It’s a pity I can’t just start writing a political blog here, because all the exciting drama is happening in Congress about raising the US debt limit. I’m predicting a lot of partisan ideological ranting, with a last minute deal that’s not really a deal. It’s the kind of drama politicians love!
Instead, I’ll write about crisis that has gripped the rest of the country that lies outside the beltway, the biggest tragedy that has befallen America since Dallas went off the air, the saddest news most of us have heard since Sonny Bono died. That’s right. I’m talking about the Netflix price increase.
At least you’d think it was a tragedy by how outraged some fools have become.
There are so many news articles about this I wouldn’t even begin to link to one, so here are a thousand. If you’re one of the benighted folk who don’t use Netflix, you should know now that instead of charging $9.99 a month for one DVD at a time and unlimited streaming video, Netflix is separating the streaming and DVD service, and charging $7.99/ month for each.
Usually, I’m pretty jaded, but I have to say even I was surprised by the amount of entitled whining pervading the Internet about this small price increase. “Oh, Netflix, I loved you so much, and now you want to charge me more money for providing more service than you used to! Wahhh! Boycott!!” Oh, please.
More intelligent and less whiny customers might reason this way. Netflix used to charge $9.99/month for providing one DVD at a time to customers. Then, a few years ago, they added unlimited streaming video for FREE to all customers, even the ones with the cheapskate one DVD/month plan. Did I mention that it has been FREE? Oh, and that Netflix prices haven’t risen for years?
Now, the people who want to rely on streaming and don’t watch many DVDs can actually lower their monthly bill by $2. Everyone else on the basic plan will have to pay $6 more a month. Six bucks. Boo hoo.
Most Netflix customers won’t even notice the tiny additional blip in their monthly bills. If the truly poor get Netflix, then skip a McDonald’s meal or a pack of cigarettes or a couple of lottery tickets a month and the increase is covered.
However, I see an opportunity here for public libraries. They should make an all out effort to attract the whining cheapskates to their DVD collections. After all, whining cheapskates looking for free video entertainment are a core market for public libraries, and if libraries didn’t cater to them, democracy might die or something.
Libraries need more people checking out videos and then haggling over late fees when they don’t return the videos on time. “What? I owe $15? But I only had one DVD checked out at a time!”
I make the suggestion because Netflix has become the largest competitor to a core activity of public libraries: providing cheap Hollywood movies and TV shows to the American people. Without such cheap access, people might actually have to pay for their entertainment instead of insisting that someone else pays for their entertainment through their taxes. And that’s just not right!
At $9.99 a month, Netflix was so cheap that millions of people didn’t think twice about subscribing, then skipping that weekly trip to the library to get their video fix. But now, at a whopping $16 a month for the same service, you can bet they’ll be cancelling that Netflix subscription immediately.
By now, though, Netflix has been giving such quality service at such cheap prices, people have forgotten why they used to need libraries.
To solve this problem, libraries need to advertise.
“So the Netflix streaming service is mostly a wasteland of old TV shows and movies you’ve never heard of? So is your local public library video section! And it’s FREE!”
Something like that would bring in the whining cheapskates. Libraries could start painting their windows like some stores do. “Screw Netflix! Free Videos Here!”
To truly emulate store window paintings, the libraries could also add some extraneous punctuation. Free “Videos” Here, that sort of thing.
Or libraries could mount speakers atop their bookmobiles and drive through neighborhoods shouting the good news.
If your library doesn’t have a bookmobile, buy one just for this purpose.
I really think this is the lucky break libraries needed to start making themselves relevant again. Librarians everywhere should thank Netflix for starting to charge sensible prices and maybe making people realize that rather than pay an extra $6/month it’s better to drive to your library, sift through physical DVDs, wait in line to check them out, then have to drive back to do it again soon to avoid fines.