retail news in context, analysis with attitude


by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or either...it is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

The customer is always right.

Until the customer is wrong. But then, even when the customer is wrong, should you still act as if the customer is right?

The New York Times had an interesting piece that ventured into this territory the other day, about a movie theater in Austin, Texas, with a simple rule - use a mobile device in the theater during the movie, even for texting, and you get tossed out. No argument, no discussion.

This policy got a little unexpected publicity lately when a woman, having been ejected for using her cell phone during the movie, left a long and rather vulgar voicemail for the theater owners ... who then turned around and used the audio in a public service announcement before its movies, and even posted it on YouTube.

It is an interesting case study. This woman says that she was simply using her phone as a flashlight because she could not find her seat. If that’s the case, maybe the theatre could have been a little lenient. Though there’s no cause for the kind of abusive voicemail she left.

Now, I have to be honest here. I hate it when people talk in movies, and I hate it when people use their cellphones, either to have conversations or send text messages or emails. That said, I’m guilty of having done it myself. If Mrs. Content Guy and I are at a movie and our 17-year-old daughter is out with friends, she’s under strict orders to send us a text message if she’s going someplace we didn’t know about.; I then try to be discreet about glancing at it. When our kids were little, our babysitters were under orders to call us if there was a problem, and I left my phone on even though there was a message on the screen telling me to turn it off. If there was any reason to talk to the sitter, I’d obviously leave the theater...but I held onto that phone like a security blanket.

So who’s right? And who’s wrong? While I respect the right of the theater to have such a policy, and agree with the impetus behind it, I also think that sometimes you have to cut the customer a little slack. Though I am totally cool with the idea that they’re so brazen about their policy that they use even a dissatisfied customer as a way of making their larger point.

The larger point, I think, is that this stuff is rarely black and white. There’s plenty of gray in here, and everyone in an organization needs to be thinking about how customers are treated, and what the consequences are when decisions are made about how people are going to be treated.

That said, I have a story to tell you.

Sometimes, companies don’t have to police the customers, because other customers will do it for them. Other customers like me.

As I said, I hate it when people talk during a movie. I have no problem turning around and shushing them when they do.

Many years ago, during the early eighties, I took the woman who would eventually become my wife to see the new Woody Allen movie at the Beekman Theater on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I can’t remember which Woody Allen movie it was; it might have been Stardust Memories or Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy or Zelig But no matter.

The previews start, and there’s this woman in the row behind me who is chattering away. I was annoyed, but I didn’t do anything because it was only the previews. But then the movie starts, and she’s still yapping away, and so I turned to my right and said “ssshhhh” in a tone that left nothing to the imagination.

And then I turned back to Mrs. Content Guy and whispered, “I just ‘ssshhhed’ Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

But you know something? Except for laughing, she didn’t make a peep for the rest of the movie.

Anyway, that’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I’d like to hear what is on your mind.
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