Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Regal Cinema's Disregard for Patrons and Films (update) a/k/a When Disney Talks, Regal Listens

As I mentioned in my entry Regal Cinema's Disregard for Patrons and Films posted on Monday, my family and I had a poor experience when we went to see WALL-E at our local Regal cinema. As I also mentioned in that post, this was far from the first time that we've had problems with Regal. However, in the past, when I've complained to Regal (including my 2005 letter to Regal's CEO), I've received no response whatsoever.

After posting Monday's story, I decided that I needed to be sure Regal and, more importantly, Pixar were aware of the problem (I certainly doubt that Regal's manager told her supervisors about the problem...). So, I did two things. First, I left a voice mail message at the number for Regal's Customer Relations Department (available here). Then, I called Pixar. After hunting around through the most entertaining voice mail system that I've ever encountered, I was eventually able to connect to an operator. I briefly explained the problem and she said that I "absolutely" needed to bring it to the attention of Pixar's public relations department and transferred me. I was forced to leave a voice mail message (which I did with a fair amount of detail).

And there I left things, wondering if I would ever hear any more about the episode. I wasn't left wondering for long. Yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after leaving my message with Pixar, I received a call from Disney (Pixar's parent). It was clear that my voice mail message to Pixar had made its way up the Pixar/Disney corporate ladder. The gentleman from Disney with whom I spoke was extremely courteous and apologetic, even though I kept reiterating that Pixar had nothing to apologize for. He described Pixar's "Perfect Projection Program" (and jokingly noted that Regal didn't seem to qualify for that award). We spoke for some time and had a good discussion about issues like artistic integrity and the entire movie-going experience. Most importantly, he indicated that Disney/Pixar was not happy with the situation and that he had already been in contact with management at Regal to discuss the situation.

Now, here's the interesting part. Remember when I mentioned that in the past I'd received no response from Regal when I complained. Well, it appears that when Disney complains, Regal is very quick to respond. Shortly after getting to work this morning, I received a call from the general manager of the Regal Village Park Cinema. He was very apologetic and, smartly, did not try to make any excuses. He simply said that what happened was wrong. He and I spoke for some time about what a theater patron should expect. During our conversation, I asked whether he was calling because of the voice mail that I'd left with Regal's customer relations department or as a result of Disney contacting Regal. He responded that he heard about the matter from supervisors in Regal management as a result of Disney's communication. Not long after that conversation ended, I received a voice mail from Regal's customer relations manager and he and I spoke a while later. Like the general manager, he was also very apologetic. Both managers were interested in the complaints that I had related to Cloverfield and the matters that I'd set out in my 2005 letter. The customer relations manager seemed surprised that I'd never received a response to my 2005 letter. He was also surprised that I had not yet heard from Regal's district manager. Anyway, I want to commend both the general manager and the customer relations manager on the professionalism and on their expressed concern over the entire episode.

So the question that remains is this: If I hadn't called Pixar, would I have heard from Regal? Would my voice mail to Regal's customer relations have been relegated to the digital equivalent to the circular file (as my 2005 letter apparently was)? Or would Regal have responded and apologized for the event? And, if Regal did respond without Disney's intervention, what is the likelihood that the response would have been quite so rapid?

Just wondering...

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