General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Race entry fees + tack-on cost Rss Feed  
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2009-05-07 9:56 AM

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Subject: Race entry fees + tack-on cost

Just when we thought that Active.com charged egregious on-line registration fees and looked towards race organizations to handle their own registration process, Team Magic - an up and coming race management company - has instituted a 9% "convenience fee" for on-line registration.  For comparasion. Active.com charges somewhere in the 7% range.  Further, the option to submit a paper 'main-in' race application carries a higher fee of $5.00/entry.

What gives?  Isn't processing credit cards a normal cost of business?  Aren't race directors receiving enough of a value for on-line registration by receiving the information electronically instead of having to manually input each registration?

The particular race I am looking to register for, The Chattanooga Oly, sells out at 1200 participants.  Presuming a minimum of $85 entry fee + $7.25 registration fee, then this one race generates an operating budget of $110,700 for a half-day event.  This does not include relay teams, sponsorships or in-kind services the city and/or tourism council provides.

I know that it takes cabbage to make the race happen: insurance, traffic control, permitting and then t-shirts, drinks, gels, etc. ... but at some point this is getting to be ridiculous.

I suppose the biggest bummer of it is learning that race directors are embracing Active.com's business processes instead of holding the line. 



2009-05-07 10:02 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
I couldn't agree more. IMHO, these extra fees are highway robbery. These companies provide very little in the way of actual service. Posting race descriptions, accepting payments, and tracking registrations is not exactly rocket science.

It's really the race directors that are letting this go. As participants, there is little choice but to use one of these crappy services and pay the fees. I was amazed that a company like WTC didn't just build its own system considering how big it is. It's only going to get more ridiculous from here (see ticketmaster).
2009-05-07 10:04 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost

brian - 2009-05-07 9:56 AM

Just when we thought that Active.com charged egregious on-line registration fees and looked towards race organizations to handle their own registration process, Team Magic - an up and coming race management company - has instituted a 9% "convenience fee" for on-line registration.  For comparasion. Active.com charges somewhere in the 7% range.  Further, the option to submit a paper 'main-in' race application carries a higher fee of $5.00/entry.

What gives?  Isn't processing credit cards a normal cost of business?  Aren't race directors receiving enough of a value for on-line registration by receiving the information electronically instead of having to manually input each registration?

The particular race I am looking to register for, The Chattanooga Oly, sells out at 1200 participants.  Presuming a minimum of $85 entry fee + $7.25 registration fee, then this one race generates an operating budget of $110,700 for a half-day event.  This does not include relay teams, sponsorships or in-kind services the city and/or tourism council provides.

I know that it takes cabbage to make the race happen: insurance, traffic control, permitting and then t-shirts, drinks, gels, etc. ... but at some point this is getting to be ridiculous.

I suppose the biggest bummer of it is learning that race directors are embracing Active.com's business processes instead of holding the line. 

Unfortuately, the fact it sells out means supply and demand dont even meet what folks would pay.  We triathletes in general are a focused bunch, many times with disposable income that goes into training and toys and nutrition.  With all that, shelling out for race fees probably gets glossed over by many to where we trip over ourselves to pay whatever is out there.  I am starting to raise eyebrows at $70 sprints for example.  I know they will likely continue to sell out though, cuz everybody has their favorite events and distances and by me at least the scene is not near its saturation point.  You vote by not doing the race and unfortunatly it relies on others doing the same or the prices will still stay where they are.  I am cool with paying more for charity events or something special, but thats the choice we all make.

2009-05-07 10:04 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
So whatcha gonna do?

You can take it, as I suppose 1200 participants will do, or you can vote with your wallet and your feet and do another race instead.

I have long maintained that races that sell out quickly are economically underpriced, simply as a function of supply and demand. Whether the suppliers bring about equilibrium by charging higher entry fees or tacking on these tyoes of fees is immaterial.
2009-05-07 10:08 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
I guess we should all buy stock in Active.com... yep, it sucks, but it's what we have to pay to do the races we want... I get to add $10 to my race just to get into the park where the race is held... That's on top of the $80 race fee and the $$ whatever the cost was for the registration + the USAT fees... it adds up fast!
2009-05-07 10:10 AM
in reply to: #2136256

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost

I agree that some races seem exhorbitantly expensive and I do not race those.  However, while the registration fee is annoying as heck, it just feels so arbitrary.  What if the race fee was $95 instead of $85, but they offered free registration?  Unless you're tracking race fees year to year, most wouldn't even notice this.  The add-on registration fee is a losing battle and just something to complain about but impossible to change.

I wish that more races offered add-on options for extra silly stuff that I don't care about, and might opt-out of.  For instance I never wear the t-shirts and I rarely stay for race food afterwards.  How about selling those items seperately so I have some choice?   Perhaps a race fee "a la carte" which is $10 less than the "full race with amenities"?



Edited by BikerGrrrl 2009-05-07 10:11 AM


2009-05-07 10:13 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
Some races wrap those fees into their entry, others tack them on.  They exist either way.  If cost is important in your comparison of races, you should always look at the "all-in" cost and make your decision that way.  If enough people actually complained about it and they decided it was deterring entries, I guarantee that they would drop those fees but the race entries would go up.  So you might "feel" better, but pay just as much in the end.
2009-05-07 10:23 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
Beside voting with your wallet you could also go another route; you could start your own race and show RDs and online registration companies a better biz model with a greater value for customers... just a thought.

PS. as a former RD (of a small sprint for 2 years) all I have to say it is not that easy.
2009-05-07 10:30 AM
in reply to: #2136323

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost

Jorge ... so you are saying that based upon your experience that the economics add up so that the 9% surcharge is justified?

To your point, I have often thought that a competitor to Active.com would go gangbusters.  I unfortunately still get cold sweats when I harken back to the MIS classes I took in college and therefore have neither the smarts or mental toughness to overcome the techno hurdles involved to do such (shoot, basic HTML gives me fits).  That said, there are a lot of smart people out there.

To the point raised above about WTC having their own on-line registration system, Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) is one of the original founders of Active.com.


JorgeM - 2009-05-07 11:23 AM Beside voting with your wallet you could also go another route; you could start your own race and show RDs and online registration companies a better biz model with a greater value for customers... just a thought.

PS. as a former RD (of a small sprint for 2 years) all I have to say it is not that easy.

2009-05-07 10:53 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
My assumption is the race doesn't get any of the tack-on fee and that it is kept entirely by Active? Is that incorrect?
2009-05-07 10:56 AM
in reply to: #2136336

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost

brian - 2009-05-07 10:30 AM

Jorge ... so you are saying that based upon your experience that the economics add up so that the 9% surcharge is justified?

To your point, I have often thought that a competitor to Active.com would go gangbusters.  I unfortunately still get cold sweats when I harken back to the MIS classes I took in college and therefore have neither the smarts or mental toughness to overcome the techno hurdles involved to do such (shoot, basic HTML gives me fits).  That said, there are a lot of smart people out there.

To the point raised above about WTC having their own on-line registration system, Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) is one of the original founders of Active.com.


JorgeM - 2009-05-07 11:23 AM Beside voting with your wallet you could also go another route; you could start your own race and show RDs and online registration companies a better biz model with a greater value for customers... just a thought.

PS. as a former RD (of a small sprint for 2 years) all I have to say it is not that easy.

I think it is justified to an RD that doesnt want to put in the additional headaches so chooses a provider that has the existing infrastructure, makes it painless for them once it is set up vs getting a credit card machine (where those generally can run 2-3% tip to the provider itself).  Your point about not wanting to pursue being a competitor is likely the feeling of many and until somebody gets the gumption to take em on they can do what they will.  I have seen a bunch of smaller independent providers in some of the cycling tours I have done before for example.  Most times RDs have other jobs other than running tris and there are a lot of other logistics issues to deal with where if the headache of payment and populating a spreadsheet every time sends in an application or sends an email or whatever, that cost is nothing until people complain about it by not doing the race.



2009-05-07 11:03 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
I avoid paying active fees or other on line registration fees when I can.

This year a couple of the races I've wanted to register for are using a different provider than Active. One had a about $3.50 fee on a $70 race. The other had a print off application option and mail a check which I chose as I didn't know if there was an online processing free.

Max Performance and Firm Racing here in MA are using another provider than active.

Bike races use Bikereg.com and they have a fee. With cyclocross races being about $20 and most sign up the week before the race, on line is the way to register last minute.
2009-05-07 11:05 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
In the end, its a business. You like to get paid when you go to work and I would bet you think you're offering a quality product. This is no different. Before you make the first dime, you have to make sure all of the costs are covered.

Coming from a much more expensive line of racing where my entry fees alone were ~$300.00, and if it was a local race my total out of pocket costs were ~$800 (if I didn't wreck the bike and/or end up in an emergency room or take a life flight), I'd say what you get for your money is not a bad value.

Tack onto that that most of the races are benefits for some cause, and most of the race is run by volunteers, I'd say its well worth it.

You can always take the route of just training... but really, after you've spent all of the money for the bike, the shoes, helmet, running shoes, wetsuit, etc and then complain and a few bucks in extra fees ?
2009-05-07 11:45 AM
in reply to: #2136230

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Subject: RE: Race entry fees + tack-on cost
I don't have a problem with the total cost (registration + fee).  What I don't like is that it's always thrown on after you're 3/4 through the online registration process.  ie: They hit you with it after you've made the decision to do the race.

FWIW, I work in construction management, and when fuel prices went up a little while back, we had suppliers and subcontractors trying to add fuel surcharges to invoices even though they had never quoted them in advance.  Some were honest attempts as recouping fuel cost increases, and some were blatently dishonest attempts to profit from a volitile fuel market.  We simply refused to pay any invoices where this was done, and mailed the invoices back.  If they quoted the surcharges in advance, and we had the opportunity to consider them in our purchase decision, we have no problem paying them.  It's a shame we can't do something similar about processing fees that are tacked on after-the-fact.
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