The atomic bomb is about to go off. I feel vibrations

Lu Feiran
When some moviegoers talk about a moving experience, they aren't referring to what's on the screen.
Lu Feiran
The atomic bomb is about to go off. I feel vibrations

Pay-to-use massage chairs in cinemas. Should they be allowed? The contentious issue recently landed on the "hot search" list of the Weibo social media platform.

Last weekend I went to watch "Oppenheimer" at a movie theater in Yangpu District, and I found myself seated again in a massage chair. I expected it to vibrate for a bit of massage from neck to hip before the movie started, but I didn't expect it to start moving again just when the atomic bomb was about to go off in the movie.

How annoying!

I later did some research online and discovered that these massage chairs are becoming commonplace in many movie theaters, railway stations and shopping malls around the country. While some people find the chairs helpful in easing the strains of prolonged walking, others find them irritating.

Take movie theaters, for example, where the chairs vibrate without being activated by the sitter. These free, unsolicited mini-massages are a "teaser" to let people know that they can get a more thorough massage if they scan the QR code on the chair's armrest and pay for the service. The cost could be anywhere from 30 yuan (US$4.10) to 50 yuan an hour.

In some theaters, massage chairs are installed only in the best areas, so if patrons don't want to sit in them, they have to settle for less prime seats in back rows or on the sides.

"I feel that I'm being forced to accept these massage chairs, but I really don't like it when a chair moves automatically," said Zhang Yi, an information technology worker and movie fanatic. "And it's very uncomfortable because the metal roller parts are always at your back. I really hate such bother when watching a movie, but now most cinemas near my home have these chairs."

Safety issues have also surfaced amid reports that some massage chairs in public areas are dirty and stinky. Some users claim they have picked up allergies after using them.

Venues such as Hongxing Film World in Songjiang District have removed massage chairs after receiving complaints from patrons, but other sites have taken no action.

It is common, or course, for some adverse consequences to occur when an innovation first hits the market.

Several years ago, the advent of shared bikes and ride-hailing services provoked concerns about issues such as safety, privacy violation and traffic problems. However, after a few years of refinement and governmental intervention, such services are causing fewer problems than when they first appeared on the scene.

Will it be the same for massage chairs?

Consumer rights groups and public health authorities need to investigate. If the chairs are indeed violating consumers' rights or are a potential health hazard, then action needs to be taken.

Massage chair vendors and venues that install them ultimately bear responsibility for ensuring that people have the right to opt out of the service if they want and for providing regular maintenance to keep the chairs clean and free of anything that might cause adverse reactions.

Special Reports