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Case study in how to piss off your customers

| Until today, I had a subscription to Netflix. Note that "had" is past tense.

I began with Netflix way back in the early days of the company when the only way you could get movies from them was on DVD. Eventually I gave up the DVD subscription and switched to streaming. But today I cancelled my account.

The credit card that I used for years, an American Express card from Costco, was compromised somewhere along the line: think Home Depot; think Target. Suddenly charges began to appear from China, and I asked for a new card. American Express was kind enough to send me an email listing all the recurring charges for the card, and I was able to go online to the company websites and change the number — all except one: Netflix.

When it came to Netflix, I filled in the new American Express number, expiration date, and security code, only to be told that I had to "enter a valid credit card number." Well I was entering a valid number, and no I didn't make a typo because the number was being filled in by Roboform, as it had been done for dozens of other companies without incident. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the number.

Today I thought I'd try again. I tried again and got the same message about needing a "valid credit card" number. In small print at the bottom of the page there was advice, in case of problems, to call 1-800-585-7285.

So I called 1-800-585-7285. Did a real person answer? No. Was I given an option to "speak to a representative"? No again. Instead, I was forced to listen to a series of 6 ads (6!) for everything from a free medical alert device ("I've fallen and can't get up!") to a 3-day, 2-night stay in a supposedly fabulous new resort in Las Vegas. And these were really annoying ads, delivered with one of those enthusiastic, perky voices, and delivered twice! The first time through the only choice was to "press 1" to take advantage of the offer. It was then repeated, after which one could variously press star or pound (it varied) to decline. Only after being forced to listen to all the ads, I was then told, "The number you called as been disconnected. Call the following number: 1-800-712-3000."

So I called 1-800-712-3000, and the whole rigmarole began anew. With one difference: this time, as soon as I had declined the first ad, the voice said "Goodbye" and the call ended.

I found the button on my account page to cancel my account and clicked. The page said my account would cancel when the current period ends in February, but the cancellation was instantaneous. I couldn't even log in again.

This whole experience was simply appalling and infuriating. But, actually, I'm not really very disappointed. You see, I had been thinking for some time of canceling my account anyway. I seldom found anything on Netflix that I wanted to watch.

Originally Netflix was all about renting movies and there was a wide selection to choose from. In recent years, however, Netflix has decided that movies are so last century and what is now in their catalog is mostly television shows — but not the ones you want to watch, of course! After I became hooked on Downton Abbey I went to Netflix to catch up on the seasons I had missed. But no, the earlier seasons were not there. Of course not, PBS sells the DVDs on their site. Similarly I thought I'd re-enjoy the Absolutely Fabulous series, even though I have seen every episode dozens of times when they were broadcast. Nope. Are You Being Served? Nah. Keeping Up Appearances? Just the original series, none of the later ones.

Well, Netflix has actually done me a service by their disservice. It won't save me much money because the rate had been grandfathered in long ago. But if there's nothing you want to watch, no matter how low the rate it's still a waste of money.

Bah! Good riddance!

Last updated on Apr 29, 2016

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