Can't play it again, Sam!
April 9, 2006 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Netflix users, a straw poll: Recently at least one third of my discs arrive heavily scratched up and skip heavily. Are your experiences similar or do I have a terrible dvd player that hates me?
posted by fatllama to Technology (40 answers total)
I've had a similar experience for the past 6-months. Often I have had to eject the DVD - wipe it gently - and then restart - sometimes more than once.
posted by ericb at 4:20 PM on April 9, 2006

Slight derail, but what kind of DVD player do you have?

Folklore tells me that the more expensive the DVD player, the more likely its laser is to be sensitive to scratches and other imperfections -- so, cheap or expensive?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2006

Big-name, relatively recent titles, similar experience. Less mainstream, or older, classic titles usually are skip-free for me.
posted by gimonca at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2006

Gimonca's experience reflects my own. If it's something that the general popular may like, it is a coaster about 25% of the time.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:27 PM on April 9, 2006

Big-name, relatively recent titles, similar experience. Less mainstream, or older, classic titles usually are skip-free for me.

Same here.

It is gettig bad enough for new releases that we are considering ending our subscription.

(FYI: I have a brand new Sony DVD player)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:30 PM on April 9, 2006

Had that problem with my old drive.Approx. 20 % of rentals were unplayable.Junked the old drive,installed a NEC DVD-RW ND-3540A and have not had a problem since.
posted by Dr.Pill at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2006

I haven't had that problem, but I rarely ever get new releases. (I do often have to wipe the discs off before they'll play correctly.)
posted by jacobm at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2006

It's not uncommon to have to wipe the disc before it will play, but the "bad disc" phenomenon decreased noticeably when we upgraded the DVD player.

We get a mix of new releases and less popular stuff.
posted by ambrosia at 4:49 PM on April 9, 2006

I had a DVD skip a bit today - "Final Destination" - by no means a box office blockbuster. Other than that, I haven't had a big problem with skipping. I did, however, have a problem with DVDs showing up broken in half. Stupid little apartment mailbox.

My DVD player is either the Xbox or the Playstation 2. Usually I wipe the DVDs off with a clean rag first.
posted by drstein at 4:52 PM on April 9, 2006

I received one DVD that was completed smashed (broken in half). Netflix immediately sent a new one - no questions asked. I have not had any arrive in an overly scratched condition.

When I borrow DVDs from friends, however, I can never figure out what the hell they do with their stuff to get it in such horrid shape...
posted by daveleck at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2006

Haven't had any problems yet, and I've been renting recent stuff lately. shrug.
posted by furiousthought at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2006

Netflix user for 9 months.

Only got one broken disc (replaced within a day-no questions). And one scratched (minor skipping on Disc 2 of Freaks and Geeks).

I don't get a lot of mainstream stuff.
posted by ColdChef at 5:03 PM on April 9, 2006

A number of friends and friends-of-friends are considering cancelling their subscriptions because the discs are getting so battered, moreso recently. And one of the friends-of-friends apparently had so many problems and sent back so many discs that Netflix cancelled his account, which seems like not such a great business practice.
posted by occhiblu at 5:09 PM on April 9, 2006

We've had Netflix for a couple of years and about a year ago we had several gouged discs, but nothing much since. I have gotten some that were cracked or broken in half, but those were due to our jerk of a fill-in mailman. He bends them to jam them into our mail slot with a huge stack of mail. We've never had a problem getting replacements sent promptly.

If people don't report a problem with the disc, it will probably go on to the next person until someone reports it.
posted by lobakgo at 5:13 PM on April 9, 2006

When I was a subscriber, I made a regular habit of just fixing the scratches on my Netflix DVDs automatically, even before seeing whether or not they worked.

If a disc wasn't completely unblemished, I would put a little toothpaste on it, starting at the center of the disc and then spreading it towards the edge with my thumb. Push in straight lines, not in circles. Then let it dry, and wash the toothpaste off with a damp cloth, again working from the center to the rim, dabbing lightly and not ever, ever, ever rubbing in a circle.

Worked almost every time -- I remember one disc (Amadeus, actually) just could not be saved.
posted by Hildago at 5:16 PM on April 9, 2006

Same problem with Zip (the Canadian version of Netflix).

Broken (cracked, cracked through) discs every so often.

Dr. Phil's NEC DVD-RW ND-3540A is a fantastic burner.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2006

I've been a member for years, and have never had a bad disc. When we get new releases, we usually get them on the release date, though, so that might be why.
posted by amarynth at 5:36 PM on April 9, 2006

Slight derail, but what kind of DVD player do you have?
Two year old Sony, mid-range. Similar to this. I have not, in general, tried my computer's drive.

Thanks to all for the dataset. More details: I rent an pretty equal mix of old and new releases, a slight bent towards less-popular independent stuff, and virtually no TV series. Outright cracked discs are very rare, but very common is the (visually) slightly scratched surfaces that play hideously. In case the problem is more regional, I'm served by the Tacoma distribution center.
posted by fatllama at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2006

I was going to say "less than a third" but not so much less, actually. I can usually get them to play by breathing on them and wiping from center to outside with the inside of my shirt. I have to sacrifice the occasional fieldmouse -- for new releases, principally.
Only one broken in half in 2 years.
posted by Aknaton at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2006

Netflix member for about three years. No broken discs, several that I had trouble playing, one that wouldn't play at all. (Usually if I fast-forward a little I can keep playing the disc.)
posted by shifafa at 6:13 PM on April 9, 2006

Longtime Netflix member here, and I get some noticeable issue on maybe 25% of discs, maybe less. Sometimes it's just a slight stutter or image breakup that immediately clears up and never reappears, sometimes it's a total lockup that prevents me from finishing a film, which is very frustrating.

My player is a Sony, and some earlier research into this problem led me to believe that Sony players are particularly susceptible. Cheap Chinese players have rep for playing anything you throw at them, but few of these have decent decoders and I'm kinda anal about that. Oddly enough, sometimes my Sony PS2 will play discs my Sony DVD player chokes on.

Here's my own earlier askme inspired by my problems:Crud-tolerant DVD players. My new-ish Sony commonly locks or hiccups on Netflix discs, but I've read that other people go years without problems, and googling reveals that Sony players may be particularly prone to this. What models or brands of DVD players (not PC drives) are good at handling worn/scratched/dirty discs?
posted by NortonDC at 6:35 PM on April 9, 2006

Heavy Netflix user for a year and a half. Almost no major mainstream releases (indie and foreign film watcher.) Have received two or three outright broken discs, perhaps four unbroken but unplayable disks, and at least a dozen with minor skipping or stopping. I always report them, even when the skipping is minor, but only ask for a replacement if the disc is unwatchable.
posted by desuetude at 6:42 PM on April 9, 2006

My old Toshiba DVD player froze up a lot, but a new DEnon plays everything, no matter how putrid it looks going in. I recently stopped Netflix, though, for other reasons.
posted by docpops at 6:48 PM on April 9, 2006

Heavy Netflix user for several years. A mix of mainstream and less popular films.

We've averaged two or three bad discs a year, and never had a problem getting a replacement.
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:53 PM on April 9, 2006

Oh, when I do get discs that skip (or outright doesn't play), I wipe it down with lint-free wipe (kimwipe) with 70% isopropanol. Solves the skipping ~ 75% of the time, solves the non-playability ~50% of the time.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:28 PM on April 9, 2006

I would say maybe 10% of the DVDs skip on my $100-range Sony player. I mostly get small-name titles.

Interesting thing is that they almost always work perfectly in both my Playstation 2 and Powerbook, so I'd say the reader definitely plays a role.
posted by starman at 7:33 PM on April 9, 2006

I've used Netflix for two years and rent a mixture of non-current mainstream and documentaries/foreign/indie movies [although lately I've been renting more and more sorta-recent releases (i.e., released on DVD during the past year)].

I've had one broken disc and maybe two that were so badly scratched that they were unplayable. The rest have been in decent (or even surprisingly good) shape and needed little more than a quick wipe with a soft cloth.
posted by vespertine at 7:38 PM on April 9, 2006

I get a mix of relatively mainstream and independent stuff and have been a subscriber for a couple of years.

On the whole, I don't get a LOT of scratched discs, but I've had what I believe is a "reasonable" amount, given the nature of the service and people's general miscare of things that aren't their own or considered "valuable".

I have an average-to-midfi DVD player and get maybe one unplayable disc every few months.

I sure wish AskMeFi had anonymous replies when I admit that I once had to return The Recruit THREE times because every copy was scratched and unplayable in a different place. I'm not that big a fan of Collin Farrel, and clearly the movie wasn't an Oscar winner, but I'll be damned if it didn't start getting personal and I vowed I would finish. that. damn. movie.
posted by robbie01 at 8:12 PM on April 9, 2006

Signed up to a major Aussie equivalent here (BigPond) for almost 2 years now. The first year or so, I don't think DVD rentals through the post had really caught on, and I never had any problems even with popular new releases - except once when a DVD turned up completely cracked (bad postal handlers I guess).

In the second year of membership, I've actually gone back to my local Blockbuster for renting new releases & popular movies, & use the postal DVDs for more obscure titles along with TV shows. Yet I've had a lot more problems as the service grows in popularity. About 1 in every 3 discs now has a scratch of some kind that will interfere with playing, but luckily only about 1 in 10 is so bad that I have to report the DVD as broken.

In the past 2 months, all the DVDs have been sent out in "protective sleeves" that line the card mailer - that very thin felt-like fabric often used in CD wallet pockets. I somehow doubt that everyone is "returning the DVD to its protective sleeve when not in use" as the mailer requests.
posted by hgws at 8:27 PM on April 9, 2006

I've had Netflix for a little less than a year, and my only problem has been one movie which never came, and maybe a movie or two that stuttered in one area; nothing major, though. Generally when a movie stutters or stops I take out the DVD, wipe it clean, put it back in and skip forward just a few seconds past where the problem was-that seems to work for me. I get a mix of movies...lately I've been getting lots of new releases, but I get a mix of classic movies, foreign movies and newer movies. My house has one brand new brand-name DVD player and an older brand-name DVD player (one of the first DVD players, probably 5 years old?), and while the older one is much more likely to choke from a scratched up DVD, they both handle them fairly well.
posted by apple scruff at 9:49 PM on April 9, 2006

We've had Netflix for over a year, and I have yet to receive an unplayable disk. One disk needed the sleeve wipe before it would play, but otherwise no problems. We don't generally get too many huge hollywood movies (although we do get some), but we watch a lot of TV on DVD.

I would try the discs in a different player - 2 years is about how long my last two cheap and mid-range dvd players have lasted. As I recall, the Sony tended to choke on movies pretty often, too.
posted by sluggo at 3:28 AM on April 10, 2006

For the past six months, at least 2/3 of the dvds we've gotten from Netflix skip very badly. 2 or 3 have been entirely unplayable.
posted by tastybrains at 4:53 AM on April 10, 2006

Well, I guess I am lucky for once. We get all kinds of titles, and aside from one or two broken discs (where duplicates were sent within three days), we have had great luck.
posted by genefinder at 6:16 AM on April 10, 2006

I would bet that it depends primarily on where you live.

Netflix has local distribution centers. When I order a dvd, it's coming from the other side of town. My city isn't that large. I seldom if ever have issues with the discs. If you live in a larger city, the number of asshats who scratch the hell out of movies by leaving them out face down or using them as coasters increases proportionally.

A half-decent scratch remover (I have a motorized Memorex) has been handy, but primarily for movies from Blockbuster. (College town = lots of scratched movies. Go figure.) The Netflix discs have been fine.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:39 AM on April 10, 2006

I've been a Netflix member since August '01. I've been through probably three DVD players during that time, and have watched my Netflix movies at friends' houses as well, and I can tell you the DVD player makes a huge difference in your viewing experience.

At first I was watching on a PC DVD drive, and it skipped or paused on probably more than half of the movies I rented. A disc really had to be pristine for that thing to play it without problems. Next I upgraded my computer -- to a Mac -- which handled scratches better, but was still a little touchy.

Currently my DVD player is a Toshiba Digital Media Server SD-H400 (combination DVD player and TiVo), which almost never skips. I've actually played visibly cracked discs in it with only minor problems.

Most of my friends' DVD players come in somewhere in between those extremes. I've never seen another DVD player handle scratched discs as well as my current one.
posted by Acetylene at 6:44 AM on April 10, 2006

I've been a Netflix member for the last three or four months, and I was a member for about six months a couple years ago. I don't think I've ever had a completely unplayable disc, only a couple that had one skip that I was able to fix by wiping some crud off the disc. Since then I've wiped off most of them before putting them in since I shudder to think how much gunk and dirt is getting inside my player.

As a side note, I know that I've had discs come from other distribution centers because of a lag in mailing time. In my experience most Criterion Collection films are nearly completely scratch-free. Odd, that.
posted by mikeh at 7:32 AM on April 10, 2006

In the past couple years we have gotten a few unplayable DVDs. The damaged discs are generally movies that are rented by families with kids or college kids. I have sometimes had to do the toothpaste thing to make them work. Sometimes I just have to wash off the 1/2 inch of sugary schmoo left by some dumbasses child.

There was one movie (dutch or french) that arrived broken three times before I gave up on it. Same movie, each broken in half. I thought Netflix might cancel us for sabotaging some inane movie I never got to watch. They didn't.
posted by Seamus at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2006

Netflix members since August 2005. We have had 2 badly scratched disks but after wiping them, they played ok in our new CD player (sorry, I don't know what it is, it was a Christmas present).
posted by Lynsey at 9:35 AM on April 10, 2006

I've been a netflix member for almost 5 years. In the past six months 1-3 of every 4 discs are unplayable. It's very distressing. Our DVD player is less than a year old and I THINK it's a panasonic. It was around 100$.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2006

I must be another lucky one -- I've been a member for 2+ years, and only had maybe 1 or 2 damaged discs that couldn't be played after wiping. I've had several more than that that just needed to be wiped, then they played fine. I have a cheap $99 Panasonic DVD player that I've had for about 3.5 years.
posted by scody at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2006

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