Netflix pricing disparity

I’m a little confused as to the unit pricing for Netflix. Their “unlimited” plans are as follows:

  • 1 at a time = $8.99/mo = $8.9900 each
  • 2 at a time = $13.99/mo = $6.9950 each
  • 3 at a time = $16.99/mo = $5.6633 each
  • 4 at a time = $23.99/mo = $5.9975 each
  • 5 at a time = $29.99/mo = $5.9980 each
  • 6 at a time = $35.99/mo = $5.9983 each
  • 7 at a time = $41.99/mo = $5.9985 each
  • 8 at a time = $47.99/mo = $5.9987 each

Clearly the best deal is the 3-at-a-time plan, but why give the customer a slightly worse deal for each level they go up? Currently, upgrading to the 4-at-a-time plan has quite a premium, $7, for the additional movie. Each additional movie after that is a negligible but still annoying bump in price. The 6-at-a-time plan is the worst deal, since you can get two 3-at-a-time plans for $2.01 less per month.

Citibank misunderstands mobile, sucks

So we’re sitting at our gate in the terminal in LAX, and Citibank has purchased some likely very expensive advertising space above our heads, for “CITI MOBILESM“. Purportedly, this would be a version of Citibank’s website optimized for the mobile browser. The ad has the url citi.com/citimobile which, one would assume, given the mobile target audience (and, my first thought was “ugh, that’s an unnecessarily long URL to type on a mobile”), and the big picture of a phone, should be visited on your phone.

How wrong I am. I tried it on my phone, and I got a very large Citibank-standard page (which would likely only render at all on Symbian S60 or iPhone) telling me that I am using an unsupported browser, and helpfully recommends IE, Firefox, Netscape, Safari, and AOL. Awesome experience so far, Citibank!

I try it on my laptop, and the reason for that page becomes clear. citi.com/citimobile is not supposed to be used from your phone… apparently you’re supposed to go there on a PC and sign up to receive the application as an SMS containing a link to download the application. How annoying. Whatever, let’s give it a go.

After going through a fairly simple signup process (none of which actually would have required a PC browser), I am sent an SMS message and I download and install the Java application.

The application itself is quite simple, and in fact I suspect based on its behaviour that it doesn’t have any intelligence of its own… it seems to download its menus and such on first run. So, basically, a poorly designed browser.

When you run the application, you’re given a few menu choices:

  • Account Info — Get your account balances, recent activity, etc.
  • Payments — Schedule bill payments.
  • Transfers — Make transfers between your accounts.
  • Citi Locations — Find Citibank branch and ATM locations.
  • Service — Customer service and account management stuff.

Choosing any of these options except for “Citi Locations” will ask you to log in. The first time you use it, the login process is a bit different… it asks for your phone number using a menu which took me a few minutes to figure out, since it completely deviated both from my phone’s interface, and any interface I’ve ever seen. For future logins, it uses the same kludgy interface to ask for your “telephone access code” aka password.

After pressing the middle key (usually “select”-ish) on my phone a few times, and expecting the usual “numeric entry” screen to come up, I finally figured out that you actually have to type on this screen, while the entry you’re typing into is highlighted. On my phone, that means I have to hold down the function key to type numbers.

Folks, phones have interface standards and especially Java has standard interfaces for a reason—so that your users won’t be confused, and your application will look and feel like all of the other applications on their phone.

To make matters worse, both the Account Info “recent activity” and Citi Locations search are next to useless. The recent activity gives you basically no information, not even the name of the vendor/company, very similar to the information that an ATM will give you as a printed receipt of activity.

Overall, a pretty disappointing experience with Citi Mobile!

Airport Security Shuffle

Whenever going through airport security I am somewhat amused and mildly frustrated, as most normal people probably are. Of course abnormal people and those predisposed to stress are always freaking out.

I find the current airport security shuffle to be quite amusing though, imagine if you will, my typical pass through the security checkpoint:

  • Pass by the person helping bewildered people with their liquids and gels. “Does hair gel count?” “What about perfume?” “But I paid $50 for that!”
  • Pass by the TSA staffer waiting at the end of the rope lines for no obvious reason. Try to show her your documents, but she doesn’t care and points you on to the next person. What is she here for? Nobody knows.
  • Show your boarding pass and ID to the TSA staffer who marks it with an easy-to-forge mark, such as initials or a number. Note that this is the only time that an ID is ever checked. I won’t point out the flaws in this system. Staffer tells you to keep your boarding pass out.
  • Note that it’s impossible to strip as required to get through security while actually keeping your boarding pass out as they’ve told you to. Place boarding pass in pocket.
  • Remove cell phone and keys and place them in backpack pocket.
  • Remove shoes and belt and place them in a tray.
  • Remove laptop and place it in a tray.
  • Walk through metal detector.
  • Get dirty looks from staffer after metal detector because the boarding pass was not out, when they told me to keep it out.
  • Fetch backpack from X-ray conveyor.
  • Shock laptop with static electricity while fetching it from X-ray conveyor. Grounding yourself first doesn’t help because it’s the laptop itself that is charged.
  • Fetch belt and shoes from X-ray conveyor.
  • Walk sock-footed and belt-less to my gate, or the nearest gate with open seats to re-apply clothing.
  • Wait for plane.

Pretty much the same everywhere you go. It gets even more exciting if you get “randomly” selected for extra screening. This of course isn’t random at all: buying a one-way ticket gets you extra screening pretty much every time.  If I was feeling frisky and wanted to blow up the plane, couldn’t I just spring for the extra $90 for the round trip ticket? Hmm…

ServerBeach: In their own little world

I noticed yesterday that ServerBeach billed me. I initially thought that was a little odd, since I remember I used to be billed around the 5th of the month, which was a much more convenient time to be billed $149 for me.

I checked into things and noticed that the billing date has been drifting backwards since I opened the account. Here are the billing dates for my account since I opened it: 2005-02-06, 2005-03-06, 2005-04-05, 2005-05-05, 2005-06-04, 2005-07-04, 2005-08-03, 2005-09-02, 2005-10-02, 2005-11-01, 2005-12-01, 2005-12-31, 2005-01-30. Yep, they’ve been billing me every 30 days.

It seems like that fact is evident on the bill, in the form of this line:

Sub-Total (30 Day Charges) $149.00

I opened a support ticket asking about it, and they confirmed and closed my ticket with this:

The ServerBeach billing cycle is a 30 day cycle instead of a monthly cycle. Due to the 30 day billing cycle, your payment date will vary by a day or so every month. We do not have monthly billing at this time.

Come on ServerBeach, join the rest of the world… hire a competent programmer to figure out how to bill monthly, and get that added. I love ServerBeach for every other reason, but this fact I absolutely hate. Ugh.

I miss you, em dash

I wish you could come back, em dash. Nobody knows how to use you anymore—and I miss you.

I think what finally killed you was Microsoft Word. They tried to be smart, they tried to create their own standard. They tried but they failed, and you were the casualty. Now all we get are underscores and question marks, and the occasional gibberish, when we could be seeing beautiful em dashes.

Even the Washington Post often can’t figure you out:

“I feel his language is encouraging _ he seems to be discovering a reality, the same reality that I see,” said NAACP President Bruce Gordon.

You’re a complex little beast, but I was your friend. I still want to be your friend. Come back to me, em dash.

Setting Brakes to “On”

The SFO Airtrain which connects you to BART has these poorly thought-out announcements:

The train is about to depart. Please hold on. Please set your luggage cart brake to “on”.

That seems fine when you read it, but imagine it as an announcement. The quotes just don’t come through. What’s wrong with like, “Please set your luggage cart brake”, or “Please engage your luggage cart brake”, or even “Please lock your luggage cart brake”.

Don’t you realize your announcement sounds stupid?

Bloggers vs. Traditional Media

I have been thinking for quite some time about Bloggers vs. Traditional Media. People give bloggers a lot of flak for having typos, bad grammar, and unchecked facts in their blogs. I agree that it’s true, they have exactly that. Where I disagree though is the silent argument that traditional media doesn’t have that.

It’s becoming more and more prevalent, with the popularity of essentially news aggregators like Google News, that traditional media companies are struggling to be the first to break the news. In their struggle to be the first, it seems they are, more and more, skipping any real copy-editing steps. I constantly see CBS News, BBC, Fox, and even AP wire stories, with typos, grammatical errors, factually incorrect information, etc. in them.

What’s the point, then, of traditional media? They’re becoming a blog themselves. At least real bloggers get to share their real opinion (for better or worse) instead of being the same old media machine.