What goes on at the Netflix sorting facilities?
May 19, 2006 6:33 AM   Subscribe

How are the envelope window and sleeve barcode use at the netflix sorting facility?

I've always tried remembering to insert the sleeve so the barcode is peeking out the window of the envelope. Does this make anyones life just a bit easier when the DVD returns home? Also, do the local netflix employees care if I package multiple DVDs in an envelope to save on shipping, does it even save on shipping?
posted by killyb to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There was a piece on netflix mailer history, that gives a little insight into how their process works.

I'm not sure if they'd care if you put two dvds in one case...but a better question would be: what's the point? Who's saving on shipping? Shipping is paid for.
posted by jeffxl at 6:41 AM on May 19, 2006


I've speculated about this. You'll notice that the bar code is peeking through the window when the disc is shipped to you, but nowhere in the instructions does it say to put the bar code in the window when you send it back. This leads me to believe that the bar code in the window assists NetFlix in shipping the discs out, but has nothing to do with the return. They have to rip open the envelope anyway, to send the disc to someone else, so how would the bar code being visible benefit them?

And as jeffxl says, putting two discs in one envelope doesn't make a lick of difference to anyone. The shipping costs are prepaid.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:49 AM on May 19, 2006


Who's saving on shipping? Shipping is paid for.


It was my understanding the shipping is paid by netflix after the envelope has been sent through the USPS system. If a few envelopes are thrown away they won't be charged.
posted by killyb at 6:57 AM on May 19, 2006


If they are using business reply mail, they only pay for the returned envelopes. So it would save on shipping to double it. Not sure why you care about minimizing Netflix's costs, but there you go.
posted by smackfu at 6:59 AM on May 19, 2006


I've heard that Netflix takes advantage of a program the Post Office offers - the bar codes, if visible, are scanned by the USPS and the data is sent to Netflix, who now knows that you've returned the movie before it's reached their facilities and are thus able to ship out your next DVD earlier.

No idea if this has any basis in fact.
posted by skwm at 7:09 AM on May 19, 2006


Here's some pretty convincing evidence that displaying the barcode is useless on return.
posted by schustafa at 7:14 AM on May 19, 2006


skwm: that sounds great in theory but then they would be relying on the USPS to help them out with efficiency, not likely (but I'm not hip to that scanning program so maybe it does work), but more to the point, I have waited several days for mailings when I know that the closest DC is an hour and a half drive away (its on the envelope), I've griped about their system to them via email til the cows come home but it's the same slow service

schustafa: I have no way of knowing if that site is official or not, I could've blogged the same thing...

Bottomline, I've never paid attention to it, and unless the service improves, I have no gumption to do so.
posted by BillyG at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2006


I understand everyone loves to "stick it to the man", but if I can make some netflix employees day a bit easier by doing something that simple...I will.

For example I don't throw my cigarette butts(when I smoked) on the ground because it's more work for the groundskeeper, not because I give a damn about where I'm at.
posted by killyb at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2006


I have no way of knowing if that site is official or not, I could've blogged the same thing...

It's unofficial. But he says on the same page that he has "ongoing discussions with representatives from Netflix". It's not the word of god, but in the absence of other official statements or asking Netflix yourself, it's probably fairly accurate.
posted by schustafa at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2006


netflix tells you to double up if you've lost a return envelope:

Q: I lost the prepaid return envelope used for returning the DVD.
A: If you misplaced one of our prepaid return mailers, you can mail up to two DVDs back in the same package. Or, you may send your DVDs to:

P.O. Box 49021 San Jose, California 95161

i don't know that three would fit in the envelope.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:17 AM on May 19, 2006


I recall correspondence with NetFlix wherein I was told that they absolutely don't want you putting three DVDs in one envelope, and the two-in-one is just offered as a convenience if you lose an envelope, they don't particularly encourage it.
posted by mojohand at 8:36 AM on May 19, 2006


Not sure why you care about minimizing Netflix's costs, but there you go.
In theory: if it costs them less, it will cost me less.

In theory.
posted by Mike C. at 12:31 PM on May 19, 2006


From personal experience:

-Netflix does not mind if you ship two dvd's in on sleeve
-Netflix does not mind if you ship three dvd's in one sleeve (and they will fit, albeit tightly)
-Netflix does not mind if you ship your dvd's in a return sleeve that was sent to another user, or if you mix your dvd's with that user in the same sleeve

Or if they do mind, they certainly haven't told me.
posted by jeditanuki at 1:32 PM on May 19, 2006


I used to work at Netflix and personally saw their return facility in Milpitas. I don't think I'm revealing any company secrets by revealing that (when I worked there anyhow, it was roughly 3 or 4 years ago), their return process was done manually.

A huge room full of desks with people at each one opening envelopes, scanning bar codes, and then filing the DVDs in boxes. You may recall there used to be a little notice on their return envelopes to "please insert the DVD sleeve in right side up" or something similar. This was so the people at the other end didn't have to waste time rotating the DVD sleeve to scan it.

As a phone customer support technician, every time I saw the rows of people repeatedly opening envelopes, scanning barcodes, and then putting DVDs into boxes, I would feel a bit better about answering phones. I understand they were paid well, and they were lead in stretching exercises regularly. It seemed like not so bad a job if you're new in the country and didn't speak much English (which was the case for nearly all the employees in that position)

I would be surprised if this were still the case however. I think the little window probably allows some automatic device to scan and sort envelopes without opening them. Then the ones it can't scan or that exceed a certain width probably go to that same manual processing facility. This is speculation, however.
posted by Durhey at 3:35 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've heard that Netflix takes advantage of a program the Post Office offers - the bar codes, if visible, are scanned by the USPS and the data is sent to Netflix, who now knows that you've returned the movie before it's reached their facilities and are thus able to ship out your next DVD earlier.

No idea if this has any basis in fact.
posted by skwm at 7:09 AM PST on May 19


My uncle works at the USPS in PA and is a crazy avid Netflix user. He tells me that this is true - if you have the barcode able to be scanned by the USPS, that data is sent to Netflix, and they send out your next movie immediately.
posted by Lizc at 4:35 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


« Older Help me replace my boxy, sedate sedan.   |   ...because the world needs another emo... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.