If It Ain't Broke, Netflix It...

We burn through nicknames at work the way that Phil Spector goes through crazy wigs and shotgun shells. Each one of us in our department has acquired some form of sobriquet which we generally only use within the group; my boss, for a variety of reasons, has taken to calling me "Chipper", though most often he only calls me "Chip". (In fact, it has been about a year since he has called me anything else but by that familiar term.) And it only took our new graphic designer about a week before he acquired the nickname of "Raw Meat", which is a mere play on his last name, but an alias with which I think he isn't particularly comfortable nor does he seem flattered by it.

Regardless, the sudden surge in the use of the term "Raw Meat" triggered a memory in my head of the old Gary Sherman-Donald Pleasance grindhouse flick from the early 70's of the same name, a film which I have not seen since the early 80's. [Note: it is known as Death Line in the United Kingdom, its country of production.] Due to the fact that I am rather impulsive, I jumped onto the Netflix site and ordered the film. When it arrived a few days later (it was not at the Santa Ana hub and had to be sent from Phoenix), I already knew from the feel of the envelope that I would not be watching the film that evening, as there was a noticeable bump in the package meaning that some disrepair had occurred in shipping. Sure enough, the opening of the Netflix mailer found several sharp little shards of Raw Meat falling into my open hand. Talk about your "ground round"...

I must state right now that I have been completely happy with Netflix -- except for on this issue: I have been hit recently with what I feel is an abnormally large percentage of broken discs. I have ended up having to report a dozen broken discs since the tail end of January until this very day, when I reported the damage to Raw Meat. I have noticed that the vast majority of damage -- actually, the total amount of damage until this particular title showed up -- has been to films released by video companies of a decidedly low-budget approach. I don't know if they are using a much lower quality recording disc (they likely are), but since I embarked on my "Psychotronic Ketchup" project to see every film in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, I have had to request several films over and over again just to find a copy that wasn't snapped in half or cracked. And the total of damaged discs this year is more than triple the amount I received since I started my membership in May of 2005 up through the end of 2006.

The fact that I am forced to order films put out by fly-by-night companies really could be the problem: while I really wasn't in the mood to watch a cheapie Paul Naschy Mexican werewolf film, as part of the project I had sort of mandated that I watch it, and as a result of this obsessiveness, I went through four different copies of Frankenstein's Bloody Terror before I finally realized that it would go on that way forever. Disc after disc of the same title would inevitably show up damaged, and so I gave up on ordering it. This was all much to Jen's dismay, because with each succeeding failure, she would laugh more and more at the slow burn I was putting myself through each time I opened the mailbox. While I am not normally one to shy away from a comedically successful situation, I really wanted to actually watch a DVD! And so I passed on replacing the Naschy film yet again, and moved on to the next movie on my list.

Are the Netflix "padded" mailers perhaps not quite padded enough? Are the order fulfillment drones not paying attention when they grab a film and prepare it for shipping. Is there someone slamming stacks of readied mailers into the mailbox, thus cracking the one at the bottom of the stack when it hits the bottom of whatever receptacle into which it has been dropped? I have also toyed with the idea that there is a conspiracy amongst mailmen out there against Netflix. Perhaps they are paid shemps for Blockbuster, but perhaps not. I had also heard before that Netflix had been caught at some point slowing up their order fulfillment process so that customers would not get films as quickly, thus saving their company money along the way, but I can't see how intentionally sending out screwy discs (accruing more postage and expense) would achieve that same end. Whatever is going on, it is Raw Meat, a film put out by MGM, that got me wondering. For the first time in my rental activity history, it is the damage brought upon a disc released by the one of the top one or two video companies in the world that has me pondering what exactly is up with these broken in twain discs. If Netflix doesn't want somebody to rent four movies at a time, then why do they offer it as an option? And if
they can't seem to get films to their customers without breaking them, then how long do they plan to stay in business? And if I am paying for four discs at a time, why am I when I am usually stuck with one of those four broken far beyond repair?

All I know is that this particular weekend, I am not so "Chipper"...

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