets, status updates, and posts of all shapes and size went up, and we heard nada-zip-zilch from you in return.

And I defended you.

I defended you because, in all honesty, the hike was not unreasonable. People talked about it in terms of percentage to make it sound ludicrous – really, it was just a few bucks, and something you probably should have done long ago. I thought separating the DVD and streaming services was a little silly, because most people only want one or the other but are willing to slide a couple extra bucks your way for both. But hey, that’s your choice – I don’t really use DVDs, so I just canceled them and went straight to streaming, which I probably should have done anyway but never would have if you hadn’t forced me to think about it. You actually saved me (and thousands of other customers) lots and lots of money, to your detriment.

While I thought you were seriously lacking in the way you handled the increase, you’ve been good to me these many years, and price-wise, you’re still worthwhile – so I was cool with it. I even argued on your behalf on Twitter and your Facebook page, because I’m loyal to my faves like that.

Then yesterday morning, I woke up to an utterly tragic, strategically-absent email from your CEO. Despite the smell of desperation already wafting up from my computer, I opened it, hoping there might be a few “make it right” nuggets inside. (And, you know, morbid curiosity.)

Netflix, I have to assume that Reed Hastings was shit-canned at 6am and accidentally hit “send” in a haze of Jim Beam-induced tears. His whiny plea was embarrassing to read, like that day in high school when the teacher makes everyone read a poem out loud in class, and you were the asshat who took it WAY. Too. Far. Everyone in class is shuffling their feet, refusing to make eye contact while the snotty girls make doodles on their trapper keepers mocking your raw and awkward sensitivity – and oh yeah, the jocks are totally going to beat you up in the parking lot after school.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. The only action point in the email was to announce that you will be splitting DVDs off from streaming to an entirely separate brand. So people now have to log into two completely different sites to use the same product in separate forms! And to try and distract us, you gave it a name that would have been really cool and futuristic sounding… in 1998. QWIKSTER? Really?!

(The Oatmeal describes this better than I ever could, so don’t miss that.)

Never before have I seen such a rapid deterioration of a brand’s image – at least not without massive environmental damage. It’s impressive, really. A year ago, you were this:

Attractive, witty, and well-loved. Everyone just liked the way you operated. You were a Gosling-esque smooth criminal.

Now, you are this:

It’s like the brand opposite of a “She’s All That” transformation.

I tried to stand by you, Netflix, but I have to walk away. I’ll still use streaming, at least until Hulu can come through our Wii. But as punishment, I’m removing you as a verb from my vocabulary. You will no longer be the “Google” of streaming to me, wherein you have monopolized the industry to the point where your name becomes the action itself. No longer will I turn to a friend and drop into conversation, “Oh, you can just Netflix it!”

You’ve lost that privilege, Netflix… and with it, my heart.

  • Katie C

    Ugh. The entire thing was just a mess! I was just like you…when the price increase was announced, I wasn’t too upset about it. Then I did do the math…I get 1, 2 DVDs tops, in a week…so 8 max a month, which makes the DVDs $1 each, but really it’s more because with mail schedule 8 doesn’t happen. Well, thanks to Redbox and Blockbuster express, I can get movies for $1 each, so it makes no sense to keep the Netflix (or should I say…Qwickster???) DVD service. So I cancelled it. I’ll keep the streaming: that’s a great deal still I think…although I’d love to see an expanded library…wouldn’t that be nice…

    But yeah, they totally handled everything SO wrong. Painfully wrong.

    • rachaelgk

      I’ll keep the streaming too, because it’s so cheap. But that’s the only reason. Everything about this was just so ridiculous. Do they have NO one helping them with PR and social media!? (And if they do, they should fire them…)

  • dcfemella

    Netflix has gone off the deep end. Hulu streams on PS3, so I think I will be say au revoir to Netflix or whatever name they want to go by now.

    • rachaelgk

      Yup. I think a Roku box is in my immediate future…

  • Anonymous

    Are you ready to do away with the service all together?

    • rachaelgk

      Not until there’s another streaming service that easily comes to my TV (hooking up a computer is too annoying). But as soon as there’s a decent competitor, quite possibly.

  • Kelly Hayes

    I agree with ALL the things. What an embarrassment. That email was painful to read and I agree that it and the name Qwikster could have only come from an alcohol-fueled brainstorming session. Well said. 

    • rachaelgk

      Hahaha, “ALL the things”, love the Allie reference. 

  • bluntdelivery

    1. i agree completely with the way that was handled. bogus. and AWKWARD! ahahaha

    2. love me some ryan gosling. please use him in more demonstrations.

    3. the end

    • rachaelgk

      I should devote an entire blog to using him in ALL my demonstrations. That wouldn’t be weird at all…

  • Caryn

    p.s. I love that you put a clip from Grandma’s Boy. HILARIOUS.

  • Caryn

    Very well written letter, Rachael. I would stream, but my internet provider sucks and always goes out and always leaves me swearing at the TV. I am keeping the DVD rental for now, but we’ll see.  In 10, no probably 5 we’ll say, “remember netflix? wait, what was their attempted DVD company? Q something…”

    • rachaelgk

      Ugh, a life without internets is no life at all. And YES re: Grandma’s Boy! Glad someone got that. 😉

  • Anonymous

    I think they are planning to sell their DVD business, and my guess is to Redbox.  Personally, I believe Netflix’s goal has been streaming for a long time, but they had to deal with restrictions in everything from bandwidth to licensing.  

    If they are going to sell, that could explain a lot.  They probably wouldn’t be concerned with giving customers perks, nor would they be concerned with the Qwikster Twitter account if the Qwikster name is going to be very temporary.  I don’t think their buyer would be disappointed to lose a few customers because I’d guess they are primarily concerned with  buying the Netflix processes that everyone has tried to duplicate unsuccessfully. Let’s say it’s Redbox; if you dropped Netflix, you’d likely be going to Redbox for DVDs anyway.  They would be able to offer kiosk service or subscriptions and pretty much cover all DVD bases.

    Maybe I just have acquisitions on the brain since we are currently integrating a newly acquired company, but I just didn’t see anything out of the ordinary with Netflix.

    • rachaelgk

      This actually makes a LOT of sense, and I hope you’re right. Still, they definitely went about it in the wrong way… and a lot of the “wrong” resides in that name alone. Oy.

  • A Super Girl

    Ugh, really? I saw your tweets about this yesterday, but kind of didn’t pay attention to what all the fuss was about. This is ridiculous. I really only use DVDs, but sometimes use streaming if I’m desperate. So, I’m like you that if they’d just kept everything together, they’d get their money from me for both. But splitting it into 2 separate companies? Lame. I don’t think I’m willing to deal with two companies. And their streaming is fine, but ti’s not great. If you’re going to pull this, at least have a decent library of items to stream. 

    • rachaelgk

      Exactly. Who on earth would go to the trouble of using two different sites – especially when RedBox is available (and immediate)?

      Here’s hoping they at least do follow through with making their streaming (esp the library) better!

  • Amy Schmittauer

    Inspirational and spot on post, Rach! Those idiots don’t deserve to be in anyone’s vocabulary at all, except the tech news anchors who will be reporting their demise in the near future.

    • rachaelgk

      Sad, but true. Thanks lady!

  • Becky

    I like how they used examples of Borders too in the email. Oh, you mean the bookstore that just liquidated? Glad that’s your example of a business that was good to model.

    • Jeff

      Wait, what am I missing… If you canceled DVDs already, what does yesterday’s announcement do to you?

      As far as I can tell nothing changes for you. Is there something else about it I’m not getting?

      • phronk

        I’m in Canada, where none of this affects me directly (we’ve always only had streaming here), but it’s still painful to see such massive incompetence from a company that had everything going for it just a few months ago.

        • rachaelgk

          Yup. I have a feeling this will be a “what NOT to do” case study for a long, long time.

      • rachaelgk

        This post is not about the service itself, it’s about the way it was handled. As a professional in the industry and as a previously loyal consumer, I’ve lost all respect for them as a brand – and they’ve lost my loyalty.

    • rachaelgk

      Hahaha, no kidding. I think they referenced them to show what they were trying *not* to become – but still, not a good idea… you’re just making us jump to the conclusion that you’re headed that way by bringing them up at all.

    • Caryn

      I thought the same thing! Why would you choose a company that went bankrupt as your example? Just added to the fire against them.

      • rachaelgk

        *shakes head* Silly, silly Netflix.

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