Saturday, September 11, 2010

SM Cinema's Deceptive Practice?

This afternoon, Wife and I watched a movie in 3D at SM Sta. Rosa. Movies shown in 3D format have more expensive ticket price, but we don't have a choice since the movie we chose is only shown at their 3D theater.

Compared with regular 2D format movies, I expected the ticket price to be P50 to P100 more expensive in 3D,  but with free food and/or drink. I remember when we watched Ironman 2 in 3D last May or June, we were given a drink and a choice of popcorn or hotdog sandwich, that came free with the ticket price. After that we watched Last Airbender also in 3D format, we were given only a choice of free drink, no food item.

This time after checking the movie ticket's details (which I don't usually do because of very fine print), the total price indicated on the ticket is only P202. With the P252 we paid for each ticket, it is evident that the supposedly "free" popcorn we received a few hours ago, are NOT free. We actually paid those popcorns for P50 each bag, its regular price at the snack bar. Even if I don't want to buy any food that time, we unknowingly bought those popcorns, and we were never given any option to just pay for only the movie ticket price!

This misleading business practice of SM Cinema is highly unethical, and it could have been going on for many months or years now. It is a form of deception which is a big disappointment, knowing that it is being practiced by a large and popular company. I appreciate their company's environmental initiatives, like encouraging the use of green bags or participating in Earth Hour. But this recent experience adds to my dislike to the way they circumvent the laws to terminate then rehire their contractual workers every now and then, inspite of continuously good sales business on their department and grocery stores.

With this recent unpleasant experience, I won't patronize the SM Cinemas anymore, except when I really have to see a movie in big screen and there are no other cinemas on the vicinity.  Assuming that our family of 6 go to the cinema once every 3 months, the math says  SM will loose about P5,000 of our annual cinema business, just because they have alienated one paying customer. The same boycott goes to the other cinemas who practice such deceptive tactics.

I will try to check with Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI)  if this experience with SM Cinema is legal. However, even if DTI says its legal, I would still avoid stepping into SM Cinemas. They have already insulted our intelligence as cinema patrons, but I won't allow them to repeat it and make more money from us.

Sadly, consumer rights in this country is not prevalent. If people like me would start making noise on such deceptive business practices, I hope that more people would voice out  their choices and opinions thru their wallets.

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  1. This is a very valid complaint. I hope SM Cinemas stop this practice soon. Thanks for your initiative on this and for calling everybody's attention on this malpractice.

  2. thank you for the enlightenment and the information. What they have done is indeed very unethical.

  3. Last week, I've asked one Mr. LP of DTI main office about this, and he said its illegal, so advised me to file a formal complaint. I filed the complaint thru their website just a few minutes ago. Activation code of my complaint is ID=9653&k=3743274.

    Let's wait if they will act on this one. They have not responded to my complaint on Asianic Computers a few months ago.

  4. SM Sta. Rosa Cinema's Ms. Leng contacted me last 28 Oct. 2010, requesting for a meeting on 06 Nov. 2010 with her manager. I replied that I'm not sure if I could meet them on that date, and that its not really necessary.

    I suggested that they just send me an email to explain their position and corrective action. I also gave this url where they could post their comment to air their side. Todate, I haven't received any email, SMS reply, or comment from SM Cinema since then.

    If they are reading this blog, I hope that they post their comment or action asap.

  5. Had a meeting with Ms. Alelie Cruz of SM Cinema yesterday afternoon. She clarified that the snack bar should have issued a separate receipt for the popcorn or any bundled food & drink item. They just cannot put all in 1 receipt the cinema and bundled items because the movies have 20% amusement tax, while the food and drinks have 12% VAT. According to her, its the same practice in other cinema chains like Eastwood, etc.

    They also verified with DTI if they have to get a promo permit if they do this bundling of food/drink item on special price screening of movies.

    Now on the issue of choice if the cinema patrons can only pay the movie ticket price, Ms. Cruz mentioned that they can exercise flexibility on some cases, it just have to be approved by the cinema manager, who should always be on the vicinity. This I would test one time if they "walk the talk".

    SM is also trying to address the long queue of people on the ticket booths with plans to install movie ticket dispensing machines, etc.

    Ms. Cruz gave me her mobile number if we have other concerns on SM cinemas, as they encourage feedback from their patrons to improve their services.

    By the way, we never discussed anything about this blog post, so she never mentioned about deleting or editing this particular post.

  6. well i guess it's all 'talk'. i just bought a ticket online from SM cinema, and still it automatically 'imposes' on me such food bundling. ticket price is 300 + 50 for food bundling + 20 convenience charge.
    i don't have any issue with the bundled food as long as the items given are indeed 'promos' or freebies and not the same regular price at the snack bar.
    the food should be offered and not bundled with the ticket, not all people likes popcorns and hotdogs. it's just a meager sum of money but it's how it was taken from your pocket that matters.

  7. I'm also not totally convinced on SM's explanation, inspite of receiving their offer of free 4 movie tickets. Bottomline is that they want to earn more, which is true with other cinemas I checked as well. Snack bar is the next potential revenue source after selling all the seats in the cinemas. I would also push for that if I'm the cinema manager instructed to generate more profit.

    Sadly, as long as many people queue up to watch those bundled 3D movies, they would continue with this practice. With new cinemas popping out and charging higher cinema prices with better amenities (lazy boy seats, unlimited popcorns, butler service, etc.), it looks like we'll all be stuck with their business practice.

    But if more cinema patrons discontinue being gullible and would not watch product-bundled movies, then there's still hope for wise consumers like us.

  8. there is just one simple solution to this problem. do not watch movie to sm cinemas or any cinemas. just watch movies in DVD player. it's more cheaper since you can buy 3 DVD movies for 100 pesos only. just choice a dvd copy movies not the clear copy one. if all movie goers will not go to cinemas then they will be force to drop-down the cinema tickets to 75 pesos. thank you!

  9. Shangri-la Mall also practices this. I experienced it twice in their Premium Cinema. We have no choice but to pay for the "full price" of the ticket and "avail" of the free popcorn and drink.

  10. SM are an unregulated leviathan with no real customer service. They make the rules and you,the customer can "like it or lump it"They have become so large a corporation that they just do as they please.Just try getting a response from them if you have a complaint or even try to talk to a supervisor in store who has the authority to actually action your complaint.This Chinese family manipulates everything to their own advantage and make billions yet how much do they really put back into the Filipino community?

  11. what happened na to the compain? did the solution they offered started to take action? i just watched Tangled 3d in MOA last week, they charged me 300 pesos each but the ticket stated 250! and yeah we got "FREE" popcorn

  12. Nothing happened on the complaint with DTI. Have you tried asking for ticket price without the popcorn?

  13. Last Nov 2010 we watched Harry Potter in IMAX and had to buy the compulsory popcorn. Today I went to see Thor and still have to buy that popcorn. I dont mind being forced to buy food with the ticket. Its just that I dont eat popcorn!!!! Buying popcorn that I dont eat for 50Php is just too much. I hope SM changes this practice because it is not good practice at all.

  14. i had the similar experience. my family watched green lantern on 3d theater. we paid 250 pesos. 225 pesos for the ticket and 25 pesos for the drinks. what sm is doing is that they FORCED me to buy drinks. in effects you are being held against your will. the articled posted here is of last year. meaning... this has been going on for a long time. and the DTI thinks that it JUST OK? Bullshit

  15. June 28, 2011

    To whom this may concern:

    This is regarding the horrible, disgusting and repulsive experience that I had with your IMAX theater which has nothing to do with the IMAX film itself but rather with the popcorn which is apparently bundled with the purchase of an IMAX ticket. Please consider this as a CUSTOMER COMPLAINT.

    I have always been a patron of the cinema, choosing to watch films at the movie theater instead of purchasing pirated copies which are rampantly available everywhere. Though I have never experienced watching in an IMAX theater, I decided that it was about time considering that it was my 30th birthday celebration and as a way of treating myself (in view of its relatively high price). It came as a surprise, and not a good one at that, that upon purchase of an IMAX ticket, the ticketing lady informed me that I also have to pay an additional PhP50.00 for the popcorn. I don’t eat popcorn, I have always hated popcorn and I NEVER buy popcorn when watching a film in any of your movie theaters. I could have chosen not to buy the ticket because of that reason, but it was the last day of showing for the movie Kung Fu Panda and it was not available in any of your regular theaters. She vainly tried to explain that it was bundled together and that I could not purchase a ticket without paying that additional price for the popcorn. Arguing with her was an effort in futility and I did not want to make such a scene at a mall, so I begrudgingly purchased the ticket and watched the said movie. THE MOVIE TICKET/OFFICIAL RECEIPT DO NOT SHOW THE ADDITIONAL PhP50.00 THAT I WAS FORCED TO PAY FOR THE POPCORN AND NO OTHER RECEIPT WAS ISSUED FOR IT. During the film, I could not concentrate on watching. I was thinking whether I should eat the popcorn or not. But since I already paid for the same, it was an absolute waste not to. I only ate about three or four bites before I gagged since I really do not like popcorn. Suffice it to say, I threw up after the film and was not able to enjoy the experience that an IMAX theater promises.

    It has been almost a week and I still could not get over such an awful experience, which is why I have decided to file this complaint. It is not just because I was forced to eat popcorn but also because of the fact that you have forced me to purchase something that I do not want. The product or service that you are offering to the public is IMAX FILM, and not IMAX FILM WITH POPCORN. Looking at your website, under the tab IMAX, it simply says that IMAX Theatres are specifically designed to deliver the world’s most immersive movie experience. Nowhere does it say that this includes popcorn. Neither does it say that I will not be able to experience the world’s most immersive movie experience without popcorn. Furthermore, no official receipt was issued for it which I’m pretty sure is against the law.

    Hence, I am demanding that you reimburse me the PhP400.00 that I paid for a movie that I was not able to enjoy and cease from further practicing this marketing scam. Let the customers decide if they want to purchase popcorn or not. Failure to act on this complaint immediately will warrant further action in court.

    You may contact me for the reimbursement process and with your sincere apologies at 0906-xxx-xxxx and email at this address:

    A very upset customer,


    Copy furnished:

    Department of Trade and Industry
    385 Industry and Investments Bldg., Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City, Philippines 1200

    IMAX Corporation
    2525 Speakman Drive Mississauga, Ontario L5K 1B1, Canada

  16. Sayang ang complaint. As long as people keep patronizing this kind of shams, this will always continue.

  17. hindi ko napansin to ah... kelangang magbasa ng resibo magmula ngayon... salamat sa pagpapaalam!

  18. very helpful indeed. This incident also happened to me but I never read the receipt so I really thought that the drinks and food was free. Anyhow, after reading this Ayala Cinemas is way better!

  19. Cinema patrons discontinue being gullible and would not watch product-bundled movies, then there's still hope for wise consumers like us.