And They Wonder Why People Pirate

, , , , , , | Working | April 29, 2021

As strange as it may seem to some, I have a penchant for physical media. I like to own DVDs of shows I enjoy, and I like to get them in sets where possible.

The final season of one of my all-time favourite cartoons is released. I see occasional part-one-of-five DVDs for various seasons in my local retail store, but nothing else. I wait, and wait, and wait. A year goes by. I still can only find those parts, and only of early seasons, never of later ones. Maybe they just haven’t released them yet?

Finally, I look them up online, and I find that the distributors have a full box set available and claim to do international shipping. Perfect! I try to order a set to come to my small island, but it won’t bring up a price for it. After contacting their help center, it transpires that while they can ship some things internationally, they cannot, for a complicated reason to do with distribution rights, sell their own product to an individual consumer outside their area for some products. I just have to wait.

And wait…

And wait…

Three years pass and there’s still no sign of it in my region. But wait! I have saved enough for a wild holiday. This is likely to be the only time when I have enough flexible free time and money free to do this, so I plan to go to Disneyland! I figure, while I’m in America, I’ll try and get some of those coveted DVDs that can’t be sent to New Zealand. But I know some places are fussy about where they send to. So I contact the help team again.

I thank them for their earlier assistance over the country matter — stupid in hindsight, but I wanted to be friendly — and offer that I’ll be traveling soon, and want to know if they ship their products to hotels.

I’m swiftly informed that they won’t send them to New Zealand.

Ah, my mistake. They must have confused my thanks as to where I’m traveling. I apologise and clarify that I’m coming to America. I will be within the USA for a time. Do they deliver to American hotels?

Another fast response: “Because you’re from New Zealand, our DVD’s will not work for you”

By now, I’m puzzled. Surely they must know that region-free DVD players exist, and even if they didn’t, this is clearly a loyal customer wanting to own a legitimate copy of the source media. I politely state that I don’t care about that; I just want to know if they send to hotels.

I get no answer. I end up calling the help line a few days later, with that and another question. Once again, I get a representative who tells me that they cannot ship to New Zealand, and even once I politely clarify yet again that this will be an American hotel, they counter with the fact that I will not be able to use them outside of the country. Is America booby-trapping DVDs now?

My temper frays a little and I utter that I do not care, I just wish to buy the DVDs, to have them, regardless of how they work, so could they please answer the question. I get a resounding, confused, “I guess?”

Good! A probable answer! I try my next question: do they do delayed shipping? I order today, they send my order out next month before I travel? That one is a far simpler “no,” and I go on my way.

This is all the warm-up for the fun that is about to happen. You see, there are some other DVDs from another company that I want, so I have also been in contact with them. They are delighted to hear that I will be able to purchase directly from them, and they gladly give me everything I need to know about shipping from them. While they do not do delayed orders either, they give me their best expected shipping times and apologise that once it’s with the courier they cannot control it more closely. They advise me on what dates I can best order by for the order to reach me in a timely fashion, alongside a suggestion of going for the expedited shipping if I am worried about cutting it too close. Happy with the thought, I order from both companies on the same day with the same address information two weeks before leaving. Both companies have their products in stock and are due to ship in two to five days.

Three days after placing the orders, the first company sends me an email saying my address has bounced back. Due to my unfamiliarity with American addresses, I listed both the suburb and the city, and apparently, the system hadn’t flagged it when it was submitted. Oh, well, mistakes happen. I send the correction immediately, a little surprised that a human looking at it hadn’t figured out what was going on.

Three more days pass. I get a note saying my update has been received.

Three more. My order is now being processed.

Three more. My order is now underway! Lovely, two to five days. It might show up right at the end of my trip, but that’s fine.

Now I’m traveling. Forty-eight hours later I’m on the other side of the world, checking in to a fancy hotel. The clerk surprises me with a package that arrived almost a week before me. [Company #2]’s DVDs, a double copy for both me and my sister, shine brightly in their clingfilm. I thank the clerk kindly and fall asleep for another twelve hours.

And when do the larger [Company #1]’s DVDs get to me? They get to the hotel a week after I leave, and they take another two weeks to arrive in New Zealand from there. It costs an additional $50 that it wouldn’t have if [Company #1] had bothered to respond to my actual money as fast as they did to their desire to say they didn’t want it.

For the curious: they didn’t explode, either. My region-free DVD player and I continue to enjoy media from around the world, purchased legitimately to support creators. I also found out that New Zealand post now has a service to deal with such matters.

The lesson [Company #1] taught me was, “Don’t give them your money; they really don’t want it.”

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