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the-lone-ranger-dvdI recently reduced the number of movies in my NetFlix queue to twenty-one titles, only seven of which are currently released. I did this because I have been waiting on those titles for many weeks, some for months.

The hypothesis is that people with shorter lists might be getting shipments from what little they wanted while folk like me with longer lists, mine was near one hundred, were being made to wait for popular titles — since we have alternative choices from further down in our lists which they ship instead.

If they couldn’t ship me a disc I was expecting Netflix to do one of two things, probably both. Tell me to add more titles to my list and/or put shipments on hold until a title I wanted came into stock. They did neither.

Today NetFlix shipped me a 1958 movie called The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. It wasn’t a title in my queue and, more importantly, not a genre I like. I’ve never rented a Western from NetFlix. They’re dumping me with titles nobody else wants and, in doing so, denying me the opportunity of getting the next available title on my list.

I’ll keep my list under tight control for a few weeks and report in with that they ship next and when.

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If you’ve experimented with your queue, please comment with your findings.

long-way-downFOLLOW UP (Friday night, 1/16/2009) I called NetFlix to complain about shipping me a disc that wasn’t on my list. They said to return it and they’d immediately ship me another from my list. It doesn’t appear that they’ve added a 4th disk to my three-at-a-time plan, but they’re now shipping me Long Way Down: Disc 1, which I’ve been waiting on for months. I added WALL-E which has a long wait on it. It appears that this tight list strategy may be working. More when it happens.

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FOLLOW UP (Monday night, 1/19/2009) I’m getting three movies from my short list and, true to their word, they’ve added a fourth to take care of The Lone Ranger problem DVD. So I’m thinking keeping your NetFlix queue short is a plausible way of getting the movies your really want — but there appears to be a price to pay. The Long Way Down is expected to arrive on Friday — my next disk would ordinarily have come by Tuesday. I’m losing three days to get the disk I most wanted. Is that a fair trade off? For this disc, yes.

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FINAL UPDATE (Friday 2/20/2009) Shortening you queue does kind of work. It limits the DVDs they send out to just the few that you most want — but they won’t force themselves to send you a disc if none of your title choices are available. Being on hold for your next shipment increases you chances of getting a popular disc that, on its return, might have gone out to somebody else if you weren’t on hold for it. Expressed another way, I used to churn through six DVDs in a week, I now get only two or three a week — but they’re often discs I’ve been waiting on for for a long time.

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