Yesterday, as I was partaking in my daily Twitter procrastination, I stumbled across a tweet that referenced Cineworld – the UK’s biggest cinema chain – and how one manager treated their customers like ‘criminals’. It linked to a blog written by a perfectly honest cinema goer, having visited the Cineworld in the centre of Glasgow on the Saturday just gone. To save us all a bit of time and any further ramblings, here is the link to said post:
Feel a bit more informed now? Good.
After reading the frankly shocking way in which this loyal, paying customer was treated, my brain and annoyance raced into overdrive and subsequently raised several questions and problems with the modern multiplex.
In the past we’ve seen Noel raise issues of unruly patrons (refresh your memory here), as well as Garry discussing inventive ways they find to rob us of yet more hard-earned cash (his piece right here). Coincidentally, both articles look somewhat unfavourably upon Cineworld, but I can assure you there exists no conspiracy.
It would appear that this chain has some awfully bizarre rules and codes of conduct. For a manager to refuse someone entry because they possess a camera is ludicrous, mainly because 95% of people with mobile phones will also have the same, if not better recording equipment built-in. So shouldn’t everyone be denied entry? Should phones be confiscated? Where do they draw this ambiguous line? What’s more, the manager of this particular establishment seemed terribly unhelpful and rather abrasive. The fact that this man and his wife were embarrassed and humiliated in front of other patrons is unacceptable, especially when you hear of and see unruly customers all the time who get away with all sorts, leaving me with a bitter taste of injustice.
If honest, paying customers are treated this way, how do chains such as Cineworld expect to retain loyalty? The key to keeping hold of customers is satisfaction; a commodity some chains (I’m not saying all) take for granted. With the ever declining state of cinema attendance (my local Vue and Odeon are practically dead every time I visit them), you’d think they’d be striving for every sort of continued loyalty rather than wilfully persecuting those they rely on for an income. It appeared no one there cared about it, that’s for sure.
Upon some further reading and tweeting, I came across some other utterly illogical, baffling and rather discriminative policies. One being that, according to one tweeter’s experience, adults were refused entry to a kid’s movie because they were not accompanying children, and is to protect children from “paedophiliacs”. The lady in question was refused entry and asked to leave. The irony was that this woman was a nursery nurse, but profession shouldn’t even come into it. What next, will they introduce on-the-spot background checks? What’s even more disgusting is their attitude afterwards: a formal complaint was swiftly resolved by… a £10 Cineworld voucher. Speaking as someone without children, the idea of denying a grown adult entry with an insinuation that you might be there for paedophilia reasons is defamatory as well as outrageously offensive. What’s more, examples like these are rudely and somewhat forcefully turning willing customers away, which any industry surely cannot afford to do.
If policies like these are enforced, then no wonder people frequent cinemas less and less. No wonder people not only feel the need to stay at home during the economic struggle with extortionate prices of snacks, drinks and ticket prices; surely a nail in the coffin is someone being refused entry due to practically being accused of intending to record the movie or suspecting them of being a paedophile.
The other key issue is that with such an attitude in place for customers, the inevitable insult and alienation will no doubt lead them to simply watch films at home. What this will no doubt lead to is the increase in video piracy. Simply put, places such as this Cineworld are shooting themselves in the foot. Not only is it tedious enough seeing anti-piracy adverts every time you visit the cinema (and somewhat redundantly, because you are there paying to see it legally, therefore their campaign is wasted on the demographic), but visitors are no doubt fully aware of the consequences of illegally downloading or secretly recording a film — years in jail and, even though I’ve never quite understood this term, an ‘unlimited fine’. To accuse someone of intending to break this law before even entering the screening seems not only unfounded, but completely bonkers. Maybe they’ve seen Minority Report too many times, who knows.
However, the sad thing with rising ticket prices (they currently seem to be around £8 where I live); added charges for 3D, IMAX, D-Box; inflated confectionery costs; and the added notion of potentially rude and (in this case) pre-emptively insinuating staff, people will simply be so put off in going to the cinema, they’ll resort to downloading in the comfort of their home. Either that or merely wait for the DVD or Blu-ray release that’ll cost the same as the entry and drink for one person, or even opt for Video On Demand (VOD), which is becoming more and more popular.
Downloading is something I don’t personally endorse, but I know a hell of a lot of people who do it, and admittedly I can see why. In this state of recession, people might do so for a number of logical and financial, if not morally justified, reasons: if anything, avoiding abuse and accusation from uneducated staff following a misjudged rule book would be one.
If these are Cineworld’s national policies, then it looks like attendance number will gradually decline. If they insist on treating honest customers as potential criminals, then I see no way for them to thrive as they once did. Whatever happened to the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’?
The experiences of this blogger and tweeter are probably not isolated ones. There’s a chance the former’s incident with this particular Glasgow Cineworld manager might be a one-off. Then again, it might not. Sure, staff have a right to be fed up with minimum wage and whining customers all day, but every profession has that. In instances like these, they need to simply do what they are paid to do, act accordingly and offer a friendly, polite and helpful service to their customers who are, after all, keeping them employed, and not treat them like some sort of law breaker.