A recent e-mail from Netflix bewildered me, though not in a totally unpleasant manner.
When I subscribed to the video rental mail-order service last month, I was a bit hesitant about paying $17.99 monthly for the deluxe plan (yep, I'm a schmuck), when, with a little bit of ingenuity, I could just as easily find the movies online and watch them for free.
But like a Federal Communications Commission censor trying to abridge the First Amendment with all possible fervor, I shut up my rational side and decided to live a bit. Since then, I can honestly say my rate of return has been dismal, but my first several movies were French New Wave, and with my current class schedule and working two jobs, watching challenging cinema in a language I do not speak or understand is not always my idea of relaxation.
Be that as it may, I've traversed "Withnail and I" and Jim Jarmusch's "Down By Law" and "Dead Man," none of which lends to leisurely digestion, with respectful haste in order to make way for a long-awaited installment from my queue: the first season of "Star Trek: The Original Series."
Herein lies the source of my general dumbness in subscribing to a service when I can find the same content in a public forum for free. Regardless, the 10 discs of Shat and Nimoy and their ineffable banter and endless adventures through mid-60s sci-fi camp shone these past few weeks like a far-off beacon at sea.
Which brings us to the e-mail I received earlier today. Apparently some other person had my same passion and the first disc wasn't available, thus they sent me the second one in its place. As a sign of good faith, Netflix informed me they were sorry and would send the disc as soon as it was available, essentially giving me four rentals instead of my limited three.
This is no huge deal, but it illustrates an intelligent quality that Internet services should take note of if they want to really hook a base of customers. There will always be technological Neanderthals, such as myself, who prefer to go to the store, rent the movie after picking it up from the shelf and undertake the whole ritual of watching it on a TV. But by offering the personal touch of courtesy such as Netflix did, the alienating process of doing business through a computer is transformed into a friendly transaction where I benefited through Netflix's limited availability.
This discovery, of course, comes as no shock to anyone who has encountered a similar situation, as I'm sure any number of you have. With only so many copies of films to go around, the reason for having a queue is to have backups available if your next selected film is not. But it gave me great joy to find a company willing to make its customer happy when, in all truth, they need not make any such effort. I'm sure the unwashed masses are too used to the frequent shortcomings of our current service industry to be outraged but still keep buying, because products are their for consumption.
But I never claimed to be an optimist.