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Games Entertainment News

Gamefly Complains of Poor Treatment From USPS 269

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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  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:12PM (#27709161)
    Those lost game disks were lost in the mail... Heh heh... *hides stack of reported "lost" disks under the couch* Nothing to see here, move along!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I would mod you up if I had any points. There is obviously more reason to 'steal' games than movies as movies are easy to get from bootleggers/internet. Therefore it makes perfect sense that more games would be 'lost in the mail' than movies.

      Posting anonymously as it's obvious current moderators are using mod points incorrectly.
    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      Allot of companies that send things by mail stick their own address labels to the outside of the parcel. By that I mean an address label with the company logo.

      If you see a parcel tagged with the Netflix logo I think you can have a good guess at the contents.

    • Re:Heh heh.. riiight (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:17AM (#27710571)

      Tampering with the mail is a felony, and they take it very seriously, which makes the USPS one of the safest systems in the world. It is one of the things that America does extremely well and even the European Post Systems are poor in comparison (especially after Germany privatized parts of their system).

      I never used Gamefly, but if it's like Netflix, the entire problem of these things is that both the original and return envelope clearly mark the contents. Something like delivery confirmation, which a small business owner can get for $0.18 a package using endicia (small volume discount rate, nothing like size of gamefly), could probably track down the problem areas in a short time (USPS del. conf. get scanned at hops). However, regulations are such that del. conf. can only be used on "parcels", a bubble-mailer counts - which for DVD movies probably raise the cost significantly for both packaging and processing (hence mailing cost).

      Discreet, otherwise unmarked envelopes with several return destinations that don't use "Gamefly Return Center" or whatever in the addressee's name probably would be the best way to go, Netflix, IIRC, used Tyvek envelopes. Or put it in an AOL wrapper, no postal employee would steal those ;) although that runs the risk of being trashed by the end user.

      Makes me curious what the various XXX services see on stolen discs.

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:16PM (#27709197) Homepage
    This sounds a lot like the reason I quit (Canadian Netflix). 3 DVDs within 3 months failed to end up win my locked mailbox (I live in an apartment). With all the time I spent with my account on hold while they investigated the lost DVDs, I didn't get to make very good use of my membership. I can only imagine the problem would be worse with games, where they are worth quite a bit more $50 vs. $20 (many DVDs are $10 or less). Also, with no signature required for the discs, I'm sure a lot of people are just reporting that the disc never made it to them, or saying they sent it back when they didn't, and keeping it for themselves.
    • by SailorSpork ( 1080153 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:27PM (#27709245) Homepage

      At least with NetFlix if you get tired of the Postal problems and broken/scratched discs, you can look for something to stream. If it wasn't for the streaming stuff, I'd have canceled by now. The last disc I ordered a month ago is sitting waiting for me to do something with it while I have more fun streaming old Doctor Who and Red Dwarf episodes on demand.

      Unfortunately, there's no real equivalent for streaming NetFlix style games... yet.

      • by j0nb0y ( 107699 )

        Yeah, seriously.

        Steam needs a rental service =]

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:53PM (#27709407)
        Here you go: []
        • by WGFCrafty ( 1062506 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:03AM (#27710287)
          That is not the equivalent of a streaming Netflix style games.

          Netflix streams movies and tv shows to my xbox that are on par with regular tv quality. Netflix even streams shows from this year and last year, newer things.

          Gametap lets you play games over the internet, and it doesn't really even stream them. It makes you download an application, and then download the games you want and then play them.

          Gametap is more like a licensed emulator: you pay a monthly fee to play games from the early to mid 90s.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Belial6 ( 794905 )
            • Netflix has a VERY limited amount of brand new content. Gametap has a limited selection of brand new content.
            • Netflix has a lot of medium aged and old content. Gametap has a lot of medium aged an old content.
            • Netflix has video on par with the quality of TV. Gametap gives you the exact same game with the exact same quality as the retail package.
            • Netflix lets you start watching the movie before the whole thing is downloaded. Gametap lets you play the game before the whole thing is downloaded.**

            It so

      • Speaking of Netflix streaming...

        Has anyone gotten Netflix streaming to work in Windows Firefox under Wine? Netflix claims that their streaming service works with Firefox 2 or greater on XP or Vista, but when I run Firefox under Wine it tells me I don't have a compatible browser...

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

        ...its called 'bit torrent', and it streams all sorts of games...
    • You bring up a good point. Why is a movie that can cost $100 million to make cost $25 on disc but a game that cost $15 million to make cost $50 on disc? Is the volume of DVD sales that much bigger to explain the large difference in retail price?
    • by ( 245670 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:12AM (#27710321)

      Way back in the day, I used to be a netflix customer. About once a month, a movie would go missing. Always on the return, always a title like Breast Monsters from Jupiter. Not a single title went missing on its way to me and mainstream movies never went missing. First, Netflix tried to tell me that my mailbox was insecure. An asinine suggestion since the titles never went missing on their way TO me. And irrelevant as the mail dropped through a slot into a locked room. Then they suggested I could start paying for delivery confirmation or return my discs via UPS (both options at my expense). WTF?!?

      I told them that it was pretty clear they had an internal theft problem because the pattern was obvious. Someone was grabbing "embarrassing" titles, hoping that the renter would be to flustered to make a fuss. "Absolutely not. There is no way our employees would be stealing movies. Blah, blah, blah."

      Then they locked my account and sent me a bill - A BILL! - for the full retail value of the missing titles. Wrong f'ing move. But, before I worked up a righteous head of steam, I got an apology, my account was unlocked, and I was told to ignore the previous request for payment. A few days later, a story about the arrest of a bunch of Netflix employees hit the news. Surprise, surprise, surprise. They'd been stealing movies as they were returned by customers. Wish I could find an article about that incident. All I can find are the stories about various USPS employees being arrested for theft of Netflix discs.

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

  • 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.

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

        by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:10PM (#27709495) Homepage
        I was about to say something like "it's cheap unless you consider taxes"...but thought I'd better check on that. And bigger than shit was I wrong. The USPS actually runs on it's own sales. I guess I'll STFU now. []
      • Re:Dying industry (Score:5, Informative)

        by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:23PM (#27709555)

        The reason it is more expensive is it is required by law, as in the United States, the USPS is a state-protected monopoly whose rights and position are made exclusive by law, and in exchange for that, their price is regulated, and their competitors are legally required to charge a higher price.

        It is in fact illegal to compete with the USPS, but there is a narrowly carved exception that other mail services utilize.

        The two laws involved are the Private Express Statutes and the Mailbox Access rule.

        The Mailbox access rule gives the postal service exclusive access to the customer mailboxes. Your mailbox is federal property, and it would be criminal trespass, and a felony under federal law for any employee of a competitor to deposit mail in anyone's mailbox.

        The Private Express statute refers to a group of laws that make certain acts federal crime and also civilly actionable offenses for any organization or employee of an organization to deliver mail other than the postal service.

        COMPETING carriers like Fedex, UPS, etc, cannot LEGALLY deliver non-urgent mail, without employees being thrown in jail, and their company having to pay massive fines, except if certain special conditions are ensured. All these conditions force the price to be much higher than USPS cost for the customer.

        The special exception that allows third-party mail services to deliver letters refers to "extremely urgent letters". One way a competitor is permitted is that the delivery of the letter must cost the greater of $3 or "twice the First Class US mail service would cost"

        Other exceptions would be "Lawful Private Carriage" exception, which requires that the US Postage be paid in addition to the private mail delivery service's fees (i.e. an agreement is required with the USPS, and standard postage affixed to the letter, and the postage cancelled upon receipt, ON TOP of the private carrier's fee).

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

          by chewedtoothpick ( 564184 ) <chewedtoothpick@ ... UGARom minus cat> 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.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

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

            The first problem is that this requires an action on behalf of the recipient who usually incurs no visible cost, while the (visible) benefit is to the sender.

            The only reason for newspaper stations in rural areas is because in that scenario the recipients actually make things more convenient for themselves and protect their paper from wildlife, etc.

            The second problem is that these "fake" mailboxes would not have the same legal protection. It would not be a felony to mess with them, or to steal the content

          • There is nothing which prevents any person from installing a secondary mailbox

            Well, except for the other bits of law cited by the OP that make it illegal for anyone to operate a viable business that competes with the USPS for basic postal service...

            (disclosure: I am taking OP at face value; I know nothing about these laws, nor have I bothered to verify anything he said, but it seems plausible to me)

        • Reasons for that... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:05AM (#27710045) Homepage Journal
          The Mailbox access rule gives the postal service exclusive access to the customer mailboxes. Your mailbox is federal property, and it would be criminal trespass, and a felony under federal law for any employee of a competitor to deposit mail in anyone's mailbox.

          That particular law isn't there for preserve a monopoly, its there to let them really put a dent in anyone foolish enough to steal mail. (mail related crimes are usually a federal offense.) My father was a postmaster, and mail theft is a very real problem. Postal Inspectors are the USPS equivalent of the FBI, and you do not want to get on their bad side.
      • by msimm ( 580077 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:25PM (#27709561) Homepage
        The game rental business is the one with the nails going into it's coffin. Remind me again why you'd need a physical disk? And with theft, loss and damage Gamefly is living proof (so to speak) that A) there's a market for game rental B) renting *physical* media is costly and logistically complicated.
        • because there's no way in hell I'm going to pull 50gb through my broadband connection? Even at 16 mb/s.

          • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

            Why would you want a game that takes up 50 GB? Any game that approaches that level of data consumption must be seriously abusing full motion video, probably to the point of using pretty much the entire development budget on it. Either that or it is storing trillion polygon models for the specs of dust in the game, and similarly absurd texture sizes.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

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

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Malevolyn ( 776946 )
            And no way in hell anyone would want to fund just the bandwidth to run that kind of service and provide worthwhile speed.
        • 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.

          • I think the GP meant for rental, though I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments with respect to buying games. Rental is something I might do digitally. Permanent purchase is loathsome.
      • by kentrel ( 526003 )

        Europe got rid of postal monopolies, and the vast majority if not all are either privatised or soon to be. Mail here is cheap and reliable. I've never had a DVD broken or go missing either.

        • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

          That's because there are consequents for private carriers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Europe got rid of postal monopolies, and the vast majority if not all are either privatised or soon to be. Mail here is cheap and reliable

          Cheap? Maybe. Reliable? Nope! (Germany here) That one guy from the Deutsche Post does/did know where my post box is located. And he took the time to open the door to the yard, walk that 10 meters from the street to my font door and drop the mail into my box.

          Since all those private services stepped in, letters are returned to the sender, because "recipient has moved to un

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wbren ( 682133 )

        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 corre

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )

      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.

    • wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:09PM (#27709485)

      Since 1973 they've been a state sponsored monopoly rather than an actual branch of the government.

      "The United States Post Office (U.S.P.O.) was created in Philadelphia under Benjamin Franklin on July 26, 1775 by decree of the Second Continental Congress. Based on the Postal Clause in Article One of the United States Constitution, empowering Congress "To establish post offices and post roads," it became the Post Office Department (U.S.P.O.D.) in 1792. It was part of the Presidential cabinet and the Postmaster General was the last person in the United States presidential line of succession. In 1971, the department was reorganized as a quasi-independent agency of the federal government and acquired its present name. The Postmaster General is no longer in the presidential line of succession.[14]"

      Wikipedia, fun for the whole family. PS: they're not 'sponsored'; they don't get any money from the feds. They're given the postal equivalent of common carrier status, but only to a mailbox marked "US Mail". If you want to make your own postal service, you can go right ahead- you just can't deliver to a US Mail mailbox. Given that almost nobody's mailbox is actually marked "US Mail", practically, you CAN run a competitive service.

      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.

      USPS has never, in my entire life, lost or damaged a package or letter of mine. UPS and Fedex have done one or both, repeatedly.

      I once had a USPS delivery guy (working the holiday season) bang on the doorbells of the entire complex until someone let him in. I was in the shower and when I stuck my head out the window, he demanded to be let in. His response to "I'm in the shower" was a string of profanity demanding I let him in.

      I called the USPS customer service number and spoke to a rep who was meticulous in taking down the particulars, and apologized profusely. I figured I'd never hear back from them about it, except then I received a phone call a week later saying the guy had been disciplined and re-trained on USPS practices for delivery to apartment buildings. A week or so after that, a customer survey card appeared in the mail, asking if my complaint had been handled to my satisfaction.

      Go read the Journal of Improbable Research's article about shipping weird shit through the mail. It's astounding what they got through the mail, and they said that it is a miracle that they can do stuff like ship a balloon when in most countries, you can't even get reliable letter service.

      I don't know what the fuck your personal beef is with the USPS, but the fact that they're a monopoly and run both efficiently and extremely competently is pretty amazing to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Thornburg ( 264444 )

        USPS has never, in my entire life, lost or damaged a package or letter of mine. UPS and Fedex have done one or both, repeatedly.

        I don't know what the fuck your personal beef is with the USPS, but the fact that they're a monopoly and run both efficiently and extremely competently is pretty amazing to me.

        Are you or a relative a postal employee, by chance?

        I've had numerous things lost or damaged in the US Mail in the last year. It has been a decade since UPS lost or damaged a single package of mine. I don't use Fedex as often as the US Mail or UPS, so I'll leave them out of it.

        Also, different post offices have different levels of competency. Just because your post office & carrier does a good job doesn't mean most of them do. Of the 7 or so post offices I've had substantial experience with (as a resi

        • I would say 2 were quite good...

          *sigh* Even forced preview couldn't save me; I only read the first 2/3rds of it, fixed 2 errors, and clicked submit.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ikono ( 1180291 )
          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?)
        • 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.

          • Re:wrong (Score:5, Funny)

            by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:24AM (#27710379) Homepage Journal

            Look, these threads are the same every time:

            [...]Because it's all just a bunch of random personal anecdotes, it doesn't mean anything.

            Very true. But in my experience, this happens even more at I sometimes visit the Ars Technica forums and the problem doesn't seem to exist there.

            Of course, YMMV.

      • Sorry, but in the past few years, I've had six packages sent to me via USPS, and only two made it through. I no longer order from places that won't ship via FedEx or UPS (I prefer FedEx). The postal service in the town my home is in, is the worst I have ever experienced. They are completely unreliable, and on numerous occasions, I've received packages for other people in my neighborhood. Half the time on different streets, I take the time to actually take the packages to my neighbors. Once, they left a
      • Re:wrong (Score:4, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:15AM (#27711923)

        The United States Post Office (U.S.P.O.) was created in Philadelphia under Benjamin Franklin on July 26, 1775...

        First post!

    • In terms of actual performance, I have not had serious problems with USPS. I often ship anywhere between one and ten packages on a given business day by USPS for nearly four years and I don't recall a domestic package being lost in all that time. We can argue the merits or lack of in public vs. private ownership and operation, but it's actually very good performance, I've had worse troubles with UPS and FedEx.

      UPS Ground and FedEx Ground are roughly equivalent in speed to First Class Mail, and they usually

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

      by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:00AM (#27710267) Journal

      I have lived in the United States and of course in Canada. I can tell you from a completely unbiased view point that compared to Canada, the USPS is phenomenal, kicks ass, the greatest thing since sliced bread, the cat's ass, wunderbar, etc. etc. etc.

      In Canada, if you live in a subdivision newer than something like 1978 (already getting pretty old), you will never get a letter delivered to your door. Instead they have a ridiculous setup called 'super mailboxes': think of an apartment mailbox but set up on select subdivision street corners. House owners have to go to their 'super mailbox' to pick up their letters; you don't get mail delivered to your door any more. The corollary of this is that you can't mail a letter from your home mailbox either (no home mailboxes any more).

      In Canada, mail is only delivered five days a week, and only once per day. As opposed to six days a week in the U.S. We also don't have very many 'real' post offices. They contract the local post office duties to Shoppers Drugmart (Canada's equivalent to Walgreens or CVS). They have a little counter in the back of the stores. I suppose it works OK, but you aren't guaranteed that if you drop off a parcel or letter before the postal counter closes that it will be picked up by the post office for processing that night.

      Postal employees are rabid union members. They make British coal miners of the 1970s look like pussies. They will go on strike at the drop of a hat. And they do as often as they can get away with, and they get away with a lot up here. Blocking mail from getting into facilities during a strike is routine, and the police sit back and watch it happen. They need a special court order to protect the ability to deliver the mail, so the first few days of a strike you aren't guaranteed that mail will move easily. Not that it does when there isn't a strike. And I don't know what these morons have to strike about. All postal office employees get paid a ridiculous wage ($40,000.00 to $60,000.00+) for a job that most high school drop out can do. Carriers get to go home early if they finish their routes before 8 hours are up. Most only have to work half days for full pay.

      And as for delivery times, compare 3 days for a first class letter anywhere in the U.S.A. to 5 days in Canada... and in some places, 5 days 'if you're lucky'. And from my experience, 3 days in the U.S. is pretty much guaranteed... yes sometimes it is longer but not often. All in all, don't complain about the poor old USPS. Given what they have to do, they do it pretty well.

      Here is a tip for USPS customers who don't like junk mail. It usually works. It worked for me when I was living in Saint Louis County in the great state of MO. (as opposed to the great states of Curly and Larry). There is a regulation that says that they have to not deliver items to you if you consider them offensive or obscene. The great part is that you get to say what is offensive or obscene. I forget the form number (it might be 2150), but you go to your local post office they should be able to tell you... you might have to ask the manager. Anyway, you can tell them to block certain senders from sending you obscene materials. So you can tell them to block mail from any of the major daily papers in your area (and sometimes the smaller ones) from sending you anything. In the U.S. almost all the big junk mail flyers come from the newspapers. It is called 'total market coverage'.... the papers have big databases on all the households in their area... usually more complete than the USPS ... they know who the deliver the Sunday paper to (with all those dead trees worth of advertising) and more important to this conversation, all those who don't get the Sunday paper. Then they mail the flyers to all of those households who don't get the paper that day. And anyone else you can think of

  • eureka (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thornburg ( 264444 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:20PM (#27709225)

    Now I finally understand what Netflix meant when they said it would "cost us too much to switch to machinable envelopes." (That's from memory, so it may be paraphrased.)

  • So that explains it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:30PM (#27709261)

    I just started using GameFly a few months ago instead of getting raped by Blockbuster when I didn't return the games on time. I rented every few months but would keep games 3 or 4 games for far too long. So I switched to GameFly after the girlfriend pointed out it would be far cheaper overall.

    One of the things I found rather annoying is the constant emails like 'have you got XXX yet?' or 'When did you send back XXX?'. I figured they were just trying to establish the average time it takes to get the game to me and back from various distribution centers or something.

    After reading this I'm inclined to believe they are just trying to figure out which shipper is shafting them on a regular basis.

    What I've worried about is what happens when I put it in the mailbox to go back and some neighborhood kid comes and steals it? I live in a good neighborhood and have no reason to assume any of the kids around would do it, but having been a kid once not to long ago it would seem to me to be a great target for some free games once you realize someone is doing it.

    Anyone had any experience with GameFly not getting back a game or the game never arriving in your mailbox? How is their customer support in those situations I wonder?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ceiynt ( 993620 )
      I've had games lost on return, and one never made it to me, one DOA. They've been pretty easy to deal with, don't really ask quetions other then how did you try to return the game, in an open mailbox, locked community box, dropped off at post office, questions like that.
      I've never gotten the email survey's asking about shipping time. Wonder if you live in either a huge use area or are the only subscriber in a three city radius.
    • by Sparr0 ( 451780 ) <> on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:21PM (#27709545) Homepage Journal

      Stealing things out of a mailbox is a federal crime. Robbing a convenience store (with a weapon other than a gun, in jurisdictions where that matters) carries lower penalties. No one ever said petty criminals were smart, but one of the benefits of the USPS being a federal agency is that they have laws that extremely overprotect them and their service.

    • XXX (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rick Bentley ( 988595 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:25AM (#27709875) Homepage

      ...constant emails like 'have you got XXX yet?' or 'When did you send back XXX?'.

      I see we rent the same stuff.

    • I get the same emails from Netflix about turnaround time as well as instant streaming quality. Quite possibly because I've been paying for it but not using it that much lately.
      It seems more like a positive thing to me. I'm sure they'd stop emailing you if you ask them. Of course I get a two-day turnaround with Netflix while it was more like a week with Gamefly, as the games were apparently being sent between Michigan and California.
  • by Ceiynt ( 993620 )
    I've been using Gamefly for almost 5 years now. In those five years, I've had three games lost when returned. I've had one game take 2 months to be returned to the Gamefly facility, one game shipped to me that was broken on delivery, and one never made it to me. I'm at my second resident since I've started this, so I would have to assume it's not just my address nor an individual carrier nor local postal center, but more widespread. I have noticed over the years the little cardboard thing has gotten a littl
    • 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cthefuture ( 665326 )

        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.

  • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

      UPS and FedEx are both hella expensive for anybody outside the continental US.


      Cheapest option on solid goods is generally 5-10 times more expensive than USPS. Especially UPS. They can't figure out how to drive through Canada, or put goods on a barge, they'll only send it via air freight, which is generally 2nd day service and obscenely expensive because of it.

      DHL is better than both on price, but they are still more expensive than USPS, and good luck finding an online retailer who uses DHL

    • I also live in NYC (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) and I know that I'd certainly rather have stuff shipped to me by USPS than any other option. I don't have any of the problems that you mention. The other carriers are always a much bigger hassle.

      Here yesterday I just received a UPS notice on the door; allegedly "Final Attempt" (never received a 1st or 2nd attempt), no info on what the package is, a tracking number which comes up online and by phone as "not in the system, no information", so I don't have any way to fi

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:43PM (#27709335)

    TFA says Blockbuster is now considered competition to GameFly. I've only been using GameFly a short while, but for fucks sake please don't compare them to BlockBuster. Maybe I'll change my mind, but BlockBuster changes their rules and rental policies almost weekly. They've got a hundred ways to get extra cash out of you. They 'did away with late fees' only to charge you some other weird fee of a dollar or so if you didn't return it in the 'time period' ... just like a late fee, smaller sure but its a late fee all the same. Then they go ahead and charge you full price for the game within a short period of time. When you return it, it takes them more than a month to issue the refund to your card. I'm not talking about the extra time the CC processor takes. BlockBuster itself waits for the better part of a month at least in most cases.

    Then, the bastards just silently do away with the 'no late fees' policy and go back to charging them without warning, no signs, the clerks don't mention it, you either find out on your next rental afterwords or when the just charge your card anyway if you don't rent again soon enough.

    BlockBuster is about as evil as Microsoft.

    GameFly may not be better, but they have yet to charge me anything over what I signed up for. I will admit, I'm only in my 4th month so feel free to point out how they may rape me later if you have different experiences.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:46PM (#27709353) Homepage Journal

    Even if you assume the number is one percent, and a game costs $50 to replace

    You'd think an outfit as large as GameFly would have a swap-for-flat-fee arrangement with vendors for broken media. After all, they are essentially buying a license that has rental rights.

    If they are doing it right, it's more like $10-$20, assuming they pay for media only and get a full box. If they get just a disk, it's well under $5, probably very much well under.

    If they are fortunate enough to be allowed to make their own replacement disks, it should be the cost of a blank DVD plus their labor costs if they can certify the original is destroyed.

    • It makes you wonder if, perhaps, the vendors don't really like GameFly all that much. As I understand it, despite attempts at clickwrap licencing the right away, First Sale allows you to sell/give away/rent/set on fire a game you purchased, whether the publisher likes it or not. To establish a special "medium only" price(as is quite common with DVD rental places) obviously requires the publisher's agreement.

      Since, as you say, that would be the obviously superior way of dealing with the breakage problem;
    • by Tauvix ( 97917 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:48PM (#27709683)

      One thing that you are not taking into consideration is this:

      Gamefly will sell you the game if you like it, then ship you the original box and manual.

      When they have a new release, they buy dramatically more then they are going to need in the long run in order to meet short term demand. Then, you have the option while you have the game to "Keep it" for a discounted rate (usually less then buying it used at Gamestop/EBGames). If you managed to get ahold of the game in the first week or so of the release, you can also be reasonably sure that you are either the first, or at worst the second, person to use the media.

      And again, since they are sending you the case and manual, they have to be obtaining the retail versions of the games (I have purchased a number of games from them over the last 3-4 years that I've been a subscriber, it has always been the same packaging/UPC that I found on Amazon, Best Buy, etc). So, while it's probably not costing them $50/game to buy, it's not going to be costing them $10-20 either.

      I used to work for Best Buy for a while, it's highly unlikely that Gamefly is getting a better deal on the games then BBY is, and on a $49.99 game the cost to BBY was usually around $38-40. I would imagine that GF is picking up a new release for $43-45/copy on a $49.99 release.

  • by Manip ( 656104 ) on Friday April 24, 2009 @10:50PM (#27709391)

    Royal Mail (UK Postal Service) was made private and since then we've seen prices skyrocket, service diminish, and little or nothing of any actual benefit.

    In fact the government is having to put more and more money into this private company each year to keep it afloat.

    The USPO is SO cheap when you compare the two. And you all get first class mail with no additional charge!

    You hate it so much and want private? Trade?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Boss Sauce ( 655550 )
      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-chi
      • Dude, stuff DOES get lost in the mail. Perhaps you have always had good mail carriers, but I've lived in a lot of different places, and in some of them sometimes mail that was sent to me (I know it was) just didn't get there.

        At most places it's been good, but there were certain places or with certain carriers, where things just wasn't that horribly reliable.

        Overall it's a good system, but don't claim things never get lost. That' BS.

    • The USPS is great at sending small pieces of mail. But if it's time-sensitive we have no good options.

      Two weeks ago a co-worker asked me to overnight a PCI card from the east coast to California. There's a post office right by my work so I gave it a shot. I asked about overnight, and the clerk said it could be there by 12. Knowing she couldn't leave the hotel and start working without the card, I asked if it could get there sooner, and he sort of laughed, like it was a stupid request. By the time I fini

  • 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.

    • The only problem with your analysis is that Gamefly can and will charge you for the cost of games if they are lost in transit. It says so in the ToA. Granted, they don't always do so, but I'm willing to bet if by game 2 or 3 that gets "lost" that you will be forking over cash. Oh, and Gamefly does not cost $10.00 a month. I tried it out for a month, and I distinctly remember it costing me nearly $30.00 per month.
    • The essence of Gamefly's complaint is that it is illegal for the post office to implement special considerations for netflix.

    • 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.

      Another major point missing from this is that a DVD is essentially a MPEG-2 stream. If a few bits are unreadable, the disc still works. If it's a game disc, that's not the case.

      So, all other things being equal, they should be seeing higher rates of damaged returns than a DVD rental company does. This != Favoritism.

  • Insured mail. Customers opt for insured delivery of the merchandise and are charged an extra $1.00 a month. If the game is 'lost in the mail', USPS pays for the game. Once it starts to cost the USPS real money, there will never be a 'lost' game again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tacvek ( 948259 )

      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.

  • 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.

    • Too true (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

      When something is important, plain is the way to go. As a great example look at credit cards, or other financial documents. When you are getting an offer, it is usually pretty obvious from the envelope what it is. There's all sorts of advertising plastered on the outside "OMG Chase card with t3h zeros percentage rate!!!11". Now suppose you apply for said card. Does it come in the same thing? No, it comes in a plain white envelope with nothing but your address and the return address on the outside. This is n

  • 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 McNally ( 105243 ) <mmcnally@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:57AM (#27710701) Homepage

    About six years ago I lived in an eastside suburb of Seattle and subscribed to Netflix. I cancelled after about four months because during that time four movies never reached me and I wound up paying Netflix for one of them (I probably could have avoided that if I'd made a stink, but as I figured it they'd already eaten the cost of several other movies.)

    Around about that time a substantial check that I was expecting to receive disappeared in the mail, and I noticed that other items were disappearing in the mail, too. I called to cancel a magazine gift subscription a well-meaning relative had signed me up for and discovered that they'd been sending the magazine for six months, though I had only received one issue. Between the movies, the magazines, and the missing check it was clear that I had a problem with disappearing mail.

    So I went down to the local post office and asked to speak with the local postmaster. I explained about the missing magazines, movies, and check, and told him that I suspected I was a victim of ongoing mail theft.

    He assured me that he'd look into the situation and was turning to go back into the bowels of the post office when I interrupted. "You're lying," I said. He said something to the effect of "That's an awfully rude thing to say for no reason," but I knew he had no intention of seriously looking into my complaint and I told him why. During our entire conversation I hadn't mentioned my address and he never asked.

    His body language led me to believe that he had a carrier on his staff (or possibly several) that he knew was stealing mail. I figured as soon as I told him I was losing mail he knew who the likely culprit was without even having to ask which route I was on but either couldn't or wouldn't stop them.

    Shortly thereafter I moved to a small town in Alaska. The mail service here is reliable and the people at the post office are very nice. To the best of my knowledge none of my mail has ever gone missing here. I've talked to other people who have had mail problems and everything I've heard has lead me to believe that the reliability of your mail depends a great deal on the people working at the post office nearest you and in some places at the nearest big sorting center.

    It's a shame, because if you live in a place where the service is good, the USPS is pretty nifty. You tend not to think of it because the mail is so ordinary, but the fact that I can drop a piece of paper in the box on the corner here on an island in southeast Alaska and for $0.42 someone will carry it to my family back in Michigan or even halfway around the world is really pretty remarkable.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern