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Who Are You?

by Jo Page on September 21, 2011


I looked at my Inbox this morning and I saw the subject: An Explanation and Some Reflections. I looked at the sender’s name: Reed Hastings. Who the hell is Reed Hastings and why is he “reflecting” in my Inbox?

I clicked on the e-mail. Sure enough, it was addressed to me by name. It began: Dear Jo, I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

I have been a wronged party before and sometimes people have apologized to me. One’s own children tend not to do it, I’ve noticed. And companies do it perfunctorily: Dear Ms. Page, We’re sorry you were unsatisfied with your recent purchase from the Fill-in-the-Blank Catalog.

This summer a deeply earnest waitress apologized profusely over some stale popovers she had brought to the table. Relax, kiddo, we told her. At least we didn’t crack a tooth.

And one time when I got rear-ended, the young man driving the car apologized. (Another time when I got rear-ended, the woman, with a bunch of kids in the car, pulled around me, gunned her engine and gave me a one-finger salute through her sunroof. Guess she’d been having a bad day.)

But apologies of the sort that begin “Dear Jo, I messed up. I owe you an explanation” are rare. And when they are issued, they usually come from a contrite boyfriend or husband. On top of that, it has been my experience that contrition, in boyfriend and husbands, is not a commonplace thing.

I’m more the one inclined to write the Dear Fill-in-the-Blank, I messed up letters. Having been raised a hybrid Lutheran/Roman Catholic, I had two sets of theologies double-teaming the guilt into me. I’ll confess at the drop of a hat. Many people find this an annoying trait in me.

But back to Reed Hastings.

I confess (there I go again) I was intrigued. Maybe Reed Hastings was an agent who had actually meant to praise my manuscript and offer to represent me, but had messed up and sent me a rejection letter instead.

Maybe Reed Hastings was the fiction editor at a literary journal that pays actual money and he had meant to accept my fabulous short story for publication, but he had messed up and now he saw that it had been published in another journal, one that only pays in two free copies.

Or maybe Reed Hastings had a thing for me. Maybe he’d been stalking me on Facebook, but he’d messed up and discovered that I am not, in fact, the sexy British actress Jo Page who is in the BBC show, Gavin and Stacey.

Clearly I was over thinking this. The only way I was going to discover who Reed Hastings is (name’s got kind of a ring to it, I think) was if I read more than the self-deprecating contrition of the opening paragraph.

Well, as it turns out, I’m no one special to Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix. And you’re not, either, those of you who are the Netflix subscribers whom Mr. Hastings is addressing en masse, using our first names. (Note to Reed Hastings: You messed up. You are a complete stranger. You wouldn’t recognize me if I were the only other person in the room, so you don’t get to use my first name. I’m Ms. Page to you, whether or not you have wronged me.)

By now the world knows that Reed Hastings messed up. Netflix is subdividing into two distinct companies, Netflix (the streaming service) and the smarmily-named Qwikster (mail service) and “members” will be charged separately for services that used to be one price. In other words, if you use both mail and streaming access to movies, your monthly payment doubles.

Linda Holmes, writing for NPR says, “It’s like a shoe company deciding to sell right shoes and left shoes for $12 each where pairs of shoes used to be $20 and thinking that consumers will notice the lower 12-dollar price but not the fact that it buys only one shoe.”

Reed Hastings, however, is optimistic this plan will work out and that only improvement can follow.

He waxes bittersweet: “For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.”

Evidently he is a sentimental sort.

But he also waxes philosophical: “Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.”

Give it up, Mr. Hastings. You make too much money to have to sound so darn earnest. Save that for the wife. And don’t worry—everybody is going to pay the extra eight bucks, anyway.