The Weekly Moviegoer - Favoring the Ticket Kiosk
by Christopher Campbell
June 29, 2009
Expect long lines at your local box office this week thanks to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Public Enemies, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. But remember you can always avoid the long line at the ticket booth by buying your tickets at a ticket kiosk instead. No, you don't have to have already purchased your tickets online. As long as you have a debit or credit card, you can just walk up to a kiosk and get your tickets easily and quickly. Plus, you avoid at least one impolite theater employee. Certainly this isn't a new concept, and you're probably reading this and wanting to comment with something like, "how is this news?"
But I find it surprising how many times I go to the theater and see people lined up down the block while the kiosks inside sit mostly unused. The lack of traffic to these ticket machines may have something to do with the fact that they're so quick -- those who use them are probably already in the theater, because it only took them a few seconds to get their movie ticket.
Usually I feel very guilty using self-serve things like ticket kiosks. I hate ringing up my own items at the self-serve registers in supermarkets. And I wish I could still buy subway fare directly from an MTA employee in those booths. If you've ever read Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano," or if you're simply against machines replacing human employees for any job, you probably feel the same way. Especially with unemployment rates as high as they are it's hard to justify or encourage the concept of rendering any gig obsolete.
But I can't help but love the movie theater ticket kiosks. They're friendlier, more efficient and, unlike the live ticket seller, the machine always asks me if I have a Crown Club Card (or MovieWatcher card or whatever cinema chain membership card that may apply). Also, the machine will always give me any due freebie coupon (free small popcorn, free movie ticket, etc) that that membership club awards me. Not to be paranoid, but I swear one live cashier kept one of these coupons for herself.
As they stand, often ignored, ticket kiosks may seem frightening to some customers. I admit that at some of the cinemas I've worked at the machines weren't always reliable. They were often out of tickets/paper and sometimes they didn't work at all. But as a ticket buyer, I've never had a problem with purchasing tickets at a kiosk. Maybe it's just that the theaters I frequent have more kiosks, so when one or two are out of service there are still plenty available. And when they're working, they are so, so simple to use. If you were able to navigate a computer and the internet in order to read this column then you're definitely skilled enough to buy your tickets from a kiosk.
The only other explanation for why people don't use the things is because they don't have a debit or credit card. But I refuse to believe the majority of moviegoers only have cash or only prefer to use cash. I see plenty of people using their cards to pay at the box office, anyway. Why they wait in the line, even a small line, baffles me. Are these people really genuinely interested in keeping that cashier employed?
Hey, there are always the other jobs at the cinema. No ushers seem endangered of losing their position because of robot auditorium cleaners (and moviegoers don't seem to be interested in cleaning up after themselves anytime soon, either). And no concession stand could ever be completely run by computers and machines. I've seen vending machines and other alternatives, but nothing else ever catches on.
The worst idea I ever saw at a theater (one I worked for) was the ability to buy concessions at the ticket kiosk. In theory it seemed smart, at least to the patron fooled into buying their food items on the same machine they buy their tickets on. And it would work in practice, too, if those kiosks had been connected to some computer at the stand, which alerted an employee to prepare the concessions for the prepaying customer. But that particular cinema never figured out a logical and efficient way to make the idea work. So the unknowing customers would purchase their items in advance and then still have to wait in line behind everyone else.
Even if I don't bother with Transformers (the first one bored me) or the third Ice Age movie, I'll be thankful for the ticket kiosks to get me past the crowd and to that concession line quicker this week. And I don't mind waiting in that second line, because I just couldn't ever trust an automated popcorn maker/dispenser (they do exist) anymore than I trust a car that turns into a robot. Plus, I have more respect and admiration for the hardworking staff behind the concession counter. They get paid just as much as the cashier and have a much dirtier and more difficult job.
Ticket kiosk photo courtesy of Doctor_Hu on Flickr.