Thursday, May 29, 2008

No to Active.com, Yes to Mail In Registration

I have become peeved lately. Why you might ask? Because I've been sucked into the Active.com system and blow tons of money away to them for each race entered. Mayhap it is the instant gratification of paying for an event online and knowing that it is done. But why? Why waste the money on Active.com "processing fees" when you can, over the year, run an extra race or two with that money?

What sparked this was I signed up for 4 races, all of which I had budgeted for the year. Two of them were Pacific Coast Trails races and they have their own system to process online transactions and don't charge the "processing fees". But the other two were for Muddy Buddy and the Forest of Nisene Marks Marathon, with processing fees totaling a whopping $15.00! What the?!?!?!?!?! For what? What exactly are they doing that creates that high of processing fees?

So I did a little math on two other runs that I had budgeted for the year (actually I had the San Francisco Marathon budgeted, but I figure I can run both of these for the same price as SF plus a little more. No brainer!), the Cowtown Marathon and the Two Cities Marathon. Cowtown has the marathon, half marathon, relay and a 5k. The fees vary for each one but when you take the number of entrants from each race last year and assume they all used Active then that means Active is making $11,754 in processing fees!!!!! Even assuming half the runners didn't use Active that is still close to $6,000.

I did the same thing with the Two Cities Marathon, which has a marathon, half marathon run, half marathon walk and a relay. Now the marathon is an inaugural marathon so nothing to base it off of, but they have a cap of 3,000, so I will use that total. Using their fees it comes to $20,112! Assuming half, then it would be $10,000.

And what are they "processing"? They host the race info and the results (sometimes) and process the fees. Is this really worth $16,000-$32,000 in processing fees? And that is for only 2 races. Add this up for all the races and they are making that much in processing. A complete waste of money and, I might add, the fees don't represent anywhere near what we, as runners, are receiving in return.

So from here on I will not be using Active. In fact I will veto it every chance I get. This means a little more planning, of course, because that would mean I would have to mail in my registration form well in advance (which would also help me sign up for the race before the fees go up, another cost saver).

I encourage all of you to do the same. Save your money and apply it to a race instead of the elusive "processing fees" that Active.com charges. I am amazed that it has taken me as long as it has to realize this. $5 a race is too much, and I figure I have already spent around $35 this year on the couple of races I have signed up for through Active.com. Perhaps if they would have kept it at an acceptable $1 an entrant, instead of the sliding scale that gets more and more expensive the more the race fees are (even when the race fees go up, so do the "processing fees", which is ludicrous because what processing are they doing that is now more than before?), then maybe I wouldn't have even bothered getting my panties in a bunch, and they would have still made a hefty amount of money per race regardless.

Alas, I am one in hundreds of thousands and my lone voice won't hurt them one bit, but it will certainly benefit me and give me an extra race or two if I wanted, or perhaps another pair of shoes. I think I'll take option B and use the money for myself.

6 comments:

bill carter said...

Hi Brian

This is such a great post. I am totally irritated with Active.com and to be honest with you some of the big race organizers as well. I will never do a race that is run by Devine because they are the nastiest, cheapest, money grubbingest people ever.

Glad the training is going well and man you are going to be busy.

Tom said...

Would it be better if the cost was hidden from you and the organizer included it as an expense on their end?

Collecting money from many people is a lot of work and someone needs to pay the people who do it. Tabulating and depositing checks costs the organizer money too, but it isn't in your face like active.com's fees.

I just organized an event for around 70 people, collected checks and am looking for an easier option for next year. I found your post looking for "active.com" costs.

Brian Hawkinson said...

I agree that collecting the money is a job in and of itself. I've registered for many races that have their own online system that you pay through, and they don't charge fees.

But my problem with Active.com is not that they charge fees. They are providing a service so they should be compensated for that. But they charge fees on an arbitrary sliding scale. The higher the event fee the more money they want. If you miss the deadline and you have to pay a higher fee, than Active.com charges more even though nothing has changed except the event costs more (i.e. SF marathon goes from 90, 95, 100, to 110 and so on, and if active were involved they would also charge more as well).

They aren't doing any more work than before, but they will certainly take advantage of the higher price to charge a little more.

I'm for websites that help organize events. I am completely against websites like Active.com that use registration fees on a sliding scale even though they are not doing any more work.

Wow, this is long winded. And I wouldn't mind the fees as part of the entrance fee, because you know what you are signing up for. With Active you go to sign up and voila, there is an extra $10 cost.

Anyway, thanks for the input. What event did you organize and was it something that you enjoyed doing? I've been thinking about trying to organize a local event...

Tom said...

I'm doing the money part for sfuwh
It can be as stressful as you want :-)

http://www.bikereg.com/promoter/faq.asp#1 seems much more straight-forward.

Late registrants and more expensive fees do cost slightly more because they need to be rushed and mistakes are more expensive. But I wouldn't be surprised if active.com makes much more profit in these areas.

John Fors said...

Totally agree with this post. I now go out of my way to avoid active.com. It is far too expensive. Check out www.ultrasignup.com" - they started just this year - and seem to have a more sound approach to this.

fedex1 said...

I agree. I'm writing a event registration that is developed specifically for athletic events and club membership signups.

See http://move.brooklynmarathon.com/

This site is no charge except the google checkout fee.

Spread the word that companies like active.com are really charging too much. And there are alternatives.

I think runners, etc. should talk/write to the race directors and tell them that it's silly to charge 16% more for online registration. Active.com is just like ticketmaster. overpriced.

By supporting active.com you are basically funding their large marketing budget.