« WSJ: Bubble Gets Mixed Response | Main | Blockbuster Free Month TigerDirect Promotion »


Account Deleted

Are you SURE it's not your DVD player? We thought it wasn't our DVD player either, until we went out & bought a new Sony DVD player and all the DVD's that weren't playing before suddenly started playing perfectly. It was our crappy Panasonic DVD player that was the problem.

E. Craig Crawford

Perhaps, due to improved technology, new players skip over the dirty or damaged track and continue playing while older players hang up. I was able to play a movie on my new portable player that would not load on my older player. It was a homemade movie, not a Netflix DVD.

The only Netflix DVD that's given me a problem is my current one that started hanging up half way thru the movie. Luckily, washing it cured the problem even though an inspection of the surface revealed some light scratches.


Yes, I agree with the previous posters, the newer and often cheaper players handle scratches and other imperfections far better than older players.

Try this inexpensive progressive scan player (I bought mine for 40 bucks and it plays EVERY disc I've ever tried):

Mr Z from Maui

What happens if you get an unplayable rental? Or a DVD that's barely playable (15 percent of "To Kill a Mockingbird" just couldn't be accessed thanks to a little dent in the NetFlix DVD)?

I see no explanation on the NetFlix site. They allow me to report "a problem", and they allow me to choose between:
{}Send replacement DVD
()Don't send replacement DVD

I'm guessing that if I choose
{} Send replacement DVD
then THAT will be counted as the next item in my queue. In other words, I spend a week of my rental time on this movie because of NetFlix's problem. Doesn't seem right.

Please tell me I'm wrong.



Mr Z, it looks like that's the only option. Many many many many times I have gotten movies that wont play and the only option you get is to keep paying for a service that sucks. Does the company not see anything wrong with this issue? I recognized it years ago when I got my first defective DVD. I'd say of all the DVD's I've got, less than 1 percent are scratched. However, I do feel it unfair for the company to simply send you another movie. This isnt like a movie store where the membership is free and we could just drive there, drop off the bad one and get a better copy. This is a service that thousands (millions?) are PAYING for and if we want a new movie, we have to wait days for it to ship. If this happens too much, you should get compensation. A free month sounds about right. Why pay for a service when you're not getting what you pay for?

On a similar note, I've been getting wrong DVD's in wrong envelopes recently. This is especially prevalent in TV series. I'll order "season 1, disc 2" and get "season 2, disc 1". It's not like I can just start watching the show. Anyone else having this issue and fed up with not being compensated?


I've received two unplayable disks in the past year. Both of them were damaged in one way or another. I expect some degree of damaged disks - some will be damaged on their way to you and some will slip through - and because I expect it, I'm okay with it as long as it isn't excessive.

The two disks I got, the damage was almost invisible; I attached notes to both when I returned them.

As for otherwise unplayable disks - I've had disks that looked like they were sand blasted, and they played fine. DVD players are amazingly forgiving of scratches as long as they aren't deep gouges or perfectly circular. If you get a lot of unplayable disks, first try cleaning them (not all schmutz is visible), and try reproducing the problem in another player or your PC. Not all players are created equal.


From Netflix's site:

Q: I received a scratched, damaged, or unplayable DVD. What do I do?
A: If you have received a DVD title that is unplayable, try cleaning the disc first. (window cleaner on a paper towel works well.)

If the disc is cracked, damaged, or still won't play, you can report it at the Rental Activity page in Your Account.

On this page you also have the option to request that a replacement disc be sent to you immediately.

Please return the damaged disc, as many damaged discs can be repaired with our polishing machine. Also, for many titles, Netflix must account for, or pay the movie studio for lost discs; your return of the damaged disc is appreciated, and helps keep costs low for all our customers.


I had 3 of the "cheap" $30 players from Walmart (2 Symphonic & 1 Magnavox). All would lock up on certain discs and have skipping. Not on all movies but certain ones would kill them all.

I replaced them with JVC players (1 $75 & 2 $50) and those play everything I throw at them, even the troubled discs the others would not. They were not too expensive either. You don't need a $300 player but a quality player can make a big difference.

(PS. I'm not the same Bob from the original post BTW)


I hardly ever experience an unplayable DVD from Netflix. The last one was in the fall, I gently washed it with a little dishwashing soap and all was well.


I've only gotten one unplayable dvd. It was actually cracked. I can't imagine netflix would send a dvd in that condition, so I'm assuming it got damaged in the mail.


I have only been a NetFlix customer since late December and I've already received a few barely watchable movies. I've also noticed that most of the DVDs I've received were full of finger prints and smudges so they're not being cleaned by Netflix. One of the movies I received was scratched so much that it skipped every 3 seconds near the end of the movie. I was forced to rent a copy from Blockbuster to finish it. I've tried cleaning these "problem" DVDs as instructed by Netflix and also tried playing them in two other players and two laptops and they skipped just the same. Netflix won't keep me as a customer if this keeps up. Its not worth the hassle.


Sure, I get bad DVDs all the time. Most of the time it'll stop mid-scene and just won't continue. I can usually get back out to the menu and skip directly to the next chapter; I lose a few minutes of movie this way but it's usually not too bad. Only once or twice have I had a DVD that I couldn't finish because of scratches.


I agree with the other posters. We used to get bad DVDs frequently, then we got a newer DVD player. We get less- occasionally we'll get a horribly scratched or broken one, but it is pretty rare.

Our old DVD player was from 1999.


I've had the same experience as many others here - slightly scratched discs skipping, freezing, refusing to play at all, on my older DVD player, but playing okay on the newer one. I've only had one disc that wouldn't play all the way through on any player in the two and half years I've been a member, although by visual inspection, that disc looked completely undamaged.

Maybe it's just the movies I've been renting in the last few months, but I've had fewer problems with damaged discs than I did early last year, when I had to clean and polish almost every disc before putting it in the machine. It's one of the few things I thought Netflix had improved upon as their business has grown.


I've definitely had more unplayable discs arrive from Netflix lately. On occasion, they're just dirty or scratched and won't play in any of the DVD players I have access to. But I've had three or four discs within the past six months that were cracked well beyond repair.

It's altogether possible that they were damaged in transit, but I've started to append Post-It notes to the envelopes to let Netflix know the discs are damaged and shouldn't be reshipped. Just in case they're not looking closely (or at all) at the discs inside.

It doesn't happen a lot, and it never used to happen at all. It's annoying, but I also think it's inevitable as their member base increases. Some people probably will send back damaged DVDs, discs they themselves have damaged, rather than pay to replace/purchase them.

Chris Coyier

I'd say the lifespan of your sub $100 McBestBuy DVD player is 3 years. More if you are a neat freak nerd, less if you are a sloppy dusty house livin' nerd. My brand new Samsung 850HD plays every scratched disc I've thrown at it.

Incidently, I've "hacked" my 850 to send an upconverted HD signal over it's component outputs instead of the HDMI. It's a nice hack, email me at [email protected] if anyone wants to know more.


No player can read a disc that is physically cracked or scraped down to the data surface. The data is impossible to retrieve from that point on the disc. If there's a crack on the outer edge, it might play to the end credits or it might not. Computer DVD drives tend to be better at reading scratched discs, but if the scratches are deep and heavy, no machine can play it right. There will be glitches or artifacts if it plays at all. You can't read destroyed data. You can skip or ignore it...


I have way more problems with scratched/damaged disks when I rent from my local video store (an independent, not a chain) than I do from Netflix. In 3 years of Netflix movies (20-25 a month), I've only had about 3 that were unplayable. One arrived cracked, one was scratched badly, and the third had some problem that was making it impossible for me to turn off the commentary track. Not too shabby, in my opinion.


When I first started with NetFlix (years and years ago) I got a lot more bad disks than I do now.

Currently, maybe 2-3 a year. And they are never totally unplayable. Jitters, momentary lockups, etc. Windex solves most so they play thru.

The rest, we simply finish on the computer. The DVD player(s) on my protower work with everything, always. That, and the fact that my current DVD deck plays a lot better than my previous one mean that I also fall in the "its your deck, dude," camp.

It would take a LOT of time and hardware to check all disks for a reasonable degree of integrity, so I never expect that to happen. (Blame the lame spec for DVDs instead. I'd much rather they were encapsulated in a cartridge.) So, what are they to do about offering replacements? Drive to your house? Overnight you one? You wouldn't if you were in business.

Now, I do wish Netflix had caught the one where someone left a cigarette laid down on a disk, in its sleeve. Relatively obvious burn on the sleeve, with raised melted disk aligned underneath. It didn't work well.


I don't run into too many bad DVD's. I think in 2005, I had to return 5 for being unplayable, and that's not a lot. Have not run into any in 2006 yet, but the year is just starting out. I got one that was broken in half. I'm thinking that happened while it was being transported. But some were scratched so bad, it's like someone just placed in on the floor and put their foot on it and dragged it across the floor.


Last year, I had the misfortune of receiving a broken anime DVD and sent it back and requested another copy. The DVD I received was was also broken. I complained to Netflix and was given 25% off of my next fee.

I too bought a newer DVD player from Toshiba at a good price and I've had no problems with playing Netflix DVDs since.


I have had a few bad DVDs with both NETFLIX and BLOCKBUSTER. The problem ones that I received from BLOCKBUSTER mostly occurred when they were sent from one of the local stores. I received at least three from my local store that were shattered or split in half. The envelope was fine so I can only conclude that the store sent it that way. It is a good way to reduce their inventory and hopefully get a replacement for the bad DVD from BLOCKBUSTER itself.


I hate to even say anything as I'm doing good so far. To date I have not received any movies that I could not watch all the way thru. Suprisingly most of the movies I have received lately are in good shape with very few scratches. I think there have been 2 in the last 6 months that I had to stop and clean them to finish the movie.

Also I can't beleive they suggest using paper towels when you clean the discs. Might as well just use sand paper. I find that cloth diapers (you can find them on Walmart.com) work great for cleaning cds and dvds. Less likely to cause more scratches.


On a 8 p/m plan, I average about 1 or 2 cracked discs every couple of months. Maybe 2 or 3 p/year r unplayable for other reasons even after I clean them (w/ soap & warm water).

My biggest beef about the cracked ones is the following:

I notify them of the cracked disc. They send out a replacement. I mail back the damaged one & they acknowledge it. But when I send the replacement back, they never acknowledge it. It just stays in my shipped out list until I complain.. After the 3rd time this happened, I had a lengthy email exchange & they gave me a bonus disc (9 out instead of 8).

Now I immediately return the cracked DVD & after it's acknowledged, place it back at the top of my Q. I mark the sleeve of the cracked disc but never tell them to send a replacement

Another way they slow down delivery. Has this happened to anyone else?



"Blame the lame spec for DVDs instead. I'd much rather they were encapsulated in a cartridge."

If DVDs were in catridges, online rental probably wouldn't exist. Just sayin'.

Stephen M. Nipper

A couple of months ago I received 4 unplayable copies of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Broken, cracked, discolored. All four. Imagine that...bad disk, 3 bad replacements. I wasn't about to try for 5...I gave up on watching the movie. When I complained, they did give me a few extra rentals on my account.


I rented "Secretary" a while back (ok so the movie is about 5 years old) and it's cracked towards the center. That's the worst I've ever got though....


I've had a few cracked dvds in my 5 years with netflix, but rough estimate would be under 10. I cant say I've ever had any that were absolutely unplayable that were not cracked. I also have a newer dvd player though.

Andrew Wickliffe

I don't think I've ever gotten an unplayable disc from Netflix, actually. I think I got one broken one, once, and it really made me angry (because, after 5 years, I finally got one).

I've gotten quite a few broken discs from Blockbuster...


I don't know if Bob has a Sony DVD player that's a few years old, but from what I understand, the Sony brand is particularly bad about klunking out after a few years. Mine is.

Have you noticed, though, that you've covered this topic about four or five times on this blog? ;-)


First, congrats to the Hacking NetFlix community. We've had a intelligent and interesting discussion mostly without resulting in the T-word..

Second, what should NetFlix do to to combat broken rentals?
My two suggestions:
1. If a disc is reported broken, reship a copy in an add on slot. (e.g. you're on the two out plan and you have the movie Paycheck already out, you receive a broken copy of Shrek. When you report Shrek broken they should immediately send you a new copy. If you return Paycheck they should still send you another disc. When you return the broken copy of Shrek they should send you another disc. (Thus you're at three out due to the broken disc.) You should only go back to two out at a time once the broken and replacement copy of Shrek is returned.

2. Test all replacement copies before sending them. One of the nice possibilities with the printed on delivery address generated by the barcode in the back is that NetFlix could flag rentals in this process. (Given previous videos this would result in wasting one mailer. E.g. the DVD would be placed into a mailer, would go through the scanning machine to determine where it should be sent, then once flagged as a replacement disc it would have to be removed and tested, then repackaged and resent.)

3. Perform planned maintenance on the DVDs. There is a certain number of DVDs that do not ship every day. Determine which of those have been out the longest without receiving planned maintenance. It would also be wise to flag discs with higher failure rates more often. (e.g. fragile anime, kid flicks, etc.)

While some might scoff, its in NetFlix's best interest to do everything they can to send DVDs in as good of a condition as possible. Any unplayable DVD costs them twice the amount of postage as a playable DVD, and doesn't do anything to help their customer's perception of them.


Oops, I added a third without editing.. Remember its a blog comment, not a paper.. ;-)


I'm with Blockbuster, not Netflix, but since it's a similiar service...

The other day I got a DVD that wouldn't play - 6th one this year. It was halfway cracked in two.

I went to the website and reported it as unplayable and asked for them to send the same movie again. I popped the broken one in the mail and waited for the replacement.

Guess what they sent?

They sent back the SAME broken DVD again! :-0


Old DVD player had all sorts of trouble - bought a mid-range Sony DVD player - solved 99 % of the problem.

Hank Scorpio

I've received a number of discs that stop or skip. Looking at the surface, they _do_ look like they've been on sandpaper.

Using the site to report an unplayable disc, I have received a replacement and not as the next one in my queue; it merely replaces the one I have, so having both discs counts as having one.

It's aggravating, but even my local stores have scratched discs.


BW said

SNIP.....I popped the broken one in the mail and waited for the replacement.
Guess what they sent?
They sent back the SAME broken DVD again.

I can see how that might happen. I draw a big X on the sleeve of the one I mail back.



SNIP.....I popped the broken one in the mail and waited for the replacement.
Guess what they sent?
They sent back the SAME broken DVD again.


I had the same thing happen once as well. I've started writing "Broken" on the sleeves with a sharpie in big letters.


Netflix isn't seems to be getting worse with the bad DVDs.

Here is my tally so far:

November: 18 Movies - One Scratched Unplayable DVD (1st month)
December: 11 Movies - One Scratched Unplayable DVD
January: 12 movies - One Cracked DVD, One scratched unplayable DVD



Last month I received three cracked DVDs almost in a row. That's the first time I've ever had a cracked DVD from Netflix. But many movies do skip around while watching them and the DVDs arrive scratched or dirty. Netflix doesn't seem to do anything in regards to cleaning them which is unfortunate.


I wonder why some people get so many more broken and unplayable movies. For me, it really is a rare event (one every 6 months).

The comments to this entry are closed.


Third-Party Netflix Sites