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Starflix inventory issue (revived from deleted "SPONSORED" thread)

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Starflix inventory issue (revived from deleted "SPONSORED" thread)

Earlier today in a thread here on [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]StarFlix[/rfdlink] DVD rentals I had posted some of my observations on their inventory claims. It was a "SPONSORED" thread, with 3 pages of comments accumulated. By this afternoon the thread had disappeared (old links returned "no permission" warnings). I contacted the RDF folks, and was told "the advertiser has control over the thread. Their preference was to have it removed and so we have done that". I'm reposting my comments here.

======== Original Post ========
I did a fair bit of checking on [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] during a trial at the end of 2004, much of which should still be of interest (full writeup here).

30,000 titles - At the time they were advertising 23,000 (or 16,000) titles "stocked". This would have put them second only to [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=218]ZIP[/rfdlink] and seemed improbable, and at a minimum I assumed it was a "virtual inventory" operation, with a certain core inventory and other titles being ordered as required by customer's choices. As it turned out, I found less than 9000 active inventory items (ones that would be returned by their site's search engine), and the situation seems to be similar now. As a simple supporting test, entering the letter "e" in their "Quick Find" search comes back with around 8600 titles (308 pages x 28 titles/page) - this search seems to include the name and description fields, so it is likely returning almost everything.

Of the nearly 700 non-Criterion titles I use for the percentages on the inventory chart on my website, [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] appears to have just under half. This puts it in the ballpark of the DVDHype/DVDflix/Canflix group, which are 5-10000 title companies. I have a "Missing" list of my titles that aren't at [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] - you can check for yourself that they don't show up on their site, including such common titles as "Apollo 13", "Shakespeare In Love", "Speed", "Shakespeare In Love", etc. And even of the 9000 titles that seem to show up on the site, there was no availability indicators (at least then), so some level of "virtual inventory" in the Canflix fashion might be occurring (Canflix has stock on around 7000 of the 20,000+ titles they list).

The [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] FAQ reads "We have virtually every DVD available for rental in Canada, more than 30,000 titles", but this would seem to have no basis in reality.

3 Warehouses - [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] is based in Montreal, where their main distribution centre is presumably located. When I did my trial, my return envelopes were destined to a Vancouver address which turns out to belong to Video-One, a video wholesaler. I assumed they have some sort of arrangement with them, but whether the discs are just opened/scanned/credited to the customer before being returned to [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] in Montreal, or if some discs are actually stored in the Vancouver and Toronto locations, I couldn't say (during my trial they actually indicated plans for two more cities, but this apparently never materialized). Note that [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=218]ZIP[/rfdlink], with 30,000 members, only recently opened a third warehouse (and they are full warehouse operations). [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] is probably an order of magnitude smaller, and even with 5-10000 titles it would seem hard to believe they are doing enough volume to spread their stock in three locations without an excessive amount of cross-shipping. My guess is that many (if not all) shipments originate in Montreal, and perhaps are expedited to the Vancouver and Toronto locations for delivery to Canada Post. If so, this would be similar to what VHQ used to do in Toronto, or [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=218]ZIP[/rfdlink] before multiple warehouses. Certainly anything that speeds up delivery times is good, but where the discs originate, how they travel, and where returns are actually checked in would be important, as opposed to the case where [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] actually had full warehouse operations in Vancouver and Toronto.

I raised these points with [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] during my trial, and you can read the email correspondence here. It ranged from hilarious ("StarFlix is the largest Canadian DVD Rental company based on location metrics", whatever that might mean) to obnoxious ("we feel that your extrapolation techniques are questionable and your reasoning is strongly based on opinion"), but never addressed the actual size of their inventory, etc. Perhaps the [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] representative here would like to comment?
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[OP]
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After the original thread was removed, I received a PM from user "Starflix":
Starflix wrote:I would like to evaluate the information before discussing these issues that seem to go public at a moments notice.
I am very interested in what you have to say and would discuss some of these issues with you.
As I had raised these issues with them over a year ago, I'm not sure what "a moment's notice" might mean. You can read my email with them at that time. As for needing to "evaluate the information", obviously they know their inventory situation, and if they have 30,000 titles I'm missing something extremely obvious, and it should be a simple matter to point it out, instead of removing the entire thread!
[OP]
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I talked on Friday with a woman at [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] (in Marketing - the one who has been doing the RFD posts), but nothing was resolved. For those interested, here is the situation as clearly as I can determine:

1) [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] has numeric inventory numbers which range (at last check) to 33741. However, all numbers below 16000 are unused (they return "Product NotFound"), leaving 17741, which in itself is a long way from 30,000.

2) Furthermore, many of these (over 9000) are not returned by the search engine, or accessible in any other way I can determine (although they can be called up directly by ID#). They seem to be duplicates, items from their original data sources that they have not yet decided to carry, and other detritus (I have the title info on these and can provide examples).

3) The remainder that are accessible comes to around 8360 - this number may not be exact, but it should be substantially correct.

4) the 8360+ number would be somewhat less than the actual number of rentable items available, since their system appears not to give each disc in a set a separate inventory ID#. There is no way for non-members to tell how many discs are in a set, but I have this info on a fair portion (from my trial in late 2004). This brings the count to 9744, and making an informed estimate on the number of multi-disc sets in the remainder since my trial almost certainly has the number still under 11,000.

I unfortunately didn't have these numbers at hand when talking with her, but I have sent them along. I've asked her to have their programmers do a simple text file export of what they have available (ID# and title) in case I'm in error somewhere.
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go get em dave ! liars !!
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YKdvd wrote:I talked on Friday with a woman at [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] (in Marketing - the one who has been doing the RFD posts), but nothing was resolved. For those interested, here is the situation as clearly as I can determine:

1) [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] has numeric inventory numbers which range (at last check) to 33741. However, all numbers below 16000 are unused (they return "Product NotFound"), leaving 17741, which in itself is a long way from 30,000.

2) Furthermore, many of these (over 9000) are not returned by the search engine, or accessible in any other way I can determine (although they can be called up directly by ID#). They seem to be duplicates, items from their original data sources that they have not yet decided to carry, and other detritus (I have the title info on these and can provide examples).

3) The remainder that are accessible comes to around 8360 - this number may not be exact, but it should be substantially correct.

4) the 8360+ number would be somewhat less than the actual number of rentable items available, since their system appears not to give each disc in a set a separate inventory ID#. There is no way for non-members to tell how many discs are in a set, but I have this info on a fair portion (from my trial in late 2004). This brings the count to 9744, and making an informed estimate on the number of multi-disc sets in the remainder since my trial almost certainly has the number still under 11,000.

I unfortunately didn't have these numbers at hand when talking with her, but I have sent them along. I've asked her to have their programmers do a simple text file export of what they have available (ID# and title) in case I'm in error somewhere.
I applaud your efforts and research.

If they have counted their inventory to their acclaimed count, then they should have no difficulty producing a verifiable inventory listing that substantiates their claims. Of course, they haven't provided any evidence, so one can only assume that their count is questionable until proven otherwise.
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you sir, are what keeps the integrity of this forum alive! Props and a big FU_CK you to [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]starflix[/rfdlink] and there 1/dvd at a time trial!!
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[OP]
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I spoke again Friday with the woman at [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink]. While the conversation was quite pleasant, I was told she had been instructed not to discuss the inventory issue further. Given the clear discrepancy between their inventory claims and what I outlined above, I can only make the obvious conclusion about their intentions.

It is a shame that they feel this approach is more likely to attract customers than something more forthright. It does seem to be a habit with them though - that FAQ statement about having "virtually every DVD available for rental in Canada, more than 30,000 titles...". Or the "About Us" line reading "Since launching our online movie rental service in 2004, [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] has become Canada's largest online DVD rental service", which I'm sure would amaze [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=219]ZIP.ca[/rfdlink] and their 30,000 customers (VHQonline apparently had around 4000 last fall when they shut down, and I'd be highly surprised if [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] even approaches that).

Interestingly, there are a large number of savvy DVD renters in the forums at onlinedvdrentalguide.ca. Many of them are unhappy about ZIP's new shipping limits, and are trying out services such as Canflix (Calgary) and Cinemail (Winnipeg), even when these are not especially close for shipping. Oddly enough, I don't think I've seen even one of these people decide to try [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] - you'd think 30,000 titles and 3 warehouses would be a pretty compelling lure, but no... :)

BTW, I was told that the free trial has been extended to 3 discs out, and the website seems to confirm the change.
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RFD has recently posted a new [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] coupon, so it seems to be an ongoing relationship. I've been trying to get the good folks at RFD to indicate whether they actually believe the inventory claims, or don't consider the matter relevant to presenting offers from them. I started a thread over in the "Comments and Suggestions" area, for anyone interested in giving their view on this.
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YKdvd wrote:RFD has recently posted a new [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]Starflix[/rfdlink] coupon, so it seems to be an ongoing relationship. I've been trying to get the good folks at RFD to indicate whether they actually believe the inventory claims, or don't consider the matter relevant to presenting offers from them. I started a thread over in the "Comments and Suggestions" area, for anyone interested in giving their view on this.
I applaud your efforts. I hate being lied to (who doesn't) and will not ever rent from these guys.

of course, I'm dealing with the whole [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=219]Zip.ca[/rfdlink] fiasco too, so hopefully, I can find a good alternative.

Good luck with the comments... if they're paying the bills, I doubt RFD admin would care if they lie or cheat.
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May 19, 2006
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Just to add my 2 cents:

If you are considering to give your money to [rfdlink=/forums/autolink/redirectpage.php?linkid=358]starflix[/rfdlink] - don

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