I'm a member of both Netflix and Blockbuster Online. Looks like I may have to drop Blockbuster. I've had a few problems with the films over the years, but lately it seems to be getting worse. And the customer service? Well, it all started when I noticed something wrong with my "recommendations...."
(Cue flashback harp music)
On both online sites, you rate movies you've seen and--based on your ratings--new movies you might like are suggested. At least that's how it's supposed to work. That's how it works on Netflix. On Blockbuster Online, though, about half of my shown recommendations were movies I had already rated. It really wasn't that big of a deal...until I got involved with Blockbuster's customer service. I sent them an e-mail alerting them to what was happening. My first response was this (I changed the tracking number):
------ Please do not remove your unique tracking number! ------
That's it. Nothing else. No message. Frankly it was a little creepy. Of course I wrote back to ask what the deal was. Then I got a response which included this:
Our system is designed to not recommend movies that have previously been rated by the customer. The recommendations area should only display non-previously rated movies confirmed by the stars being only blue (yellow would indicate that they've been rated.)
There is, however, a limitation to this feature. Once the customer has rated over 1,000 movies, this function is no longer available and the customer may see previously rated items.
There is an enhancement request to up this limit to 2,000 and we hope that will be completed sometime in the near future.
I again responded, letting them know that their system wasn't working the way it was supposed to and that I hadn't rated anywhere near 1,000 films.
From the next e-mail:
Your comments are taken very seriously and we welcome them as a valuable tool needed to improve the quality of our service. I will make sure to forward your feedback to the appropriate department for review.
"Your comments are taken very seriously," which means nothing. I waited for the next e-mail:
I apologize if your issue about the rating system in our website is still not being addressed properly. Since addressing the issue through e-mail is a bit complicated, I kindly advice you to contact us at our Customer service hotline at , we are open from Mondays to . Our customer service representative will be happy to assist you and guide you through the website. We will try and come up with a solution or an answer to the recommendations issue in the websiste. We kindly appreciate your patience and understanding.
This was the nicest response yet, but seemed to still be foisting me onto someone else. I grabbed my phone.
After being on hold for about 20 minutes, listening to a recording ("We take your calls very seriously...") I finally got an agent who spoke what I'm pretty sure was English, as I recognized a few words. I briefly explained the problem, at which point she put me on hold again for five more minutes. When she came back, she told me with what I can only assume was a straight face that Blockbuster doesn't use personal recommendations. I explained to her that a previous e-mail from them explained to me that they did indeed have them. This began a strange dance where she would repeat my problem back to me ("You are saying that...") and after I affirmed the problem, she would repeat her claim that there were no recommendations. I eventually gave up, and she asked me if I would care to participate in a satisfaction survey.
You bet your ass I wanted to.
The next thing I know, I'm listening to another recording, asking me to enter my agent number followed by the number I want to transfer my customer to. Over and over and over again. Apparently she couldn't ever transfer me properly.
What started as a non-issue had grown into an "I'm pissed off at your complete lack of competence" issue. I sent yet another e-mail. This one contained this little gem from the Blockbuster help web page on recommendations:
To give you personalized recommendations, we need to know what you think about the titles you've already seen. Start rating movies and let us know what you love and what's not your style....The more movies you rate, the better we are st[sic] recommending titles that you're sure to like. Once you've rated at least 20 movies, we'll be able to provide personalized recommendations. [emphasis mine]
I also pointed out the typo. You'd think that a big company like Blockbuster could afford to hire people to find and correct those kinds of errors. I thought so, too, until I got the latest e-mail today. If anyone can figure out what this means, please let me know:
It was then I began to suspect that it was not a real person answering my e-mails, but one of those computer programs that's designed to sound like an actual person. I'm going to try including the phrase "open the pod bay doors" in my next e-mail and see what happens.
I am sorry to learn that you were having concern with the personalized recommendation in our movies in our website. I am glad that you have informed us of your concern. The star ratings or personalized recommendation in our website was replaced by the shopping cart. Because majority of our customer is asking for it because of the convenience on purchasing movies on line. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this concern brought to you.
And here's the kicker....
Today the personal recommendation function that I've twice been told doesn't exist is working fine.