Damaged Discs from Netflix?
August 15, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I've been getting DVDs from Netflix recently that are cracked, scratched and otherwise unplayable. They always offer to send a repacement but what a pain it is to plan to watch in the evening only to find it won't play. Has anyone else experienced a rise in the number of damaged discs being received? When I called, admittedly a bit hot under the collar, to complain the Netflix CSR listened, briefly, but when I asked if Netflix had deliberately decided to stop inspecting discs for damage before mailing out to customers my call got seamlessly switched to National Car Rental. So much for customer service at Netflix!
posted by NorthCoastCafe to Shopping (42 answers total)
When I lived in Austin, I noticed that I was receiving quite a number of unplayable discs. Now that I'm near Chicago, I haven't had that problem (yet). The thing about DVDs is that some of the most destroyed-looking discs will play fine, while others that appear to be almost pristine will have that spot, 20 minutes from the ending, where it stops playing.
posted by puritycontrol at 2:45 PM on August 15, 2010

A friend got a disc that had been broken and taped back together a few weeks ago. I'm not a Netflix subscriber so I have no personal experience with quality, but this sounds to me like yeah, their QA might be suffering recently.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:57 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

This happens to us from time to time. I'd say once every 6 months or so. However, I have to tell you that lately we've been just streaming so much of our content that it's almost become irrelevant.

posted by kbanas at 3:03 PM on August 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I haven't had any unplayable disks in a long time, and I get about 3 per week. But a couple years back, I did receive 3 that were visibly cracked, in a 6-week period. Wrote it off as a weird coincidence that the bad discs were close together, and it never happened before or since. The transferred call is definitely strange, you might want to try calling them again.
posted by daikon at 3:04 PM on August 15, 2010

This hasn't happened to me in five years.
posted by special-k at 3:08 PM on August 15, 2010

I re-subscribed to Netflix two or three months ago after not having it for a couple of years, and have definitely been unpleasantly surprised by the quality of the discs I've been getting. Of the last four, one was unplayable completely and one had some pretty bad areas sprinkled through it (including freezing up over the most important scene). And almost every one I've gotten I've had to clean before it would play without freezing or skipping.

I think puritycontrol's suggestion that it might have something to do with wherever your regional distribution center is is probably relevant. Some of the may be managed worse than others.
posted by frobozz at 3:09 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just so the thread doesn't end up full of confirmation bias, I've never had a problem with scratched netflix discs in my extensive time using them and haven't begun to see problems.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:16 PM on August 15, 2010

I had a problem with this occasionally in Philadelphia, although nothing I would have been moved to post to Metafilter about; I had a few movies that would skip sometimes, and occasionally I'd miss a couple minutes of a movie, but only once did I get a movie that was unwatchable. I just moved to Oakland; we'll see if my luck changes, for better or worse.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:19 PM on August 15, 2010

I'd say in the past 4 years 1 in every 25 movies will be scratched bad enough where the disc will skip or I'll have to skip a chapter.
Only once have I ever had an unplayable disc.
I've never had a broken disc.
I like streaming a lot.
Western MD.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2010

We go through about 3 discs a week and have had maybe 2 that were bad this year.
posted by COD at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2010

I've lived in the Palm Springs area for about two years, am on the 2 at a time plan, and can remember a couple discs that came in broken or otherwise unplayable.

Before that, I lived near Atlanta, GA, received 3 at a time for about 4 years, and can only remember a handful of times receiving broken or unplayable discs.

I've never had to call their customer service.
posted by doh ray mii at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2010

In about four or so years, I've had one broken disc (and that was years ago) and a few scratched and unplayable discs. Sort of like you are describing, those scratched discs came in a short period of time, and then stopped happening, like might happen if a distribution center all of a sudden got is quality control act together.
posted by Forktine at 3:38 PM on August 15, 2010

Never had a broken disc in at least seven years, and in that time, only one that had to be returned as unplayable. We may have a bulletproof player, though, and that does make a big difference.
posted by sageleaf at 3:40 PM on August 15, 2010

Overall it has not been a problem - it happens maybe once every six months, and most of the time it's obvious that the damage happened in the mail, not due to lax quality control.

The funny thing, though, is that a few years ago I was watching all of Buffy in order (before it was all available instantly), and I had a lot of problems with Buffy DVD's. My roommate and I created an elaborate fantasy to explain it, something about teenage girls with messy rooms, or spinster cat ladies, or something.
posted by Sara C. at 3:47 PM on August 15, 2010

Yes, I've used them for years, and never had a problem until this summer. In the last month or so, I've gotten three that I've had to send back.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:03 PM on August 15, 2010

No problems here. We normally go through a couple of DVDs a week, and I think we've received one bad disc in the past couple years.
posted by kiripin at 4:19 PM on August 15, 2010

I've had three this summer as well, and none for months before that. But two of the three were old Doctor Who, which I have been watching in order, so I have a vague theory that someone who is just ahead of me on the Doctor Who catch-up is not taking good care of their discs.

Of course, whoever is getting them after me probably feels the same way.

This isn't the main reason I'm mostly streaming content from them these days, but it's certainly part of it.
posted by Stacey at 4:30 PM on August 15, 2010

I think Puritycontrol and Froboz are probably on the right track. I think I've only had a scratched disc once... though every few months I just plain don't receive the movie I ordered. I actually started to worry that they were going to think I was lying. So maybe that's a problem more specific to my region, instead of poor inspection.

I don't know how they do their quality control, but if it's just a visual inspection, a human being is likely to miss 20-30% of issues no matter how hard they're trying.
posted by Caravantea at 4:34 PM on August 15, 2010

I've had one bad disc in the eight months or so that I've had it. One thing to bear in mind here, vaguely alluded to in a couple comments above, is that Netflix really operates its inventory and delivery system through regional facilities, and sudden problems like these are probably going to be the result of something happening at one of those facilities rather than policies.
posted by el_lupino at 5:08 PM on August 15, 2010

I've had Netflix since it started and have had three problems.
1) a damaged disc
2) a disc was lost after i mailed it back
3) a disc was returned to netflix before I got it (I got the "it shipped" email and then two days later I got the "we received it" email)

Maybe it is they're letting their QA slip, or you're just losing the Netflix lottery and getting duds.
posted by birdherder at 5:09 PM on August 15, 2010

I subscribed for years in Brooklyn, and I'd say I had 5 or so unplayable discs in 3 or 4 years (on a fairly heavy rotation), and 15 or so that skipped but played after I worked a little magic on them.
posted by nevercalm at 5:32 PM on August 15, 2010

Our discs have always been okay. But honestly I'm so into the streaming part of Netflix that I'd just as soon stick with that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2010

Any chance that you're player is starting to fail? I also find that sometimes a disk that won't work in my DVD player will play in my computer or vice versa.
posted by Sukey Says at 5:53 PM on August 15, 2010

You can report problems with discs online and then they toss them. I did that the one time I got a bad one.
posted by fshgrl at 5:55 PM on August 15, 2010

Just tossing something onto the anecdata - I get my discs from Coppell, TX, and I haven't had any problems with completely useless discs. Once in a while, I'll get a disc where a chapter will catch, but I can generally get around it. This is after 3 years of moderate use, FYI.
posted by SNWidget at 5:56 PM on August 15, 2010

Seconding Sukey Says's suggestion. I know that our old cheap DVD player used to be super finicky. On occasion it would even have problems with a brand new disc right out of the packaging.

In response to the original question, we get a couple of Netflix discs per week and have had absolutely no problems with them.
posted by tdismukes at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2010

nevercalm: "I subscribed for years in Brooklyn, and I'd say I had 5 or so unplayable discs in 3 or 4 years (on a fairly heavy rotation), and 15 or so that skipped but played after I worked a little magic on them."

This is interesting. I also live in Brooklyn and this is almost exactly my experience as well. I'd have to check my rental log for exact numbers, but yeah, close enough.

A lot of discs can be fixed by running them under warm water and then wiping them center to edge (across the actual tracks) with a lint free cloth.
posted by Splunge at 6:05 PM on August 15, 2010

Streaming is all good and stuff, but only 1/10 of my queue is stream-available.

I have had two stretches of bad disks - the first one (2 years ago, Western MD distribution center) featured 4 scratched disks in 1 month, two in the same tv series, two in movies staring the same oh-so-dreamy actor. They were all replaced immediately when I reported damage. Then no problems for a long time.

The second one (earlier this year, Roanoke dist center) was at the same time the primary DVD player was slowly dying, and so disks with light scratching or use marks that all of my computers and the other tv could play would fail on my primary DVD player. I didn't realize this until the third disk when I finally got a clue and tested on other machines - during that time I got one 1 broken disk and 1 deeply scarred and 1 medium scratch that didn't work well in other machines (i.e., 10 minutes of movie, stop, skip to next book, 4 minutes of movie, stop, skip to next book, etc). Again, they sent replacements immediately. Absolutely no problems since.
posted by julen at 6:30 PM on August 15, 2010

Their plan is to stream more than they mail out so this problem will likely go away after Sept 1 as the streaming choices increase and fewer people are using the DVD's as drinks coasters.

FWIW, I have only had stellar service when I've called them. They were polite, efficient, and problems were solved on first call.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 6:31 PM on August 15, 2010

I’ve been using Netflix for three years in greater Cleveland. The confirmation emails they send out asking when the discs arrive never include enough days after “it ships” for me.

I usually got them four or five days after it says they shipped, although I live within the 1-day mail cycle for Cuyahoga County.

I would say that I have to use the disc replacement for ones that just never arrive about every ten discs. The “missing discs” somehow find their way back to Netflix.
posted by vkxmai at 6:35 PM on August 15, 2010

Out of the last 100 discs in my Netflix history, precisely one has been badly enough damaged that I've reported it to Netflix as such. Having "The Prestige" skip through the last one of Hugh Jackman's magic shows is a little annoying. Beyond that, I would estimate that one in ten or twenty skips on an initial play-through, but a little Windex and elbow grease (as recommended on the disc sleeve) usually fixes the problem.

Distro center: until recently, about 75% came from Indianapolis, 25% from Louisville.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:41 PM on August 15, 2010

Maybe it's not that they're letting QA slip, but that they have a larger number of careless moron subscribers than they used to.
posted by The World Famous at 6:43 PM on August 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

BTW, you don't have to call customer service. On the website, just go into your queue, click Report Problem on whichever movie it is, click unplayable disc, and a new one will be on its way before you even send back the broken one.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:58 PM on August 15, 2010

I've been a heavy subscriber since 2001, and yeah, there does seem to be a slow runup in defective discs over the past year or so. This seems to happen mostly on non-new releases, so I think their inventory of "non-new" movies is ageing and getting very worn. It's possible that some discs might have been circulating for several years now.
posted by crapmatic at 7:19 PM on August 15, 2010

To clarify, I have experienced the same issues at a PO Box AND a physical address in Cleveland.

I tried Greencine for a while, but the discs took even longer than Netflix to arrive.
posted by vkxmai at 7:22 PM on August 15, 2010

I had a run of many unplayable disks for a while.

My mailbox at the time was one of the small ones that are just big enough for letters, so too small for a DVD.

It turned out that the letter carrier was jamming the Netflix envelopes between the wall and the mailbox which was destroying the disks. Sometimes they cracked and many times they were scratched horribly.

I got a new full sized mailbox and the problem went away.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 7:25 PM on August 15, 2010

Are you named "Dan"? Someone just asked this very question at Hacking Netflix.
posted by mmascolino at 7:26 PM on August 15, 2010

I think I've had two unplayable discs ever, and I've been a subscriber for many years. I just get about 1-2 a month, though.
posted by wending my way at 7:53 PM on August 15, 2010

I've not had problems with scratched or unplayable discs, but I did get one that was cracked in half (two pieces) once. I'm laying the blame for that one on my mailman at the time, though, not netflix. Netflix didn't fold it in half to fit it in the mailbox on a rather heavy mail day.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:16 PM on August 15, 2010

For several years, smudged discs outnumbered scratched, requiring frequent windexing. Now, discs appear cleaner, and I'm averaging two to three scratched/unplayable DVDs per year.

Yet things are a vast improvement over 10 years ago, when I first became a member--the age of hard "throttling" aimed at frequent users, and many discs lost in the mail. At one point, Netflix customer service pointed the finger at my regional post office and asked me to call them and complain about missing returns.

An interesting data point: I've been renting Blurays from Netflix for a year now, and not one of them has required a return. Does this reflect anybody else's experiences?
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:41 AM on August 16, 2010

Nthing the probable regional cause. In the few years that we've been on Netflix I think that we have had maybe three that would skip or not play at all. Most of our DVDs come from either the Worcester, MA or Hartford CT hubs...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:33 AM on August 16, 2010

I've had no problems with my Netflix discs since I restarted my subscription back in February or so.
posted by Vorteks at 12:18 PM on August 16, 2010

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