The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of the Odeon Cinema Automated Telephone Enquiry Line

A trip up to the Central Belt of Scotland is always a good excuse to go to the cinema, as the nearest one, in Dumfries, is so dire that I have sworn never to go back. Consequently I only get to visit the cinema if we go to a different part of the country.

Cineworld in Falkirk is a multiplex that I used to go to before we moved, so as we were going up that way for the day on Friday, and as the new Harry Potter film was out, which my 10 year old son was desperate to see, it seemed like a good tie-in. I checked the Cineworld website and we timed the rest of the day around the fact that there was a 12.50pm showing every day this week except Thursday. However, when we arrived at 12.45pm, the cinema was closed. We eventually found a wee sign that said that it didn’t open until 2pm from Monday to Friday, so the first showing we could attend wouldn’t be until 3pm.

I could have coped with waiting another hour, but two hours would have thrown the whole day’s timetable out, so I phoned the Dunfermline Odeon cinema (a little over half an hour away) and got put onto their automated telephone enquiry line.

Now my mobile phone service plan gives me 500 free minutes per month, but this does not include non-geographic numbers (beginning with 0845, 0870 etc), which are charged as extra. The Odeon Enquiry Line is one of these.

As well as making money from the actual phone call, Odeon also save money by having an automated service instead of a call operator. So instead of a 20 second call through to someone who can tell me what time the next Harry Potter showing was, I had to go through several minutes of unnecessary, time-wasting preamble, options and confirmations.

First I had to put up with their welcome message where they spent 30 seconds telling me why they are fanatical about film and customer service, then I was asked to say the name of the cinema I wish to enquire about.

“Dunfermline” I sighed. I really hate these systems.

“Did you say…” pause for a couple of seconds, “…Dumfries?


“Please state the name of the cinema you wish to enquire about”

“Dunfermline” I said as clearly as possible.

“Did you say…” pause for a couple of seconds, “…Dunfermline?


“Please wait while we connect you to …Dunfermline.


It then proceeded to tell me all about the fact that I could buy gift vouchers for friends and family as an ideal Xmas present. When it finished there was a long pause, and just when I was beginning to think that the system was about to crash, or that I’d been disconnected and would have to start again, it said “Would you like to hear more?”

“Yes!” I said, thinking that if I’d answered no the call would come to an abrupt end. However, it turned out that I’d just said yes to hearing more about the gift vouchers! For the next 2 minutes I was yelling, “Stop! No! Cease! Finish! No! Stop! I don’t want to hear about your bloody voucher scheme! Stop!” while it blathered on, oblivious to my protestations, all the time running up my phone bill.

Eventually it completed its advert-at-my-expense before moving on to all the options of whether I was wanting to enquire about corporate offers, competitions, particular films, employment opportunities or showing times. Once I’d selected the right option it then proceeded to tell me a bit about the film “Doom” before asking if I was interested in seeing it.

“NO!” I yelled into the handset.

“Please speak the name of the film you wish to see…”

“HARRY POTTER!” I screech.

“Did you say…” pause for a couple of seconds, “…In Her Shoes?

“NO!” I shouted, going red in the face.

“Please speak the name of the film you wish to see…”

“Harry Potter!” I was trying to un-constrict my throat so that my voice would be understood, but by now my son had tears rolling down his cheeks – not because he feared he wouldn’t see the film, but because he thought this was hysterically funny.

“Did you say…” pause for a couple of seconds, “…Harry Potter?

“Yes,” I sobbed with relief, hoping that I was finally getting somewhere.

I was then subjected to another 45-second ramble about the fact that it was a 12A certificate where some scenes may be unsuitable for younger children, before I was asked if I would like more details on the nature of the film.

A quick “No!” and I was into the final stretch. I was informed that there were a further eleven showings of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and that I could book tickets over the phone if I wished – as if I was going to waste another half an hour of frustration doing that!

Finally it started listing all the show times and I discovered there was one at 2pm, so I disconnected and we set off.

Total time taken for what should have been a 20 second call: 7 minutes.

However, I blame Cineworld (which from experience I know has just as an annoying enquiry line) for subjecting me to all this by not being open when it should have been. So this morning I sent them a very snotty e-mail about setting up their customers with false promises. If I get a reply I’ll post it here.


Belovedlife said...

LOL! Who says automation makes life simpler?! Only those who profit from it I suppose.

Kim Ayres said...

Well they certainly made considerably more money out of me than if I'd managed to speak to a real person. Multiply that up by thousands of people who have to use the line and they're laughing all the way to the bank!

swiss rebecca said...

I wonder if I'd have been able to get tickets with my North American accent- I know that those with any other kind of accent are doomed to a movie-less life in the US. Are your systems smarter or just tuned to different accents?

And at least you ended up with the info you needed... I've had these things hang up on me more that I care to think about. The message "The phone line is too busy now. Please try back another time... [click]" was becomming increasingly common in Holland- of course, only after 5 minutes of wait time.

Kim Ayres said...

I would imagine that probably 3/4 of the UK will have problems with these things based on accent alone, considering the wide variety of accents on these shores.

Inherited from my parents, I have a generic Southern English accent, which these things are always geared towards. It's true that I would have had a far harder time with one of the Scottish accents, or Welsh, or Northern or Midland's accents for that matter.

Gyrobo said...

You see, this is why I stopped going to movies. If you wait long enough, you can watch it all for free on television anyway.

Kim Ayres said...

I take it from that answer, Gyrobo, you don't have children, or at least children of an age who can pester you to take them to the cinema.

Gyrobo said...

Well, no. But I remember what that was like, begging my parents to take me to the movies and stuff like that.

I guess all your priorities change when you've got kids.

Kim Ayres said...

If you remember begging your parents to take you to the movies, then I'm sure you can remember how you would have reacted when they said "If you wait long enough, you can watch it all for free on television anyway" ;)

And yes, your priorities change utterly once you have kids. At an absolute basic, instinctive level, up until then your priority is yourself, as you need to keep your genetic code going. Once you have kids, your priority is to keep them going to pass on your genetic code.

It is a fundamental shift that is understood by most parents, and almost impossible to fully explain to someone who isn't.

Ramana Siddharth said...

u can sue the theatre for subjecting u2 this kind of tele torture.u have 2 pay 2 hear their the film was good.i mean it was the best of d 4 so far.none are even close 2 d books.i am almost as fanatical abt potter as kids ur sons age!!!

Kim Ayres said...

Ah well, if you want to get on to what I actually thought of the film...

My son, like you, thought it was the best so far, but I wasn't so sure. Obviously they couldn't fit everything from the book into the film, however, they concentrated so much on the big action sequences that they lost virtually all the character development. So far, my favourite is still the 3rd one.

Gyrobo said...

Yes, take 'em to court! Send letters to the phone company, the cinema, and don't forget your MP. MPs have lots of free time on their hands, and helping people quickly obtain tickets is one of their basic functions.

Stella said...

Kim, I can empathise - I HATE automated systems and I too have screamed in frustration at machines. Our phone company and power company use them but they are easy to get around, you just have to mumble unintelligibly or even intelligibly, upset the machine and you get put through to a real person!

As to the film, I liked it, a lot! Much preferred it to No 3.

Siddarth, I'm a HP nut as well.

tendrel said...

OMGoodness, you had me laughing too. The phone trees here in the US are just as bad. I miss Scotland, after visiting my in-laws just twice now. So sorry to here that you share these trials with us.

Kim Ayres said...

Gyrobo - I will give this serious consideration...

Stella - yes I've tried that strategy before, and it usually works with utility companies, although I often end up speaking to someone with a thick Asian accent. With this one though I got the impression that it would keep just sending me back around the options in an endless cycle

Tendrel - Welcome to my ramblings! You have a Scottish husband? I see you're based in California, so I'll bet he doesn't miss the weather here!

Dr Maroon said...

You could have taken him to the Falkirk Wheel for a couple of hours. Start him off on a "rewarding" engineering career.

These annoying impersonal things, and there’s lots of examples now, of formulaic methods of dealing with us, is one of the main reasons that we’re not allowed to own guns.

Anonymous said...

Automated voice recognition-great technology-Yeah Right!

For what ever reason, those machines never recognize what I am saying at all-ever.

I have learned to talk non-sense garble and I am then quickly connected to a live person. It seems that in the process of reducing employees by automating such services-they have created a longer wait time for people like you and I.

It's even more fun when I am then connected to a person in another county, that speaks English, but has a poor grasp on the language or a strong accent.

I don't know about where you are, but here in the states, almost everything from utilities to credit cards are all run with such automated systems.

I really dislike suck so-called technological advances. I don't know anyone who has called one and had a great experience..... oh well!

Kim Ayres said...

Dr Maroon - Of course, the Falkirk Wheel! How could I have forgotten that? We did a family trip there a year or two ago, but turned up on a bank holiday and the place was absolutely packed. There was a 4 hour waiting list to have a go in the boat so after only a couple of photos and an ice cream we went home instead.

Rebecca - a lot of the call centres in the UK have been shifted over to India and Pakistan. They may be able to speak English, but unless you speak with a BBC accent, they will struggle to understand you as much as the automated system does.

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha made me laugh this post, very hard

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks for the feedback Callum. It's always good to think I've made someone smile :)

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