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Paying for Better Movie Rewards

Nickels and Dimes: Last week, I received a postcard from AMC Theatres with my very last free reward — a choice of either a free ticket or large popcorn-and-soda combo.

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The theater chain switched from its free MovieWatcher program over to a new, $12-per-year one called Stubs a few weeks ago, and the rewards will keep on coming for members. But even though I’m a rewards junkie with 15 loyalty cards on my key chain and another half-dozen in my wallet, I’m not planning to participate. The annual fee just isn’t worth it for my movie-watching habits.

Annual fees for loyalty programs are pretty rare, says Kelly Hlavinka, a managing partner for loyalty research firm Colloquy. The few chains that do charge tend to fall into the entertainment arena: think Barnes & Noble’s (BKS) $25-per-year membership with extra discounts and free express shipping, or Borders (BGP) $20 Borders Plus with members-only discounts and $5 rewards for every $150 in spending. “Companies do that so they can offer richer rewards that are really appealing to those enthusiasts; the avid readers and avid movie-goers,” Hlavinka says.

The new Stubs program is no exception. Members earn a $10 reward for every $100 in spending at the box office and concession stand, get free upgrades to the next size popcorn or soda, and avoid the ticket fees of up to $2 apiece when buying online at Fandango or MovieTickets.com.

That’s a faster schedule and more generous benefits than the old free program, which awarded two-points-per-ticket purchased (maximum four points per visit) and none for food. At the 10-point mark, you were rewarded with a free small popcorn; 20, a free small drink; and at 30, your choice of a free ticket or a free large soda and popcorn combo. That cycle repeated until 100 points, when you’d get a free ticket, free small popcorn and a free small drink. Points only expired after 24 months of inactivity.

But as with credit cards that charge an annual fee, there’s a higher benchmark for opting in to a rewards program that does so, Hlavinka says. (AMC did not respond to requests for comment.) You need to be spending enough to more than offset the fee — in this case, $200 per year to get two $10 rewards. You must also be willing to condense spending — if you haven’t already — to only visit that one retailer.

And it’s that dual consideration that has me planning to bow out where a family of four or an amateur movie critic might sign up in a heartbeat. I head to the movies maybe six times a year, always on a discount ticket, and often switch up theaters. (Not only do the Regal and AMC locations across the street from each other here in NYC rarely overlap on movies, but there are also plenty of independent theaters with ticket prices $2 to $3 cheaper than the chains’ going rate of $13.) Scared off by the idea of spending $20 to eat multiple Big Macs’ worth of fat in one sitting, you’re not going to catch me at the concession counter, either.

How about you? Does the new program meet your movie-watching needs?

Nickels and Dimes will keep tabs on new and rising fees and surcharges eating into your bottom line. Have one to share? Email kelli.grant@dowjones.com.

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      Every time I reinstall Windows XP on my home computer,I always forget how to change the icons so that they have a transparent background. The default dark blue
      How to Remove the Background from Desktop Icons
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      How to Remove the Background from Desktop Icons
      May 18th, 2009 by Aseem | File in: Windows XP Tips
      Every time I reinstall Windows XP on my home computer, I always forget how to change the icons so that they have a transparent background. The default dark blue background with white text is just not very nice looking.
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      Step 1: First open the Control Panel and click on System.
      Step 2: Now click on the Advanced tab and click on the Settings button under the Performance section.
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      Step 3: Finally, scroll down and check the Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop box.В 
      That’s it! Now all of your desktop icons will have the blue backgrounds removed and will appear transparent.
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      8 There are 8 comments, care to add yours?
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      8 Responses to “How to Remove the Background from Desktop Icons”
      Robert says:
      November 2, 2009 at 5:54 am
      Your suggestion is the correct one, and is repeated on many other sites. However, in my case (WinXP SP3), this checkbox is in effect BUT DOES NOTHING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Clearly I have a deeper issue. BTW, all my updates are done, latest versions, etc. Any other thoughts?
      Reply
      huzeyfekiran says:
      March 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm
      In Visual Effects, Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop is on but they are still not transparent?
      Reply
      dr_apprentice says:
      March 22, 2010 at 7:11 am
      It does not work, the backgrounds are still there. Any advice?
      Reply
      priyakumaresh says:
      March 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm
      yeah, it’s working for me! thanks a lot
      Reply
      madhan says:
      March 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm
      I followed these steps. but the background color is not removed. Please let me know if you know why.
      Reply
      sivakaran says:
      November 21, 2011 at 12:04 am
      i have the same problem too.
      Reply
      dnr_ron says:
      October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm
      If this solution does not work, you may have the display set to High Contrast. This feature, which also tends to place a frame around clickable areas (like hot spots on a web page) is used to help the impaired pick out selectable areas. You may be able to get the transparency back by turning off this feature. To do so,
      - go to Control Panel
      - go to Accessibility Options
      - select the Display tab
      - remove the check mark next to “Use High Contrast”
      Parts of your display may go black as the settings are adjusted.
      Good luck
      Reply
      Srikanth says:
      January 16, 2012 at 3:40 am
      Tried above mentioned steps, but it doesn’t work…….
      Reply
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    • If you are foolish enough to fork over the $12 for the stubs card make certain that you use every reward as soon as you receive it because even though the membership is good for 1 year when you have to fork over another $12 the rewards are taken from you by AMC after 90 days. Their website doesn’t give you a date or contain any transaction history of the expiration but the points are removed and you are simply told how much more you need to spend before you get some more rewards. This program completely alienated me from AMC theatres. Buyer beware.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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