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Zip.ca


By smithdm3 - Posted on 23 February 2004

So I've yet to subscribe, or at least sign up for the free trial... but I'm certainly considering it.

Zip.ca is a new, Ottawa-based, movie rental business that patterns itself after Netflix, who is found south of the border.

Zip.ca is a subscription service, currently priced out at a slightly hefty $24.95/month, that allows you to always have three movies checked out. And as long as you're paying your $24.95 a month, you can keep those movies... or send them back as soon as you watch them (individually even - Thanks Chris) and have another movie in your "Queue" sent to you { Note to Zip: Brand this puppy... don't just call it a queue, call it something catchy that people will be able to throw out in a conversation: "So whacha got in your 'zipstream'?" or something }

So the way the queue works is that you go onto zip.ca log on and start listing moveis you want to see, in a certain order, and then they ship the ones at the top of your queue that they have in stock to you, complete with an envelope to send them back in. When you get them, watch them at your leisure, there is no reason to return them quickly - accept for the fact that you should try to make sure that you rent at least 5-6 movies a month - in order to get your money's worth (You'd have to get through 10 in a month if you use my friend Darryl's store in Belleville "Only DVDs" where he rents them at 2 for $5 plus tax).

Anyway, they look pretty neat, I'll certainly have to sign up for their free two-week
trial
and see how it works.

Zip is marketing themselves with these attributes:
No Late Fees and No Due Dates
Shipping is On Us
Over 15,000 Titles in 19 Categories
Always have up to 3 DVDs
All New Releases in Stock
No Commitments. Cancel Anytime

Dave,

Just a question re: Zip.ca - do you have to receive them in order of your "Queue"? Can you easily change the order? I don't know whether this is just me (I would hesitate to say this is "typical female attitude" since I HATE to stereotype), but what I feel like watching varies frequently. I may get into an indie film groove for a week, but change the next week to romantic comedy, or, worse yet, change from one day to the next. I can see this being a bit of an issue for anyone who shares my love of variety at his or her whim.

Jennifer

You select a list of films to form your "queue" and then they ship you the first film that comes available on your queue. They would appear (at least from my coworker Chris' experience) to apply some sort of algorithm where they send you something that is on your playlist that has the least demand... for example, Chris had a list of 60 movies in his queue and certainly didn't anything in his top 10. So what likely happens is they create a list of requests that come in, based upon date requested and then go down the list with a copy of the movie that they have (just returned) and ship it out to the first person who has an open spot (doesn't have three movies out). So you don't really get to choose the order of the movies you watch... :(

Here's an analysis of how Netflix runs their system (the algorithm they use)... Zip may be similar... (Disclaimer: I don't know how current the document is)
http://dvd-rent-test.dreamhost.com/

This is awesome Dave! Thanks for bringing it up. Not sure I would have heard about it otherwise. I'm pretty sure I'll be signing up, if only for a month to give it a try.

Yes, totally agree with Debroah. Either Zip is too successful for their own good or needs to hire more staff. I'm cancelling my Zip membership! They've only shipped out one CD when I'm entitled to three. Zilch for Zip.

Hey Folks - at first I too was excited about the service - I signed up the first day I heard about it and I even received a Zip.ca T-Shirt

Unfortunately from my first shipment somehow one of my 3 DVDs got lost on the return trip and for a long time I have now only been receiving only two DVDs at a time.

They took the third DVD off my "out" queue but are not sending me three DVDs at a time.

Getting resolution through the e-mail process is very very painful and slow and there are no contact phone numbers to call.

I am seriously thinking of cancelling!

One thing I have noticed is that when I had many items in my queue the turnaround was quite fast - they typically sent out a flick on the same day that they received it (not always my top picks mind you). However, now that my queue is down to 10-12 movies they are taking 1-2 days before sending out the next copy....I'll give them another couple weeks to see if they get it together. Hey Dave - I noticed they are now calling the queue the "ZipList"...I wonder if they read your blog??

Hi: I am currently trying zip, and I think they are over whelmed I should have had a DVD today, and it didn't arrive yet. Also I sent back two on Sunday at a Postal outlet here in downtown Ottawa and they don't show they have received it yet (today is Tuesday) (Zip is based in Ottawa). I noticed alot of my DVDs in my Queue have "short wait" now beside them. I still think it is a great idea, but they need to be faster sending them out and acknowledging when they have received them.

Debbie

Hmmm.... Someone from Momentous.ca visited this entry this morning. Interesting. Momentous, incase you don't notice the very small type on the website (under "Our Companies"), or notice the similarity in the logo, is the parent company of Zip.ca. Neat.

WARNING!! - I rambled on a bit but here's an overview of my experience.

I too signed up as soon as I heard about it. They seemed to have many of the movies that the other Canadian online rental places didn't.

I got my first three after waiting three days. I watched them and promptly returned them the next day. I wanted to maximize the "free trial" and see if their turn-around time was somewhat consistent.

Well, two days after sending the DVDs back only one showed up as returned. I have sent several emails inquiring about the other two (which were dropped in the same mailbox at exactly the same time) with no replies.

They sent me the next selection on my list, but after the lack of communication regarding the "missing" DVDs I decided to send it back right away and cancel my membership. Not taking any chances.

If I get any funny business trying to charge me for the missing DVD's I will reverse the charges.

I was not impressed with the flimsy return envelope (no cushion for the disc which arrives in a paper sleeve). Won't last long with that packaging.

Also, the packaging practically screams out "I have DVD's inside - steal me." I'd like to give the postal system some credit, but naahh I'm too cynical. Many DVDs will go "missing". Their policies on those instances are non existent.

Somebody did not think this through properly and certainly did not anticipate the volume of people interested in such a service. Too bad.

I'll keep my eyes open for others or until I've heard that zip has cleaned up it's act.

Rob

Rob - Just a few comments and questions... First of all - how long ago did you cancel your subscription? Have Zip.ca come after you to replace the DVDs that hadn't arrived back to them when you were a member?

Second, Canada Post is a partner of Zip.ca's... and some people I know believe that they are entirely responsible for the logistics portion of the Zip.ca process (they would handle the receiving, repacking and shipping of the DVDs). So combining that with the fact that it's a federal offense to tamper with mail, I doubt the postal workers would steal the DVDs, too much at risk for a $15-20 DVD.

As for the flimsy packaging... the DVDs are unlikely to suffer any damage as long as the packaging survives, and in the long run, it would probably cost them more to use padded envelopes. They'll just replace the $15-20 DVD if it is damaged.

Finally, from what I've heard the turn around time for the DVDs can be pretty bad, but this is likely a result of either a.) using Canada Post for logistics or b.) their success. They'll adapt in either case and we'll see how things go.

As an aside... I hear that they've named their queue now... and changed how you order things in your queue (now high and normal priorities rather than an ordered list). My suggestions to Zip.ca - One use your branded name for the queue on your website, and build a web service (or personal RSS feed) so people can publish their queues on their website for others to see. That'd be "Viral Marketing".
And two - establish more levels or priority... There could be "Wanna See ASAP", "Second Choices", "Would Watch It If Arrived" and "If All Else Fails Send Me This".

Oh... and if anyone at Zip.ca wants to chat, maybe I've got more ideas... leave a comment here and I'll email you.

Oh yeah... I'll finally be signing up for a trial when my building finally switches to new "bigger" mailboxes my landlord had installed... I don't the DVDs will fit into the old ones.

Just cancelled my membership yesterday. Got an email confirmation today that the "missing" DVDs had been received.

No response to my questions or queries, however, just a couple of generic emails saying that Title ________________ has been recieved ,etc. Why have an email for customer service if you don't plan on replying to queries (especially when there is no number to call).They must be understaffed.

Yes I noticed they changed the priority from a number based system to ASAP and normal. You can only select ASAP for two titles at a time.

If they have a deal with Can Post then perhaps you are right about the reliability of returns. However, time will tell on how long it will take them to replace damaged DVDs.

I do think that the thin paper sleeve and envelope will potentially cause a lot of DVDs to break or scratch in transit. Not really a problem for single DVDs, but multiple disc sets will be more difficult and more expensive to replace should one of the discs be lost or damaged (such as 7 disc TV shows or multi disc movies).

Like your suggestion about other members posting their selections. Gives you a good idea of what might be hard to get, especially if they publish how many people have a particular title in queue.

Rob

I have been using dvdflix.ca for over a year now, and I have just canceled my zip.ca free trial today. I wasn't too happy with the zip.ca service. It took 8 days for me to receive my first 2 DVDs, and 13 for me to get the 3rd. Their envelopes are bulky, and seems like it would be easy to tear.

dvdflix.ca have been great. I receive my DVDs within 3 days of them being sent, their web interface is better than zip.ca, and the cost is $5 cheaper per month. I would strongly recommend dvdflix.ca to anyone.

One of the main problems when ZIP started up was that they were trying to mask the fact that much of their inventory list was at best "on order". People that wanted mainly backlist or specialty titles had a good chance of putting a lot of stuff in their queue that had no chance of shipping right away. With bad luck you might not get anything shipped at the start of your trial. Having customer service give rather unbelievable explanations that the items were in "the other warehouse" didn't help. Probably startup problems and the typical marketing-driven decisions on how much information to present to customers.

Things have gotten much better - their member queue now clearly shows "On Order" titles, ones they do have display a variable length Availability indicator estimate, and I'm guessing a lot of their supply orders are starting to come in. I've had good luck in getting DVDflix to add individual titles in for me, but I suspect that in the long term ZIP is aiming at a NetFlix like inventory range, which none of the Canadian companies has right now.

I've been trying out some of the various companies over the winter, and created a little webpage with some of my experiences, as well as a handy search page and some inventory comparisons. Hope it's helpful...

David
http://www.geocities.com/oberstnwt/DVD/RentalHome.html

Someone posted previously about the size of their apartment mailboxes. Am I to assume that the older smaller version boxes cannot accomodate the DVDs? Anyone have any experience with this? I'd go to my post office to pick the movies up, but hell, there's a Rogers Video right next door to it, so what would the purpose be! Cheers.

If you want to discuss about online rental services, i've set up a forum for that.

www.onlinedvdforums.com

I joined zip.ca in May. I was thrilled with the service at first movies were arriving in my mailbox in a matter of 3 days max, and were returning to them in 3 days. In August, the speed started to slow down, was taking the saem 3 days to arrive at my door, but most movies I sent back were taking on average a week to return to them. In september, that slowed down even more. At the moment I'm waiting for them to receive movies I returned a month ago. I had to write them 3 emails to get a response and the form you have to fax in if something goes missing. I will be cancelling my membership this week.

I live in an older apartment building, the mailboxes are rather small, the dvd's fit fine in the mailbox.

Hey there. I run http://onlinedvdrentalguide.ca with user ratings/comparisons of all the Canadian DVD rental sites. We've also got forums with hundreds of comments on the different services. Hope you find it useful! Cheers!

Don't even bother with the two week free trial if you live on the west coast. I tried it, and got the movies about a week and a half later and then I cancelled the service because it was so slow. I mailed out the DVD's within 2 days and they charged me for a full month. So then I had to e-mail them (cause you can't talk to anyone there) and asked for another full month since I paid for it, but didn't get any movies and they reactivated my account, but then they charged me the full price for yet another month two weeks later!! Horrible service. Horrible company. Beware!

RE: More Canadian "Netflix" style places...

You missed one ...
www.peerflix.com (Vancouver)

I recently joined DVDFlix.ca and thus far I have been more than impressed with their level of service and speed of delivery. A good example of their service was that I signed up on a long weekend and I was still able to recieve my first three movies within the first 4 days. I intend to upgrade to their 4 or 5 dvd program as it clearly has the best price structure and overall customer service. Most people are say that turnaround time to the other coast is too long. if I am in Montreal and recieve my movies within 3 days, then clearly those people are far too impatient. I would easily refer DVDFlix to anyone who asks me about a viable online rental company.

If you like to be over charged for lost or stolen dvds, if you enjoy being charged for the free trial from the start, if you like to have NO choice over the dvds you want to see(based on their inventory, or you pay extra fees), if you dont like to have great customer service....Sign up with Zip.ca! Oh ya also if you like to have increased blood pressure, go for it!

Hassle free? No, with Zip.ca you actually pay for a Big HASSLE! Watch out. You've been warned. Get some excercise with your local video store or try another online service.

Client who has been taken.

It seems like a hard choice to choose between Zip.ca and Netflix, they more or less provide the exact same service. before signing up to any services I always test the customer service out by calling them and asking some simply questions. lol you would be surprised how hopeless some companies are

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