The Sonia Show

Writer. Podcaster. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.

Confessions of a former movie theater employee


Yeah, so, I love to go to the movies.

I worked at a few movie theaters for about eight years. I sold movie tickets. I sold candy and popcorn. I cleaned theaters. I ran the projectors. I counted all the money. I love movie theaters. I find them strangely comforting, and they make me happy. Of course, now that we have a Spawn, we don’t go to the movie theater very often – maybe a couple of times a year.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, we got my mom to watch The Boy for us, so we could see “Skyfall.” If you like James Bond movies, then I recommend it. There was a scene in which Bond and M were booby trapping a house before the villains arrive. It was a little too “Home Alone” for me. I was expecting them to dump out some marbles for the villains to slip on. Still, I really enjoyed the movie. It’s very entertaining.

So anyway, one of my favorite things about movie theaters is the popcorn. Movie theater popcorn is the best! When I worked at the theater, I never got tired of eating it. I know that movie theater popcorn is outrageously expensive. In fact, everything at the concession stand is outrageously expensive, but I’m too lazy to go to a store before the movie and buy candy and sneak it in. I’m not going to make two stops when I only have to make one! I’m super busy, you guys. I don’t have time for that kind of frugal crap. Also, like I said, I’m really all about the popcorn, and sneaking in microwave popcorn is not going to cut it.

“Like, oh my god, you could totally get the large for a quarter more.” – Me working at the Festival Cinemas in Walnut Creek in the ’90s.

When I worked at the movie theater, we were trained to “upsell” customers. For example, someone orders a medium soda, and I’d say, “For a quarter more, you could get the large.” It almost always worked, and the customer would buy the larger size. Every once in a while I’d get a customer who was a dick about it: “If I wanted the large, I’d ask for a large.” And I’d say, “Sorry, it’s part of the job, buddy. Enjoy the show.”

For the super gluttonous, one of my old movie theaters had a deal in which you got a free refill of your large popcorn. So, a customer would order a medium-size popcorn, and I’d say, “For 75 cents more you can get a large popcorn and it comes with a free refill.” That upsell didn’t work as often, because that’s a lot of popcorn; way too much popcorn for one or two people. It usually worked on parents who were taking a few kids to see “The Lion King” for the 10th time.

I think it’s funny how often the upsell works on me. When we went to “Skyfall,” I ordered a small Diet Coke and a small popcorn.

Movie theater employee: “You know for 75 cents more you can make those medium sizes.”
Me: “OK then. Your upsell totally worked on me.”

Why don’t I just order the medium sizes? Well, because that’s really too much soda and popcorn for me, yet I still go for the upsell and get the larger sizes when it is offered. Why? I don’t know, really, but David says I do it out of respect, out of solidarity with movie theater employees. I understand that it is their job to upsell me, and I cooperate. I really do smile and say, “Your upsell worked on me” every time.

Now sometimes, the concession worker doesn’t give me the upsell. This means I walk away with a small soda and small popcorn, which is just the right amount of soda and popcorn for me. However, if they give me the ol’ upsell, it always works on me, and I will walk away with a medium soda and popcorn. I will drink the entire soda and have to run out of the theater to pee usually missing a key plot point, and I will eat half the popcorn and feel like an asshole for wasting the rest.

So, for me, a more accurate upsell go like this:

Movie theater employee: “For 75 cents more you can miss part of the movie and feel guilty for wasting food.”
Me: “OK then. Your upsell worked on me.”


Author: The Sonia Show

I'm a writer/podcaster/mother/goober in San Francisco who likes to drink beer, shop, laugh and make other people laugh, watch old movies, feed my unhealthy obsession with pop culture, kick breast cancer's ass, go on adventures with my mighty, mighty good man David and my awesome autistic son, Calvin, wear orange and root for the San Francisco Giants, participate in general jackass-ery, talk about TV, eavesdrop on strangers' conversations, make nerdy “Star Wars” and “Simpsons” references, and post personal things about myself on the web for all to read, which makes me some sort of literary exhibitionist.

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a former movie theater employee

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  3. Every once in a while I’d get a customer who was a dick about it: “If I wanted the large, I’d ask for a large.” And I’d say, “Sorry, it’s part of the job, buddy. Enjoy the show.”

    So, you showed enough initiative to be rude and argue with customers (which I bet you were never trained or encouraged to do) when it suited you, but you had the cheek to try and rationalise your annoying behaviour by suggesting it’s “part of the job”? What part of your job description required you to be a dick when someone politely objects to being upsold to? People like you are the worst. Not just annoying. But arrogant and entitled too. You actually think the world owes you the opportunity to waste customers’ time just so your employer can make an extra 10 cents. Cinemas are dying because of narcissists like you that work for employers that are as dumb as they are greedy. They (and you) don’t make the rather obvious connection between annoying customers and losing money.

    • First of all, people like me are awesome. Second, I have no idea what in this blog post suggests to you that I was being a dick. I politely did the upsell, a customer declined, and I said something like, “I have to ask. It’s part of the job.” I’m sorry if you had a horrible experience at the movie theater recently. I’m pretty sure movie theaters are not dying. They are rolling in money. But if attendance is down, it’s because of high prices and nothing to do with an employee asking if they would like a large size of soda.

      Thanks for reading!

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