Mar 14

Online Booking Fee Applies

Category: today

At the prompting of Dom Knight (of Chaser fame) I was looking over my cinema’s booking system. Recently rebranded from Birch Carol and Coyle (itself a merger from long ago) to form ‘Event Cinemas’. They’ve done a technology overhaul and remade their website to be very good looking (with some Flash but not overdone, I’d describe the site as flash but Adobe have taken that word from the web site descriptive vernacular). They have a nifty iPhone application that appears to work well though as Dom notes perhaps not as good as it should. They have a mobile application which also doesn’t appear to work well. But this isn’t what bothers me, what bothers me most is the little note they had: Booking Fee applies online. Of course it doesn’t note that this is per ticket. So if you book five people online in one transaction you have to pay an additional on top of the purchase price. It costs you more to book online per person than it does to show up in person. Let us dwell on that. I could potentially understand a flat fee here to cover some sort of consistent expense but a per person fee seems a bit much. Especially at a dollar. Perhaps this is to make up for the cheaper tickets you get there, a sort of recovery mechanism. Not sure.

Whilst I was typing this up I ‘timed out’ a few times. This wasn’t in a screen far in, it was the first screen after selecting the session time. At this point the only persistent information that could possibly time out is the movie, date and time. All values I feel should easily be persisting at this point. There should be no issues with those values timing out. The trick is that the timer is for the entire booking session. You have 8 minutes to pick how many tickets you need, what extras you want and your payment method. I also managed to trigger a runtime error as well within the application, a well written application indeed.

The booking process, when it isn’t crashing, asks for a member number as well. It says that is has already filled it in for me but then works out that it really isn’t the right number. So I proceed without it which is unfortunate. But that is the story here.

The process for all of this acquires an email address, credit card number of other identifying item. And that is the key. That is the value in this transaction that they should be encouraging.

The process doesn’t necessarily make it easier for their front counter staff beyond having everything in the system and being able to go through slightly quicker with the order pre-done. It is about building a database of information. Not only can you register people with CineBuzz to get them to provide details and link it in but even if they don’t do that signing in online with credit cards will allow you to handle and work out all of this information into your databases directly. You don’t need to recover it from point of sale systems located all the way around the country, you can have it deposited directly into your system and providing you information. In some cases where you get the booking days before you end up making interest off the money you just took. And you haven’t even had to provide the service!

Sitting through a business intelligence course, I know the value of having information available to you. Encouraging online booking can integrate into so much more. All of the different systems, availability of historical and trending data that is available. Even mild predictive values systems based on online sales and ability to prepare systems. The more information the better. It is worth more than the $1 per person that they seem to be charging for the pleasure of booking online.

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