After Edith Caballero encounters surprise surcharges and technical difficulties with Sinemia, a movie ticket service, she asks for a refund. Is anyone watching?
Q: I have a problem with Sinemia, a movie club. I purchased a prepaid one-year subscription for both my husband and myself ($120 each, $240 total), back in September, which was activated in October.
This subscription allowed for each of us to book three movie tickets at eligible movie theaters each month for 12 months. We had to wait a few weeks for our accounts to activate. Although the service is app-only, they didn’t issue cards. You had to wait this amount of time or opt to pay an additional $20 per account to miraculously have instant access to the service.
Once our service was active, we found there were surprise transaction fees of $1.80 each for booking each movie ticket ahead of time, and there was no way around it. These fees were not and are still not disclosed anywhere on their site without an account. Once you sign up for their service and have an account, you can then search for buried FAQs regarding these hidden fees on member-only forums. If you did not pay this fee, you could not get a ticket.
Three tickets a month, then, did not cost us $10 each, but $15.40 each — an increase of more than 50 percent.
The last time we used Sinemia’s service, the app did not let me “check in” to the theater upon arrival, and I received a warning email that if I didn’t check in next time my account would be canceled with no refund or recourse.
I have given Sinema numerous chances to resolve the issue. They refuse to acknowledge the deficiency in their services and the outright duping of customers. They refuse to provide me a prorated refund for myself and my husband or to find another mutually agreeable solution. I have sent them a number of emails over several months at this point.
I’d like a refund of the cards we have not activated or used refunded. Can you help me? — Edith Caballero, Rutherford, N.J.
A: I share your frustration. Junk fees and non-functional services are upsetting to me, too. (And welcome to my world!)
Sinemia bills itself as a private movie club that provides discounted movie ticket subscription plans. Your perception of the service is partially correct, at least when it comes to the delayed start. But its fees — which I concede are infuriating — were disclosed on the site when I checked.
The extras include a “processing fee” that covers the cost of your movie ticket. “Everytime you purchase a ticket using your Sinemia plan there are transaction fees imposed by the payment processors,” it explains. “Sinemia may reflect these processing fees (up to $1.80) to your payment method on file if such fees are involved.”
Sinemia also charges a “convenience fee” for the advance ticket online purchase. It also warns that “additional processing fees may apply.” That’s par for the course with many cards.
You say these disclosures weren’t on the site when you signed up, but were added later, presumably after queries such as yours.
Just like airline loyalty programs, it appears there are a ton of hidden or poorly disclosed fees when you sign up for Sinemia. But it was the technical glitch that put you over the top. The company should have addressed that issue quickly, but according to the paper trail between you and the company, it didn’t.
How to contact Sinema
I think you might have appealed your refund case to someone higher up at the company. I list the names, numbers and emails addresses of the Sinemia executives on my consumer advocacy site.
It looks as if you’re not alone. A class action suit has already been filed with the District Court in Delaware regarding Sinemia’s hidden fees. You may want to contact the attorneys listed on the site to find out how this lawsuit may pertain to you.
I contacted Sinemia on your behalf. After a “thorough review,” it decided to issue a full refund to both of you. Sinema has since gone out of business.