Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AMC Theaters Stubs card review: 0 Stars

Sadly, AMC laid to rest its beloved MovieWatcher card and replaced it with a major downgrade, otherwise known as the "Stubs" card. And yes, included in those changes are the disappearance countless 'points' MovieWatchers accumulated over the years as well as everything truly great about a discount movie card.

If you've been to an AMC Theater recently, you know about Stubs - it is shamelessly plugged to every patron that walks in - at the ticket booth AND at the concession stand. Naturally, it is touted as the greatest thing since bad 3-D made a comeback at your local cinema, but the deal is really more of a steal. (Perhaps you've seen one of the countless brochures lying on the table inside the theater - note the back of the brochure - an entire folded page lists nothing but endless small print, highlighting the countless ways Stubs finds even more ways to cheat customers out of good deals.)

For starters, movie card programs are successful as they offer incentives for patrons to return to theaters again and again as continuous swipes stack up to accumulated points, which turn into free concession items or movie tickets. The Stubs program, on the other hand, ensures more money for AMC Theaters while placing an increased cost on consumers (during pressing economic times, no less). Stubs offers several extras that consumers don't want or need. While rewards cards are normally complimentary, the Stubs program charges patrons $12 up front (also advertised as a dollar a month so it doesn't seem so bad). Considering the last AMC rewards program was free, this doesn't bode well. Charging customers for 'incentives' to come to an already overpriced movie theater experience does little to encourage customers to continue walking through the door and thus misses the point and defeats the purpose of an incentive-based rewards card).

Among the 'perks': For every $100 you spend, you get $10 back. As a patron, you are already charged $12 upfront, so by the time you actually make it to $100 (How often do you go to the movies?) and you get your first 'reward', you already paid for it yourself, and a few dollars extra. You also get free refills on soda and popcorn - just what our country needs when it's facing an obesity epidemic. (Would you like more butter with that? You'll have to get it yourself, because the butter is self-serve.) How much soda or popcorn does a person need? Too many liquids will send you running to the restroom during mid-movie and popcorn is simply filler - you can only eat so much of it (or would want to). Due to rising costs, most people eat prior to attending the theater - having healthier options available. Not to mention, it barely costs AMC a thing to pour more soda in your cup or top off your popcorn - this boils down to mere cents.

Another 'perk' is that patrons who order tickets online don't have to pay purchase fees. There are several websites where you can purchase your movie tickets without fees. (AMC's website adds fees for online ticket purchases - just so they can justify what a 'deal' your Stubs card is. Not to mention, ordering tickets online saves THEM money as they can lay off more employees and automate their system. As such, why are YOU being charged more money for this?

Also available through the Stubs program is an online stubs collection so you can keep track of the films you've seen. I don't know anyone who cares about this - if you are that interested in a collection, you can keep your paper stubs or save a copy of your yearly movie lists on your computer - this is a simple online application that sounds far more interesting (or useful) than it is.

Some AMC Theaters offer "Student Night" or "Senior Night" once a week, though there are terms and conditions (a midnight movie will be counted as the next day, sneak peaks don't apply, etc). Given that students are presently drowning in loans, it's unfortunate that not all AMC Theaters offer this, nonetheless one day per week. You can buy gold or silver passes, yet many restrictions exist on these - if you try to watch a new movie with a silver pass, you will receive a $1.50 upcharge that defeats the purpose of buying a pass to begin with.

As an avid moviegoer (and once AMC patron and fan), I couldn't be more disappointed by the introduction of such an awful program, far inferior to MovieWatcher and several movie rewards cards at competing chains (who now have my business and full attention).

In this economy, all consumers are watching their expenses. There is never a good time to implement absurd policies - though if there was, this certainly isn't it. Times are tough and customers want to spend their hard-earned money on chains that have policies which prioritize the consumer, not the corporation. After a long day, a customer wants to walk into a theater chain and have a relaxing experience, not hear employees forcibly try to dupe them into purchasing a Stubs card. I have no doubt that some consumers (those who fail to research the card or read the fine print) will purchase the card and the company will make some money off of the idea in the short-term, but this is NOT a long-term idea and will turn away the loyal patrons AMC had, MovieWatchers and film fans alike. Sadly, these new policies make it clear that consumers and their satisfaction are no longer the top priority.

Aside from Stubs, several areas at AMC Theaters could use improvements - not excluding the introductory experiences. The theater promo reel informs theater patrons not to use their cell phones or text, yet the commercials played in the theater are an endless barrage of cell phone advertisements, phone Apps, and products with web addresses. Is this ironic to anyone else? It certainly encourages cell phone use, making it unlikely consumers will actually turn off their phones. (Once again, revenue placed over consumer experience.)

AMC’s policies should make moviegoing experiences more pleasant and customer-friendly, not the opposite. Want to share your AMC experiences at the website? You'll have to sign in and divulge all of your personal information and post your comments in public forums, making the process more complicated and invasive than necessary (bye-bye blank entry fields). You shouldn't have to join a website or sign up for anything to leave customer feedback, something most companies value, simplify, and privately communicate with consumers.

What a disappointing direction AMC has taken - this type of corporate greed and poor management will reflect in lost consumer base and detract from finances, not create loyal patrons. (Take a lesson from Netflix.) Support your local movie theaters and chains that have YOUR best interests at heart.