Reply from Cineworld

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After sending my original missive (Dear @ cineworld…) on June 20th, I waited the three working days I was told by the automated email for a response. I then chased them and was told they’d not received it and could I mail them it again? I did. Five days later I chased it again. Apparently they didn’t get it. I sent it again. Over 2 weeks later and finally I have a response.

Do note that Gillian has already cancelled her card and I am trying to cancel mine. Perhaps I should have rung them like she did, but the terms and conditions clearly state that they only accept cancellations in writing by post or email… and then don’t furnish you with the details to contact them via either! The main reason for cancellation is impending babyhood, in fairness.

Their response follows. My comments inserted and will be in my reply back:

Thank you for contacting Cineworld.

I would like to apologise if you feel that there is a lack of 2D films at Cineworld Glasgow Parkhead and Renfrew Street. I can advise that we do aim to screen as many 2D versions of our 3D films as possible. We do also rely on the film distributors in providing us with enough 2D prints of their 3d films in order for us to distribute them to as many of our cinemas as possible.

This doesn’t explain the single, solitary 2D performance of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at Parkhead, being shown at 13:30 each day. The cinema obviously had a print of the film which could have been shown more than once per day. They chose to show it only once, and at a time completely inconvenient to anyone with a job!

Our Film Buying department do also analyse the popularity of the performances that are screened on a weekly basis. Depending on the box office success of the performances, adjustments do have to be made. We are however always happy to receive customer feedback with regards to any aspect of the service we are providing to our customers.

I would expect nothing less. However, let’s take the situation above which prompted me to contact you in the first place. I would guess that there were very few bums on seats for this 13:30 performance, which in turn is going to make the 2D performances seem somewhat unpopular. After all, far more people paid to see the 3D ones. Is there any chance this was because they were on at a far more convenient time?

My background is science. You cannot get good, sensible, comparable results without comparing closely-related data. When designing an experiment you change as few variables as possible between runs. In this case, for instance, your variable should only be whether the performance is 2D or 3D. You should otherwise be comparing screenings at the same time of day, on the same day of the week, and at the same distance away from pay-day. Any data collected about the “popularity” of AL:VH in 2D at Parkhead that week  is therefore useless or, worse, wildly inaccurate.

All customer comments are taken on board and if there are any changes that can be made as a result of this, every effort will be made to do so. In light of your comments, I have passed on your feedback to the Film Buying department in our continuing efforts to collate customer feedback.

Thanks for that. It is appreciated.

I would also like to apologise if you feel that the lack of advance booking with your Unlimited card is not suitable. I can advise that your unlimited card is like your credit card, personalised for each individual. It is vitally important staff issue tickets to the correct customer, and the photo on the card helps us identify customers. As with any service, there are terms and conditions members need to adhere to.

The condition, which you refer to, has always been part of your Unlimited contract. Please see condition 7.4 under ‘Unlimited terms of use’ at the back of your contract.

This condition has been set in place to reduce card misuse/fraud. Too often customers have given their tickets/cards to other customers to use. So to reduce this from happening, we can only issue tickets over the counter to the cardholder. This process has been put in place to safe guard our customers and make sure only they benefit from the subscription paid to us.

[The solution I mentioned was for Unlimited cardholders to be able to book online, but perhaps have their account linked to a debit card. If they didn’t pick up their tickets, then they’d be charged for them. This would help prevent people just booking seats which paying customers may want, and then not turning up for screenings. I specified that they could collect them at automated ticket machines as existing pre-bookers can do using their credit/debit cards]

You’ve made a very fair point as regards the fraudulent use of the cards. May I suggest, therefore, that I adjust my initial proposal slightly? The Unlimited card is still linked to a bank, debit or credit card so that the tickets must be paid for if they are not collected. However, the card holder must collect them directly from the box office rather than using an automated machine. This is, in fact, what I do with tickets I’ve pre-booked for the kids at Parkhead anyway.

This way, you’re covering yourselves from people bulk-booking tickets online and not using them. You’re enabling cardholders to pre-book so they can actually go as a family/friend group with non-cardholders. You’re preventing the risk of fraud or card misuse. As a bonus, at cinemas like Parkhead where tickets and concessions are sold at the same counter, you’re not missing out on the chance to up-sell food and drink.

OK, so we have to queue to get the tickets – but at least we know we’re going to be able to get them.

I can also advise that our toilets are checked and cleaned at regular intervals by our staff members. However, we do not have the resources to assign a member of staff to each toilet for an entire shift, so we do rely on the public being courteous to fellow customers by cleaning up after themselves and flushing toilets etc.

Of this, I have no doubt. The facilities in the cinemas are generally of a very high standard. The issue with Parkhead’s toilet isn’t down to someone not flushing, it’s been there for months and I fear it’s something that’s leaked and soaked in somewhere. I’m no plumber, though!

As a gesture of good will, I would like to offer you two complimentary Unlimited retail vouchers which are valid for either 1x Regular Popcorn, 1x Regular Dispensed Soft Drink, 1x Regular Hotdog, 1x Regular Nachos or 1x Regular Coffee for you to use during a future visit to Cineworld. This is with a view to having a much more pleasurable experience. If you would like to accept this offer, please reply to this email with your full postal address and we will have your vouchers sent out to you as soon as possible.

We appreciate the gesture and our address follows. However, do please note that my partner has already cancelled her card (although it still has a couple of weeks’ use left) and I am trying to cancel mine although – again – I’ve had no email response back in the stated time. I mailed on the 9th of July using the contact form on the website as no direct email address can be found on your website. The reference I received back was SA44322X.

I will likely give them a call today, but I do note that the Terms & Conditions clearly state that cancellation can only be done in writing, either by email or post. I only hope I haven’t missed a direct debit date as a result of this delay and will have the card for an extra month. Please be aware that we are primarily cancelling as my other half is due to give birth very imminently and it will be difficult for both of us to go out together for a couple of months.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us with your feedback regarding your recent visits to Cineworld Glasgow Parkhead and Renfrew Street. We do appreciate all customer comments we do receive as this gives us the opportunity to improve the level of service we provide to our customers.

Kind regards

On the whole, a fair response but one which misses the point on a couple of issues. We’ll take the vouchers, but I’m not sure if we’ll get to use them around the baby arriving. We will miss our cinema trips, but it’s a) going to be hard round the new arrival and b) was getting frustrating seeing performances advertised that we couldn’t attend. It’s especially annoying when such things have been ongoing for years, people have complained and yet nothing has been done.

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Dear @cineworld …

Ah, we used to love you so much…

After a disappointing evening and some wasted time trying to see a film, I want to make some feelings clear with Cineworld that are hard to fit into a tweet. They’re good at replying to them – whoever monitors their Twitter feed does a good job – but too many things are bothering myself and Gillian these days.

First up, we’re heartily sick of 3D films. We don’t want to see them, they’re a rubbish novelty that exists only to rake in money for cinemas showing them. I have it from various sources that the prints for films cost the same for a cinema to obtain regardless of whether it’s a 2D or 3D print. The same projector is used. So why is there a surcharge to watch the film in 3D? As far as I can tell, the only expense lies with the film-maker who’s decided to shell out thousands to turn a perfectly good film into a blurry, dull, migraine-inducing mess.

3D film technology should have been kicked in the head until it started to go cross-eyed and drool, dragged into the forest and left to die slowly of exposure.

It’s not the fact that you have to pay extra, per se. Assuming a film gets a 2D showing you can at least opt to go and watch that instead of being ripped off £1.50 plus extra for the eyewear if you’ve not already got some. Well, you can… sort of.

The 2D versions very much come second fiddle as far as both number of performances and actual performance times are concerned. To whit, the issue we had this evening.

Our preferred cinema is the Cineworld at Parkhead. It’s got free parking right by the door, is easy to get to while avoiding most traffic and the staff are lovely. OK, so it’s a little poky compared to the Renfrew Street behemoth but it’s far more convenient. The parking, right now, is quite important as Gillian’s 8 months pregnant and we have two other kids. Plus, parking in Glasgow before 6pm is bloody expensive.

Thing is, Parkhead only have one showing a day of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And it’s at 13:30. Therefore, we can’t see it. Conversely, there are four screenings (three on Thursday) of the 3D version. This is incredibly annoying. We’re essentially being told that, despite paying a monthly fee for an Unlimited Card each, we don’t have the freedom to choose which films we want to see.

I mentioned this on Twitter and they recommended going to Renfrew Street who had a showing at 6pm. Initially we thought “nah”, but relented and drove through. After battling through traffic and forking out for parking, we made it to the cinema to find that the 2D showing had sold out.

What a waste of time and money.

And it brings me to my second major point: not being able to pre-book using an Unlimited Card. More than once I’ve been in the queue, listening to someone who’s arrived with their friends or children and can’t get in to see a film. The others had pre-booked online, the Unlimited holder couldn’t and the showing has sold out.

I have “discussed” this over Twitter, as have others, with Cineworld and I can understand their one over-riding concern: people booking tickets online and then not showing up, thus depriving other paying customers of seats. I absolutely agree, this is something that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

So I suggest the following. Allow Unlimited holders to book online. Give them the same restrictions as are already in place (although this actually varies from cinema to cinema) in that they can’t book another ticket until the showing for the one they’ve reserved is finished. In addition, if they do not collect their ticket, they get a “strike”. Each card-holder gets one free strike per month. The second time they fail to collect a pre-booked ticket in a one-month period, they lose the ability to pre-book for 3 months.

The one strike seems fair. Sometimes things just happen – the bus doesn’t come, the kids start to projectile vomit just as you’re leaving the house, whatever. But it should stop people being frivolous.

Alternatively, if a pre-booked ticket isn’t taken then the card-holder is charged for it at the standard rate, a debit/credit card being required to make the booking but not being charged otherwise.

Surely the technology is pretty much in place to manage this?

I just feel like a second-class customer despite forking out a reasonable sum each month of guaranteed income for Cineworld.

As things stand, Gillian’s likely to cancel her Unlimited card when baby SkullKrusher arrives. I was going to keep mine, but I’m thinking more and more about just cancelling it. I love going to the cinema, especially for big action films. But it’s reaching the point where it’s inconvenient finding a showing that we can guarantee seeing and which isn’t in 3D.

With the advent of the likes of NetFlix etc., we could be paying a lot less just to watch them on the telly at home when it actually suits us – and for less each month. Sure, it’s not the same, but it’s cheaper and less stressful.

Don’t get me wrong. On the whole we like Cineworld, the staff, the experience. We just feel we’re getting a raw deal right now and we’re, frankly, pissed off at the time wasted this evening compounded by the two issues highlighted above.

So there you have my points:

1) Give some respect to those of us who don’t want to watch 3D films.

2) Let Unlimited holders pre-book

3) Find out what’s making that awful stale piss smell in the gents’ loo at Parkhead (and has been for months) and sort it out. Please. It’s minging.

Just thought I’d throw that last one in there while I’m on a roll.

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A quick “well done” to Cineworld

Not my local one, but I have been here!

A few weeks ago I emailed Cineworld to ask why they didn’t encourage people to re-use their 3D glasses. With the number of 3D films coming out now, it seemed daft for thousands of pairs of the things to be thrown away when they could be used time and time again.

Recently I noticed “recycle bins” for them appearing at the cinema. A cheapskate approach as it meant the cinema would save money by re-using them but not pass the saving on to the customer with a reduced cinema ticket if they brought them back in.

Lo and behold… on the recent newsletter I just got from them it states that glasses are now down to 80p a pair and if you bring your own back in again then there’s no additional charge on your ticket. I believe the 3D films still cost more to see (in fairness, they cost more to make), but you do save a little cash by recycling.

Well done, Cineworld.

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