Cheer up, moviegoers!

By Steven Gillard

Patrick Breen/Flickr
Patrick Breen/Flickr

When I came home for winter break, I picked up some shifts at the local movie theater I worked at throughout high school. I work behind the concession stand, a pretty easy position that simply requires me to sell popcorn and drinks to customers.

I’ve helped a lot of customers since I started working at the theater in high school and it never fails to surprise me how miserable so many of them are. While most customers make lighthearted jokes about the price of popcorn and drinks, during every shift there are some customers who become truly angry at the inflated prices. They swear, they storm off in anger. I’ve even been asked, “How do you sleep at night?”

I wish I was kidding.

Customers become indignant when I tell them I can’t break a 100 dollar bill on a seven dollar order. They come back asking me for a refund for all sorts of problems with the taste of their popcorn, and then demand to speak with a manager when I point out they I can’t give them a refund since they ate half of the bag. They order three bottles of water without even looking at the menu board and then fume when the cost is over 10 dollars. The worst I’ve seen is a customer who had the audacity to throw her change at one of my coworkers.

The upsell tactics that employees are required to employ makes customers just as upset. Instead of responding with a simple “No, thank you” to my questions, customers will often interrupt me or restate angrily what they originally ordered. Most people know that movie theaters have high prices for concessions (it’s where all of the money is made), yet they insist on purchasing food and acting outraged all the same. Some customers think that I make commission for the sales and accuse me of trying to rip them off, to whom I explain that upselling is in my job description, and it is needed to win mystery shoppers. The only people I can sympathize with are the grandparents who are genuinely shocked by the prices, and recount to me how popcorn was only five cents back when they were a kid.

While the bitterness of customers is usually too inconsequential to bother me, I can’t help but wonder why people coming to see a movie are so pessimistic to begin with. Most patrons are polite and respectful, but that doesn’t negate the poor conduct of their counterparts. Don’t get me wrong – it is acceptable to become annoyed when an order is messed up or the wrong movie is played in the theater, but the rage demonstrated by some customers is outright ridiculous, especially when that rage is solely due to popcorn prices.

In every business, especially those that employ high school and college students, there are going to be errors. Things will go wrong. I’ve had my orders at restaurants messed up, I’ve been given the wrong coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but I have never become as incensed as so many of my customers at the movies have. If I ever go to buy something that I find overpriced, I won’t buy it. If I do buy it, I won’t harass the blameless employee selling it to me.

Americans need to cheer up. If you are going to see a movie with your family or friends, be happy to be there. If you don’t want to buy food, don’t. But if you do, do it with a smile.

Every shift I work, I end up promising myself that if, 30 years from now, I ever find myself becoming angry at a young kid trying to upsell me a large popcorn, I will never go to the movies again.

I intend to keep that promise.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]