Archive for the ‘ Feedback ’ Category

Response to Netflix

I am enormously disappointed to see Netflix abandon its HD DVD customers in favor of supporting just the Blu-ray format. Clearly Blu-ray looks like the inevitable winner in the wake of confusion left by this unfortunate format war. However, many consumers invested in HD DVD hardware over the past year or so [I’m included in that lot]. This decision by Netflix to stop stocking discs in the HD DVD format leaves these people with few options. Also, there are likely to be upcoming HD DVD titles that are unavailable in the Blu-ray format for a while. Netflix, you’re simply going to deny your customers of these titles in HD altogether? Even with Blockbuster switching [who really cares, right?] and retailers now clearly favoring Blu-ray, many consumers took comfort in the fact that some major studios still support the HD DVD format and that, all the while, Netflix has provided unwavering support for both formats. Until today. Until now.

I understand the need to gain economies. I understand the costs associated with distributed fulfillment. So here’s my plea, Netflix: Continue to offer titles in the HD DVD format as they’re released and as long as demand exists, but centralize the distribution. This allows for a smaller inventory while continuing to serve customers with the latest in high-def content. When customers select movies in the HD DVD format, they’ll do so knowing that the distribution process may take a little longer. That’s OK. I’m willing to wait a little longer for a title in a high definition format that I can use.

Eventually, one format will prevail, but that day hasn’t truly arrived yet. That day won’t arrive until all the major studios abandon support for and discontinue the release of titles in the other format. That day may be tomorrow, but from what I see, it’s at least five months—if not a full year or so—from now.


Long-time Netflix customer and HD DVD adopter (doh!)

Feedback for NBC

I’m frustrated and disappointed that NBC has decided to walk away from iTunes–the leading online store for purchasing TV episodes to watch on a mobile device. While I’m sure the executives have everyone convinced that this was the right move, I believe that it was short-sighted. Like many, many other consumers, I have no interest in purchasing television content that I cannot take with me on my iPod–the market’s leading mobile media device available today. I have no interest purchasing content that I cannot play on multiple devices around my home (with iTunes I can play the episodes on my iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, and on my laptop–all without an Internet connection). I have no interest in streaming TV shows on my computer while tied to my desk. And I have no interest in paying more for a season of episodes than I would pay for the entire box set of DVDs for that season. It’s just not going to happen. So it seems that NBC has lost my business for video downloads. I suspect I’m not alone.

iPhone Beta Site Feedback for

[I] love the implementation of for the iPhone. LOVE it! It’s  clean and concise–reminds me a little of iTunes on the iPhone. I hope to see add-to-wishlist functionality soon, as I’m more likely to add something to my wishlist while on-the-go than to actually buy it.

– Richard
Frequent Amazon customer and Amazon Prime member

Sent from my iPhone

An E-mail Reply to a Westin Hotel Manager

I recently stayed at a Westin Hotel and encountered numerous problems in my room. After reporting the issues to the front desk, I was comped with a generous number of Starwood points, and received a personal e-mail message from the hotel’s front office manager. This was my reply.

Thank you. I truly appreciate you doing right by your customers, and I will accept your offer to try [your] Westin again. But frankly, it’s far more important that you correct the problems that the issues I encountered indicate. The multiple problems and inconsistencies in the bed linens and their application suggest a failure in housekeeping staff training and supervision. The disconnected phone suggests a problem with your maintenance staff. And my having to get dressed and visit the restaurant to get sugar for my morning coffee in the room was likely the result of a careless refresh of supplies.

I feel like the Westin brand has become very inconsistent over the past few years, and it’s very disappointing to me. Starwood hotels—in particular Westin hotels and above—are my preferred destination for business and personal travel. As I said before, I certainly appreciate the point comp, but I’m more interested in helping to ensure that Westin hotels continue to offer the quality experience that you and I should both expect.


Feedback for Amazon and TiVo about Unbox on TiVo

I love Amazon Unbox video downloads for TiVo. When Amazon first unveiled Unbox, I was leery of its proprietary desktop playback solution. I don’t want to watch a movie at my computer. I want to sit back and use my remote—I don’t want to have to fumble clumsily with my mouse for some soft pause button hidden who-knows-where on the screen.

Unbox on TiVo solves this problem. I can go online anywhere to rent movies, Amazon pushes the movies to my TiVo automatically, and I can watch them on my TiVo, just like any other recorded video in my Now Playing list. Well, not just like. Almost just like. Unbox rentals expire 30 days after downloading or 24 after first playing them—whichever comes first. This is a pretty standard model, but it still sucks. It means that you likely can’t start to watch a movie one night and then finish it later. You also can’t shuffle Unbox content between your TiVo boxes, so you can’t start the movie in the family room, and then finish watching it in your bedroom using TiVo’s multi-room viewing feature. And it gets worse. Apparently, Amazon does not permit you to re-rent an Unbox video once it has “expired!”

I recently rented Stranger than Fiction from Amazon Unbox. If you’re unfamiliar with this movie, the movie follows a man whose life is being scripted by an author who kills off her hero in every book. The whole question of this movie is: will the hero die at the end or won’t he? I watched Stranger than Fiction at the end of the 24-hour period on the last of the 30-days’ viewing window. Five minutes before the movie’s end, my TiVo deleted it automatically. I had reached the end of my permitted viewing period. OK, anyone could argue that it’s my fault that I waited until (literally) the last minute, but c’mon…there should be some slack there while it’s actually playing. Adding insult, I can’t rent the video again through Unbox. Amazon’s site apparently doesn’t allow it.

Were I renting from Netflix or from some brick and mortar store, I’d have the ability to re-rent something that I didn’t get the chance to watch or to finish. If the movie rental business is ever going to work in the digital world, you’re going to have to be more flexible and at least provide the minimum of services available through traditional retailers. Give me the option to extend my rental period (even if at a cost). Give me the ability to re-rent content. And give me more flexibility on when and where I can watch the video. If digital rentals can’t ultimately provide these options, then they’re doomed to stand behind the superior offerings of companies like Netflix and Apple—companies that better understand and respect how people want to consume media.

An E-mail Message to Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group recently announced DRM-free downloads through…who? Transworld, Passalong Networks, and Puretracks…who are these guys? There are some big brands, too, but who knew Google and Best Buy even sold music online? Rhapsody is about the only notable online music outlet in this line-up, but I don’t understand that choice, as most of their customers use Rhapsody as a music subscription service. Who’s missing here? Oh, right…the leading online music retailers, iTunes and eMusic.

So in Universal’s infinite wisdom, it’s believed that the best way to test the market’s interest in DRM-free downloads is to try them out in the least-popular online outlets? This looks a lot like a lame effort put forth by the leading music company to appease the market interests, while not wanting to piss off its industry cronies. If [against all odds, based on relative traffic to these outlets alone] this trial is successful, Universal really has no choice but to move toward a DRM-free music model, leaving the remaining holdouts with little argument. On the other hand, if it’s a failure [as it’s more likely to be, considering the figures from the chosen outlets], Universal can claim that they gave it a try, but the “market” demand wasn’t sufficient.

Clever. Disappointing, but clever. Twisted, sad, and deviant, but clever.

An E-mail Message to TiVo

I like TiVo’s new universal Swivel Search feature [though I wish it didn’t look so lousy in HiDef], but…seriously, what were you thinking with that name? Universal Swivel Search. Ugh! Your menus are getting so cluttered as you tack on new features without rethinking structure. They’re even more confusing with the unnecessary branding of individual features: Amazon Unbox. TiVoCast. Universal Swivel Search. KidZone. What ever happened to TiVo being easy to understand and use for everyone in the household?

Recommendation: Rethink the TiVo menus and stop obfuscating features through branding. Instead of the above-mentioned menu items, how about Downloaded Movies, Subscription Programs, and Advanced Search instead?

TiVo’s great features aren’t any good to anyone if people can’t find them.

– Richard
Long-time (three-time) TiVo owner, advocate, critic, and stockholder

Feedback for Disney

I’m enormously disappointed that Disney is not offering video titles in the HD-DVD format. While Paramount and Warner are supporting both formats, Disney has once again chosen sides in this latest of video format wars. I remember when about a decade ago, Disney made similar moves by supporting the Divx (Digital Video Express) format over standard DVDs. The Divx discs offered consumers less flexibility, while promising studios better protection of their content. Wow, déjà vu…that’s very similar! A few years later, Disney realized the error in its judgment and threw itself into the Digital Versatile Disc market with uniquely-branded “Disney DVD” videos. Whatever…I didn’t care about the artificial victory announcements. I was just glad the discs started to arrive on shelves. So now, about those HD-DVD discs…when should we expect to start seeing them?

Feedback for

Prologue: I attempted to send the following feedback to Coca-Cola regarding their newly redesigned

The new site is a disappointing step backward in usability. Sadly, your new, Flash-based interface sacrifices ease-of-use for coolness. Five years ago, I might understand and tolerate that, but it’s 2007–we now know how to make engaging and usable Internet applications with Flash. The many problems with your new site include: time-consuming and unnecessary animations that don’t add even the slightest value; the white-on-white message that appears after entering a code is practically unreadable; it’s harder to navigate between reward categories; unnecessary (click thru) pages appear when you select each category; text in the reward detail and redemption windows sometimes overwrites other text; and it’s slow, slow, slow (or at least, that’s the perception from waiting through all the animation). I have found many more problems in just the 15 minutes I have spent on the site today, suggesting that you should put this thing through a vigorous QA review. Even finding this feedback form was an unnecessary challenge because the feedback link from your FAQ popup didn’t work properly–I had to copy and extract the URL embedded in the popup link on the FAQ popup window to get here. I seriously hope you take the time to test and remedy the numerous problems with this new site. As it stands now, this is…embarrassing.

Epilogue: Adding insult, my first attempt to send this message resulted in an error that read: Unable to Send Contact Us. Submitting the form again resulted in the same message, but with no way to close the error box. Ultimately, I succeeded in sending a very brief comment, with a link to read my comments here. This is one (or more) for the BUI Gallery.

Follow-up: A customer service representative responded, saying, “Thank you for contacting We appreciate you taking the time to contact us regarding this issue. Our Technical Support team is aware of the problem and we are working in cooperation with the appropriate management…”


“…with the appropriate management to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. We thank you for your patience.”

I guess they get just how bad this is.

Feedback for Condé Nast Publications

I notice that my renewal rate for Architectural Digest is nearly 50% higher than your current rate for new and gift subscriptions. If that’s how you reward existing subscribers, you can assume I will not be continuing my subscription to your publication.

Follow-up: I was contacted by Condé Nast to tell me that, as a subscriber, I was eligible to receive any promotional rate for Architectural Digest currently available – including the significantly-less new-subscriber rate. So why did I have to make a fuss to learn that? Had I just blindly returned my renewal card without doing a little research and calling them to the carpet, I’d have paid half again what I should have. Doesn’t that seem a little sleazy?