The Love Affair Is Over

Friday 7 March, 2014

As you may know, I have been quite the fangirl of LoveFilm over the years. I’ve been a member since 2010, when The So Called Good Friend suggested I become a member, after my operation left me bed-bound, quite bored and with very little to do. It was marvellous! (The lovefilm subscription, not being bed-bound and bored) I could watch almost anything and everything, I was easily getting my money’s worth from them, and despite a few hiccups here and there, they have given me excellent service!

And then redesigned their listing system, and I wasn’t very keen on that… which was fine, because they listened to people’s comments and they fixed what people didn’t like. The redesign ended up combining what people really wanted from the way the old site was with the redesign LoveFilm were quite adamant to force on to us.

And then just a couple of months after that, they merged with Amazon. Or Amazon bought them out. I’m not sure which one it actually is, but basically, Amazon got involved. It had it’s good points and it’s bad points, actually. It seemed to allow for a better range of television shows, it widened the range of things you could watch online and it allowed LoveFilm members access to Amazon Pilots. Those were all good points…

The bad points, though, well, first of all, to stay “true to providing a service fit for it’s name”, it chucked the games rental. Which was a real kick in the teeth to me, I’d just switched to the all inclusive package to include games! Not to mention I was planning and having to rewrite a third How To entry, because the little changes on top of my infrequent use of Lovefilm at the time meant that I felt the information I had wasn’t good enough to justify a whole new entry, as well as being too much of a rehash of what I’d already written on my previous entries.

And then… Amazon itself. Amazon does not deal with it’s customers very well. It doesn’t even deal with it’s employees well. Before I gave up using Amazon altogether, the quality of the products I was buying went from reliable and unquestionable to junk items at a Carboot Sale. And I say that as a massive fan of Carboot Sales. I found I was able to buy less and less straight from Amazon, especially for a price that didn’t leave you bankrupt, and had a lot of problems with even the highly rated third party vendors. Complaining to the relevant email addresses never really got me anywhere, and then I learnt about how awful the working conditions were. So I stopped using Amazon.

So, when LoveFilm changed to “Lovefilm – An Amazon Company”, I was sceptical about it’s future, both as a good company and something I’d be happy to carry on with using. There are too many times where companies merge, or where one gets swallowed by another, and it changes the business for the worse. So many times when this happens, original customers of the original company are left disgruntled and left out in the cold. With that in mind, I prepared for the inevitable.

By which I mean, I got a trusty notebook and I made a list of all of my lists. Once a week, I’d cross out the titles that I’d watched, I’d add to relevant lists when titles became available from out of the reserved, and added any titles I’d added in a spree to the lists on the site. I am nothing if not prepared and fastidious when it comes to my DVD renting.

Which is why the instant the switch over happened, I wasn’t happy. And I wasn’t alone in not being happy. The switch over was not smooth, the switch over was not quick, and from what I can gather from social network and other LoveFilm fanatics aboot the place, the switch over was not wanted at all. At the fastest turn around, people can get through up to nine discs in a week, six or seven is more realistic. And they were paying less than £14 for it. There were graded packets which were aimed at the more leisurely viewer and people who were streaming only. The switch over changed these packages completely. People were expected to pay about the same price for one less disc a go. Now one disc for a bit less doesn’t sound that bad, but let’s go to the average fastest turn around, that’s three less discs a week, that can be nine less discs a month. That’s about the same price for nine less discs!

And not just that. LoveFilm used to have a Pay Per View system, but it wasn’t working for them, so they removed it in their redesign. Every item to stream on their site was viewable for every member on a streaming package. Only their package limitations limited them. With the change over to Amazon, an unlimited streaming package literally just means you could watch as many things as you want with no time or broadband usage limit. Most items to stream on the new Amazon Instant Video service, which is what the LoveFilm instant package has become, are PPV. And they’re not cheap!

I’ll be the first in line to say that LoveFilm didn’t have the best films available to stream, their dvd stock was much, much bigger, but this so called unlimited package takes the cake! If you’re spending £7 for an unlimited service, you then shouldn’t have to spend over £100 to watch every episode of a series, or £3.99 for a film, on top of what you’ve already paid.

Most of the confusion of the switch over, probably the main reason many people were left very unhappy by the switch over, was that the LoveFilm package was split into two components. The postal delivery service is called LoveFilm By Post; Self explanatory but actually hard to find, no sensible navigation and actually no extra information at all. Once your account moved over successfully, you could see your lists in their entirety, but no easily located place to see what discs are being sent out to you or how to add titles to your lists, which is a pretty important part of the dvd rental service.

The streaming service is now called Amazon Instant Video Prime. Which has nothing to do with an Amazon Prime Account, which is it’s own component to Lovefilm Streaming. All available information about streaming for the first four days post switch over said, “All films available to Prime users”. People were left very confused. People, including myself, couldn’t figure out whether Amazon had forced a Prime account on to them or whether there was a problem with the site.

And then users were figuring it out for themselves, because the phone lines weren’t being very helpful and their twitter account had gone on radio silence, apart from the tweets advertising how good their new services were. It wasn’t that switched over users were given Amazon Prime accounts with the expectation to pay £70 every year for it, nor was it that the website was broken.

Amazon Prime, as in the Amazon VIP purchasing service was separate, but it gave all Prime members truly unlimited access, at no extra cost, to the video streaming service. Well, “no extra cost” as in apart from the annual Prime fee, which was about £49 but increased to £70. The video streaming service switched over from LoveFilm, was just “coincidentally” named Prime. As a coincidence. And not in any way a deliberate attempt to confuse people, at all.

So, there were unhappy faces all around, really! And that’s just online! I had to call up to cancel my account, and after being on hold for thirty minutes, the person I spoke to falsely claimed that my cancellation wouldn’t go through in time before my next payment, which was the next day, so I’d have a full month paid for, wouldn’t I like that full month to get used to this new service?

I said no. She said I had to call back once my discs had been stated as returned anyway, in order to cancel, and there was nothing she could do to help me further, with apologies. I cancelled the postal part online myself, and the next day had to ring up to cancel the streaming part because I couldn’t find that part online.

It’s been a week since I cancelled and I have not been charged at all for the new month that would have started had I not cancelled when I did. Just by luck, my discs had arrived the morning after I’d tried to cancel. Which was why I was trying to cancel, actually. I didn’t want more discs to be sent out and the whole process stalled even further.

So lies on top of a poor quality of customer service and misinformation. I will let the waiting times ranted about on twitter speak for themselves. The first morning of the switch over, people were in queues or up to half an hour. It settled down to 10 minutes by that evening. The next day, people were tweeting about queues for up to half an hour again, twenty minutes throughout most of the way and then five to ten minutes by that evening. Ten minutes at most for the third morning, spiking up to twenty minutes for a good portion of the afternoon and evening, and back down to ten minutes by that evening.

I’ve asked around, quite a few people said the original queue time for LoveFilm was between five and ten minutes, as started by the recorded voice on the phone.

Tweets started being flooded by some sort of review cross-posting in connection to Amazon Prime, so it was hard to keep track past the fourth day, but most tweets were questions, rants of confusion and statement of intent to quit LoveFilm. Even now, most tweets about the change over are not positive ones. Yes, I bet people who have the money to spend in one big amount are quite happy with their new Amazon Prime services, but those of us who have been with LoveFilm for years have been trampled over. You get a fair amount less than what you did with the original LoveFilm, and if you want exactly what you had with LoveFilm, you have to pay a lot more in one go for it.

LoveFilm was on of the few remaining services around that really treated their DVD rental customers and streaming customers equally. Which was why I was quite happy to stream whenever I was able to, which was rarely, as well as still work my way through the DVDs. And now, I do say this with a bit of apprehension, it’s been ruined. Because I wouldn’t be surprised if six months from now, LoveFilm by post gets phased out completely.

Why do I think that? Because whilst customers who focused on wanting a streaming service were confused with what was what, LoveFilm by post was just neglected completely, despite all lists being screwed up and merged. A lot of people who had a problem sorting the LoveFilm by Post stuff out were merely told to wait until it got sorted and look around the streaming instead. As well as being expected to be fine with paying about the same for less, with no guarantee of a next day delivery service. Alright, LoveFilm couldn’t guarantee that either, it was subject to the postal service. But when the post ran smoothly, it was almost always a next day delivery service. With LoveFilm by Post, delivery for DVDs was second to any Prime customers renting DVDs. And they’d get the priority, and anyone else was subject to the remaining space/time left over after the priority of Prime went through.

And almost every other service is just stream only. So why not this one, too? It’d be foolish to think they value their customers after they’ve proved repeatedly how much they don’t.

SO for all of that, I have left LoveFilm. I am sad about this, but good riddance to Amazon Rubbish. I hear most people who have left LoveFilm have moved to Netflix. People who can’t stream are looking into, which does have a similar package system to LoveFilm, but the prices are much higher. It’d be £22 a month for four DVDs a go, and still no games. Could be worth it if you have a fast turn around, but that’s a monthly sum just a bit steep for me. I can’t justify that for myself, so for now I’m getting what I can, when I can, from my local Library. Which serves me well in DVD rentals, as well as supporting my local Library, and sticking it to hungry businesses trampling on the little man.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go after LoveFilm’s transmogrification into Amazon, and are a bit lost; As well as the ones I’ve already mentioned, there’s also blinkbox, which is streaming only, and Blockbuster is making a comeback.

And for anyone worried or wondering about my LoveFilm Classic Film Quest, worry not! That’s what the Library will come in use for. Well, for as long as the Library remains open, anyway.

Please, if you have any comments, suggestions and whatnots, feel free to reply!