Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Popcorn Consumer

Please allow me to take a moment to share with you a typical conversation I have with theater cashiers at snack stands, almost always at the big chain theaters:

Me: "Hi, I'd like a medium diet coke and a medium popcorn please."
Cashier: "You know, if you get the combo you can get a large drink and large popcorn for cheaper."
Me: "... Ugh, that's just annoying. I'll take the mediums please." (I would like to note whether or not I take the deal greatly depends on my mood at the moment of the conversation - and length of the movie).

Now, at the face you may ask why I am posting about this. Well, I would like to note if you can't see the problem here, leave now. For what I say will likely fall upon your ears as weak as a pebble on a mountain. So, let's begin.

My complaint with the above is simple: It's STUPID. As stupid as can possibly be described in mere words for any theater to take part in. In fact doing it this way is so moronic that I can't even begin to describe the ways in which is manages to defeat all basic aspects of Capitalism. So, let's just go with the obvious stupidity of it all:

I have been to the theater enough in my lifetime to know exactly the amount of popcorn I can consume during a 2 hour movie without a) gorging myself and b) feeling like a bloated lard afterwords. That amount, as most theater chains have roughly the same sizes, is usually a medium popcorn + medium drink (to accommodate appropriate need for taste).

So, why am I now being punished for wanting to consume appropriately? You may ask yourself, what punishment? The punishment of cost. Cost is supposed to decree, when quality is nullified, that you pay more, and therefore get more. Now, because of these "combo" deals, I am forced to make a decision:

Do I pay more, get less, and feel appropriately filled, but annoyed by the stupid ratio in costs, or do I pay less, get more, feel bloated (or wasteful depending on how much I consume), but feel good about saving the money. Now I know at a theater these are rather minute amounts (but for me pennies are golden as I have few to claim), but that doesn't make the principles of it any more annoying. Why, if they are obviously advertising by the severe reduction in cost for purchasing more, do we allow them to do this?

They are quite straightly telling us they are charging so much above their own costs for their large and medium items, that they can in fact make the larger one notably cheaper than the smaller one for the hope of selling in bulk. Yet if that fact remains, why then would they not also want to do the same for the medium items? Those who originally order mediums will still be able to get what they want, pay less than they would for large (encouraging bulk purchases), and the inventory of the Theater will be less blemished than if they had gone for larges (you know, supply/demand people!). While those who want larges will be able to feel good about themselves for having paid less for the two than they would for each individually.

Now I know I have most overstayed my welcome here, and you are all likely to go about your business having cared none at all. Though I say please take heed to this if you ever own a theater, and actually think before you set up your amazing "combo" deals. It doesn't take much effort to realize you're only hurting yourself.

11 better thoughts:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I understand! I get a large, but I'm splitting it with my wife. And we never go back for free refills. I can take only so much grease.

Brian Dunn said...

The only problem in your argument is thinking that the theaters will save significant amounts of money by supplying less popcorn and soda if more people bought mediums.

A large popcorn probably costs the theater 20 cents (I have no idea really but it's ridiculously low). It definitely costs more for the bucket than the popcorn. Same thing for the soda which is just syrup mixed with carbonated soda. A large soda probably costs the theater fifty cents.

They're marking up the price of the food and the soda so much that it doesn't matter if they give you a shot glass or a garbage bag full of popcorn... it's not going to make a whole lot of difference.

Otherwise, I enjoyed your argument... though I haven't bought food at a movie theater in years.

Castor said...

Have you seen the size of those things? I'm more than satisfied with the Small size which are plenty enough for me as I rarely even finish the popcorn at that size. No wonder most people have weight problems...

Britni Burnham said...

As someone that worked in a theater in high school, they HAVE to upsell. They get fired if they don't. There are secret shoppers who come in and if you don't try to get them to buy larger, you lose your job.

Yes, it's annoying, but the employees don't want to do it either. They have to.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Bring your own drink (like I do) then you don't have to go through it, and you save money, and you can get whatever size popcorn you want. They never try to up sale me on popcorn alone, and I just sneak in everything but popcorn.

Simon said...

I haven't bought popcorn in years. I'm never hungry during a movie.

I feel bad for the guys working at the counter. A few who go to my school got fired because they sent in a narc to see if the kid would try to get them to buy large, and they didn't. Fucking chains.

Danny King said...

I always hate when the cashiers offer the upgrade. People I'm with will talk about how it's a better deal to get the upgrade, but I'm with you - I don't want to bloat myself unnecessarily just because I might theoretically save a dollar or so. I don't even get popcorn every time I go to the movies, so when I do, I prefer to have it my way.

Chase Kahn said...

As someone who frequently goes to the theater alone, I never buy concessions, although I realize that that's the source of 90% of theater income and trust me, I feel kinda bad about it.

That being said, the minimal mark-up on sizes is the biggest no-brainer sales move since Amazon's $25 Super Saver Shipping.

It's like this local Mexican Restaurant that I go to that offers a cup of queso for $5 or a bowl for $6.

Univarn said...

@Everyone I don't blame the kids for trying to get me to buy the large, what I don't get is why they would want to. If their combo deal (which is all that I'm talking about at the moment) allows me to pay less than I would for straight ordering their mediums (as they never have a combo deal) than asking me to "upgrade" actually makes them less money.

@Brian Let's say the difference for them on the backend is even as insignificant as a nickel. You spread that nickel out over 365 days a year, and god knows how many customers I'm not saying it'll add up to millions, but it adds up quick. Not to mention inventory purchasing. Even if they buy them at 20cents per dufflebag (or whatever) the difference could be between restocking every week and every few weeks which (long term) saves them money.

@Chase The weird thing is these days what they're doing with "combo deals" is making you pay $6.50 (or whatever) for a Medium + Drink but $5.50 for a Large + Drink because it's a combo/special. That's what makes no sense to me.

The Mad Hatter said...

Y'know, they actually did a study years ago:

They had people sample from a jumbo bucket of stale popcorn, and a gigantic cup of flat soda. They then had them sample from a small bag of hot, fresh popcorn, and a small cup of perfectly mixed, bubbly soda.

Wanna guess which one most people preferred?

Heather said...

I get the big pop and popcorn because it's the one time that I do gorge myself. But I only get the pop if I go with someone. When I go solo I bring my own coffee or bottled water and then I purchase the big popcorn solo and drench it in the disgusting oil they call butter. I know how bad it is for me, but I'm very healthy and work out constantly, so it's my one vice.

Aside from my own personal story, I get what you're saying, and I could see myself getting the large pop and popcorn because of the deal instead of a smaller one because of price without thinking. It's unfortunate how costly it all is anyway, so at the sound of a cheaper deal, us consumers jump. It's only human.

Related Posts with Thumbnails