Cineworld, again.

Ah, Cineworld my dear old friend. We meet again.

If you’ve read my last post concerning this hallowed establishment of moviedom, you’ll know I frequent Cineworld often. Unless you somehow missed the sarcasm*, you’ll also know that I think the staff at my local branch are inept, perhaps bordering on grossly negligent of being actual human beings. Even between them, and there’s an army of them, they seem unable to muster an ounce of good service.** But I digress.

On my latest trip to the cinema, I was met with an entirely new level of idiocy. Approaching the condiment counter, I asked for a cup of tea, black. What I was handed was hot enough to burn the sun, let alone the rather sensitive flesh of my baby-soft hands.

‘Do you have one of those sleeve things?’ I asked.

‘No.’ the staff member, lets call him Dave, answered.

All fine and well, I thought, not everywhere does. I mean there’s probably an argument that they should invest in thicker cups but again, I digress.

‘Can I have another cup to sit this one inside?’

‘No.’

‘No?’

‘No,’ repeated Dave, shaking his head like a grumpy horse.

‘Why not?’

Dave stared at me.

‘Is there some sort of global paper-cup shortage? Should I alert the media?’

By now there was a sizeable queue behind me.

‘Can I help?’ another staff member, lets call him Big Dave, leap to Dave’s rescue.

‘This is too hot to hold, can I have another cup to put it inside?’

‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Our stock would be off,’ said Big Dave.

It was my turn to stare.

‘We count the cups at the end of the night to see how many we’ve sold.’

Two things struck me then: one, I wonder who they employ to do the counting. I had certainly never met a Cineworld staffer up to the task; and two, that’s the stupidest stock management system in the world. Ever.

‘Why don’t you just count the tea bags?’ I asked.

Big Dave looked past me to the queue. ‘Why don’t you wrap a napkin around it?’

I looked to the napkins and then back to Big Dave. ‘No.’

At this point a third staffer appeared, lets call him Walkie-talkie Dave as he had a walkie-talkie. ‘What about a pic-n-mix cup?’ He asked. ‘You can have one of those?’

‘But how will you know how many sweets you’ve sold?’ I replied.

The Dave’s looked at me.

‘Besides, it’s the wrong size.’

‘Look I’ll  carry it for you,’ said Big Dave reaching for some napkins.

It seemed like a fine plan, and was at least a reasonable stab at good service but Big Dave seemed to have missed the obvious flaw. Luckily, I was there to help.

‘What about during the movie, when I want a drink? Will you sit next to me?’

‘No,’ he answered shaking his head.

‘Ah, we’re back here,’ I said.

‘Wha-’ one of the Dave’s began.

‘Never mind I said,’ leaving the tea on the counter and my money in my wallet. ‘I’ll go to Starbucks.’

Idiots.***

So this week I’m on a mission to see how many free cups I can blag from other local establishments. A quick survey if you will, to find out which other places are under the dumbass assumption that hoarding paper cups will lead to long term wealth.

I’ll let you know how I get on. In the meantime, don’t forget to go check out my new Flesh Tearers audio drama, Blood in the Machine, that I forgot to tell you about last month.

*You didn’t miss it, did you? I mean, if that’s true, you’re not only blind but are also wearing a set of extra thick dark glasses over an eye patch, and an oversized cowboy hat thats drooping because you spent too long in the rain looking for a bus.

**So why do I keep going to Cineworld? I like movies. It’s close to my house and has good parking. And, shush you.

***Now, I know what you’re thinking – I’m being harsh, unfair even. It’s not the staff’s fault. They just work there and don’t make the rules. Nonsense. It’s their responsibility to challenge daft rules or work hard, get promoted and change said rules. Failing that, how hard would it be to fill out a from saying there was one cup too few in the last delivery. The big boys stole it, is a classic excuse for a reason.

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Cinema, it’s the experience.

At long last, Flesh of Cretacia my first, real book is out. As is The Stromark Massacre, my first Flesh Tearers audio drama, and ‘Torturer’s Thirst’ a new Flesh Tearers short story. In light of all this, I felt I should probably write a blog about them. You know, talk about the writing process and extol the virtues of the novella etc. Proper writer-ey promotional stuff. Instead though, after spending several evenings at my local cinema, I decided to write a letter to Cineworld. Check it out:

 ***

Dear Cineworld Directors*,

I love films. In particular, I love watching films at the cinema. The screen is massive, the sound is loud and the seats have handy little holders for your drinks and snacks**. Once, I bought a projector and tried to emulate the experience in my living room, but the stains on the walls ruined the picture, and Jeff (the burly guy from next door) took away my speakers. But I digress.

Not Jeff.

I don’t have a picture of Jeff. But here’s one of someone Jeff looks like.

I love visiting the cinema so much that the advert that begins, ‘Imagine’, you know, the one with the dust on the theatre chairs that warns us about piracy and the closure of cinemas? Well, honestly, I well up. It makes me so terribly sad to think of a world without cinemas. I really can’t think of anything worse. Nothing.

Rather than stand idly by and let such a catastrophe unfold unchallenged, I’ve decided to write you this letter in the hope of warding off some of the many threats to cinema’s survival.

I frequent your Nottingham branch about twice a week. Sometimes three depending on what’s on. Like last week when I saw Taken 2, Here Comes the Boom, and Sky Fall. But mostly twice. Unless I’ve seen everything or there’s nothing showing that doesn’t have Jennifer Aniston in it. Generally though, I go twice a week.

Last week, during one of my three visits, I went to buy some some popcorn only to be told that you’d ‘run out’. No popcorn? I thought, bemused. But it’s the cinema. There must surely be popcorn. Apparently not. Now, while I applaud your diversification into sweets and ice creams (it certainly saves me sneaking those things in), I think perhaps you’ve given your Concession Experts a little too much to handle. Perhaps limit the number of lines you have on sale to 10. That way your Concession Experts can use their fingers to keep track of the stock ordering. If you really must have more, then I’d suggest removing the Concession Expert’s footwear. Toes make excellent secondary counting aids.

Also last week, I approached a Concession Facilitator in order to purchase some ice cream. He greeted me with the usual friendly stare I’ve come to expect from such focused individuals and asked, ‘Anything else?’ Thirsty and aware that ice cream contains a decent amount of sodium, I answered, ‘Yes. Water, please’. All fairly standard stuff I’ll grant you. Except rather than fetch me the water, he said, ‘It’s two-pounds sixty for water. Is that okay?’

Huh, I thought.

All these years, all these trips to the cinema and I’d never realised the concession stand operated on a barter system. Excited by this new development, I replied, ‘No. How about one-fifty?’ (I was prepared to pay two-pounds but thought I might as well go in low). Clearly a pro, he kept schtum, so I raised my offer to two-pounds. This time he replied, ‘Do you want the water or not?’ Confused by his sudden hard-line approach, and running late for the film, I decided against purchasing the water. I was later to learn that he had no real intention of negotiating about the price of the water. As a suggestion, I think it would probably be for the best if you told your Concession Facilitators not to apologise for the prices. That way they could concentrate on what they do best, offering great customer service, which is after-all why the water costs so much, right?

Speaking of customer service, I think the sense of fun you’ve instilled in the Ticket Checkers is fantastic. This week I watched one of them skipping over a yo-yo. Do you really pay them for that? If so, you must have applicants queuing round the block. Does he get more than the guy who was stood reading a book instead of checking tickets? I do hope so. Though, if it is queue entertainers you’re looking for I’d take a leaf out of Disney’s book and stick your staff in loveable costumes. Perhaps one like this:

Just don't make him angry.

That’d be way more entertaining.

On a final note, I particularly enjoy spending time with your Ticket Keepers while they run through the three separate transactions needed to grant me access to a 3D film. First, they swipe my Cineworld card, handing me a receipt and a ticket. Next up, they charge me the 3D surplus and present me with another receipt. Finally, they charge me for a set of 3D glasses, which come with a complimentary receipt***. Now while I understand touch screens are a lot of fun (I have an iPad. It’s ace), there must be some other way of providing job satisfaction for your staff. Besides, I’m not actually sure your Ticket Keepers understand it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve encountered several of them propping themselves up by their elbows while they try to coax their tongue into forming vowels. Perhaps giving them longer breaks or some Gummy Bears would better motivate them.

Best wishes,

-Andy Smillie

*I assume a film company calls all of its management ‘Directors’ although perhaps you’re ‘Producers’. If so, I apologise.

**Though if you are looking for improvements, some form of fold out tray would be useful. It’s rare to find another patron who’ll let you balance your nachos with extra cheese and hot coffee on their lap.

***I’m no Eco Warrior. If you want to waste a bunch of paper, who am I to argue? But if you must fill my pockets with something, I’d rather it were Gummy Bears. Just saying.

***

I’ll let you know if Cineworld reply. In the meantime, go buy my book.

My first cover.

Check this out:

It’s the cover image for my long-short story ‘Beneath the Flesh’, which is out in January (I think). Rachel Doherty designed the image, and I think she’s done a great job, deploying her wicked-mad photoshop skills to really capture the dark menace of Sanguinius’ angriest sons. Thanks Rach. The only slight fly in the ointment is I’ve yet to finish said story… So, I’ll leave you enjoying Rachel’s handy-work while I get back to writing.