Thursday, October 28, 2010
It's the LAW!!!
I went to see a movie tonight with the rabbit, and had a bit of an unpleasant experience. So, at the relatively high risk of sounding like a jackass who dwells on the boring and petty, I thought I'd write about it.
We went to Cinecube - a pretty cool little theatre in Gwanghwamun, in the basement of the big building with the giant statue of the hammering man out front. It's cool, save for the fact that you (inexplicably) can't eat or drink in the theatre. For reals - no popcorn even sold at the place, which for me is kind of a bad omen. I did end-up sneaking some water inside, but thankfully I had better luck than this guy.
The rabbit had purchased tickets online for Last Chance Harvey, which was opening in Korea tonight - and had opened back in January back home, just in time for Oscar consideration, but got more Golden Globe love. You can't go completely wrong with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson as leads.
It's the early show (5:20) and at around 5:16 I get a text from the rabbit saying she's going to be late - maybe 10 minutes, maybe more - a hard day for her that forms a story I shan't relate here. She said for me to go into the theatre without her and that she'd join me later. However, the idea of starting a 90 minute movie 15 minutes in seemed a bit unfair. Why not just exchange the tickets for a later show?
As the movie hadn't yet started, I approached the ticket window and asked if the girl behind the counter spoke English, which she did - almost at the level of a native speaker. I explained the situation and asked if it would be possible to exchange the tickets for the later show.
"I'm sorry, but it's less than 20 minutes before the start of the movie, so I can only refund 50%."
"But, is the movie sold-out?"
"No, but it's the rule."
"But there are only about 20 people in the theatre..."
"But it's the rule."
"But, you're rule is in place to stop people from holding seats they can't use and preventing other customers from buying tickets. If customers got turned-away because of this ticket I wanted to refund, then your rule would make sense to this case. I don't want a refund, I just want to go to the later show."
"It's the LAW!"
"It's the law?"
"My girlfriend is running late."
"That's her business."
It was at the "It's her business" part that I got a little bit angry (but it must be said that I never raised my voice or did anything like this.) The conversation went on, because I wouldn't let it go, and she wasn't budging. In the end, it would have cost only the equivalent of one ticket (7,000 won) to abide by her "rule", but the principle of the thing just wouldn't let me back-down.
When the rabbit did finally arrive, about 20 minutes later, she approached the ticket woman and, in Korean, the same "rule" was related. The rabbit, however, had her way, and we got the ticket's exchanged for the later show. I asked what was said, and the rabbit told me this:
"I asked her for her kindness, in my situation."
How could the bitter box office woman say no to that? Apparently, she actually said nothing and exchanged the tickets without a smile or a word. I guess this is the dreaded "losing face" that the Culture Shock: Korea book talks about. After the rabbit notified me that our tickets were exchanged, I went over the the window and thanked her, saying again that my girlfriend had had a hard day and we really appreciated her doing this for us. She said nothing and just stared at me blankly.
So here's the thing... I too spent years in customer service, and I know how shabby it can be to bend to the customer's request - especially when you, yourself, might have had an equally shabby day, or worse. But, when met with logic and a simple request for an exception to the "rule", why not just be nice? Both showings of the film were less than 20% sold, so it would have mattered not. In the end, it didn't matter at all as she simply wrote (in pen) the new time on our original tickets. Her business got our money, and we got to see the movie we paid for.
The other thing is that I'm one of those guys who hates when people make a scene in public - complain about their food in a restaurant, bitch at the flight personnel at an airport gate, etc. - but in this case, it was stubborn me and a stubborn girl in an empty lobby with scant few people milling-about and nobody else in line. Perhaps I was a bit childish in this instance to not just suck it up and pay the money, but I don't want to throw-away my hand completely. Even when children ask "why?", the worst possible parenting response is "Because I said so."