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Gamefly Complains of Poor Treatment From USPS 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the spurring-rubber-dvd-development dept.
Gamefly, the popular video game rental service that operates through the mail, has filed a complaint with the Postal Regulatory Commission about the high number of games that are lost or stolen in the mail. The complaint (PDF) asserts that the postal service's automated sorting machines have a tendency to break a small percentage of discs, and that preferential treatment is given to DVD rental services like Netflix and Blockbuster. "According to Gamefly's numbers, it mails out 590,000 games and receives 510,000 games back from subscribers a month. The company sees, depending on the mailer, between one and two percent of its games broken in transit. ... Even if you assume the number is one percent, and a game costs $50 to replace, that's an astounding $295,000 a month in lost merchandise. ... That's not the only issue — games are also stolen in transit, which has lead to the arrest of 19 Postal Service employees."
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Gamefly Complains of Poor Treatment From USPS

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  • Dying industry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:20PM (#27709223) Homepage
    Seems like this is just one more nail in the coffin for the USPS. Seriously, without services like this, they'd probably already be out of business. Since 1973 they've been a state sponsored monopoly rather than an actual branch of the government. I don't see it being too much longer that they're allowed sole right to transfer first class mail with both UPS and FedEx waiting in the wings to offer better more reliable service.
  • Re:Dying industry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:34PM (#27709287)

    You really should hope they stick around. For all its 'crappiness' USPS isn't THAT bad, and if they disappear it'll get ridiculously expensive to mail a simple letter via UPS/DHL/FedEx/Whoever. Look at the cost to send a normal one page letter via the USPS versus anyone else. Do you want your phone bill to go up $4 every month because it costs them that much to send it to you? And water, electric, cable, ect? You can probably get most of them electronically, but not all and I'd rather keep my money thanks to the USPS charging them a quarter rather than 4 bucks. If UPS charged them 4, they'll raise the bill 6 or 7.

    I bet it would cut down on the number of incorrectly addressed items I get. Maybe whoever keeps mailing 'Current Resident' would finally have to get a real business model instead.

  • USPS sucks. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aussersterne (212916) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:39PM (#27709309) Homepage

    I live in NYC (Astoria, Queens) and we often have our mail lost or damaged (they'll simply snap a CD in two or fold a book in half to fit it into our mailbox). At times, especially with packages, our postman doesn't even try. We'll have a tracking number to check the status and the system will show three "Delivery attempt" notices and we won't get a slip OR a package, and it will simply disappear into the ether.

    And both I and my wife teach at the university level, with alternating schedules, so one of us is almost always home.

    We've complained to our local post office (the Long Island City office at 11105) about losses and damage and the manager told us it was a "problem they were aware of" and that there were "investigations" and people would be laid off. A year later, no change. Last thing was a reasonably expensive wristwatch (not a Rolex or anything, just a garden variety $150 or so mechanical watch with a Citizen/Miyota movement that I hope will last a long time) and the company would only deliver USPS, so I took a chance.

    Sure enough, it was "lost" without any delivery attempts the first time around and the shipper, happily, agreed to ship an alternate via UPS and to pursue USPS themselves for reimbursement. UPS, of course, had it here two days later, no problems.

    Lesson: this is the age of email and global shipping services that actually work. There is no need for USPS. I wish we could do away with piracy controls already so that we could avoid this hassle and have all things like communications and games delivered electronically as should be the case naturally. For solid goods, everybody should just use UPS and/or FedEx. Yes, they have their own problems, but they're not as notoriously shitty as USPS, which has been the butt of jokes in major cities in the U.S. stretching back to the mid-'20th century, and which only got tracking capability for regular mail a decade or more after everyone else on the planet did.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:45PM (#27709347)

    You're technically correct, but factually way off. Yes the USPS has a monopoly over mailboxes and the term "first class mail" but that's really not the kind of impediment to competition that you might think. It merely means that other companies focus on markets that are more lucrative.

    The building that I work in gets shipments from at least a dozen different couriers and shipping companies. That doesn't strike me as a particularly effective monopoly.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:1, Insightful)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@gma i l .com> on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:49PM (#27709385) Homepage Journal

    More reliable service? I've worked in a UPS plant. I now prefer to ship FedEx.

    Also, if the UPS plant was any indication, UPS (and maybe FedEx and DHL) would have to do massive upgrades and changes to handle the basic mail that flows through the USPS system.

    I have no problem with the USPS being in place. Furthermore, I can't see any problem that USPS is having that UPS or FedEx couldn't have themselves. Considering the necessity that postal mail still is, I'd prefer to leave it to the government. Privatization would only increase costs and lower service. You would also wind up with the last-mile problems of broadband. While UPS does deliver packages to my town, it has no regular drop-off location, and I have to drive 45 minutes if I want to ship UPS or FedEx. Obviously they would open more branches if there was suddenly a shift, but there would still be a period where many towns would be crippled in some fashion.

    I'm fine with decreasing the services offered by USPS, though.

  • Re:USPS sucks. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:51PM (#27709399)

    For solid goods, everybody should just use UPS and/or FedEx. Yes, they have their own problems, but they're not as notoriously shitty as USPS, which has been the butt of jokes in major cities in the U.S. stretching back to the mid-'20th century, and which only got tracking capability for regular mail a decade or more after everyone else on the planet did.

    You forgot to clarify "tracking", such as "so called tracking", etc... because calling what the USPS does "tracking" is highly inaccurate. I will often recieve a package before the USPS acknowledges that is has actually travelled anywhere. And that isn't because they deliver fast.

    On the topic of the USPS going down in quality, I guess I lived in a really good area for a while, because I've moved twice relatively recently, and the service in both the new places has been terrible, especially when compared to the previous one.

    Kudos to the Coopersburg, PA post office for the great job they do.

    Shame on the Center Valley, PA and Dublin, PA post offices for the crappy job they do.

    Posting anonymously on the off chance that my mail carrier reads slashdot.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:05PM (#27709469)

    Ass. (Article summary says): high number of games that are lost or stolen in the mail. ... have a tendency to break a small percentage of discs

    Note the major problem is lost items, not 'broken items' is a side issue of less significance.

    So how can you tell that the 'high percentage of (disks) lost' in the mail were really 'lost in the mail' and not merely reported as such?

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:10PM (#27709501) Homepage Journal
    If I am a USPS employee who wants to steal video games, I am not going to steal from companies that sells videos. I am going to wait for a gamefly container to come by and steal it. That way I get a $50 game instead of a $5 movie.

    Then there is issue of transit time. Does gamefly deliver with a day to most places? Netflix appears to. Less time in the mail means less time for damage.

    Then there is the way the number are reported, 590 thousand units out, 510 thousand units in. There is no indication here that the post office has anything to do with this. The fundamental reality is that the business model of renting a $20 movies for $10 a month is different from renting $50 games for $10 a month. As a customer of gamefly it is worthwhile for me to claim I never got the disc, or claim I did send it back, as I get an expensive game that maybe makes the risk worthwhile. This problem is exaggerated when one considers that a movie can be copied. This may not be a 14% loss rate, but it probably accounts for some of the shrinkage.

    In fact we don't really know anything because the article did not list certain critical facts. Like the precent of the subscribers who cancel within a month or so. At lest some of these, we assume, claim that they never received a disc. We also don't know what percentage of the netfix and blockbuster DVDs are damaged in transit, and any reporting of such numbers must be a function of the number of days in transit. Also, how many of these were damaged by the xbox?

    Even if we assume that USPS is solely responsible for losing 14% of the discs, one has to assume that there is some insurance involved. Claims are filed, and if the dics are insured at retail price, then gamefly might actually come out ahead as the some fo the cost has likely already been covered i rentals. As far as preferential treatment, I have been in these situations. When the volume is high it is often worth to invest in certain processes to that will reduce cost overall. For a half million pieces of mail a month, there may be no ROI for this, and as a taxpayer I don't want to subsidize it. I suspect that netflix might be an order of magnitude above this, and then it might be worthwhile to implement special considerations.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wgoodman (1109297) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:25PM (#27709565)
    on the other hand.. I ordered a package over a month ago that was shipped via usps. for some random reason, they decided that my address did not exist (i found this out via their nearly useless tracking function for certain shipments) after i saw that it had been rejected (it had never actually left the post office to go on a delivery, they said they had rejected it before it made it on a truck) i went in, and showed them a package that ups had delivered with the exact same address. i was told that there was nothing that they could do and that the package was already on route to the sender. 3 days later, the tracking info AGAIN said that they had tried to deliver it but it was undeliverable as addressed. after i went back in, they searched for it, couldn't find it and i was told that it had been returned. that was 3 weeks ago, neither the shipper nor the local post office has seen it. it doesn't matter how cheap something is if they can't actually manage to do the job they're hired for. it's generally worth sending packages via any route but the usps since at least it's not a lottery as to if it'll get there or not.
  • by Boss Sauce (655550) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:32PM (#27709609) Homepage Journal
    NOES!!! We like our USPS very much, thank you... er, some of us do. The ones who send mail. In my experience, things do /not/ get "lost in the mail"-- that's just a slacker's excuse for not having sent something. In this case, stuff's getting /stolen/ in the mail-- different issue, and I'm sure the USPS has federal agents on the case. Given the size of the US, and that a first class stamp will send your letter across town or from Miami to Honolulu, I consider the USPS (1) a bargain and (2) a poster-child for the idea that government /can/ do things very, very well. Them, and the, um, Flowers By Irene.
  • by rm999 (775449) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:45PM (#27709665)

    Or a single bad postal employee...

  • Re:wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ikono (1180291) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:52PM (#27709711)
    Also, different post offices have different levels of competency. Just because your post office & carrier don't do a good job, it doesn't mean most of them don't do a good job. (See what I did there?)
  • by actionbastard (1206160) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:03AM (#27709761)
    Another solution...plain brown envelope with a USB flash drive inside that is encrypted with a key that is e-mailed to you. Nothing to break. Useless without the key.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:15AM (#27709835)

    Thats because you don't actually have a life.

  • Re:wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afabbro (33948) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:31AM (#27709891) Homepage

    Look, these threads are the same every time:

    • "UPS sucks, but FedEx has been great for me"
    • "USPS loses my stuff every day, but UPS is perfect"
    • "I used to work for UPS and I would never ship with them"
    • "my brother works for FedEx and HE says use USPS"
    • "Over here in $COUNTRY our stuff works fine"
    • "Oh yeah, I visited $COUNTRY and my postcard to my mother never made it back home and I had to pay two euros to send it"

    Etcetera. Look, you open up a public forum and you're going to hear horror stories about each major carrier and stories of wonderful service about each major carrier. Because it's all just a bunch of random personal anecdotes, it doesn't mean anything.

    Do a statistically-valid survey of a significant percentage of each major carrier's customers and get back to me.

  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:33AM (#27709895)

    Remind me again why you'd need a physical disk?

    So those assholes don't decide they don't want me playing it anymore. So I don't accidentally delete it. So I can loan it to a friend. Same reason I still buy CD's (well, the once a year I find something worth listening to), rip them, and throw them in a storage tub.

  • by Tacvek (948259) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:43AM (#27709929) Journal

    The problem is that you cannot send the disc back insured mailed without handing the disc to a postal employee behind the counter of the local post office. I'm also not aware of any sort of pre-payed reply mail program that includes insurance, so the insurance on the return would be coming out of the customer's pocket. No chance in hell.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wbren (682133) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:43AM (#27709933) Homepage

    Do you want your phone bill to go up $4 every month because it costs them that much to send it to you? And water, electric, cable, ect? You can probably get most of them electronically, but not all and I'd rather keep my money thanks to the USPS charging them a quarter rather than 4 bucks. If UPS charged them 4, they'll raise the bill 6 or 7.

    Actually, I'd be willing to bet most people can get all of them electronically, and pay them electronically too. Companies that don't support electronic bills and correspondence will simply fail to compete and die off. That's progress.

    I can't remember the last time I mailed a letter. It must have been 2002 or thereabouts. Only official documents that need to be signed and mailed are worth mailing, and I send those UPS/FedEx because they arrive faster and have reliable tracking (USPS tracking is a joke). And extra couple bucks to mail one document every few years isn't a big price to pay.

    I realize not everyone has such little dependence on the USPS. I'm just saying that they should.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chewedtoothpick (564184) <chewedtoothpickNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:51AM (#27709967)

    There is nothing which prevents any person from installing a secondary mailbox similar to those used by us in more rural areas for newspapers.

    I hate government sponsored monopolies as much as anyone else, but the USPS actually provides a rather critical service even in these days of easily accessible alternatives such as e-mail. Without the pressure of the USPS being able to provide affordable prices for shipping to more poorly covered or less easily accessed areas (such as Alaska and Hawaii) only the people in major metropolitan areas would receive reasonable parcel and letter services. As much as that may not affect you there are still many millions of other people who are equally as valuable and important to you who would be royally bunged if things happened the way you obviously wish.

  • Incorrect... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TiggertheMad (556308) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:52AM (#27709979) Homepage Journal
    ...its called 'bit torrent', and it streams all sorts of games...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:16AM (#27710091)

    I don't agree that Netflix or similar services get preferential treatment. I work for the USPS at a Remote Encoding Center. Netflix is sorted using the automated machines just like Gamefly. Has anyone thought that maybe the customers are keeping the games and just saying they were lost? Didn't that used to happen at brick and motor stores as well? Yes the automated sorting machines have the possibility to damage items, but they also are what has increased mail delivery times allowing you to get your game/movie in 2 days.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:25AM (#27710133)

    1. Revisit this post three years from now
    2. Laugh heartily
    3. Profit?

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uofitorn (804157) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:29AM (#27710143)
    Because as we all know, personal anecdotes are indicative of the industry as a whole.
  • simple plan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TRRosen (720617) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:10AM (#27710315)

    reduce losses by not using a bright orange envelope that screams expensive game. hell just make it red like Netflix and people will assume its just a DVD.

    its the same reason you never send a birthday card in a colored envelope.

  • by Darth Cider (320236) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:11AM (#27710545)

    I worked for the Postal Service for 13 years. I can't believe that 1 in 1000 disks would be broken as a result of normal mail processing, even OCR machined mail, much less 1 in 100 or 1 in 50. If that is truly happening, there can be only one reason - the disks are packaged improperly. That is, the packaging is especially designed to be chewed up in mail processing equipment. Is there one Postal worker here who could comment on Gamefly's packaging?

    I would not be surprised if the packaging were unsuitable and Gamefly knew it, too. Where I worked, there were three large accounts - both with headquarters nearby - that simply would not listen to USPS feedback about how poorly suited their packaging was to the requirements of processing. One of them moved its headquarters to a different state, rather than simply change the kinds of envelopes it used. Their mail wasn't machinable (but could have been) and moved too slowly, but there was nothing the USPS could do about that, because hand-sorting is, well, slow. Another of the companies printed its catalogs with a highly glossy paper that was so slippery that catalogs would slide from their chutes in the sorting machine and go into the wrong outgoing containers, resulting in delays. The third had envelopes that were incredibly flimsy and incompatible with machining.

    I just have to call bullshit on Gamefly. The Postal Service is an easy fall guy. Theft of such a magnitude is just not possible, not within the confines of the mail service. These people are honest and proud of it, except for the few inevitable bad apples.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:15AM (#27710563)

    Perhaps it's the price difference between the games and the movies. You could probably pick up the same random Netflix disk in your local Walmart for under $5. Even a new movie on DVD would only cost $30 tops.

    Now consider that the console games are routinely selling for $50. If you were to chose therefore between stealing a Neflix package and a Gamefly package, which one would you take?

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:51AM (#27710679)

    Stolen games run on unmodded consoles.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @07:16AM (#27711283)

    As soon as I confirmed my account was in good standing, I closed it. Buncha tools.

    As you should have. A good company would have given you credit or something free, not just a shitty apology for wasting your time and calling you a criminal.

  • by Cthefuture (665326) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:36AM (#27711587)

    That has way too much overhead. Writing to flash memory is slow as hell, then you have to encrypt the contents as well which is a CPU-heavy task. Now multiply that by millions of customers. Think of all the equipment maintenance, power consumption, support staff. That eats straight into your profits and ends up costing more than whatever loss there is from doing it the normal way.

    Yeah, not gonna happen.

  • Re:Dying industry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hasdikarlsam (414514) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:06AM (#27712375)

    Of course messing with them/stealing from them would be a felony.
    You'd own the mailbox, and the contents; stealing is already a crime.

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