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Evolution of the Netflix Envelope

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the uhoh-used-the-e-word dept.

238

An anonymous reader wrote to mention an article over on CNN Money. They go into some detail on what seven years of tinkering has done for the simple red Netflix envelope. From the article: "Years of experimentation went into creating the perfect DVD envelope. In 1999, Netflix started out with a heavy cardboard mailer. With only 100,000 subscribers, costs weren't a concern yet. Then the company experimented with plastic envelopes, which proved not to be recyclable, and padding, which added too much to postage costs. Both top-loading and side-loading envelopes made an appearance."

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Careful! (5, Funny)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178623)

They re use those things and don't forget what most people rent! I wouldn't seal them with a lick.

Re:Careful! (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178753)

They re use those things and don't forget what most people rent! I wouldn't seal them with a lick.

See? they thought of that alreaday. Netflix envelopes now have self-adhesive peel-off sticky bits. Nothing to lick 'cept your partner =_)

Re:Careful! (1)

Namronorman (901664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179011)

"Nothing to lick 'cept your partner =_)"

Remember, this is Slashdot.

Re:Careful! (3, Informative)

Scooby Snacks (516469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178933)

I know you're just being funny, but Netflix doesn't carry those kinds of movies.

Re:Careful! (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179048)

kinda wish they did though...
Might be embarassing when they give you new reccomendations ;)

Re:Careful! OT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178948)

extremely off topic, somone needs to submit a story to slashdot about this, my writing sucks to much to do so

http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/7208 5
forum operators are liable for comments [heise.de]

First-instance district court of Hamburg says forum operators are liable for comments

After more than four months, the first-instance district court of Hamburg has handed down its written statement on its widely reported ruling of December 02, 2005 on liability for forums. The statements refers to web forums as an "especially dangerous feature." Those who operate such a source of trouble, the court argued, must be held especially liable.

The previous legislation held that forum providers were only liable for illegal content that they had knowledge of and were not obligated to actively search for such; now, the judges in Hamburg have overruled that interpretation. Providing Internet forums is, they argued, a type of business operation. Operators therefore have to be able to hire enough staff with legal training to be able to handle such operations. "If the number of forums and comments in them is so great that the opposing party does not have the staff or technical means to review comments before they are published, they either have to expand their in-house resources or [...] reduce the scope of their business operations," the first-instance district court of Hamburg argued.

Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the.. (1)

ElboRuum (946542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178624)

Netflix envelope! Too bad everything past the first slide is a 404. Now whatever shall I do?

Re:Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the (2, Funny)

urbanRealist (669888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178667)

Um, p2p?

Worked for me... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178736)

but the detail they provided is practically useless... like everything else on this bloody planet.

Re:Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178789)

I had to "temporarily allow" 3 different "sites" on scriptblocker to see the whole show...

Re:Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the (1)

robogun (466062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178816)

Can you get their vids to work in Mozilla?

Re:Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178966)

I didn't try - but if it was flash, I've totally ripped flash out of mozilla. I pretty much expect that I won't see video.

Re:Damn! I was SO interested in the history of the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178924)

It requires scripting, dumbass...

Perfection is in the pennies (5, Insightful)

Saeul (880805) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178625)

Imagine shipping 1 billion DVDs for one cent cheaper.

Re:Perfection is in the pennies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178761)

A saving of 1 cent after a billion shipments? Pffft....

What they really need to do is save 1 cent per each shipment for a total saving for $100 million. Now, that is what real MBAs do.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178769)

That's $10 million. Pffft.

Savings per share? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178779)

That's $10 million. Pffft.

But how much is that per share?

Re:Perfection is in the pennies (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178787)

Imagine selling a billion songs at 99c instead of an even buck. It works both ways.

Re:Perfection is in the pennies (0, Offtopic)

drivekiller (926247) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179003)

Imagine making 1 billion slashdot posts at -1. Oh that was me before I got an account.

Re:Perfection is in the pennies (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179058)

Keep making brilliant insights like this and you could be well on your way to the second billion.

Hmm..... (2, Funny)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179053)

Now, if we make a change to the accounting software to redirect a fraction of that penny left over from rounding operation to a different account we could bring down the evil of Netflicks! Who's with me?

Bar Code on Envelopes (4, Interesting)

selfabuse (681350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178626)

Netflix somehow always knows when I've sent a movie back before it actually gets there. I always assumed the barcode was somehow related to that.

Re:Bar Code on Envelopes (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178715)

Doubt it, they're not psychic and I doubt the USPS scans it in for them (hey they might never know), the barcodes are more likely for when they do get it in, it's alot easier then having to type in numbers or names for returns and checkouts.

Re:Bar Code on Envelopes (4, Informative)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178720)

Actually the USPS do offer a service where they scan return envelopes at your local Post Office. It's used by a number of companies including Netflix to speed up return times.

Re:Bar Code on Envelopes (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178809)

Then it must be on a case by case basis because my girlfriends dad is on a firstname basis with the netflix delivery guys in Madison, WI and they just pick up all of their envelopes in a big bin to go back to the processing facility. If you look at the time stamp on your account that they received it back you can can see when it was scanned, if it isn't from 6pm-4am the USPS probably didn't do it.

Re:Bar Code on Envelopes (1)

buddahfool (123287) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179001)

Me too. It seems that there is a "staging center" local to me. The return address said "nearest nexflix location" but the closest is like two days away. Yet they know within a day, so I assume they get aggregated nearby, scanned and shipped back in mass.

perfect paper envelope (4, Insightful)

flogic42 (948616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178629)

As a long-time netflix user I think the paper envelope they have now is damn near perfect. It's dirt cheap, but keeps the DVD safe. It's recycleable too. It takes 5 seconds to put the DVD in securely and be ready to mail it.

Re:perfect paper envelope... NOT (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178987)

As a long-time netflix user I think the paper envelope they have now is damn near perfect. It's dirt cheap, but keeps the DVD safe. It's recycleable too. It takes 5 seconds to put the DVD in securely and be ready to mail it.

I don't think their so perfect. I work for the post office and have to handle the damn things. I'm not the guy that stuffs your mailbox, I run the sorting machines. (about 95% of your letters are sorted by machine). Problem is, the DVDs jam the machine because they don't flex (enough). They need to be run on a special machine used to sort magazines. I regularly see their ripped envelopes and occasionally broken DVDs from the letter sorters, where they are mixed in with normal letters and difficult to see and remove. The envelope is too flimsy, and the adhesive sticker to "seal" it is a bit of a problem. It sometimes sticks to the adjacent mailpiece. You are seeing the result of "engineering" something to just barely meet requirements, to save a penny or two.

The Blockbuster mailer is great from my point of view. Envelope is sturdy, and fits and protects it's contents well. The NetFlix mailer has the floppy empty "tail" because it is rectangular rather than square. Difficult to handle to load into the machines. This deficiency requires more time to handle the NetFlix, so it costs more to process. But that's OK, 'cause you're paying for it by subsidizing it with your first class postage on other mail. You do realize you subsidize the discounted postage bulk mail pays with your full rate first class postage, right?

Neat to see. (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178632)

I've been with Netflix for over two years now so I've seen a few of those.

That said, I've always wondered why Netflix didn't use more square envelopes. Some of the earlier designs looked that way. I wonder if it has to do with sorting or some such.

Re:Neat to see. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178695)

If they were square you could get them all straightened out, but they could be in 8 possible orientations (consider a mailbag full of these). If they're rectangular, then when you get them straigtened out they can only be in 4 possible orientations.

Re:Neat to see. (4, Informative)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178717)

This is an easy one: square envelopes cost more [usps.gov] .

Re:Neat to see. (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178798)

Surely it already falls under that 13c surcharge for containing a "very rigid item".

Re:Neat to see. (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178940)

That depends... I've gotten some very flimsy ones in the past.
Anything that comes from more than a couple counties away tends to have a 50/50 chance of being broken.
Once I got the remains of an envalope, and one shard of dvd in one of those plastic USPS "We're sorry" bags. I returned the whole mess to netflix in a 8x12 manilla envalope with a netflix mailer taped to it.
-nB

Re:Neat to see. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178718)

http://postcalc.usps.gov/mailpiecedimensions.asp [usps.gov]

Could be postal rates. I don't know what they weigh, but square envelopes cost more to mail in most cases.

Re:Neat to see. (4, Informative)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178719)

The post office charges more for square envelopes.

From http://postcalc.usps.gov/mailpiecedimensions.asp [usps.gov]

First-Class Letter Nonmachinable Surcharge:

First-Class envelopes weighing 1 ounce or less require an additional $0.13 nonmachinable surcharge if any one of the following apply:

        * It is a square letter
        * It contains very rigid items such as wood or metal
        * It has clasps, string, buttons, or similar closure devices
        * It has an address parallel to the shorter dimension of the letter
        * It contains items such as pens that cause the surface to be uneven
        * The length divided by height is less than 1.3 or more than 2.5 (calculate this below)

Re:Neat to see. (1)

bshensky (110723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179010)

Ask youself "where's the barcode", and it becomes easy to see why the USPS might charge a premium for a square envelope.

Use of a rectangular envelope, landscape oriented, reduces the effort to locate the stamp, barcode and all by 50%.

Re:Neat to see. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15179028)

Let's not be too quick to judge the PO for this; square envelopes don't work in their automatic sorting machines. They charge more because square and otherwise irregular envelopes require special handling.

Re:Neat to see. (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179032)

It contains very rigid items such as wood or metal

Sounds like a CD to me. As long as they are subject to the fee, why not save the 1/2 cent on paper?

Does the barcode need to be in the window? (3, Interesting)

JPriest (547211) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178642)

I notice when I get the envelopes the bar code on the inside sleve is rarely visable in the envelope window. The instructions didn't seem to say anything about it, so Idon't really bother making sure it is there.

Would I save them any time by ensuring it is visible? Can anyone from Netflix corp answer this?

Re:Does the barcode need to be in the window? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178764)

It makes sense to me that the barcode on the label on the DVD sleeve should line-up with the slot in the envelope part of the DVD. Would be interesting to learn why they do this, and what advantage -- if any -- there would be to shipping them back barcode-visible. I try to mail the DVD back like this. I haven't noticed any difference in the shipping frequency.

Re:Does the barcode need to be in the window? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178861)

Placing the barcode so it's visible has made a difference in shipping / receiving times for us - we had a slowdown in deliveries until my wife discovered I was stuffing the DVD in the envelope with disregard for the position of the DVD. But YMMV, of course.

Re:Does the barcode need to be in the window? (4, Interesting)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178963)

> barcode so it's visible has made a difference in shipping / receiving times

I have the same theory. I played around with different PO drop box's on my route to work (different Postal districts) and discovered on a basis of less than 6 returns that orientation seams more important. I think it was 2 out of 6 got back the next day when oriented incorrectly. more like 3 out of 4 if correctly oriented.
If this were truly the case, since they re-use the cotton sleve, why they dont print the barcode in all 4 orientations, or at least encourage people to orient. randomly it would only be 1 in 8 dvd's to get the window correctly set. if they printed 4 on one side it would be 50/50 if it were both sides you could get 100%

since they allow you to return multiple dvd's in a single envelope, the importance of the barcode may not be so great to them.

Re:Does the barcode need to be in the window? (1)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178927)

I don't think it makes any difference. I always send them back with the barcode visible but the way you have to insert it is so unnatural that I doubt you are suppose to worry about it.

To insert it with the barcode visible you have to put the disc in with the label facing away from you which is probably not the way you normally hold it since you need the label facing you to read the movie title. And if you insert from the left not only is the label facing away but you have to put the disc in upside down where it can fall out of the sleeve.

Re:Does the barcode need to be in the window? (-1, Troll)

elchuppa (602031) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179033)

anal sex is nice. At least from my end of things.

evolution and intelligent design (4, Funny)

AhtirTano (638534) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178671)

I'm at a loss. The envolopes were clearly intelligently designed. But they appear to have evolved to match the current pressures of cost and safety applied by their environment.

Only a pointless flame war can guide me through this conundrum. That's why I'm turning to you, O Wise Slashdotters.

This is how it works... (4, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178688)

For those of you who think that there hasn't been much technological progress since, say, 1980 (except perhaps computers which are special*), this is how it happens. Take this sort of incremental improvement by one company in one very small facet of our lives, and multiply it across any number of thousands of products, carefully trimmed and optimized and made more efficient. You only notice the things that the process isn't very good at; UI, for instance.

(*: And computers only seem special for two reasons: One, most fields don't get to experience exponential growth for decades at a time, and two, you know more about them. There's a lot going on under the hood of any number of other products, too. Familiarity breeds contempt; so does ignorance.)

Re:This is how it works... (1)

ralla_coco (942429) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178755)

How about that Froid (Sigmund) study that increased the sales of this all-ingredients-cake-powder by removing the egg part and required the person to cook it to add a fresh egg.

Apparently by doing so it removed the sense of guilt from the American house wife of the 50s and it's sales soared

Re:This is how it works... (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178795)

It also made the cakes less of a "pile of chemicals"... I mean, what's more natural than an egg. So, like you said, take out the powdered egg, and now you're cooking a wholesome and and natural cake again!

Re:This is how it works... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178916)

What the fuck? Freud was dead long before the '50s. Also, the grammar in this post is so bad it is nearly comedic.

Re:This is how it works... (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178876)

And for those of you "glass is half empty" kind of people like myself:

Every year the government and big corps find ways to make things a little harder for you. Its not a conspiracy, just every entity on the planet trying to amass power and money at your expense.

ooh, a bijection.... (1)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178993)

i think contempt breeds familiarity, and ignorance.

My Postman (4, Funny)

Ankou (261125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178698)

I love the innovation but personally my postman always seemed to find that ONE weakness in em. I was at an apartment complex with those little metal boxes. I swear the postman would fold them every time and I'd still get a envelope of broken pieces. Happened more times than I'd like to recall.

Re:My Postman (4, Funny)

st1d (218383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178759)

Ah, such an innocent assumption. Perhaps your mailman's second job was at the local movie rental shop? :)

Re:My Postman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178910)

When I worled for the post office, I most often worked on the rejects belt for the machine most likely to eat your mail. Since the netflix onvelopes were so unusual, they enede up in the rejects pile more often than not. Even among the several thousand netflix envelopes that went through me, I never felt a broken dvd. I was quite amazed by the durability and the robustness of those packages.

Crappy cheap envelope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178705)

Constant breakage... they need to spend a fraction of a cent more for a thin cardboard insert... they spend more on reshipping and dvd loss..

Not the smartest folks..

 

Re:Crappy cheap envelope (1)

Ankou (261125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178740)

They tried something similar with the transition from 6 - 7:
"2001
Foam padding is dropped because the benefits don't justify the cost. The company gives top-loading another try."

I hate the paper ones... (5, Informative)

dteichman2 (841599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178707)

It's a pain when you get your movie and you have to be careful to avoid damanging the return envelope while you open it.

Plus, I can't send it back with a different movie because we only get one at a time.

Re:I hate the paper ones... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178725)

Read teh FAQ -> you can return 2 in the same envelope ...

Re:I hate the paper ones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178775)

But with one at a time there's no way to get the second dvd without sending the first one back...

Re:I hate the paper ones... (1)

dteichman2 (841599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178778)

Plus, I can't send it back with a different movie because we only get one at a time.

Kinda tough to send two back in the same envelope if I only have one movie out at a time.

Synopsis (0)

kratei (924454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178709)

Basically:

1) The Mailers started white then turned red (Embarrassment about obscene profits?)

2) They switched between side and top openings.

3) They fixed barcode issues.

4) They perfected their "secret sauce"

5) Now this may be irrelevant soon if video-on-demand takes off.

So how does the brief history of the Netflix envelope make the front page anyhow?

How does this make the news at CNN?

Why don't we have a brief history of slashdot interfaces instead? Now that would make for some fun debate.

Re:Synopsis (3, Insightful)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178763)

Perhaps this doesn't make for hot debate, but for some inexplicable reason I found this one of the neatest things I've read on Slashdot for about a week.

I guess it's just the idea that incremental progress is quite fascinating when you look at it all at once.

That said, I also think it would be cool to see something on the evolution of slashdot interfaces,

Re:Synopsis (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178834)

Prior to April 1: Primarily slashdot green
April 1: Ponies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111
April 2 and beyond: Classics die hard.

Synopsis-Yawn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178783)

"5) Now this may be irrelevant soon if video-on-demand takes off."

Only for those who have cable or broadband, and the price is competitive with Netflix.

"How does this make the news at CNN?"

Most people don't know what goes into packaging.

"Why don't we have a brief history of slashdot interfaces instead? Now that would make for some fun debate."

Very brief.

Re:Synopsis (1)

Ringthane (415537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178794)

kratei wrote:

"1) The Mailers started white then turned red (Embarrassment about obscene profits?)"

      And they were quite sturdy, some type of thin cardboard. I actually thought they were a better, more protective mailer, but not as cost-effective for Netflix, probably.

      After the white mailers were discontinued, I was getting yellow paper Netflix envelopes, a transitional format before the current red envelopes started being used...

Re:Synopsis (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178911)

"5) Now this may be irrelevant soon if video-on-demand takes off."

I'm having a difficult time imagining that video on demand will 'take off' and wipe out Netflix. I suppose it's possible, but we'd need a service that's available everywhere, has a humungoidginormous library, and is roughly the same price as Netflix. Maybe I'm narrow minded, but I don't connect this level of VoD service with the word 'soon'.

Re:Synopsis (1, Offtopic)

Queer Boy (451309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178974)

Why don't we have a brief history of slashdot interfaces instead? Now that would make for some fun debate.

Crap nonstandard HTML that didin't validate to crap nonstandard HTML that now they block the W3C validator from accessing the site directly.

End discussion

Please insert DVD like *this*... (1)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178716)

I noticed they removed the instructions telling people the orientation that the DVD should be returned.

Probably made their lives a lot easier, but I actually didn't notice those instructions until, oh, 6 months into my membership.

Sorry 'bout that. :)

Mod This Comment Dumbass! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178727)

I have to admit that I am a member of Netflix but I don't recognize the new envelope. Two years ago I moved away from Richmond, VA, where I had originally signed up for netflix. Since the move the last three DVDs I got have been sitting in a box that I have yet to unpack. I've been paying for two years and have not gotten a movie in that same time period. My only consolation to this is that I am sure I hold the record for paying for Netflix service without using it for the longest period of time.

The movies are
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Mission Impossible 2
crap, I can't remember what the third one is.

Re:Mod This Comment Dumbass! (2, Funny)

dl107227 (632747) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178814)

Would that be +1 or a -1 dumbass mod?

Not Perfect Yet (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178739)

It seems to me that there are a few flaws yet - for example I have torn off the adhesive strip more than once along the wrong set of perforations. I am not sure why the outer flap has to be the full length of the envelope. Sometimes the little adhesive tab tears the envelope when I open the thing.

Lies from the article (0, Troll)

Talinth (855653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178754)

From the article. The result of more than five years of experimentation, this mailer transports approximately 1.4 million DVDs a day to Netflix's 4.2 million subscribers. This isn't even theoretically possible. This would require them to ship 3 DVDs per person per day. You can tell how they came up with the number. But assuming the post office would deliver the same day it was shipped, and that you watched it and returned it that day, this would require every netflix subscriber to Watch 3 movies a day. I'm skeptical.

Re:Lies from the article (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178799)

... you're an idiot. Try looking at your math again.

1.4 million DVDs to 4.2 million customers. That's 1 DVD for every 3 customers.

Nice try being smart though. Stick to your day job.

Re:Lies from the article (1)

rminsk (831757) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178802)

To quote you "From the article. The result of more than five years of experimentation, this mailer transports approximately 1.4 million DVDs a day to Netflix's 4.2 million subscribers.This isn't even theoretically possible. This would require them to ship 3 DVDs per person per day."

No. This would mean they would ship one DVD every 3 days to each customer.

Wrong units, its 3 days per movie (3, Informative)

Derivin (635919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178803)

Sorry, but your calculations are a little off. It says 1.4Mil per day for 4.2Mil subscribers.
You are correct in that it works out to "3", but your units are wrong.
It is 1 movie per subscriber every 3 days which is in keeping with my personal use.

12.6Mil per day would be 3 movies per subscriber.

Re:Lies from the article (5, Funny)

Fhqwhgadss (905393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178805)

I'll go out on a limb and guess that word problems are not your forte.

Re:Lies from the article (1)

hao2lian (726435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178811)

(1.4 million DVDs)/(1 day) * (4.2 million people) = 0.33 DVDs per person per day or 1 DVD per three people per day, not 3 DVDs per person per day.

Re:Lies from the article (2, Informative)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178822)

My guess is that they are saying that at on any given day, 1.4 million DVDs are "in-transit".

If you ship 10 DVDs on one day, and it takes 3 days to get to the destination, you would still have 10 DVDs in-transit per day.

It sounds funny, knowing what's "in-transit" is an important inventory metric.

Plus, they might be counting the return trips as well.

It's impossible to know, however, without having the underlying data.

Re:Lies from the article (1)

neurojab (15737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178825)

From the article. The result of more than five years of experimentation, this mailer transports approximately 1.4 million DVDs a day to Netflix's 4.2 million subscribers. This isn't even theoretically possible. This would require them to ship 3 DVDs per person per day.

By my math, 1.4 million dvds a week to 4.2 million subscribers = .33 dvds per subscriber, per day, or about 10 dvds a month... which really doesn't seem that unreasonable.

big deal (1, Interesting)

willutah (556976) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178768)

I use a Netflix competitor and they send the DVD in everyday white envelopes.
The movie is sent to me in a 6 inch x 9 inch envelope that contains:
  • The DVD in a DVD sized paper sleeve (the paper sleeve has a barcode on it)
  • A 5.5x8 inch return envelope with a first class stamp, addressed back to them

    This article makes it sound like you have to be an engineer to send a letter.

Re:big deal (3, Insightful)

thatoneguy_jm (917104) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178863)

This article makes it sound like you have to be an engineer to send a letter.

You may not have to be an engineer to send a letter, but to design an envelope that protects the DVD being sent while minimizing cost and customer frustration is quite a bit more complicated than simply sending a letter.

By continually evaluating and optimizing their envelopes, Netflix has been able to both save quite a bit of money (as someone above pointed out, saving 1 cent on every envelope adds up quick when you're sending out millions of envelopes a year) and design a sturdy envelope that is remarkably simple and easy to use. Good design should never be laughed at.

Except we're not sending letters (2, Insightful)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178882)

We're sending DVDs.
In case you weren't aware, DVDs have several properties unlike letters:
1) Rigid
2) Reflective
3) Smooth

If your package alters any of those three properties then your DVD has become a coaster.

Additionally your package has other constraints outside of mailing DVDs:
1) Easy to use
2) Cheap
3) Useful

Cheap means making them lighter and more durable. Useful means making them more productive in the warehouse and as advertising. Easy to use means more users.

I'll tell you what the big deal is... (2, Insightful)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179006)

The big deal is that Netflix tweaked their mailers to eliminate the following:
  • The need for a secondary envelope
  • the large amounts of waste generated from their mailers (since you're using a separate envelope for returns, I'm going to assume you junk the original)
  • As many pennies as can be saved as possible without risking further damage to the disk.

Now, if this 1.4 million mailers daily idea is to be believed, even $0.0001 saved in printing/scanning/postage comes out to saving over $51,000 annually per hundreth of a cent per mailer. If Netflix decides to spend the extra cent to add padding or a second envelope, that's a loss of over five million dollars to them each year.

In short, your FlixClone can get away with 'better' packaging because it's not having to deal with these ridiculously marginal values. Once and if their subscribers grow to as much as Netflix's current base, they'll either notice how much it's costing them or else cripple themselves financially.

Question (4, Interesting)

NVP_Radical_Dreamer (925080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178819)

I've noticed that the return address on the newer netflix envelopes now reads "Nearest Netflix Shipping Facility" and then has a PO box located in my very small rural town. It makes you wonder if they dont scan the barcodes in different locations and then once that nearby local has marked it as received your next disc is sent. There has to be something to the way they get movies to me so quickly when I live so far from a major city.

Re:Question (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178982)

The "very small rural town" on mine is Worcester.

"Worcester is a city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States of America. A July 1, 2002, estimate put the population at 174,962."

Re:Question (1)

bobwoodard (92257) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178983)

Mine says the same (Nearest...), but the return address on the envelope was located in CA, rather than FL (where I am) for some reason (where it was shipped _from_?).

Needless to say, I trashed that envelope and doubled up on one of the return envelopes that was addressed to Tampa, FL. Sending back to CA would put a serious dent in my TAT.

Still room for improvement (2, Insightful)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178872)

That's a fascinating look at innovation. But they still annoy me in several ways in that it's too easy to damage the return mailer while opening it. First, the perforations on the thin flap are too sturdy. Second, the circular sticker is a pain; unless I am careful I wind up ripping the thin layer with my address on it. If the circular sticker were thinner or perforated or had notches in it to act as stress risers then it would easily rip the way it should. Lastly there is, the flap with the adhesive strip on it to seal it. The line of perforations is often stronger than the fold on the other side of the adhesive strip. Several times I have had to tape a Netflix mailer closed because I accidently ripped off the adhesive strip. Simply cutting notches in the ends of the perforation would get it started ripping.

The fact that there is an "OPEN ALONG EDGE" notice says to me they aren't done innovating. I should be able to open it naïvely the first and get at my disk without worrying about damaging the return envelope.

mail it like it's 1999 (1)

donutz (195717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178896)

In 1999, Netflix started out with a heavy cardboard mailer. With only 100,000 subscribers, costs weren't a concern yet.

I dunno, you'd think a business with a small number of customers would be cost-conscious. But then 100,000 isn't all that small I suppose.

Re:mail it like it's 1999 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178984)

Their model was different back then. They didn't have "subscriptions" really. You just would go online, pick a movie to rent, and pay for it. Several days later it would show up. Rentals were something around $3 to $4 each, but you could buy a "10 pack" in advance at a reduced rate. In other words, the customers were paying a lot more for the service.

I was a customer in the cardboard mailer days, but stopped using them when they introduced their "Marquee Program" which was based on a monthly fee. This eventually became the current subscription based service, which is now much cheaper & faster.

Re:mail it like it's 1999 (1)

Donut2099 (153459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179015)

I imagine at this point in the game they are burning investment capital and maximizing profits is taking a back seat to gaining customers.

I hope Ubuntu sees this (3, Funny)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178937)

I tried Ubuntu's ShipIt service for a few free CDs. They came, but the cardboard holders had scratched the surface enough that the disks were no longer reliable. Of course I found this out 3/4 of the way thru an install in front of a bunch of people I was trying to impress with Linux.

Redbox beats red envelope hands down.... (3, Informative)

mlantz7 (953704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178939)

While it is interesting to see how the envelope has changed over the years, I find it more interesting to see some new competitors in the marketplace who are really innovating...

Imagine being able to go online and request any movie you want, and be watching it within the hour. (OK, other than using BitTorrent!). You just go down to the local Redbox kiosk and pick it up within the hour.

This is on the way, and you can't beat the current prices ($1/day) for new releases. And, there is a website with Redbox codes [insideredbox.com] where you can get A LOT of free rentals, too.

So, if you are in one of 10 major metros [mappoint.net] you can get this today.

So, forget the red envelope, and get ready for the Redbox.

Re:Redbox beats red envelope hands down.... (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178969)

Astroturf? No way!

Top-loading is abandoned in favor of side-loading. (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178949)

I fail to see the impact of this on an essentially square envelope

Sorting Machines Eat Them (2, Informative)

Xerotope (777662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178954)

If they don't properly affix the sticker that seals the flap, the USPS sorting machines can mangle them pretty good.

In fact, just today I received only the address flap in the mail. It must've been ripped off from the envelope (who knows what happened to the dvd), and those persistant bastards at the post office delivered just a red flap.

I've also received a disk that had the flap partially torn off. It took two days longer than normal, and the USPS had placed it in a "Sorry we damaged your mail" envelope.

So not quite the perfect solution, but still pretty good.

Evolution? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15178989)

I dunno. Sounds more like intelligent design to me.

Don't we have... (1)

eosp (885380) | more than 8 years ago | (#15178994)

Better things to read than why Netflix envelopes aren't square?

Re:Don't we have... (1, Flamebait)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15179004)

Don't you have better things to do than comment on if people have better things to do than read why Netflix envelopes aren't square?
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