« Fortune Interview with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on the Future of Movies | Main | Netflix Q2 2009 Results: 10.6 Million Subs & $408.5 Million in Revenue Despite Recession »

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c1bb69e201157133ec50970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Hacking a Netflix Shipping Center:

Comments

andyg8180

my shipping center :-)

Im Not A Turnip

Great article! Congratulations on being invited to a dist center.

Corey

I wish the pictures were higher quality, but this is still really cool to see.

Jeff from Knowzy

Very cool! Few people get this opportunity.

Moviezzz

Great piece.

And that is my shipping center as well.

Joost Schuur

I'm curious, are they required to wear the Netflix red shirt/sweater or was that for your visit?

Eleni

My shipping center too! A nice complement to an article & video I saw on Hartford Courant (courant.com) yesterday. Very cool.

MCW

I wish you'd taken larger pictures... I can't see anything in them. That's what your Flickr account is for.

Other than that, this answers my question of "Are the envelope ads randomized?" Nope.

Ann_from _Brooklyn

It was interesting to learn how my discs are handled, sorted and mailed. This was more fun than I thought. Thanks, HackingNetflix.

me

i think i just saw my dvd getting checked in

Amy

Wonderful article. Great job, guys, and congratulations!

Terry

Cool. Doing that job would totally blow, but it's really cool to see how it all works.

So what are done with customer notes? I always wondered how I've never had sleeves with writing on them or notes stuck in my sleeve.

Question...I often put two discs in one envelope when I return them. I recently stopped because I thought that step was automated and would screw the machines up. Now that I see it's done by hand, may continue doing it. However, I was curious if it saved Netflix money by doing this as it's one less shipping envelope they pay for each time. Are all of the envelopes prepaid, or does Netflix receive a bill from the USPS based on the number of envelopes received?

nffcnnr

Pretty sweet tour. Now if they can only figure out a way to stop sending me (longtime Netflix customer) FREE TRIAL solicitations to join their service. Duh.

Stephanie PTY

Very cool - this isn't the first article to show the inside of a distribution center, but it's still cool to revist it and see again.

I have one question that I've never been able to get an answer to - do those envelopes get recycled? The employees rip them open and put them in a trash bin, but then what happens to them? That's an awful lot of paper to not be recycled, so I'm really hoping it is (especially since they're sorting as they do it - a recycling center would love them!).

Jay

As a former Netflix distribution center employee I can assure you that the envelopes are recycled. The trash bins are just where they go after being ripped open and at the end of rental return we would take them to recycle bins.

Any customer note goes to a different person for reconciliation and if the note was written on the sleeve a new sleeve would be made for that disc.

Putting more than one disc in an envelope isn't a problem. I always felt that it saved me a little time only but other associates may disagree. I am not sure if it saves money, though.

As far as shirts go we were often given Netflix shirts but weren't required to wear them.

ITGuru

I wonder how accurately the USPS delivers the return envelopes to the various Netflix distribution centers. Over Christmas last year, while at my parents house in Georgia, I returned a NF movie I had brought down with me which normally ships out and goes back to the New Brunswick, NJ shipping center. NF received the return within hours of me dropping it in the mail down there, so I wonder if the USPS just bunches up all the return envelopes from a given area and sends them all to the same distro center (in this case one of the ones in metro Atlanta)?

amber brooke

I always wondered how this was done, how they were sorted...opened...etc. Great article. Found it through consumerist.com

Kyle

I want to know what kind of notes people write on their envelopes or include with the return. What could you possibly want to say that would be better to say to the grunt worker opening your envelope rather than an e-mail directly to customer service?

Toothgame

I'm gonna start adding some silly customer notes to allay their boredom.

Jay

Usually customers would put notes on the sleeve about it being a wrong disc or cracked. I loved those notes because they insured I wouldn't miss anything and would get the disc out of circulation.

RHC

I always enclose notes like "Reed, will you marry me" and "Reed for President 2012."

But I never hear anything back.

Weffey

Re: Notes

There have been times where I've reported a problem with the disc online, but there's no space for additional comments. For example, when I had one of the Planet Earth DVDs, it played just fine until the last 8 minutes of the last episode. There were no visible marks on the disc, and it happened in the other DVD players in the house. The two sentences on a post-it note attached to the sleeve seemed like a nice thing to do to save someone watching the 4 hours of content only to discover the problem at the end or giving up before then and saying there's no issue (assuming someone has the job of verifying that a disc doesn't play correctly).

I got a friendly email back from Netflix thanking me for the extra details I gave (and a reminder that I could have used the online customer service form).

kh

@ITGuru - someone posted a comment a while back saying that the post office he worked in just threw all Netflix envs in a bin, so probably they go back to the nearest center no matter what they're labeled.

Re: notes, didn't the envelopes used to have check boxes for wrong disc/unplayable?

Boston Pinay

I've taken a couple tours of USPS distribution centers recently. I learned the following:

- The newer centers have dedicated sorters for DVD/CD envelopes like the ones from Netflix. These are designed to safely handle discs with minimal breakage. While putting 2 discs into one envelope would be fine, any more than that may make it difficult for the machine to process.

- When you put your disc (or anything else in your mailbox, for that matter), it goes to your local USPS distribution center. The distribution center usually has a bin dedicated to larger entities, such as the IRS, state government, and Netflix. This bin goes directly to the nearest Netflix distribution center, no matter what the address is on the envelope.

- Mail going back to the customer is sorted by the USPS by a series of machines. I imagine Netflix discs get sorted by the same machines. They sort first by postal code, then by "route," which orders the mail in the same sequence the courier walks the route.

- Some Postal Service folks live up to their reputations. :)

mateo bueno

awesome article!

do used envelopes get recycled?

have they considered a package where the customer can opt for re-using the envelope?

other green options:

warehouse does not seem too energy efficient (large heating space and not ideal lights)
trucks could be cleaner fleet as well

anon

where are the pictures of the lounge?

stephen - nyc

Re Notes:
I've written that the movie run time is wrong. I'm not talking about a minute, but rather something like it was 90 minutes instead of 2 hours. Since movies and tv shows don't have the commercials in them, if you're watching something and your dvd unit is displaying the elapsed time, you might think that the movie has another 30 minutes to go before you find out the butler did it, but then the movie suddenly ends and you learn it was the gardner and there is no next suspect.
Or maybe you'd watch a 90-minute movie, but you don't have time for 120 minutes. (Plus the special features, if any).

kh

@stephen - I've noticed that the run time is often wrong, my guess is that when they're entering the info for a movie, if they don't have the running time handy they guess. But doesn't your DVD player have an option for displaying "title remaining" time?

Phil

Thanks for posting the photos and the info on the shipping center. I also got some interesting answers in the comments.

Art Zemon

Awesome! Thank you for posting the great photos.

Tom

@Terry (July 23, 2009 at 02:27 PM): Netflix envelopes are prepaid. That's why the return says "Permit Reply Mail" (charged before mailing) rather than "Business Reply Mail" (charged after receipt).

Lamarr Wilson

This was a very awesome picture walkthrough. Thanks for this.

Brandon

Thanks for the photos and some of the explaining of the process. The thing I still don't understand is how the pulling of old titles from storage works. For those titles in the storage section, I would assume when a request is made for them, they must be retrieved, and put back into the system NPI system and then the stuffer. Is that retrieval all done by hand, or is it automated as well?

Amanda

I wonder how the discs move in and out of storage. Do they get a big printout and employees have to sort through the stacks to send out the uncommon titles? Or does the machine go over to the storage areas too?

Josh

My shipping center is much smaller with 2 scanning machines and 2 stuffers. We still process over 16k movies during the week and 40k during a busy weekend. Shirts are not required, and only given to full time employees, must have been for the visit.

Я

Что это?

Rhea

I've always wondered what was the secret to their speediness. I guess it's that they stay up all night and have machines that can stuff the envelopes.

karen

Very cool!! Thanks for the interesting pics!

Thanks also to all the folks at the Netflix Hartford distribution center who do such a great job of getting our disks out!! :-D

MyDarlin

Nice visit and thanks everyone for questions and answers. We've been long-time NF users and love that they carry many education and documentary titles.
I can't believe people would write on the sleeve, but then again.....
I have left sticky notes on a sleeve regarding cracked, or wrong disc (also have used the web form)

Gregg

the envelopes are prepaid so you are not saving netflix any money at all.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sponsors

Third-Party Netflix Sites