There's nothing like poor user experience to really wind me up - especially when I encounter it as a customer, and feel the full force of stupid design / poor performance slapping me in the face. This week, it's the turn of Event Cinemas.
A few weeks back I received a newsletter from Event, offering tickets at $7 if you pre-purchased. You could then use them during February and March. Being a regular popcorn muncher at the local Greater Union, I bought a few.
This week I tried to use the tickets to book into a movie with the kids - and got slapped in the face with some poor usability.
Everything proceeded with my purchase pretty well, until I reached the critical payment stage. I had two pre-purchased tickets (with codes that needed entering), one free ticket I'd had stacked up for a while, and had to buy the forth one. But when I reached the payment stage, the site inexplicably asked me to enter 112 pre-pay ticket codes - and refused to let me proceed unless I entered them all. Only having two codes, that was a bit of a problem.
Even worse, when I tried again - reasoning that the problem was either the browser or the session - the seats I'd chosen were all blocked out, and I couldn't choose them again. I had to wait ten minutes, and try again.
On the third attempt I finally realised that neither Chrome nor Firefox was going to get me across the line, and there was a serious problem. By this point though there was only an hour or two until the movie, and others coming with us had already purchased their tickets. It wasn't looking good.
I needed help.
And of course, like all terrible web user experiences, help was anything but close at hand.
There's a Help section - which is good - but no obvious links to get help now, which is bad.
There's a Website category for help - which is good - but it has zero topics in it, which is bad.
I can find out about refunds - which is good - but not about how to get help actually buying tickets, which is bad.
There's a Contact us link - which is good - but it's buried at the bottom of the page, in the same font as standard text, with no visibility, and it leads only to a bog-standard email form, from which you would reasonably expect a response within two to three days, which is very, very, VERY bad.
In the end I figured it out. I took a punt that trying to use the two pre-purchase tickets at the same time as trying to buy another was throwing the system a curve ball, even though it patently said this was okay. I bought the four tickets in two separate chunks, and everything worked well. It cost me a couple of hours of messing around, but eventually I got there fine.
I can excuse bugs. Even the best designed websites and the most frequently tested systems can go wrong, especially in strange conditions. I can even excuse a lack of customer awareness; I've spent, at a conservative estimate, well over $600 at this local cinema in the past year - hey, five kids and two adults who occasionally get time off can consume a fair amount of Hollywood, let me tell you. I'd love it if the site recognised that, and tried in some way to make me feel my problems were slightly more important to them than a first time visitor - but I can live with the fact that rarely happens online.
What I can't forgive is a web service that fails to deliver a core function it is clearly designed for, and then makes it impossible to get help or recover in any way. Error text and 112 requests for codes I didn't have is not exactly a good impression to leave customers with.
Shame on you, Event Cinemas, shame on you....