Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Law of Unintended Curmudgeonliness

A surprisingly Malthusian Richard Corliss takes a page from Andy Rooney and trashes Netflix in his latest Time column. It seems the success of the virtual video giant has resulted in the closing of Kim's Videos, his favorite local brick and mortar rental store.
Why Netflix Stinks

It's Friday night, and you want to watch a movie at home with that special someone. You could go to a video store and rent a film, and instantly it's yours; popcorn extra. Or you could go to Netflix, and the movie will arrive, earliest, on Tuesday. Here's hoping you had a Plan B for your big date.
I don't remember the success or failure of any of my dates hinging on renting just the right movie. Usually, expensive restaurants were involved (the best often requiring reservations made a few days in advance). That said, having a letterbox copy of The Killing of Chinese Bookie in hand was never the cornerstone of my master plan to close the deal.
You must cool your jets for two to four days, dependent as you are on both the skill of Netflix employees to put the correct movie in your envelope (sometimes they don't) and the speed of the U.S. Postal Service. By the time a video arrives, you may have forgotten why you rented it.
Corliss must be suffering from ADD. And I can't say that Netflix has ever made me wait four days or sent the wrong film.
Most online retailers try to interest customers in items similar to ones they've bought. Netflix offers "Movies Most Like ...," but the similarities can be baffling.
Okay, I'll give him that one. Netflix's algorithm for determining other movies I'd supposedly enjoy based on previous rentals is rarely on target.
Beyond the mail delays and the botched orders, the lack of human interaction is the big problem with Netflix and its cyber-ilk. Thanks to the Internet, we can now do nearly everything--working, shopping, moviegoing, social networking, having sex--on one machine at home. We're becoming a society of shut-ins.
So, interacting with the video rental clerk is the solution to technology based societal isolation? He sounds like that old man at the end of the block screaming "get off my lawn you damn kids."
...soon there will be no more waiting for DVDs. But it'll come at a price. You'll be what the online corporate culture wants you to be: a passive, inert receptacle for its products.
Jeez. Lighten up Francis. Or as Henry Drummond says at the end of Inherit the Wind:

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, "All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

Hmmm. I think I'll add that one to my Netflix queue.

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