Based on Johnson's story on on-line DVD rental, I have decided to give it a try as an alternative to visiting the video shops. I picked Quickflix from half a dozen other fast growing on-line DVD rental stores because of their decent website and user-friendly interface, and test-drove their one month free-trial offer. Now, a month later, I am coming down to a point where I need to decide whether I would want to continue their subscription. And my conclusion is - from my own personal opnion and my own DVD watching habbits, I'll give it a miss. On-line DVD rental, at least with Quickflix, is simply not worth the time, money and effort.
How Quickflix/On-line Rental Works
Before I dismiss the whole case, let me first talk about how Quickflix and possible other on-line DVD rental work. They are not without merits. First of all, you sign up to their service on their website, and most service providers would give you free trials ranging from 2 weeks to a month, so that you can fully test the service out. I would recommend anyone who is interested to actually give the free trial a try, and draw your own conclusion.
After your account has been created, you can now start picking DVD's from their wide range of selections. Instead of 'select-and-rent', your selection will be placed inside a prioritised queue, so that whenever an actual DVD is available in stock, it would be dispatched to you. With the trial offer, there can be maximum 3 DVD's on-hand, and you need to return them before new DVD's from your queue can be dispatched to you. Quickflix recommended their customers to have at least 20 items in the queue.
Due to the nature of subscription, i.e. you pay a flat monthly fee based on how many DVD's you are allowed to borrow at the same time, they don't care how long you have kept the DVD's for. There is no late fee, but as long as you keep the DVD on hand, Quickflix would not send you other DVD's that you have queued.
DVD's are sent to your account's destined address using Australia Post - which means you would only receive DVD's between Monday and Friday. It comes in a card-board envelop wrapped inside another envelop, so that after you have finished watching the DVD, you can simply put the disc back inside the card-board envelop and pop it into any Australian Post post box. The envelope's postage has been pre-paid, so that it costs the customers nothing to return the DVD.
What is good about Quickflix and on-line DVD rental in general? Here's my opinion:
Convenient: This one is really for the lazy geeks who would not even walk to the shop. A few clicks a way, and the DVD would be in your post box a few days later.
Wide selection: The selection of movies on their database is massive. The database contains almost all the movies that I would like to watch.
Free trial: If you can count it as an once-off feature. Well, I do enjoy my one month free movies.
I know there are plenty of other benefits on Quickflix's website, but some of them don't really apply to me. I don't really care about late fees and due dates, as I usually watch the DVD on the day I received it, and then pop into the mailbox in the following morning. "Affordable price" is arguable - I do agree that if you really watch a lot of DVD, and you find pleasure in watching every kind of gene, then it might turn out to be cheaper for you. Monthly fee to me, is actually an disadvantage, which I will explain in the next section.
What's Not So Good
So, if Quickflix is convenient, hassle free, and provides a wide range of DVD selection, why wouldn't I join in? There are a few issues that I find less than satisfied with Quickflix.
But first of all, I might need to explain that I am not really a TV-person. It has almost been 10 years since I moved to Sydney, and I have never own a TV in the house hold. I do not go home after work to stick my face onto the glowing screen. Thus my opinions would be biased.
Queue: It is designed to allow Quickflix to have less actual DVD's than the number of people requesting it. It sort of works, but the DVD verses customers ratio is just too low for me to enjoy its service.
First of all, Quickflix recommended at least 20 DVD's on queue. I don't go to a video rental shop with 20 movies I want to watch in mind. Therefore, the initial task of filling out the 20 item queue proves to be a challenge to me. At the end, we included some movies that we are only slightly interested, but otherwise we probably would not rent from the video shop.
But the real problem with the queue is, you don't always get what you really want to watch. The queue, as stated previously, is prioritised, i.e. you put the one that you really want to watch at the beginning of the queue. However, the one you want to watch the most is probably also on someone else's "must watch" list. We did not receive that #1 item DVD (Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai btw) until about 3 1/2 weeks later - we would have picked up from the local video shop the first night we visit them!
Disc scratches: It is probably the issue for all on-line DVD rentals. As DVD's are delivered in an card board envelop, the discs are prone to get scratches which renders some parts of DVD very "slow" to watch, or unwatchable sometimes. Around 1/3 of discs from Quickflix have scratches. They are tolerable, but really annoying.
Delivery Time: The DVD's are delivered to your door via Australia Post, and they don't come on Saturdays and Sundays, where you most likely to have desire to watch a video. Can't blame them on this one, but if you are used to have DVD's to watch during weekends, and then suddenly nothing gets delivered from your queue on Friday - prepare to spend more money on your local video shops or to have a video-less weekend.
It happened to us (twice), and we picked the later option.
Cost: With "Take 3" package (the one free trial offers), it costs $36.93 a month, or $35.08 if you pay 3 months in advance. After a month of trial, we watched 11 titles - that is $3.56 per DVD. You can probably rent DVD cheaper from local shops during week days.
But why only 11 titles? I think if the system is running at its full capacity, I could have watched more than 11 titles last month. Blame it to the "Queue"! I have my queue filled up with more than 20 items most of the time, but sometimes, with as many as 25 items in the queue, they still cannot find an available DVD to send it to me on that day.
Time: I guess one major issue for me is that I don't really have time to watch 11 DVD's in a month. You basically lost your night by watching a 2-3 hours DVD, where there are many other constructive things that I can (or need to) do.
How about then, if I cut down the number of DVD's I want to watch? Since there is no late fees and due dates, I could have had more self-control and only watch the video when I am free. However, you pay a flat monthly fee, and of course you want to maximise the benefit from the service that you have already paid for! I might as well go to the local video shop to rent the titles that I really want to watch, when I am free.
At the end, watching a DVD actually became a burden sometimes, when you don't really have that much time for it, and the title that you have received today doesn't sound that interesting...
I am not telling people "don't bother with Quickflix". Instead, give them a try! You won't lose anything by subscribing to their free trial, and you can make your own judgement whether they are good or not. However, if you are like me, who can still survive without a TV, always have things to do at night, prefer "Prepaid" than "Plan" because you'll never use all the credits - then Quickflix (and most other on-line video rental) would not be the model that suits you.