what i'm watching: zip is really pissing me off

Zip.ca is really pissing me off.

As you know, I loved Netflix, and I was very disappointed that their planned expansion into Canada didn't happen. I signed on with Zip, the Netflix equivalent, as soon as I could.

When we first joined, Zip was missing one key feature of the Netflix experience: you couldn't put your queue (called a ZipList here) in priority order.

For Netflix users, the queue is sancrosanct. You're always updating and changing the order, bumping movies up and down. Your queue is your wish-list of every movie you might ever want to see. You never expect to see the ones at the bottom of the queue, you just keep adding titles anyway. You keep the movies you most wanted to see in the top 10 or 15, and those are the ones you get.

On Zip, movies were sent to you from your list in random order. It didn't matter what order your list was in, because you had no control over the order you'd receive them. Not ideal, but that's what they offered, and I went with it.

Then, as part of a general upgrade, Zip instituted a priority-order system.

Or they said they did. I still appeared to be receiving my movies in any which order. I gave it a while, but it never got any better. When I complained, they told me it wasn't happening. Don't you love that customer service? You have a problem, and instead of hearing thanks for your feedback, we'll try to do better, you get an argument about how what you know is happening isn't really happening.

Supposedly, if your first-choice movie is not available, they try for #2. If #2 is not available, they try for #3, and so on down the line. That would be great. But it's a little hard to believe when I was receiving #18, #16, #20, #5... And the movies on my list are not Hollywood blockbusters. So either they have very limited quantities of each title, or they really had no idea how to work the priority-order system.

An irritating customer service rep emailed me a list of the movies I had received and what number they were supposed to have been on my list. Almost every number was wrong. #18 was listed as #8, #22 was listed as 2. Either they're outright lying or their problem is worse than I thought.

The last straw was when I added a movie to the very end of my list - #23 - and it was immediately sent to me. They're expecting me to believe numbers 1 through 22 were all unavailable?

If I watched movies all year round, I might not care so much. I'd see all the movies on my list eventually. But I only watch movies from November to April. The rest of the year, I'm watching baseball. During baseball season in New York, I'd watch movies on off days or after day games. But now when there's time off from baseball, we want to hang out in our backyard, enjoying the night air with happy pups and a glass of wine. (You can't imagine how much we enjoy that. It is absolute bliss.) So this winter, I'm eager to see my top-choice movies before April rolls around.

Allan had an idea borne of frustration: delete everything from the ZipList except our top-choice movies. That way they'll be forced to send you the movies you want.

I did that.

Now I'm getting emails saying there aren't enough movies on my ZipList, so I'm in danger of not receiving movies. I'll wait.

This can't be good for their business.


redsock said...

My other idea is to put the movies we really want to see at the bottom of the list. List them in reverse order and see what happens.

impudent strumpet said...

If it's really pissing you off, I think I read in some blog or LJ or something somewhere that Rogers also has a Zip-like service. I don't know what it's called or where to find it or how it compares though.

So that's almost, but not quite, helpful.

L-girl said...

Yeah? I'm surprised they would have something that competes with their own video stores and pay-per-view. I'll check it out, though. Because yes, it is definitely pissing me off. Thanks for the info. It *is* helpful!

L-girl said...

I haven't found anything on this yet, but I have found several posts like this one complaining about Zip for the same reasons.

David Cho said...

Hmmm, seems like a simple programming change would do...

I miss Netflix too.

I signed up with Blockbuster Total Access and the main marketing point is that instead of mailing in the movie, you can bring it into the store and get a free rental. So it was supposed to for each delivered movie through mail you get a free rental from the store.

Well, the turn around time is much longer for Blockbuster. It is too good to be true.

With Netflix, you mail in the movie on Monday, you get the next one on Wed.

With Blockbuster so far, you get the next one on Friday if you are lucky. The turn around time is consistently 1 or 2 days longer, or even longer. They really take their time.

If they are really serious about using their brick and mortar business to their advantage, and drive a dagger through Netflix, they should scan in the movie as soon as received at the store and immediately mail in the next one. Charge more money for it, but there is no excuse for the much longer turnaround time.

And one more thing. Netflix sends you an email that the movie has returned and sends you another email informing of the next one's shipment ON THE SAME DAY. Blockbuster does it over two days. They really take time.

Can't wait to go back to Netflix.

L-girl said...

David, you left Netflix?! I can't believe it, you were such a Netflix guy. And I guess you will be again.

Zip is also super-fast on turnaround. You can go on the website and indicate that you've mailed a movie, and if you have a good history, they'll send the next one before they've received that one back. So we'll usually have a new movie two days after we mailed one.

If Blockbuster has this, perhaps Rogers has the same thing, and that's what ImpStrump heard of. I will keep investigating.


Also, I forgot to include a movie recommendation on this post.

We saw "Inside Man", a suspense thriller directed by Spike Lee, starring Denzel Washington and everyone else in the world (Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Clive Owens). I liked it a lot, some very good plot twists, good suspense.

Plus it was filmed in NYC and had some great little New York moments.

Scott M. said...

Rogers offer was a rebranding of Zip, run by zip, and failed miserably.

Sorry for the bad news.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Okay, this EXACT thing is happening to me, too. Something is SERIOUSLY wrong.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Scott. It's not bad news, it saves me from searching.

I/P, I hope you have complained. I hope they are bombarded with complaints about this...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I'm actually in the middle of a complaint with them, an ongoing one that's just been escalated a level. I just submitted the following response to my issue:

Thank you, Kylee, for your helpful information about which titles are unavailable, rather than the one-line platitudes I was getting from Abeer.

Unfortunately, you contradict yourself in this message when you make a list of the priority shipments that have been shipped to me recently. According to your own list of unavailable titles, "Wire In The Blood: Shadows Rising" is still under order, and not yet available. I have had that title at the top of my zip list since mid-November. It is therefore impossible that any priority-one discs have been sent to me "most recently." This means either that the software that is telling you which priorities have been shipped is broken, or you are lying to me.

Interestingly, a popular blogger on the Internet named Laura Kaminker just discussed this very issue with zip.ca in her public blog. The public post she made and the discussion other people had about it can be found here: http://www.wmtc.ca/2007/01/zip.html . If you read it, you see that she is having very much the same problems I am having here. It is interesting to me that I am not alone in this, and I have to wonder how many other people are having these exact problems with zip's customer service and giving up because they are running into such obstacles in finding out the truth about what is going on there.

What I would like from you at this point is the following:

a) I would like you to look into the real reason why my (and Laura Kaminker's, and probably thousands of other people's) priority lists are being ignored. And I would appreciate it if you would report back to me about that. Please do not come back to me and tell me that my first-priority discs have actually been sent to me, because I think we know that's not the case.

b) I would like you to tell me why, if all those unavailable discs were ordered so many months ago, you do not own them yet.

Thank you for your time.

I swear, if they don't give me some real answers this time, I'm going to blog about this, too. It's ridiculous that they would lie to both of us!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

P.S. My complaint reference number is 070105-000393, if you need to make reference to it in your own dealings with them. (And this goes not just for L-girl, but for anyone reading this, too.)

M@ said...

A friend of mine was looking for a job in Ottawa, and got an offer from Zip. After discussing the nature of the company she observed in the interview process with her friends (myself included), she declined to take it.

In the interview, she was told that she should expect to work a lot of extra hours. The programmers she talked to all seemed quite harried and the management was pushing them very hard -- in fact, they were quite open about how hard they pushed the development staff. I probably don't need to mention that software development done in an environment of permanent emergency tends to produce terrible software.

Furthermore, Zip is one guy's company. He runs the place very closely, and the management style there is very much an extension of his own personality.

Having heard about my friend's experience there -- just talking to them, when they were trying to sell themselves to her as a company -- all the problems I had had with Zip in my few months as a member started to make sense.

L-girl said...

Excellent, I/P! Thanks for sharing that.

Including me by name in your complaint was a great idea, as well as the link to this post. (I left the link as a complaint yesterday.)

I intend to get this problem escalated and email directly with someone by name.

I also intend to get my recent post about Vonage to someone's attention. It was actually several more days until both my phone numbers were switched over, and without constant vigilance on my part, I doubt it ever would have happened.

I've temporarily put off both these tasks because we were moving and getting the house set up. After things settle down here - and after our upcoming anniversary trip - I am sending both these complaints to someone higher up the food chain.

M@, interesting insight, and it probably does explain a lot.

What a disappointment! Netflix was so great...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

You know, it occurs to me that many Canadian-born Canadians may well be simply letting their dissatisfaction with zip.ca fester because they don't want to make waves out of fear of appearing rude, as well as because they don't have the comparison with Netflix. I don't think it's an accident that it's two immigrants to Canada who have been having this back-and-forth with them.

Let's just hope there are more of us.

loneprimate said...

Same issue for me too. I've had a Billy Conolly movie at the top of my list for months. I've toyed with the idea of killing everything else off my list just to force them to send it, and then putting my items back on in the order I want to see them.

I could understand this if it were the latest release and there were limited numbers, but a relatively obscure title that's been out for over a decade? That ought to fly off the shelf when it's ordered.

I'd like to know what their game is. I really can't guess what it is. :/

L-girl said...

LP, good timing, right after I/P's comment! I hope you've complained to them?

Re I/P's observation, I hope it's not true! (Though of course, the comparison to Netflix is something most people wouldn't know.)

One of my serious pet peeves is when people complain to each other about a company, but don't complain to the company themselves.

I certainly hope all those Canadians who were (for example) whining about Rogers service in the past were letting Rogers know as well! Since it seems that Rogers service has greatly improved, I'd like to think that was in response to customer complaints.

James said...

I miss Netflix, too. There is a similar service here in the Netherlands (moviemile.nl) but they send ANY movie on the list. It sucks. We finally just cancelled it and if/when we want to watch a movie we walk one block to the DVD rental store....

L-girl said...

Rental stores never have enough selection for me. Unless they're a huge store and very quirky, they're not going to stock most of the movies I want.

There were stores like that in NYC, but not in my neighbourhood. And definitely not in Mississauga!

If you're really into movies like I am, the selection, convenience and price for the DVD-by-mail service can't be beat. I'd never go to a local store for 2 or 3 movies a week, but I do that through Netflix or Zip all the time.

But damn, this priority thing is a problem.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

We actually have one of those quirky-selection stores right around the corner--it's supposedly one of the best selections in the country. The main reasons I switched to zip are a) the quirky-selection store is often out of what I want when I want it, especially if I'm watching television shows disc-by-disc, and b) zip keeps track of what I want so that I don't have to. But if zip won't send me what I want for months and months, a) is kind of pointless, and b) isn't enough of a reason to stick with them all on its own. I really won't stick with them if this keeps up.

For Albertans, the oil boom (and the resulting shortage of staff pretty much everywhere, including presumably the post office and the Calgary zip office) is also exacerbating the badness, making it nearly unusable. I was sent one disc on December 29th that didn't arrive until January 8th. And that's not unusual.

L-girl said...

Right. If Zip is working the way it should, it's the best. But if it's not...

How cool that you have a great movie store nearby. I've never lucked out that way. :)

I'll stick with Zip until April. Once baseball season starts, it won't be worth it, and I'll cancel.

Maybe in November when I'll want to sign up again, either Zip will have gotten its act together, or there'll be a competitor on the market.

I know there were competitors, but Zip bought them out.

Scott M. said...

Hey Laura...

I was looking into Zip myself, and when I was a-wandering through their info I ran across the "Ziplist Preferences" section. The options being "Order is more important than speed" or "Speed is more important than order".

Does that make a difference or do they ignore it either way?

L-girl said...

Does that make a difference or do they ignore it either way?

Well, the turnaround time is always fast. I have "order is more important than speed" checked, but I get disks fast, but in any random order.

Every time I complain, they direct me to those preferences, as if it makes any difference. It does not.