NetFlix and…Wal-Mart?

Talk about your “good news, bad news” situation.

Wal-Mart started a NetFlix-like DVD subscription operation. Put a fair amount of money into it, too. And got nowhere with it. That’s the good news: Any time some other company can clean Wal-Mart’s clock without corrupt or unfair practices, and particularly when it’s a relatively small company, that’s a good thing.

Wal-Mart gave up. So far, so good. Wal-Mart even routed its customers to NetFlix, which agreed to keep them at Wal-Mart prices for a month (or more?). (The prices aren’t that much different.)

Here’s the bad news: It seems to have resulted in some form of “partnership” between NetFlix and Wal-Mart, such that NetFlix now refers you to Wal-Mart if you want to buy DVDs. (I believe they used to refer you to Amazon.) That’s a shame.

Will I drop NetFlix because of the Wal-Mart association? No; it’s clear that Wal-Mart doesn’t own NetFlix. This was part of the deal for Wal-Mart dropping their DVD subscription operation. But I certainly won’t follow the link either.

I prefer local bookstores to Amazon, and think that’s a reasonable preference. (I do buy things from Amazon, but they’re things that aren’t available at local stores.) But, other than a lingering distrust of some Amazon operations based on specific experience related to one of my books, I have nothing particularly against Amazon.

Wal-Mart is a different story. If you’re in some small town that’s already been Wal-Marted, you don’t have much choice, and if price is all that matters to you, that may be the overriding factor–but I don’t like the company’s business practices, and I loathe the stores themselves. My own stance (and my wife agrees) is that if something’s only available at Wal-Mart, we probably don’t need it that badly.

Not much to do with libraries, I suppose. Sorry about that; this is one of those (weeks? months? years?).

3 Responses to “NetFlix and…Wal-Mart?”

  1. Alice Sneary says:

    Right on! Walt, I grew up in a Wal-Martized small town. And I think there IS a lesson here for libraries: Wal-Mart drove most of the small, local shops in Alva, Oklahoma out of business.

    These small, local shops had WAY better customer service, knowledge of their products, advice for selection…it wasn’t that these local shops weren’t smart or dedicated to serving their customers effectively.

    And it wasn’t that customers didn’t like the shopkeepers.

    But Wal-Mart changed the shopping measuring stick. It kept telling customers that they were saving money when they shopped there–and that they gained convenience by having everything under one roof. So saving money and gaining convenience were the only things that mattered. It was no longer about customer service or knowledge of the product–it was about “rolling back prices.”

    Eventually, customers believed it. And the local shops had to close. Even our grocery store had to close, in favor of the Super Wal-Mart.

    Does this sound like a cautionary tale for libraries to anyone else?

  2. Phyllis says:

    Don’t blame Wal-Mart for everything. If the people in America weren’t so greedy for the Almighty Dollar, thinking that makes the person, then they would have boycotted Wal-Mart. To this day, I still see only a handful of people boycott them. I think it is our our darn fault when Wal-Mart “ruins” a town. It’s time to put on our creative thinking capr, and come up with new ways to use our vacant downtown buildings. And remember, what goes up, must come down. Costco and Target are actually gaining, and Target it making more profit than Wal-Mart. Also, I have been treated nice by Wal-Mart managers in recent years, than I have by local-owned business managers who don’t have a clue about customer service. Mostly I buy “thrift store and yard sale” so neither one is all that important to me anymore. But let’s assume responsibility for our own behaviors……

  3. walt says:

    A comment nearly two years later strikes me as odd, but I’ll leave it, particularly since Phyllis is partly right. WalMart does have some unsavory practices (how it gets its way in townships, employee “benefits,” etc.) but it’s true that people buying the cheapest no matter what are core to WalMart’s success. And local businesses who don’t want customers soon lose them. No doubt there. Situations are rarely black-and-white.