Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fanatical about Film ... but Complacent about Customers?

Odeon cinema chain logo

Back on August 15th, I managed to catch a showing of the Bourne Ultimatum in London’s Tottenham Court Odeon cinema a couple of hours after the star-spangled Leicester Square premiere.

I made a brief comment at the bottom of the AiB review, saying

(But due to the shiny defect in the middle of the cinema screen, and the ill-focussed picture, I don’t recommend that you pop into Screen 1 at Tottenham Court Road Odeon.)

What I didn’t mention at the time, was what had actually happened. Being the opening night, the cinema was very busy, so the only seats available had been in the VIP section – slightly wider seats with more legroom, bang in the middle of the tiered seating. Priced at a premium too :(

Photo of Bourne Ultimatum poster high above entrance to Odeon London Leicester Square cinema

But there was a shiny patch in the middle of the screen. Every time Jason Bourne’s massive head occupied the centre of the frame, the shiny patch would protrude from his nose!

It was also pretty obvious that much of the screen was out of focus. And not just the normal soft focus that cinema prints tend to adopt. The captions telling the audience which location the action had jumped to (down in the bottom right corner) were very blurry. And while the credits were quite sharp at the top centre of the picture, they were very hazy (to the point of making you squint) at the bottom centre. Not the kind of quality visual experience I’d expected from a cinema chain that advertises itself as being “fanatical about film”.

Bourne films are fast moving and I was in the middle of a row in a very crowded showing, so I didn’t feel like disrupting my viewing as well as that of everyone else by getting up to walk outside to complain in the middle of the film. (Though the next time something went wrong in a cinema I did go out immediately. Live and learn!)

But at the end, I did immediately draw it to the attention of the attendants – are they still called ushers? Agreeing that there could well be a problem, I was directed up to talk to the duty manager who phoned to come down to the ticket desk.

Odeon complimentary cinema ticket

Quickly listening to my description of the problem, she responded with “well the tills are closed and the money’s in the safe so you can’t have a refund”. I was a bit taken aback having not asked for or mentioned anything about a refund. But rather than explaining why there might have been a problem, or what she’d do to check it out, she just repeated that everything was locked up stood looking at me. Sensing that compensation was all she was thinking about, I offered her my name and address. “No, can’t do that” she said, before turning away. Conversation over.

As well as writing up a quick review, I raised a complaint through Odeon’s website, receiving back an automated response telling me that my

“query has been received and we will get back to you shortly.”

Time passes ... as the old text-only computer adventure games would have said.

After a week or so, I resubmitted the complaint text, mentioning that no one had got back to me. And then I dropped it. Except that every week I got an email telling me about the fine films on offer at Tottenham Court Road (a by-product of ordering the tickets online and forgetting to tick the junk mail box) and every couple of week’s I’d end up walking part Odeon’s Whitcomb Street headquarters (tucked in just south of Leicester Square) and I’d remember that they’d ignored me.

So eventually on November 16th I phoned up the head office number and was told to send an email to their bookings address rather than the customer service address.

That elicited a brief human response apologising for the lack of response, and passing the “email on to the cinema’s management and general manager”. It finished with a prediction:

“I’m sure that you will get a swift response.”

More time passed. Ten days went by before I emailed back on the 26th.

Odeon complimentary cinema ticket

Finally on 1 December, I got a reply, stating that there had been a problem with the print on August 15th, that was sorted out shortly afterwards, and that “Guests” should have been made aware of it. A complimentary guest ticket (normal seat rather than VIP!) arrived in the post a few days later. Given the lack of Odeon/UCI cinemas in Northern Ireland at the moment, I’ll have to wait until the eight-screen Odeon opens in Victoria Square next March before I can use it locally. And I’m not keen to go back to the Odeon in London.

Fanatical about Film ... but Complacent about Customers.

And if you do want to complain to the Odeon, probably best to write to “Odeon Guest Services, FREEPOST ODEON”. Harder to ignore a piece of paper than a web-response form or an email. And why not consider supporting the smaller cinema chains and independent cinemas with your trade. Rant over.


Timothy Belmont said...

That girl had a bad attitude; so much for staff training...
At least you got a result. Anyone know if the new Belfast Odeon will have one Imax screen?

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Hope not! The Imax in the Odyssey doesn't seem top afford any decent cinematic prints - just does natural history and space flicks - so I can't see anyone else having any luck with a big screen!

Timothy Belmont said...

It's certainly doing Natural History now- along with the other dinosaurs. Last time I was at the Odyssey, its steel shutters were firmly down. A tad disappointing, even if an ambitious project originally. I've been to the BFI one in London several times.

Anonymous said...

I work for an Odeon cinema...and i would recommend that you never take a job there, ever.

i have worked for the company for not even 2 weeks, and the attitude i have had from the managers is ridiculous.

now, some of what i'm about to say is obviously not the managers' fault, it's head office and the powers that be, but let me give you a little run down of how my 10 days employment has gone thus far:

I was sat in a room with a few other new employees and 'trained' for my lovely new job. I had a team leader 'training' me; by training, i mean that we sat in this room for 5 hours and watched 4 videos while the TL gossiped with the members of staff who kept disrupting our induction and wandered in and out, leaving us new kids to 'get on with it'. i suspect that the notes she and her mate were writing in front of us were slagging off us new starters, judging from the giggling, 'discreet pointing' and then the way the notes were carefully torn up before being binned. we were told nothing of the actual duties we would be doing, just watching fire safety videos which had not very much to do with the job anyhow. none of the boys got any uniform, only us 2 girls, and even then it was a shirt, cap and apron for full time work, even though we should have gotten at least 3 shirts for full time work. we went through our personnel files and even had to fill in our own contracts!! i mean, how much time does it take to write people's names on a bit of paper? Also, i was nearly fired because my boyfriend had started there a week before, told pettily that we'd be put on oppostie shifts and would never be allowed to work together (which didn't last when they realised i wasnt' gonna kneel down and give him a blowjob by the popcorn machine and that we were both completely capable of working out what he had to do with no help from any management).

Now this is fun...rather than the managers training us, we were all dumped on sections (ie floor, kiosk etc) with basic team members who certainly weren't getting paid any extra to train us and therefore didn't care to bother telling us what to do. i was pulled into the office on my first day as a result and told my performance thus far was 'concerning', because i was frustrated and bored and no one would help me out with what i had to do. i mean, i'd been wandering round sweeping up and cleaning bins, and the most input i got was from some snotty little boy who decided that because i was new (he actually said this) he thought he'd boss me about for fun.

I found out that was i wasn't going to be receiving any pay until the 23rd of feb. fair enough, i guess, except that meant i'd be working 5 weeks with no pay and i have rent and food to buy. so we decided to request a sub and were told point blank that we couldn't have one. We also realised we were being paid under the minimum wage, and that because the cut off date for pay was the 6th of the month, we'd be working for 6 weeks and getting paid for 2, maybe 3 in my fella's case, as he started a week before me. technically, we are working for under minimum wage 2 months in arrears. they didn't care that we had no food and were falling behind with our rent.
This is the day I get put on the retail section for the first time, struggling to run the tills and the hot food vending station on my own, while a manager and team leader (the same TL who'd 'trained' me) stood watching me and having a laugh riot over an argos catalogue. how is that right?

basically the company gets away with so much because it is a massive company. the bigger the company, the less they care about their employees, we are expendable. this is turn makes the managers when they get to management level not care either. I'm sorry you had a rubbish time going to the cinema :( but at least you don't have to rely on them to pretty much watch you starve. Some of the managers are ok, don't get me wrong, but the policy-makers seem to be evil. how can a company run properly when they devote so little time and effort to making sure their staff are happy and capable? how can the managers and team leaders who get paid more leave it to the basic team members to do their jobs for them?

sorry for the rant...just upset. i've been trying to find workers complaints about the odeon and thats how i came across this page.

Unknown said...

i think it is a disgrace what i have just read from an employee in a cinema. treat people with respect. you will get a good days work from anyone if they are treated properly.people given job titles that haven,t done a days work before.just because they have had a higher education people do not have common scense.on less they have lived in the real world.have open days and judge people on what they can show you they are capable of doing. over priced cinema,s are going to lose out in the end because they don't employ people with a love of cinema instead of trumpt up exams results i could come in and run your cinema top notch!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to make a point
that i have worked for odeon for the last year and a half

and i expericencd now of these problems

all the managers are lovely,
and the team leaders properly train all new staff, also all the team member that work in the cinema i work in are very helpful and give all new starts a helping hand, everyone is briefed with what to do on the area they are working on, any guest complaints are delt with efficently and too the high standard properly.

in my work when and issue arose with someones pay and cut off dates
they were given a sub of money, there are many couples within my branch and they all work together on shift responsibly without any eyebrows raised.

I couldn't dream of working for any other company, and for people who think odeon are a rubbish company should reconsider their opinions

Anonymous said...

Below is an email I have just sent to Odeon:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I attended a screening of 'The Awakening' in your Swiss Cottage branch today at two fifty, with my friend who is a wheelchair user with limited mobility. After our disgust at the (so-called) disabled access from a previous cinema trip to your Marble Arch branch - where we had to endure a nauseating trip in a manky service elevator - we settled upon your recently refurbished Swiss Cottage cinema, I even scouted the premises out before hand & seemed impressed with what I saw.

However, today was a humourless 'comedy of errors', starting with trying to wheel my friend through your disability entrance, only to find it locked & having to bump his chair up the front step anyway. May I ask, what the point was in installing such a costly door if it is to remain locked? Which seamlessly leads me to the next useless device you have installed - at what I imagine cost a considerable few quid. The wheelchair lift in screen three was 'out of order' - though I must admit, I suspected it worked fine but the staff attempting to operate it were clueless as to how. Only a suspicion I might add, but then again, is either scenario acceptable. I come from Scotland, where the answer is no either way - and in the eyes of the law.

After forcing my friend out of his chair & helping him struggle & hobble up the steps, I then went to pay for our tickets & purchase some beverages. This took almost twenty minutes. So I'm twenty minutes early for the film in order to accommodate my friends disability - yet it takes us forty minutes to even settle down in the screen ... The foyer wasn't particularly busy, just that there was one (very helpful) young man attending to roughly fifteen peoples food & drink desires as well as tickets - what was wrong with a separate food area & box office? It seemed to work a treat that method - or was the cost cutting to save money to contribute to all the fancy disability access gadgets that sit around as nothing more than fancy expensive ornaments that do little more than 'look the part?' ... I had to ask the manager myself to assist his attendant in serving frustrated customers - get this, your manager was too busy receiving a stock delivery, a delivery that for easy access of the trolleys, he'd gone & unlocked the disability access door. So that's what it's for then?

To cap it all off, the screen (screen three) was utterly baltic. We had to keep our jackets on & we were still chittering ...

I am not a middle-aged, torn-faced whinger looking for any excuse to moan. I am a thirty year old professional who works in the film industry & I am appalled. Appalled that my colleagues & I work meticulously in turning out a product to satisfy an audiences entertainment needs, only to have it distributed to a cinema that treat that audience (able-bodied or not) with such an air of contempt. But mainly I am appalled that anyone with a disability would not be greeted with any - at least a modicum - of priority or respect ... especially from a brand such as Odeon. It is my opinion - & without any great stretch of the imagination - that the failure to accommodate successfully any disabled customer, is an act of discrimination. I'm sure you would agree, otherwise why would you have made any effort to install the lifts etc

I write a column for a newspaper in Glasgow & as my friend is a well known performer up there (as well as internationally) I'm sure my readers would keenly devour my take on our disastrous cinema outing. Before I do so however, I would be interested to know what you at Odeon have to say about the situation, what you might think & most importantly, what you will do.

Yours Faithfully,

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

I hope you get a decent reply ... and hope that Odeon take your points onboard and sharpen up their service so that all customer can enjoy the cinema experience they pay (through the nose) for.

Anonymous said...

I used to work for Odeon up until 9 months ago. I had just had enough. I had worked for them since 2000, I started as a Team Member then a Team Leader and worked in many cinemas as a Manager, and it was a great company to work for up until about 2/3 years ago. All Odeon care about now is how much money they make on the food people buy when they go to the cinema, and how many Odeon Premiere Cards are sold. Don't get me wrong businesses are there to make money, but when they start to rip people off that really annoyed met. As a manager I used to have to give staff members warnings if they did not sell enough Odeon Premiere cards or upsell when they were serving on the Retail area. From some of my colleagues that have also moved on to bigger and better things, I have heard that Odeon is a joke in the distribution world, as they no longer work along side the distributors to promote the films as much as they did before. I think Odeon have take the quote "If you build it they will come" a bit too far, and need knocking down a peg or two.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love the covert ageism here - I am not an ancient whinger, just a cool trendy 30 year old! Only the middle aged and older complain? Spoils the whole story and over-rides any sympathy!

Pablo said...

You've probably already used the guest pass but just so you're aware, the red guest pass you have photographed actually allows you to see any film at any ODEON cinema in premier seats and 3D so they have actually refunded you fairly. As much as I hate to support them.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Thanks Pablo - yes, voucher used 6 years ago!