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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What’s the worst treatment you’ve ever received at the hands of movie-theater employees?

Multiplex horror story of the day combined with customer service nightmare of the year (via CNET):

Recently, a patron of the [St. Croix Falls Cinema 8, in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin] wrote a letter to the company complaining about the experience she and her husband and another couple had during a showing of “Shutter Island.”

Sarah Kohl-Leaf of Taylors Falls, Minn., complained in her letter that the theater offered no option to purchase tickets with a credit or debit card, meaning she and her husband had to use their cash for the tickets and then borrow money from the other couple to purchase refreshments. (The lobby ATM was reportedly out of cash.) Then, she said, the staff interrupted the movie to check the ticket stubs of the seated audience.

“I did not pay 18.00 to have a distracted experience,” she wrote in a letter to the company and later posted to Facebook. “I would rather drive to White Bear Lake, where they obviously know how to run a theater than have this experience again.”

That sounds pretty bad: I’d be pissed if my movie were interrupted by someone demanding to see my ticket… and what business of this size doesn’t accept credit cards? But this is nuthin’. The response Kohl-Leaf received from Steven Payne, a vice president at the theater’s parent company? It’s a doozy:

Drive to White Bear Lake and also go f*** yourself. If you dont have money for entertainment, get a better job, and don’t pay for everything on your credit or check card. You can also shove your time and gas up your f****** ass. Also, find better things to do with your time. This email is an absolute joke. We don’t care to have you as a customer. Let me know if you need directions to white bear lake.

C’mon, top that: What’s the worst treatment you’ve ever received at the hands of movie-theater employees?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Lisa

    It’s when they don’t do anything that drives me up the wall. At the same time, most of them are teenagers and are probably terrified of the drunks and drug addicts that go to my local fleapit – I wouldn’t want to cross them in the dark either!

    I went to see Gangs of New York and left because the aspect ratio was clearly out of whack. I had to stand and argue with the cashier for 10 minutes to get my money back and that only happened when somebody else walked out and agreed that it was unwatchable.

    Anybody else cheer when they read that story about the guy shooting someone for talking in a cinema a couple of years ago? I felt his pain. I don’t agree with what he did but I understand. No wonder dvds are so popular. I hate going to the movies!

  • Robin

    A movie theater manager once accused my father of being a cradle-robbing pervert.

    Rewind: I was fourteen and we were trying to get in to see Dogma, which was rated 18A (minors must be accompanied by an adult) and which I had already seen with my mother the week before. The ticket-taker was claiming minors couldn’t get in at all, so my dad asked to speak to the manager – who took one look at us and decided that my dad was my boyfriend. Now, my dad’s my adopted father, so there’s no close resemblance, but he certainly doesn’t look like he couldn’t be my biological father, but this manager just lost it and started yelling about how I might be old enough to f*** under the law, but damned if he was going to contribute to the corruption of a child, and he wasn’t going to let us in to see that “porno” movie so that we could f*** in the back row.

    I’ve learned to see the humour in it now, but at the time it was moderately horrifying and incredibly humiliating. Dude had issues. My mother later complained to the company and we got some free passes and coupons which we used at a different theater in the same chain.

  • Isobel

    Wow – I’ve been lucky at cinemas! Worse that’s ever happened to me is that it’s always too cold and the popcorn is stale!

  • sam

    Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.. picture comes up in the wrong aspect ratio, then the sound goes out… go out to the lobby the projectionist is nowhere to be found. nobody including the house manager seems to care since i’m the only one complaining.

    projectionist shows up, fixes the picture but still 15 mins no sound. no refunds, no coupon for future show, nada.

    never went back.

  • My worst experiences have mostly been from the other patrons.

    However, I had been shopping in the mall and had purchased two drinks from a kiosk in collectible bottles and had decided to keep them. I had them in my bag and the manager wouldn’t let me bring them into the theater.

    His rationale? “You might throw them at someone or fill them with water.”

    He had no problem with the large book I had in another bag (which would have done more damage than those glass bottles).

    He made me leave them at the counter while I was in the movie.

    After the film I went back to the concession counter to find out that they had been thrown away.

    Thanks. They had no real value and I had not owned them long enough to get attached to them, but they were mine.

    I called the manager over and gave him a bit of my mind and he gave me a $2.00 off coupon for popcorn which I threw away in front of him.

  • MaSch

    “he gave me a $2.00 off coupon for popcorn which I threw away in front of him.”

    I hope it was the popcorn you threw away, not the coupon …

    For completeness’ sake, I’d like to mention that Steven Payne wrote an apology to Sarah Kohl-Leaf; it doesn’t make him look any better, however.

  • David

    My worst experience was when I was a bit younger seeing an R rated movie. I happened to get there first and the theater was very busy so I picked up everyones tickets. The theater employees (yes plural) followed me into the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t giving the tickets to underaged patrons. They actually banged on the stall door and demanded I get out then preceded to stay next to me until my friends showed up and then all of our (and others) IDs were checked. We were all checked again at the end of the theater. Needless to say we never went to that theater again, who wants to be harrased like that.

  • Cyndy

    I guess I’ve been pretty lucky. Sound volume issues are about all I’ve experienced, and I’ve always had people fix it when I’ve brought it up.

  • Shadowen

    I (heh) hear that, Cyndy. Technical issues in the vein of occasional picture problems that were quickly corrected are about it, though once in an older theater there was an actual reel malfunction that caused playback to stop, and which was also fixed in a couple minutes.

  • RyanT

    Yeah, I’ve been pretty lucky too. Other than technical problems that were fixed quickly, I haven’t had the experiences you guys have had. Probably the “worst” was someone telling us the movie was in the second floor when it really was on the fourth floor. We sat at the wrong theater for a few minutes before we realized we weren’t where we were supposed to be. Missed the trailers and had to look for seats. Blah.

  • Lisa

    Actually a friend and I have worked in cinemas at various points in our lives. She found a couple having sex in front of the screen one time.

    There was a really bad smell in one of the cinemas I worked in and it got to the point where they had to call someone in about it. They found a rotting dead rat in the aircon. Not surprising really, when you thought about how long they kept the popcorn for!

    Actually the worst time we had was when we had one of the Bond films and the ribbon broke in the projector. Full house. After 15 mins of waiting for it to be fixed, there was a near riot. (It was one of those cinemas that was really a day care centre). It eventually got fixed but it fucked up the showings for the rest of the day too.

    Day care centre = loads of kidde vomit from all the sweet stuff they ate.

    Never eat the popcorn!

  • LaSargenta

    Personally, I have no movie going horror stories…unless we count going to see Casablanca at the old Richelieu Cinema in San Francisco (it was a revival house and showed double bills with news reels and old previews!) back in the late 1970’s and found myself in front of one of those people who knows ALL. THE. LINES. and says them out loud a millisecond before Rick or Ilsa or Ugarte said them on the screen.

    It was a crowded showing and I disturbed a lot of people when I moved.

    But, on the other hand, I’ve witnessed an awful lot of patrons being pretty ridiculous or even nasty to the employees. Not that there aren’t nasty employees now and then, but it seems to be worse to work there than to patronize a place.

  • I’ve also been lucky. When I think about theatre experience, I think about going to a small theatre to see an abscure Japanese movie, and while my girlfriend was buying popcorn I mentioned to her allowed that I didn’t really like movie popcorn — I preferred sweet popcorn over salty. When I left the theatre at the end of the movie, the owner, who’d overheard me, had made me some sweet popcorn to thank me for bringing business to his little theatre. Obviously, I’m remembering his coolness to this day in the form of telling you about it. LOL

  • Ugh! sorry for all the spelling errors. Distracted by the thought of sweet popcorn… LOL

  • Paul

    The only problems I’ve had are with patrons who talk through the movies. Whispering is okay, but talking?

    I was even embarressed by my own friends once, who started heckling “Jason Takes Manhatten” as if they were the Robots on Mystery Theater 3000. I was afraid we’d get kicked out, but then I realized the audience thought my friends were better than the movie so no one complained.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Wow, that response is unbelievable! I don’t know how the customer acted on-site, but that email wasn’t deserving of the vitriol it received. As for the theater not accepting cards, has it always not accepted cards? Or was the system down/machine broken? And did staff systematically check EVERY ticket in the audience, because I find that hard to believe.

    I used to be a theater supervisor. We were required to do “theater checks” (walking the aisles with a flashlight and checking the back rows for sneak-ins and …illegal activity) a couple times during the movies, and yes, if we saw anybody suspicious we could ask for tickets. We usually went after teenage kids we didn’t see come in. ;)

    I’ve never had a bad experience as a patron, but as a supervisor, OH YEAH! :)

    Almost everyone bitched about concession prices. Yeah, I KNOW they’re expensive. You and everyone else today has informed me of that fact. Look, sneak food in, because it isn’t that hard. Just leave me alone!!

    And the people who would watch half/three quarters of a movie and then come out saying that it sucked and they wanted their money back. Um, no. The policy was that you had 15 minutes to decide whether it sucked. You don’t get to watch nearly the whole thing.

    Out of all the retail jobs I worked, no customers were as consistently NASTY for no reason as theater patrons. I don’t even know why. Aren’t people at the movies to have fun?? My staff, especially the young high school girls, were often berated by patrons or just treated shabbily. I mean, not EVERYONE was nasty, but I’ve never seen a more consistent trend. And I’ve worked fast food!

    And the films breaking, ye gods!! That was the ultimate stress. I was in charge of splicing them back together, and that’s a very tricky thing to do. It takes time and a steady hand, and meanwhile I am thinking of all the shit I’m going to catch after the show when angry people demand refunds for their inconvenience. When our theater received digital movies (DVDs) I thanked my lucky stars.

    I’m really glad I don’t work there anymore. Maybe the reason I have never had a bad experience is because I am always pretty nice and forgiving to theater employees. I feel their pain.

    And, I NEVER complain to them about their prices. ;)

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