Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ethics, SB, and the movie theatrer

My local movie theater offers a special each Tuesday night, wherein the cost for admission and a regular size popcorn/drink combo is about half price. Not a bad deal , all in all. However, I've also quietly noticed that they offer you the option at the snack counter to "up size" your popcorn to a large size for about $.50. Naturally, of course, this means you pay less per gram for your popcorn than the regular size, but in a way it's a bit of a scam, as no one in their right mind needs to eat even half of the popcorn that container holds. You just buy more than you will ever want or need, because you think it's a good deal.

But then I noticed something else. The large size popcorn comes with free refills. At first, I think it's a bit of a con, as no one could ever eat one large popcorn in a movie, let alone refill for another full bag. Maybe an evil teenage boy, but not me. But then I started to look at it differently. There was nothing wrong with me getting a refill-top up after the movie and taking home a bag of popcorn for future snacks, was there? After all, it says free refills, and it doesn't say WHEN I should take advantage of that refill.

But it wasn't much fun taking home the refill popcorn. It really is the kind of product that is best when it's fresh, and I personally really only enjoy popcorn during movies. This got me thinking. What if I didn't take my bag home with refilled popcorn? What is I just brought home the bag, and held onto it for the next movies? What if I reused the same bag for future movies, and future dates? Is this ethical, just plain tacky, or SB behavior at it's finest?

Here's how I think about it. I'm offered a bag that comes with free refills at a premium price. The company must know that it's not really an offer that more people take advantage of, aside from teenagers, and maybe some clever parents who use the free refill trick to distribute little cups of popcorn to their kids inside the theater. If I really, really, really loved popcorn and refilled my bag 2 or even 3 times during a movie, I would be well within my rights. And I do just that, I just don't refill it during the same movie.

Now, I do have limits. Usually I only use my bag for one future refill. At that point, the bag starts to get a bit wrinkly, and I only wish to be a minor scam artist, not a major one. I feel technically, I am not really doing anything too wrong, as there are no signs or fine print anywhere that I can see. However, I also know that the deal does not in any way mean that if you buy a large popcorn once, you get free refills of popcorn for life. Therefore, I rather think I am dancing around a bit of an ethical line, and I'm pretty sure that this is a bit more tacky than strictly SB behavior. But I don't let that bother me. I know this refill behavior encourages me to go to the movies a bit more often than I normally would, as I know that I can have the full movie experience, hot popcorn and all, for an overall reduced price than if I paid for a small or regular popcorn every time I sent. And, of course, every time anyone enters a theater, the company has accomplished their goal and made money and spread advertising. So I'm not terribly worried. However, it's not necessarily the kind of thing I brag about!

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