Stealing at the Movies Isn’t Frugal

Last week my wife and I did a movie theater mystery shop that required me to basically be at the theater all day for 3 days.  Some theater patrons that I observed participated in dishonest and sometimes really gross behavior in order to save a few bucks.  I’m not talking about sneaking candy into the theater.  That behavior might be unethical but it is not stealing.

The gross behavior I observed was a man digging through the trash for a popcorn bucket and drink cup.  He then took them into the bathroom.  Presumably to clean them out.  He later returned with a full bucket of popcorn and full drink.  The reasonable assumption is that he took these items to the concession stand and got the free refills on both of them.  I’m all for saving a few bucks but I am not going to eat out of a container that has been in the trash.  That is just plain gross.  You don’t know what could have been put in there and you are not going to be able to get them clean in the bathroom.  Even if you could be sure that they were clean this isn’t something I would do because it is simply stealing.

We also observed people being let in a side door and sneaking into a movie.  This is another form of stealing.  In the  past I used to sometimes cross over to another movie after watching a movie for which I had a ticket.  I used to rationalize this behavior as frugal but that is one of my supposedly frugal behaviors I no longer indulge in because I have determined it to be wrong.

I doubt that the people who stole from the theater actually thought they were being frugal but just to be clear: stealing isn’t frugal.


14 thoughts on “Stealing at the Movies Isn’t Frugal”

  1. You’re right Andy. It’s stealing. No two ways about it.

    Here’s another form of stealing. Going to a camera store, taking 20 minutes of the salesman’s time, knowing full well one’s intention is to buy the camera on the internet. Time is a resource too.

  2. I remember seeing this behavior when I was a kid. Today, there are more choices to scam people though. Integrity and character changed over the years. People have said that for long time too. Maybe we need more severe consequences. Do we waste the limited police/legal resources to prosecute for these petty crimes? That is part of the problem too. There may not be a solution other than better parenting.

  3. That’s absolutely disgusting to take someone’s used stuff and out of the trash nonetheless. It likens to the Seinfeld episode where George took the canoli out of the trash and ate it but at least there he knew everybody that could have potentially eaten the first bite. Either way, wrong wrong wrong.

  4. Everyone – I thought most people would be just as disgusted as I was. To make this even worse he was an older man and he had two teenage girls with him. I wonder if they knew they were eating trash can popcorn.

  5. I like the point above about stealing time. I am not totally sure I agree… maybe a good way to go about it is to be upfront about your intentions? But I think the main problem with using a salesperson’s time with no intention to buy is not stealing to time so much as deceiving them about your intentions. I bet most sales staff would be happy to help out anyway, probably because most have little to no loyalty to their employer. This really only pushes the problem back one level rather than resole it. Hmmm…

  6. Yuck! After reading the soda and popcorn thing I feel like I need to scrub out my mouth just by proxy. Gross!!

    I’ll admit that I have occasionally snuck food into the movies, mostly it’s because I’m starving and really want a good burrito and not popcorn, soda, crappy nachos or hot dogs. I’ve never brought anything in that the theater already sells. Still probably unethical though. I love indie theaters or dinner theater places that actually have decent food and beer especially when they show second run films for cheap. I’ll pay the slightly inflated prices for the experience without a qualm.

  7. Ick! The popcorn/soda thing is disgusting, and you’re absolutely right – it’s stealing, no matter how the guy tries to justify it. And sneaking people into the theater is also just straight-up stealing.

    Frugal means make the most of YOUR resources – not scamming the resources of others. Your integrity is not worth the few bucks you save doing stuff like that.

  8. We always bring in outside food.
    We don’t do it for economy, but in the absence of edible products at the concession stand. My stomach doesn’t sit well with their hot dogs, nachos, “pizza” and strawberry soda.

    We’ve implored them to sell coffee and real food for over a decade – to no avail. Fortunately, the few remaining viable plexes in our town share plaza space with some decent restaurants, so when we bring our takeout they’ve been schooled not to object.

    Our local movie houses have to work overtime just to get us to attend; we have far too many that have been taken over by hordes who, to put it mildly, “don’t know how to behave.”


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