Recently I read Madeline Bost’s Running Column post about race processing fees titled “How’s that again? A fee to do it yourself?” and there were aspects of this article that bothered me.
The fact is that race sign up sites charge a fee – part of that fee is for the cost of processing credit cards and clearly the companies offering the registration sites need to make money.
It is a convenience to the race organizers because the data is easily put together in one place as she rightly points out. She then goes on to say that if you send in a paper application, the race has to pay someone to enter the data. I would argue that a lot of races are still run by volunteers, or put on by charities with employees who are probably working extra hours for no extra money to put on events like this.
The fact is that people respond to convenient ways to sign up to races, and it is often a difficult choice for the organizers whether or not to include that service charge in the fees, or to have the registrants pay the fee. The costs of putting on races seems to be on the rise, and anything that cuts into the races margins can make a huge difference. It’s particularly true when the race is for charity.
RVRR runs a Summer Series of races, and alongside the main race there are kids races. The margins are so low on this that in the past online registration has not been offered because of the fee (all other RVRR events absorb the fee in the event cost). However, each year parents ask me why there isn’t an online entry option. When I have told them about the fees, they tell me that they would willingly pay the extra not to have to print a form, fill it in and mail it. Some have missed the series sign up because they never got round to it.
It’s fair enough that people may want to save themselves money on entry if the race is asking them to pay the extra fee, but also consider whether the race is likely to have the staff to handle that data entry, or if you are just creating work for volunteers, or worse, forcing a charity to pay someone to do it for them if they do not have the resources.
I believe it will be more and more the case that races do not offer paper/mail in entry because of this, and I would be completely understanding of the reasons. I just believe it is unfair to complain about the fees without considering the reasons that the race is imposing them on the runner. With the cost of races increasing, it may simply become standard to account for these online registration costs in the price of the race.
I’m proud to say that the Highland Park Run in the Park 5k and RVRR races have tried to maintain prices year after year while absorbing the fee but as it seems to get harder and harder to cover race costs something is probably going to have to give.