Landmark Cinemas investigates after Yukon woman complains of unprofessional treatment

A cinema company has recently completed an investigation into a complaint by a customer who alleges she was unfairly treated at a Whitehorse theatre while trying to redeem a gift card, and is sending up staff to give training to its employees.

CEO says company has staff heading to Whitehorse in late November to work with local teams

Qwanlin Cinema in Whitehorse. Rachel Sutherland says that she was unfairly treated at the theatre while trying to redeem a gift card. The company's CEO says that an investigation has been completed and determined it to be a 'customer service issue.' (Steve Hossack/CBC)

Editor's note: This story has been substantially updated. A previous version of this story contained an allegation of discrimination, which the CBC has been unable to verify. The story has been updated to reflect this.


A cinema company has recently completed an investigation into a complaint by a customer who alleges she was unfairly treated at a Whitehorse theatre while trying to redeem a gift card, and is sending up staff to give training to its employees.

Rachel Sutherland says that she bought a 10-movie gift card at Yukon Cinema so her three children could head to the movies when they wanted and maybe save a few dollars in the process.

She also planned to buy a few of the passes as Christmas stocking stuffers.

But Sutherland says when her 12-year-old son tried to use it on Nov. 2, the card read as "invalid."

Whitehorse has two movie theatres — Yukon Cinema and Qwanlin Cinema — both run by Calgary-based Landmark Cinemas. Since the Yukon Cinema was closed, Sutherland walked over to Qwanlin with her five- and nine-year-old daughters.

Sutherland says that when the theatre employee scanned the card and it still read invalid, she said that she had just purchased the card two nights ago.

"He proceeds to say, 'How do I know that you didn't invite 10 people to a movie last night?'

"I was thinking, 'What? Who would come up with something like that?'" she said.

"[They] basically gave me the impression that I was trying to scam them which wasn't the case. I just wanted something fixed."

CBC has been unable to independently verify Sutherland's account of the incident.

Sutherland claims that an employee said they would replace the card, but it would be "coming out of [their] own pocket," she said. She said that felt "really, really crappy," so she asked for the manager's number.

The disagreement then escalated, leading Sutherland to call the RCMP.

Sutherland says that the employee 'gave the impression that I was trying to scam them, which wasn't the case.' (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"I called the RCMP," said Sutherland. "I talked to the woman at the front desk and the response I got from her was just as bad. If I didn't leave the building, they were going to send the police over and arrest me."

RCMP said they received a call about the incident, and spokesperson Coralee Reid said that after CBC's inquiry, a supervisor reviewed a recording of the call.

"During the call, the RCMP did tell the caller that we could send an officer over, but it was in the context of keeping the peace and preventing the situation from escalating," said Reid in an email. "There was no mention of anyone being arrested, or getting into trouble."

However, worried she would be arrested in front of her daughters, Sutherland left.

"To me, it felt like [the employee's] mind was already made up when I explained what happened," she said.

Later that day, Sutherland says she went to Yukon Cinema and the issue with the card was handled quickly and professionally.

Sutherland met with the general manager of the Qwanlin and Yukon cinemas on Tuesday. She says the manager was apologetic and took full responsibility, and offered her movie passes.

'It's a customer service issue'

Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker said the company has completed an investigation of the incident, and determined it to be a customer service issue.

He said there was no problem with the gift card, but the employee didn't know how to redeem it.

Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker says this gift card is indeed valid. The problem was the assistant manager didn't know how to properly redeem it. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"It certainly isn't a proud moment for the company," he said shortly after the complaint was brought to his attention.

"What we believe is that it was a failure in the execution of that coupon, and then from a customer service perspective, it was a failure to properly resolve the situation."

Walker said that the employee would not be reprimanded, but that members of Landmark's management team will head to Whitehorse later this month to train new members of local management, as well as work with employees on customer service techniques.

With files from Jane Sponagle