Amazon Unbox On TiVo Sucks: Spoiled Movie Night v3

It’s quicker to drive to Blockbuster.

I have a EE degree from MIT. I have wicked fast Verizon FiOS TV/phone/Internet service. I keep a MacBook near my TV for easy web access. Yet I could not get Amazon Unbox On TiVo to work last night.

My wife and I wanted to watch a movie last night. Silly us.

TiVo – Strike One

None of the 20 saved movies on TiVo were interesting to us. Call us spoiled, but we want to watch an interesting movie that we’ve not previously seen. Which shouldn’t be too difficult. We go to movie theaters (another dreadful user experience) only about once per year.

Verizon FiOS On-Demand – Strike Two

We tried to browse the available movies on Verizon FiOS on-demand, but the user interface is horrendous. The Verizon FiOS on-demand experience made me think about Kramer. As in the Seinfeld episode where Kramer starts working for Kruger even though he’s not actually employed there. When Kruger reviews Kramer’s work, he quips, “it’s as if you have no business experience at all.” That’s Verizon FiOS TV. No UI design experience at all.

Amazon Unbox On TiVo – Strike Three

I suggested to my wife that we try Amazon Unbox On TiVo. “You can rent movies directly from Amazon, and they’ll download to your TiVo box,” said I, optimistically (and foolishly). She had never heard about the service. Why? Because Amazon and TiVo did a horrible job marketing it. The Amazon Unbox option is buried in TiVo’s otherwise decent menus. And neither of us recalled receiving any email or direct mail about Amazon Unbox On TiVo.

In contrast, each of us knows about the iPhone and AppleTV (although we own neither). Why? Because Apple gets marketing. Amazon and TiVo, not so much.

Just to set up Amazon Unbox on the TiVo side took about 15 minutes. (Romantic mood going downhill.) Then we had to “sync” my Amazon.com account with the TiVo.com account, which was confusing at best. (Romantic mood still barely intact.) This is a major problem with a video partnership like this. You have to jump through these configuration hoops to make sure that each company gets its slice of the pie. Why couldn’t I simply charge my Amazon Unbox purchases to my TiVo without doing any silly account synchronization? Finally, it was completely unclear how to actually order the movie. And how it would be delivered. Turns out you can order movies from either TiVo or from Amazon.com (the latter is easier), an we were told that the movie would appear within 15 minutes in the “Now Playing” list. (Will the romantic mood last another 15 minutes?) An hour later, still no movie. Amazon emailed me my receipt just fine, so I know that they’ve got my money. What do I have? Nothing, except the desire to never ever use Amazon Unbox On TiVo again.

We could have driven to Blockbuster and back – and watched the movie – in the time it took to get Amazon Unbox on the TiVo working. (Not that it’s actually working.)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but ordering movies on demand should be as quick and easy as rolling on a condom. Until then, I suggest renaming the service to Amazon Un-demand.

Related Posts

  1. More TiVo Failure Modes
    Numbers 17 and 18.
  2. Giving Up On TiVo
    My TiVo experience was a disaster from day one.
  3. Spoiled Movie Night v2
    Blockbuster reminds me why I bought a TiVo.
  4. Verizon FiOS TV Problems
    How to spoil a movie night in one easy step.
  5. Happy Happy FiOS FiOS
    Over the last 17 years, my Internet connection has gotten 1500 times faster.
  6. Fun With TiVo
    The service gets an A, the product a B, the company a C.
  7. Getting FiOS
    Fiber comes to the home.

12 Replies to “Amazon Unbox On TiVo Sucks: Spoiled Movie Night v3”

  1. Wow. And I had a half-written draft about how much TiVo + Unbox rocks. Granted your initial setup was a frustration – I get that – but the experience after that is remarkably slick. For me, if I had to choose between an ongoing frustration of a poor UI, lack of selections, or a one-time setup, I’d pick the one-time setup. And beyond that, TiVo’s new ‘swivel search’ front end to the entire product catalog (downloadable content plus the current program guide) is stunning in its simplicity. Makes finding the content you want simple, fast and convenient.

    Overall, I think TiVo and Amazon got this right. What I’d really prefer is HD content to download, but I assume they’ll get there before long.

  2. Greetings,

    I guess I have unreasonably high standards. I’d like to be able to order movies in less time than it takes to view them.

    But seriously, if the user experience is this terrible for a technical user, then think how much worse it will be for a non-technical user.

    It’s all about user experience. And the user experience for Amazon Unbox On TiVo was terrible. If Amazon were to purchase TiVo, then that might solve some of the problems. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Regards,
    Erik

  3. Greetings,

    By the way, here’s the response from Amazon customer service to my complaint. Gosh, Amazon Unbox is so easy, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t use it!

    Regards,
    Erik

    —snip—

    Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 21:59:41 -0700 (PDT)
    From: "Amazon.com Customer Service" <cust.service03@amazon.com>
    To: "heels@alum.mit.edu" <heels@alum.mit.edu>
    Subject: Your Amazon.com Order (#D01-2704087-0032912)
    
    
    Hello from Amazon.com.
    
    
    I'm sorry to hear your Amazon Unbox video did not download properly. 
    I have checked your order, and it appears that your purchase 
    completed and your video is available for download from Amazon.com.
    
    
    The error you encountered typically indicates an issue with your 
    TiVo DVR's connection to your home network. Although other network 
    services such as TiVo to TiVo transfers, TiVo to PC media sharing, 
    guide updates, and TiVo service updates may function properly, 
    trying one of the network troubleshooting options below will often 
    correct the problem and allow your Amazon Unbox video to download:
    
    
    -- Restart the DVR (press the TiVo button on the remote to go to 
    TiVo Central, select Messages & Settings; then Restart or Reset 
    System; then Restart the DVR. Press THUMBS DOWN three times and 
    press ENTER)
    -- Unplug and plug in the wireless adapter on back of TiVo DVR, if 
    applicable
    -- Reboot your router and/or modem
    
    
    You can start the download of your video from Your Media Library. 
    Here's how: 
    
    
    1. Click on the "View Your Media Library" link in Your Account or 
    visit Your Media Library directly at www.amazon.com/gp/library . 
    2. Click the Downloads tab at the top of the page.
    3. Sign in to your account if prompted.
    4. Select the desired video by clicking on the title or cover image 
    depending in the view you've chosen.
    5. Select the desired computer or TiVo DVR name from the RemoteLoad 
    pull-down menu and click the "Download" button. The video will 
    download to the device chosen.
    
    
    As part of the normal operation of your TiVo service, the DVR only 
    contacts TiVo once every 15 minutes to check for new programming. If 
    you happen to make your purchase or re-download request on 
    Amazon.com shortly after your broadband-connected DVR has contacted 
    TiVo, it could take an additional 15 minutes for your TiVo to find 
    and display your purchase in your TiVo menu.
    
    
    I hope this information is helpful. If you continue to experience 
    problems downloading Amazon Unbox videos, please contact us again.
    
    
    Thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.
    
    
    
    Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:
    
    
    If yes, click here: 
    http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-y?c=fxvwxrta3228701061
    If not, click here: 
    http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-n?c=fxvwxrta3228701061&q=dgo2&nc2c=1
    
    
    Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept 
    incoming e-mail. 
    
    
    To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help 
    section of our web site.
    
    
    
    Best regards,
    
    
    Jeff S. 
    Amazon.com Customer Service
    http://www.amazon.com  
    ============================== 
    Check your order and more: http://www.amazon.com/your-account
    
    
    
    
    ref_id:=hduhcrta1081230336
    
    
    > Date: Thu Sep 20 03:14:06 UTC 2007
    > Subject: Video: Downloading Issues
    > To:  "int-digital-orders__7b5c2s@amazon.com"  int-digital-
    orders__7b5c2s@amazon.com 
    > From: heels@alum.mit.edu
    > 
    > 
    > 
    > 
    > 
    > 
    > ---------------
    > 09/19/07 20:14:06
    > Your Name:Erik J Heels
    > Order Id: D01-2704087-0032912
    > Comments:Greetings,
    > 
    > I ordered a video last night, got the receipt via email, and the 
    video never showed up in TiVo's "Now Playing" list.  So you have my 
    money, but I never got to see the movie.  24+ hours later and it's 
    still not there.  Nice.
    > 
    > <http://www.erikjheels.com/?p=872>
    > 
    > I want my money back.
    > 
    > Regards,
    > Erik
    
  4. Erik – Here’s what I’d recommend: try it one other time. (Maybe when you’re home alone, so you’re not dragging Pirjo in the middle of this!) Every time I’ve downloaded something from Unbox in the past 2 months, the download has started within the 15 minutes they promise.

    In other words, it’s exactly the user experience you’re looking for.

    I think your standards aren’t unreasonably high – but I do think that expecting to set up a new service (which understandably requires some initial setup) to be a mite faster than is expected. If you’d done it as I had (and, I suspect, how most TiVo users do) – upon initial TiVo hookup/setup – then it’s just part of that one-time configuration. After that, everything goes quickly.

  5. [Note from Erik J. Heels: In an attempt to build a threaded discussion here, I’m entering Amazon’s replies to my emails as separate comments.]

    —snip—

    Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2007 06:02:20 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Amazon Unbox <unbox-noreply@amazon.com>
    To: “heels@alum.mit.edu” <heels@alum.mit.edu>
    Subject: Amazon Unbox on TiVo: Unable to Download your Video

    Greetings from the Amazon Unbox Team!

    Thank you for your recent order from Amazon Unbox. Please note that we were unable to download your Unbox video to your TiVo box at this time because it does not have enough available disk space.

    To download your Unbox video to your TiVo box, please take the following steps:

    Free up disk space on your TiVo box
    To make space, delete programs which have been recorded in the last 48 hours or which you have set to “Keep until I delete” (look for the green dot)
    To make room for a 2 hour Unbox video, you should delete at least:
    1 hour of programming recorded at TiVo’s Best Quality setting
    1 1/2 hours at the “High Quality” setting
    2 hours at the “Medium Quality setting”, or
    4 hours at the “Basic Quality” setting
    Restart the download of your video from Amazon Unbox’s Your Media Library
    Go to Your Media Library at http://www.amazon.com/library
    Navigate to the “Downloads” tab at the top of Your Media Library; sign-in to your Amazon.com account, if necessary
    From the Downloads tab, click the “Download” button next to the Unbox video you want to download
    Select your TiVo DVR as the download destination and click the “Download” button
    Your video should begin downloading to your TiVo DVR within 15 minutes
    Links to additional information about the Amazon Unbox on TiVo service are below for your reference.

    Thank you for shopping with Amazon Unbox on TiVo.

    *****

    WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Amazon Unbox on TiVo?

    Answers to frequently asked questions about Amazon Unbox on TiVo can be found at this URL:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200111510

    Looking for information on how to manage your TiVo’s disk space?
    http://customersupport.tivo.com/LaunchContent.aspx?cid=13fd3949-fae4-4f57-aa24-11e478781bd0&anchor=undefined

  6. [Note from Erik J. Heels: This email bounced and I had to resubmit it from Amazon’s website.]

    —snip—

    Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:18:07 -0400
    To: “Amazon.com Customer Service” <cust.service03@amazon.com>
    From: “Erik J. Heels” <heels@alum.mit.edu>
    Subject: Re: Amazon Unbox on TiVo: Unable to Download your Video
    (D01-2704087-0032912)

    Greetings,

    Thank you for this note. Unfortunately, it does not fix the Amazon Unbox on TiVo problem.

    We have a 40-hour HUMAX DVD Recorder (Model DRT400). We have zero programs tagged “keep until I delete” and only record programs at basic quality. (This is how we can get 40 hours of programming into our “40-hour” recorder. It’s not 40 hours on best quality, as I’m sure you’re aware. In hindsight, I should have gotten a unit with a larger hard disk. Unfortunately, this model includes a built-in DVD, and it was only available in the 40-hour model. Maybe I should upgrade the hard disk from WeaKnees.com <http://www.weaknees.com/>.)

    We do make extensive use of the TiVo WishList feature <http://www.tivo.com/whatistivo/tivofeatures/wishlist/index.html> to automatically record movies featuring our favorite actors. Since we rarely mark movies as “keep until I delete,” new movies are constantly being added (and old ones deleted). So when we order a movie from Amazon Unbox on TiVo, we expect it to be added to the “now playing” list. Presumably, it will also be marked as “keep until I delete,” but we have not be prompted to set this option (if the option exists).

    To be safe, before we ordered the movie, we deleted about 5 movies (10 hours or programming) from our TiVo.

    So it remains a mystery to me why the movie that I ordered three days ago has yet to appear on my TiVo.

    Please advise.

    Regards,
    Erik

  7. Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 13:41:07 -0700 (PDT)
    From: “Amazon.com Customer Service” <cust.service03@amazon.com>
    To: “heels@alum.mit.edu” <heels@alum.mit.edu>
    Subject: Your Amazon.com Order (#D01-2704087-0032912)

    Greetings from Amazon.com.

    I have researched your order and I see that your rental was still
    awaiting download from Your Media Library. I have now pushed your
    rental directly to your TiVo.

    Finding and viewing your Amazon Unbox videos is simple. You should see
    the title of the video you purchased listed in the Amazon Unbox folder
    in the “Now Playing List” on your TiVo DVR Menu.

    Here is a list of what the TiVo Cast Dots mean:

    Blue — downloading
    None — downloaded.
    Green — downloaded and marked to keep.
    Yellow — 48 hrs from possible deletion
    Yellow (bang) — can be deleted anytime
    Red (flag) — rental timer has started

    If you do not see your video in the “Now Playing List” or recently
    deleted items, please check your recording history to see if your TiVo
    DVR has reported an error. Press your TiVo button on your remote to go
    to TiVo central, go to your “To Do List,” and select “Recording History.”

    For video rentals, I recommend marking your videos as “Keep until this
    date (30 days from purchase date).” This will ensure your scheduled
    recordings do not remove your Amazon Unbox videos off your TiVo DVR
    before you are able watch them.

    You can also find answers to common questions on our Amazon Unbox on
    TiVo Frequently Asked Questions page at this webpage:

    http://www.amazon.com/help/unbox/tivofaq

    I hope this information was helpful and thank you for your interest in
    Amazon Unbox.

    Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

    If yes, click here:
    http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-y?c=ayfwbwua3232043556
    If not, click here:
    http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-n?c=ayfwbwua3232043556&q=dgo2&nc2c=1

    Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept
    incoming e-mail.

    To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help section
    of our web site.

    Best regards,

    Myria N.
    Amazon.com Customer Service
    http://www.amazon.com
    ==============================
    Check your order and more: http://www.amazon.com/your-account

  8. Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 13:51:28 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Amazon Unbox <unbox-noreply@amazon.com>
    To: “heels@alum.mit.edu” <heels@alum.mit.edu>
    Subject: Amazon Unbox on TiVo: Unable to Download your Video

    Greetings from the Amazon Unbox Team!

    Thank you for your recent order from Amazon Unbox. Please note that we were unable to download your Unbox video to your TiVo box at this time because it does not have enough available disk space.

    To download your Unbox video to your TiVo box, please take the following steps:

    Free up disk space on your TiVo box
    To make space, delete programs which have been recorded in the last 48 hours or which you have set to “Keep until I delete” (look for the green dot)
    To make room for a 2 hour Unbox video, you should delete at least:
    1 hour of programming recorded at TiVo’s Best Quality setting
    1 1/2 hours at the “High Quality” setting
    2 hours at the “Medium Quality setting”, or
    4 hours at the “Basic Quality” setting
    Restart the download of your video from Amazon Unbox’s Your Media Library
    Go to Your Media Library at http://www.amazon.com/library
    Navigate to the “Downloads” tab at the top of Your Media Library; sign-in to your Amazon.com account, if necessary
    From the Downloads tab, click the “Download” button next to the Unbox video you want to download
    Select your TiVo DVR as the download destination and click the “Download” button
    Your video should begin downloading to your TiVo DVR within 15 minutes
    Links to additional information about the Amazon Unbox on TiVo service are below for your reference.

    Thank you for shopping with Amazon Unbox on TiVo.

    *****

    WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Amazon Unbox on TiVo?

    Answers to frequently asked questions about Amazon Unbox on TiVo can be found at this URL:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200111510

    Looking for information on how to manage your TiVo’s disk space?
    http://customersupport.tivo.com/LaunchContent.aspx?cid=13fd3949-fae4-4f57-aa24-11e478781bd0&anchor=undefined

  9. Strangely, my Netflix orders work every time (OK, I had one scratched disc which they replaced in a day – still faster than unbox).

    Granted, the sponteneity isn’t the same, but you have to go to the store to buy that box of condoms in advance too.

    (Personally, I wouldn’t use unrolling a condom as the example of ease, but that’s just me.)

    I recommend trying netflix and getting rid of your tivo. I did and we are very happy. TV sucks anyway.

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