Seattle, Washington The Joy of Sticking it to Them

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for over a year. Pretty much since I got back from Africa. I signed up so I could rent lots of teen movies for cheap, as I was pursuing a pipe dream of creating cell phone trivia games to make money without having to show up anywhere or ever work very hard.

After generating 200 questions and viewing Andrew McCarthy’s entire body of work in about a month, I accepted the harsh realities of life and took a job writing cutscenes for a PlayStation2 game about pirates.

I kept my Netflix subscription. I found it handy, if for no other reason than the queue feature that gave me a list of all the movies I’ve been meaning to get around to. I was the ideal customer, never in any particular hurry to watch anything. I’d often let whatever trite, Oscar-baiting pile of clichés I felt obligated to watch sit on top of my DVD player for weeks and weeks.

That changed a month ago when I was suddenly, inexplicably consumed by the notion that I could stick it to them. “Them” being the Netflix people.

The Postmaster General was recently quoted saying the discs from Netflix and other DVD-mail services account for 3% of total USPS revenue. Using first class, pre-sorted mail at whatever bulk discount they’re getting, it costs Netflix around $0.70 a disc for round-trip postage. That means that if I can rent 26 discs in a month, I’m actually costing them more in postage than the $18 a month I’m paying them. All other costs aside, they’re losing money on me.

I’m at 19 discs now with 6 days to go before the month is out.

Now, I have no particular grudge against Netflix. I was not a participant in the class action suit. I’m happy with the turnaround time. And their selection is second only to the greatest video store in the universe: Scarecrow Video, which just happens to be 10 minutes away (while I’m not particularly inclined to rent Nazi porn, I’m really glad my local video store has a section for it…ya know, just in case).

I guess the thing with Netflix is that it’s just so exciting to have the opportunity to cost a big company money, since I spend so much of my time helping them make it.

I like to imagine a boardroom full of the organization’s top executives, and every day the mailman walks in with a huge sack full of all the returned discs. He pours it out across their oversized mahogany table. The fat, cigar-chomping executives sift through the envelopes and find my name, yet again. “Curses!” one of them yells, “How can one man watch this much Arrested Development in a week? Has he no sense of restraint? Does he not see how we suffer from his prompt viewing and expeditious re-mailing?”

I savor that image. And I will continue sticking it to them until I find something else to occupy my time…or until my rental queue dips below 100.