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TOPIC: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks?

When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 11:47 #10612

  • Mike
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I was not present for this and would have handled it differently. But: what would you have done?......We were close to selling out Shrek and we were telling people that there are 15 seats left, etc. They still bought tickets. They the Came back out. And asked for refunds which the cashier gave them. 24 refunds for one show and we still had empty seats.

How do you handle this situation?

How many refunds do you do under what circumstances?

Thanks/ Mike

[This message has been edited by Mike (edited May 26, 2004).]
Michael Hurley
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 12:02 #10613

  • Reel-Life
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Maybe you should have a policy that if someone buys tickets knowing there are only 15 seats left(or any number you want), that they cannot get a refund, and will have to sit seperate.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 14:20 #10614

  • puzzlegut
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I think it was a good idea to let people know when you are close to selling out. That way, if they are in a group and do not want to sit seperately from each other, they could come back for a different show. I personally do not think they should have gotten refunds knowing that it was so close to selling out.

I know at our single screen, we sold out for 4 of our 6 shows during the weekend. We had a few people complain and say there was nowhere to sit. It was obviously a lie since we generally stop selling tickets at a certain number so that there will be 20-30 seats unsold. That way, people should still be able to find a seat. We cannot promise that people in large groups will be able to sit next to each other, especially if they come in late. We had one woman complain that she prepurchased her tickets and said there was no place to sit. I think she ended up staying for the movie anyway, even though there were plenty of extra seats left over. I think they just wanted to sit all together and that was impossible.

I don't know how big your theater is or how often you sell out, but maybe you might want to incorporate a policy where you stop selling tickets and leave some seats unsold. Hopefully that way, it might prevent people from being upset if they all can't sit together.

Also, maybe you should consider having a policy where all refunds must be approved by the manager. That way, an employee cannot give out refunds if they are not suppose to, such as an employee giving a customer a refund because they do not like the movie they are watching.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 15:03 #10615

  • rodeojack
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This is a great question, Mike. I have a 20 year-old quad that has auditoriums crammed with 30% more seats than they should have... for "house overhead" calculations... not customer comfort!

There are unquestionably bad seats in my place. The ones on the sides of the front rows would give you a neckache after 2 hours watching.

Personally, I feel guilty selling those seats, though they do exist... will be counted by a checker... and will be occasionally used by the oddball pre-teen.

Our POS system has a function in it that warns the sellers when an auditorium is sold past a preset number. Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with this yet (450 seat rooms are a bit harder to sell out in this market).

Thinking on the subject however, perhaps an idea to consider would be to sell to a certain point, then announce that the show is technically sold out, however, there are some seats left that might not be among the best in the house. Offer them for sale, but advise the customer in advance that you will not be able to refund the ticket if they find the location unsuitable. That puts the risk on the customer's side, and gives them the opportunity to choose a less-than-great seat... or maybe get in line early for the next show!
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 22:18 #10616

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You would think that people would know enough to get to the theater early so that they can get good seats. I guess they cannot complain if a theater sells out or runs out of good seats.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 26 May 2004 23:52 #10617

  • muviebuf
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Mike - Just playing devil's advocate here but if you were not present then how do you really know that there were empty seats?

Although your ticket count may show seats available are you sure that you did not have patrons who switched auditoriums (those who pay for one movie and then stay to see two or three in other adjoining auditoriems?)

There is another problem that I have never
found a solution for - although admittedly it tends to happen more in bad weather. I have seen patrons throw their coats on adjoining seats and then tell later ariving patrons that someone is sitting there.

Even though you can tell the patrons it is tight for seats or seats are scattered there is always going to be someone who thinks they can pull it off and then usually these are the people who complain the loudest when the seats they want really aren't there. In a certain sense this is a no win situation but I think you have to bow to patron sensibility if they don't like (or can't find) appropriate seats.

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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 27 May 2004 00:12 #10618

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Sellouts are a rarity nowadays, but I always sell a few (5 or 6) seats short, and tell the late comers that seating will probably NOT be together... If they come out with the old "I can't find a seat" excuse and want a refund, I FIND 'em a seat... A guy with a coat on a seat will move it and let someone sit there, IF the manager tells him he MUST...

What really frosts me is the situation in which they insist on buying a seat, so you sell it to them, and turn away the ones behind them... THEN they come out whining about not finding a seat and want a refund... NO WAY do they get a refund IF I have turned away someone else who would have taken any available seat!... I can count and KNOW how many seats and tickets are sold: it may not be what they would have chosen, but a seat is a seat, and THAT'S what they paid for!...
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 27 May 2004 01:27 #10619

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Once again, outaframe and I are on the same wavelength.

I too, being a subrun, seldom have sellouts any longer. Unlike the good old days as a dollar house when I would have at least one sellout each weekend, but I still have a few each year.

I have 557 seats all on one floor. When I hit the 500 sold mark, I announce "Single seats Only!" Not many people are willing to split up, so often no more come in after that point. Very popular movies will generate some single seat takers. I cut that off at 520 sold, therefore there are always at least 37 empty seats left somewhere in the theatre... seldom are there any doubles left at that point. I normally do not give out stubs, unless people ask for them. However, once we start selling single seats, everyone then gets a stub, and are told that they WILL have to split up, with NO refunds given. They often agree, thinking that they will find two together somewhere, and in they go. A few minutes later they come out and complain that there are no double seats, and hold out their stubs for a refund. Of course they insist that no one told them that there were only single seats. I then tell them that stubs were only given to those that were told, and they sheepishly return to the auditorium.

What frosts me is when someone comes out when we only have about 250 people in the theatre and they tell me there aren't any seats left together, and want a refund. When I tell them there are 300 left they say... NO WAY. I then take them inside and show them completely empty rows in the front third of the theatre or lots of 2s, 3s and 4s anywhere in the side sections, and they say... "We can't sit there. We want two together in the very middle." Usually at that point I can even find two together somewhere in the middle and I give them those, but sometimes they will then say... "but we don't want people directly next to us." I then politely tell them: "I'm sorry, but you're not at home in your living room, you're in a theatre where you must expect to have people sitting next to you... no refunds are given as long as there are seats available."

As I WILL NOT give a refund in a situation like that, they usually stay. There have been a few over the years that left without getting a refund and probably have never come back. It is my opinion that my theatre is better off without that kind of patron so it doesn't bother me a bit. The few I have lost make for a better place for the many that stay and continue to come.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 27 May 2004 09:29 #10620

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I agree with your ending comments Roxy. The theaters would be better off without those kind of customers.

I know there have been a few times when people would complain that there is no place to sit and would ask for a refund. In these cases, our ticket seller will generally try to find seats for these people and generally do. I think I can only recall one time where a person, even though seats for found for them, absolutely did not want to stay for the movie.

Depending on the theater and size of the area, perhaps when you are close to selling out, you can let people go into the auditorium to see if they can find available seats before buying their tickets. I know we have done that at our single screen before when we are close to selling out. I know this will not work for all theaters in all cities since some people may be dishonest and not pay for tickets. Perhaps it is an option that some theaters might be able to do.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 27 May 2004 14:15 #10621

  • BECKWITH1
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We run RTS software here as do many of you. We start our low seat warning at 12 seats left in the two small houses (66 & 88). Everyone is warned that they may not find seats together. I go in and start finding seats for people. This way we can sell every last seat. However, it is not infrequent for the last groups of people to decide that it is more important for them to sit together than to see that particular movie. In that case we give them refunds or they choose to switch their tickets to another movie. In the meantime, we may have turned away customers who may have taken the last 2-4 seats if they hadn't already been sold. Unfortunately, for us that is just how the business works. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to sell down to the last seat in these two small houses.

In our 2 large houses (322 & 314) I had the low seat warning kicking in with 40 seats left. A sellout was set at 20 seats left. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we sold out for Shrek 2 for the first time. I went in and started finding seats for people, but it is much harder in these big auditoriums than it is in the little ones. Again, I feel fortunate that as many nice people found seats to sit in as the ones that were left were all single seats against the side walls. Surprisingly no one complained and we didn't have any unhappy people. I have since reset our low seat warning to 60 seats and our sell out to 30 seats.

Philosophically, I don't mind giving people refunds for movies that they haven't seen. If they are unsatisfied in any way and want their money back BEFORE the movie starts I can't see why that would be a problem. If I refused to give it back I would wonder about my business ethics since I would be only interested in the MONEY and not in my customers.

Now, my market is very competitive and it would appear that my competition will give passes for anything if the customers are to be believed. We routinely refuse requests for passes or refunds for reasons that we consider unacceptable: 1)a mother saw nearly the entire movie of Mean Girls with her kids and then came out complaining about ratings related content. She hadn't done her homework and wasn't even aware that it was rated PG-13. She says that we owed her passes or a refund because we should have warned her at the boxoffice about the content. She used the usual line "I'm never coming back here again" after we politely declined her request. Now, I always refund or give passes to people who come out of a movie in the first 15 minutes to 1/2 an hour with a ratings complaint. Of course, they are not going to watch the rest of the movie with passes in hand.
2) I have also been held over the coals for handling our sellouts in our little theaters exactly as described above. Apparently we were the designated babysitters of a group of teens/preteens who were unable to find seats together in our 66 seater. They chose to switch their tickets to New York Minute. We thought everything was handled well. Then the parents started complaining that we didn't make any accommodation for their kids and we owed them passes for the inconvenience of not getting seats together in 13 Going on 30. Refunds were not acceptable because the parents were not available to pick the kids up. The alternative movie they chose wasn't acceptable because it wasn't their first choice. Also, seats in the first two rows of a movie theater are unacceptable. Of course I didn't get anywhere when I explained that we only have 6 rows of seats in that theater. (At least 2 seats were available in the back row because I put people there after they left). Of course these parents are never coming back here either. 3) We refused to give a mother her money back when she showed up on a weeknight claiming that her kids were in here over the weekend and had trouble with some boys so they left. She couldn't get them to come in and ask for her money back because they refused so she did. Unfortunately, she didn't bring any evidence that they were ever here - like maybe some ticket stubs. All she had was her statement that they were here. We had no knowledge of any such incident and we certainly didn't have any kids to help identify whether they were even here.

We've also had temperature complaints in the auditoriums mostly in the summer when they are judged to be too cold by women while the men aren't complaining. When I get a thermometer in there it seems to be in the range of 72 - 74 degrees which is in the acceptable range and I know that draftiness isn't the problem. We don't have complete control over our auditorium temperatures as they are automatically adjusted by a total building system. We basically can't make the system change the temperature in an auditorium within the 1-2 hours that a patron will be in there. Anyhow, I've had people demand passes and then expect me to let them watch the rest of the movie.

We've done a lot of thinking about the legions of complainers and their gripes. We believe that the business was previously run in a way that rewarded people for complaining. So they complain and expect to get rewarded. We don't see things that way. We believe that it is up to us to run a good show and try to meet our customers needs, but it is impossible to satisfy everyone all of the time. Occasionally, some little thing will go wrong and if we feel that the show was not up to our standard then we give out passes. We reward parents with passes who do the responsible thing and take their disruptive child out of the theater. We don't offer either passes or refunds lightly. We think that our business and our own personal outlook on life will be better if we decline requests for refunds when we feel that they are inappropriate and then we let the people go to see movies elsewhere. We keep the nice people who like what we do.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 27 May 2004 23:06 #10622

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BECKWITH1:
<B>
Philosophically, I don't mind giving people refunds for movies that they haven't seen. If they are unsatisfied in any way and want their money back BEFORE the movie starts I can't see why that would be a problem. If I refused to give it back I would wonder about my business ethics since I would be only interested in the MONEY and not in my customers.</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You made a good point here. If a person asks for a refund before a movie starts, then I don't think that's a big problem. However, if someone watches 1/2 hour or so of the movie and comes out and complains about something or waits until the movie is over to complain about the movie, then I would say no to a refund.

There was one situation where 2 people were the only people in the movie and after it was done, they said the framing was off for the last 20 mins of the movie. They said they didn't say anything before because they didn't want to miss any of the movie. I guess the 2 people weren't too upset but the one guy said half jokingly "We wouldn't mind getting free passes".

Another more recent situation was when about 10-15 into a movie and a guy came out and asked if our ceiling lights could be turned completely off because the light reflecting off the seats was hurting his wifes eyes. I thought this was a rather odd thing to say but my partner told him that the lights could not be turned completely off (even though they were dimmed quite low) because we don't have aisle lights and it's a safety hazard to not have any lights in the auditoriums. I guess the couple was sitting underneath one of the lights and since there was only about 10 people in the auditorium, my partner told him that they could probably move where the light wouldn't bother them. The guy was rather rude and said "Well, you do what you have to do but I guess we won't be coming back again". In the end, the guy and his wife ended up staying for the rest of the movie. I guess the light couldn't have hurt his wife's eyes that badly.

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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 28 May 2004 10:49 #10623

  • rodeojack
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Beckwith... I'd love to have you over here! You've dealt with most of my laundry list of "ideal patrons"!


We will give refunds if the feature hasn't been on more than 10 minutes or so. I don't give any slack for ratings disputes, because I put ratings in every advertising I have out there... posters, newspaper, telephone, web site, on-line ticketing... everything. If they don't see them, they can't read, which brings up questions as to how they knew what we were playing!

We have a very short window on when we'll give refunds for. We do NOT give refunds or passes on any situation where we've had to eject a customer after the show has started... but that's for another thread.

The fact that other theatres in my market say one thing, then do another (because the managers don't want to be in the customers' faces) drives me up a wall. My doors have "No Outside Food Or Drink" on them. The customers have to pass another such sign at the ticket podium. Yet, we deal with more of this than I'd like to see... because the customers are used to being "home free" once they get into the auditorium. There used to be a time (maybe still is... I don't know) when customers could go into an auditorium, watch the trailers, then go out and get a refund. I haven't seen that here since the last Star Wars... so I think the practice has died out in my area.

We don't allow children under 13 into our theatre without a paying adult who must accompany them through the same film. That kills some of our younger patronage... but it also eliminates us as the area's babysitter... which is fine by me. We also enforce the 'R' rating. I don't let Mom or Dad walk their kids to the boxoffice and announce that they are old enough to watch the picture by themselves. In cases where they've bought a ticket, then left out an exit, it's not unusual for us to bring the kids out and have them call their parents to bick them up.

I set our heat at 69 and our air conditioners at 72. When heat is required, most customers have arrived with coats or sweaters. It's easier to keep (or put) your coat on than deal with overheated rooms, so I've generally compromised by keeping them just on the cool side. We have digital thermostats in all auditoriums, which maintain the temperature within 1 degree (once the rooms heat & stabilize), so the customers don't notice changes between cycles. If you're using older mercury-tube thermostats, you probably have a 5-7 degree range, which customers will notice quickly.

You can not be all things to all people. If you try, you fail to be much of anything to anyone. After learning that bit of wisdom, I'm comfortable with the makeup of my customer base... I enjoy serving them and I don't get hung up over those who don't "fit" within my comfort range. By sending those people to other theatres in my area, I maintain my business as an enjoyable place for my customers to patronize, and for me to work in.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 28 May 2004 20:35 #10624

  • Rialto
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Being an arthouse guy, I have a little different take on this subject because my core customers are frequent movie-goers and the new ones we pick-up with films that cross over like Bowling for Columbine, Frida, and the like are ones we'd like to keep. But at the core, I agree with Beckwith. We have RTS. When we have busy shows, when the theatre gets about 60% full, I or a manager goes in and makes the "squish together" announcement asking people to eliminate vacant seats between groups and get their coats out of the chairs they aren't sitting in. Then when RTS starts giving the warning, we announce first 4 rows to the box office line. If people can't decide, we have them buy a ticket and tell them if they can't find a seat they like, bring it back before the previews end and we'll gladly give them a refund, but they gotta have their ticket stub. We sell as many seats as we can and usually hold the show about 3 minutes and run the first trailer with the lights up. People who still come to the box office are advised as to the seating and either buy a ticket or we suggest another movie or showtime. Now most of our patrons are adults not kids, so we don't have the parental crap that some of you have to deal with. However, the older the crowd skews, the less likely they are to want to sit one butt in every seat. Sunday matinee is the worst in that regard. Of course being an arthouse and having our busy season in the winter makes all the coat stuff even more fun.

But ultimately, we are in the business of giving people reasons to come out to the movies, so we really try not to piss people off but also not to get taken for a ride by our customers.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 29 May 2004 13:00 #10625

  • BurneyFalls
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Rialto, you could turn your heat down in the winter so they are forced to wear their coats--that's what my nearest Cinemark does.
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Re: When ticket buyers want to refund their tiks? 30 May 2004 10:23 #10626

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This situation took place at our four-screen on Friday.

Our assistant manager had problems with a group of kids (this isn't the first time those kids caused problems) where they bought tickets for a movie and they were screaming in the auditorium. When they were asked to leave and they wouldn't, the police were called to escort them out of the building. Later on in the night, the parents of one of the kids came back and demanded a refund for their kid. Our manager refused to give them a refund and the father of the kid said they were going to call the police and tell them that our manager stole their money.

If the parents acted like that, it makes you wonder where the kids get it from.
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