Against my better judgement, I tried something new recently: I went to a movie cinema I'd never been to before. Brace yourself for a shock, dear reader, but I'm a bit of a creature of habit. There's one chain of cinemas I like and that's about it (I would name them, but this blog isn't about the stuff I like). Anyway, this new cinema I tried had something I'd heard about a few years ago but had assumed had been abandoned when the management realised what a stupid idea it was:
Yes, this crappy cinema wanted me to sit exactly where I was told - I couldn't just sit wherever I wanted. So why does this upset me so? Well, often on this blog I talk about businesses doing stupid things to drive away their customers. Last year, I did a rant on what movie theatres were doing wrong and how they could drag people away from their TVs and back into cinemas. Strangely enough, I didn't mention "force your customer to sit where you tell them to", because one would assume it goes without saying.
Now, to be fair, there is some logic behind this decision - online tickets sales must be a growth area for cinemas, so it seems logical that they would want to make it seem even more attractive. Order online, choose your seat, and show up as soon as your session begins for the perfect spot! Genius!
Because, as we all know, people who use computers a lot would never pirate the movie in the first place
Or not. I can't speak for everyone, but personally, I rarely buy movie tickets online. It's not that I'm a luddite, often when I go to the movies it's a last-minute decision. Even when it's planned in advance (like on one of those exceptionally rare occasions when I have a date) I don't go and see a film on opening night - I wait a week or more until the crowds die down. Not to mention that every time I've ordered tickets online I've been hit with a $2 "administration fee". Not a lot, but annoying to say the least.
You see, by pandering to these people who exclusively buy their tickets online (would there really be that many?) these cinemas run the risk of alienating their core customers - something you definitely want to avoid as a business owner.
I mean, this isn't a aeroplane where it's important every seat is filled (otherwise it's not as efficient - jet fuel is not cheap!) - it's a friggin' movie theatre. When I buy a ticket, I just want to walk in and take the best seat I can find. I don't want to fumble around in the dark for the exact spot I'm supposed to sit. Don't forget, I've made the effort to leave my house and pay money for something I could get for free at home (albeit illegally).
Remember kids: piracy is wrong. But if I ever figure out how to download a car, I'm so going to do it.
"BUT FREE MAN!" you cry "SURELY YOU CAN JUST SAY WHERE YOU WANT TO SIT WHEN YOU BUY YOUR TICKET LOL!" Well, I couldn't when I went to this cinema. The girl on the counter didn't even ask me if I had a preference for an aisle, the middle, the front or the side. And besides, the last thing I want is the process of buying a ticket to take even longer - I don't need some 200kg woman and her six kids arguing with the manager in front of me about why they can't sit right in the middle.
And call me crazy if you want, but I often don't know where I want to sit until I walk into the theatre. Every cinema is different - sometimes it's best to sit up the back because the screen is huge, sometimes it's better to sit to the side because there's more leg room. Plus, there's certain people you want to avoid when you're choosing your seat in the cinema - babies, really tall people, fatties who've brought a buffet with them...
The worst thing, though, it that the system is not policed. When I entered the theatre, someone was sitting in my seat. No problem, I just sat further down the row. I figured, it doesn't matter, there's plenty of seats. Then a couple arrive and pointed out I was in their seat. So I moved down a row. Then another group arrived and I had to move again. I'm sure the guy who initially stole my seat would have moved if I'd asked him, but I guarantee there will be occasions when people won't move because they're too fat, too stubborn or just, well, dicks.
Like this guy
Look, I'm fine with businesses trying new things, and I realise that it isn't 1950 anymore, but could this cinema I used really be attracting more customers with this prepaid seating system than they are losing?
I doubt it.
© 2012 by The Free Man