Sunday, January 12, 2020

Improvise


Some flooding to our boiler-house knocked out our church heating. It will be seen and (hopefully) fixed first thing tomorrow; but, rather than sitting scattered across an auditorium that comfortably seats 200 people, watching our breath curl in front of us, this morning 35 people gathered in the Lady Chapel, which comfortably seats 20, but, having a separate heating system, was warm. We improvised, and, in improvising, found it to be not simply making-do but making a very positive shared memory.

Before Christmas, my family went to the local cinema to see Knives Out. After we parted with our money — almost £50 — we were informed that the heating was broken in the auditorium. We were charged full price, because ‘people experience temperature differently’ but, if we decided that we wanted to leave within the first 20 minutes of the main feature, we would be refunded. The film was most enjoyable, and, having made the effort to come out, we stayed. But the room was not enjoyable — who would pay £50 to sit in the cold?

On Friday just gone, Susie’s last night at home before returning to university, we went out to the cinema again, to see Jojo Rabbit. (We don’t go to the cinema very often, but if we do, it tends to be around holidays.) Noting that it was being screened in the same auditorium as our ill-fated previous visit, we enquired as to whether the heating had been fixed? It had not. We enquired as to whether the ticket prices were being discounted? They were not — though the person serving us did offer to ask his manager, an offer we took up. The manager, who was not brave enough to speak to us in person, conveyed the message that no, there was no discount. If we wanted to leave near the start, disrupting other paying customers, we could ask for a refund.

Having paid £50 already, we were not prepared to make it £100 to sit in the cold, and so — still wanting to watch Jojo Rabbit — we walked out.

If the cinema had offered discounted tickets, we might have stayed. Even if they had made entry free, they would have made money on drinks and popcorn, and perhaps even shockingly marked-up sweets. In the weeks since the heating had broken, they could have brought in a supply of cosy blankets. They could have closed screen 8: there would still be another eleven screens, and, looking up what was showing, we would not have set out to see the film we did, but might have come in time to watch something else. They could have offered free hot drinks. Or a discount voucher for a future visit. But they didn’t improvise. Instead, they banked on us deciding to stick it out.

That is shockingly poor customer service. Even more so given that almost any time I do go to the cinema there is no more than (often far less) 35 people scattered throughout an auditorium that seats 200. Not only did they get no money at all from us on Friday night, but I am not inclined to go back. Other cinemas are available, if further afield. To care so little is crazy.

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