22 July 2015

Rants | Cineworld's Money-Spinning Refunds Policy

Booking refs: WL7ZTSM & WK6P4DQ

I’m generally reluctant to book things in advance for fear of things like this, but as Cineworld offer slightly discounted prices for online bookings, I decided to make an exception. And so on 4th July 2015 I booked three tickets to see Minions the following afternoon as a treat for my three-year-old daughter. She’d been watching the trailers religiously on YouTube and couldn’t have been more excited about it.

On 5th July 2015, she woke up covered in chickenpox. I logged into my Cineworld account online to find, to my surprise, that I couldn’t simply amend my booking, let alone cancel it. I found this shocking given the otherwise in-depth nature of the booking system, which even allows whoever is booking to select their seats in advance. Annoyed, I telephoned 0333 00 33 444 – the telephone number at the bottom of my e-mail confirmation (see left-hand e-mail below) – and instantly incurred a 10p charge, only to be immediately told to redial on 0871 200 2000, charged at 12p per minute. It then took nearly fifteen minutes to get through to someone, by which time I’d incurred call charges of around £1.90 overall.

The spectacularly unhelpful call centre operative that I’d waited so long to speak to told me that the booking couldn’t be amended, and that I’d have to hang up; log back into the website; and make a fresh booking before calling back with both booking reference numbers so that the original booking could be refunded. Why this initial call-avoiding information couldn’t be set out in the booking confirmation e-mail, I have no idea; I can only speculate that there’s money to be made in getting punters to make a needless call.

Struggling to suppress my anger, I politely hung up and logged into the website, where I discovered that bookings could only be made up to the middle of the week, at which time my little girl would still be quarantined. I called back, waited nearly twenty minutes – so we’re up to at least £4.00 in call charges by now – and, despite being almost apoplectic with rage, managed to politely explain the situation to another call centre operative, Lucas. As kindly as I could, I then expressed my grievance with his colleague who plainly didn’t listen to a word that I’d said when I’d explained that we wouldn’t be able to come to the cinema for at least 7-10 days, lest my daughter infect others. Lucas reassured me that as long as the tickets were not collected, they could still be refunded for up to 45 days following the original scheduled performance - I didn’t need to rebook immediately. All of this information could have been set out in the booking confirmation e-mail, thus avoiding my first two calls.

Rather than cut my losses, and desperately wanting to reward a brave and, by that time, scabby pock-marked little girl with a cinema trip, I eventually rebooked for 14th July 2015. Having watched the film (and the preceding forty-five minutes of adverts and trailers, which my daughter only sat through because she was still lacking her usual lustre... but that’s another rant for another day), I telephoned the 0871 number again. It took twenty-four minutes to speak to someone this time, with my call charges now easily exceeding a quarter of the refund that I was hoping to get. The operative that I spoke to told me that he couldn’t process the refund as they were in the process of moving the call centre “to another country” (he wouldn’t say which) and the system kept crashing. He took my mobile number and undertook to call me back the following day to confirm that the refund had been issued. He never did.

On 17th July I telephoned again and spent another fifteen minutes queuing before speaking with Sophie, who said that “it looked like” the refund had been made on 14th July 2015 following my conversation with her colleague. I pointed out that this wasn’t sufficient and that I wanted her to check and confirm that the refund had been sent. She put me on hold for an unconvincing twenty to thirty seconds before confirming absolutely categorically positively that the refund had been sent and would be in my account within five days of 14th July 2015.

Guess what? 

It wasn’t.

This evening I’ve just spoken with another unhelpful (but this time, at least honest) call centre operative who told me that the whole system was falling apart in the migration from the UK to overseas and that the best he could advise me was to write a strongly-worded e-mail to customer.services@cineworld.co.uk (an e-mail address that’s closely guarded, for obvious reasons). You’re reading it.

Never again will I book in advance to see a movie at Cineworld; never again will I even frequent Cineworld - not unless they issue me with a refund together with some form of recompense, anyway. I’ve incurred around £12.00 in call charges chasing a £20.31 refund which could have been avoided altogether had Cineworld incorporated a simple “cancel / amend booking” feature in their online booking system rather than shamelessly and transparently try to deter their customers from pursuing refunds with their needlessly complex and disproportionately expensive excuse for a system.

Love film? Hate Cineworld.