Fox Home Video: A customer service contrast

DVDs can be or become defective–either through pressing errors or through play. That’s just a fact of life.

Those of you who are Netflix subscribers know how they handle defective DVDs: You log on to your account, report the DVD as defective–a very easy process, since it’s right there in your account listing–and they immediately ship you a replacement. When you get around to it, you send back the defective copy.

Long-time readers may remember this post–where I report on what happened when one side of one disc in a 12-disc 50-movie set from Mill Creek Entertainment wasn’t so much defective as odd. It had the wrong movies on it, although they were perfectly playable (and the other side was OK). I used Mill Creek’s contact form to let them know about this–but since I had no receipt and had spent so little on the set (maybe $12, maybe $18), I wasn’t too concerned about their response.

Which, in fact, blew me away. They responded on the next business day–apologizing and saying they’d send out a replacement disc and another DVD set as an apology. Which they did: As noted in the post, I got a new disc in its usual cardboard sleeve and three multidisc DVD sets.

Then there’s Fox. We’ve been going through Angel on DVD, roughly one episode a week, and we’re not quite halfway through Season 4. I’d purchased Seasons 2-5 some time back–long enough that I certainly don’t have a receipt handy. Probably paid $25 or so; it sells for $19 or $20 now (it’s the slimpack–apparently the fancy multifold packs sell for more). And when we put in Disc 3 last Friday, it didn’t play. Period. The DVD player either said there was no disc in the drive or simply froze. (Yes, it’s a cheap player–we paid $0, since Safeway gave it to us. But it’s apparently good enough for Holland America: The same player was attached to the TV in our stateroom.)

So I logged on to Interestingly, the contact button leads to a form that assumes you have a defective disc. I guess that’s the only kind of contact they deal with. So I filled it in, with all the details including a textual description.

Now, remember what we’re talking about here: One disc out of a $20 six-disc set.

Here’s what Fox could have done:

  • Sent me a replacement disc in a Tyvek sleeve, since there’s no record of anyone from this address ever asking for a replacement disc before or somehow trying to accumulate a free set of Angel.
  • Asked me to mail them the proof of purchase corner from the booklet as proof that I owned a set.
  • Offered to replace the disc for, say, $4 or so as a convenience.

Here’s what Fox did do: Sent an email response consisting of the following (address deleted):

Please return your defective to the following address:…

We strongly suggest to please mail (US Postal) your item insured and/or in traceable method as we are not responsible for lost and/or stolen items.

Also provide us with a copy of your receipt (must be dated within a reasonable time frame), your name, physical address and a phone number where we may reach you. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.
*** If you have a defective disk that’s part of a box set, the entire box set has to be returned to us ***
Please remember if the instructions are not as followed your item will be sent back to you.

(Other than replacing the address with ellipses, that’s an exact copy, interesting syntax/grammar included.)

Well now. They want me to send the whole set back via insured mail. That would cost me at least $4 (MediaMail plus insurance) plus the cost of a box–more than the disc is worth.

And they want six to eight weeks before they replace it.

And, of course, they want a receipt “dated within a reasonable time frame”–but don’t specify what that time frame is.

Now, for all I know, this might be a perfectly reasonable policy and standard for home video divisions of big studios–but it doesn’t strike me as enormously customer-friendly. It certainly offers a sharp contrast to Mill Creek Entertainment and Netflix.

Oh, if you’re wondering: I sent them a mildly upset email in response, looked up Angel Season 4 Disc 3 on Netflix, jumped it to the top of our queue, and we watched the first of three episodes on the disc last night. Next time we go through the set–which probably won’t be for a few years–we’ll do the same thing, I guess.

And, to be sure, when we think about possible future DVD-set or movie acquisitions, I’ll be a little more cautious about buying anything with the Fox label on it. But, you know, movie studios and distributors are like journal publishers: They have effective monopolies, since if we want a show or a movie there’s no clear substitute from another source. Which I suppose encourages this form of customer service.

5 Responses to “Fox Home Video: A customer service contrast”

  1. What you’re actually doing is letting Netflix fight with Fox’s defective customer service on your behalf, since Netflix breaks DVDs all the time and must replace them.

    The application of this model to libraries will be left as an exercise for the student, because I am still in Edinburgh and in-between mental timezones and very very brain-dead.

  2. walt says:

    Dorothea, That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Certainly, the temptation in the future will be to borrow rather than buy when Fox is involved. (I checked. My library doesn’t have Angel on DVD. Yet.)

  3. Doug says:

    Yeah, I would have ripped that Netflix disk over to my computer, burned a copy of it for myself, and then emailed fox to let them know that I did it. The irony is, they would probably threaten you w/ lawsuits, but as you did in fact buy the item, and it was in fact defective, you would actually be saving them time and money in the long run.

  4. walt says:

    Nope, that I would not do. Any part of that.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I had the same problem with a dvd set from Warner Brothers. It came with 2 of the same disc but was missing another disc out of the box set. Warner Brothers is much easier to deal with. With Warner you fill out the online complaint and include your address. Then Warner will mail you a sticker for you to send it by DHL. Warner pays the shipping on both ways. To deliver the dvd from your house to the studio and for the replacement dvd from the studio to your home. Warner asked for a receipt if you had it OR tell them the name of the store where you purchased it and include it in a note with your dvd that you are returning. I also have a defective copy of Angel season 2 but I haven’t dealt with Fox yet. From your experience I may not bother either.