Thursday, 8 February 2007

Rationalist Society of Australia – Irrational Payment Mechanisms

This week, I attempted to join the Rationalist Society of Australia. I had purchased their magazine from Borders and liked the content. So, I thought it would be good to support them and looked into applying for membership. They have a membership application form which can be downloaded from their website. Fine, although an online submission form would be a lot more convenient. The first sign of bad news was the note specifically requesting that the form be snail-mailed to them as opposed to emailed or faxed.

I printed the membership form, saw a note regarding payment via money order or cheque. Bad. I don't have a cheque book (I would have to queue at the bank to buy a bank cheque, not worth the money and more importantly, not worth my time. I actually can't even remember the last time I had to write a cheque… somewhere in the vicinity of 8 years or so ago). I am young enough that various means of payment have been established, such that I have never touched a money order (some archaic system involving a piece of paper for which one needs to queue in the infamously long and tedious lines at the Post Office - and that's if you can get there during your lunch break since they close at 5pm). So, I emailed the society requesting an alternative payment method. No response from the Society. Called them to ask the same question. Spoke to a 'mature' sounding lady whom I shall refer to as Ancient.

Ancient advised no cards accepted and rather snappishly started to carry on about their reasons. I cut her off. Asked about bank transfers. She said that would be possible provided that she can identify that I am the payer??? "WTF?", I did not say. I decided to be patient with Ancient and explained that I can easily specify e.g. "X name for purposes of membership in Rationalist Society of Australia." She said ok. I then asked for their banking details. Ancient then mystifyingly said, "I don't give out that information." "WTF??", I again did not say. I have no idea how she thought I was going to transfer the funds to her.

Ancient then proceeded to lecture me to the effect of "what's so difficult about going to the Post Office once every quarter to get a money order?" (as an aside, a lecture delivered in a snotty clipped British accent raises the hackles that much higher). I didn't bother explaining to Ancient the issues in relation to scarcity of time and my unwillingness to waste it standing in long queues during my lunch break (when I get one). I just said, I've never touched money orders, which hearken back to yesteryear and that there really was no excuse in this day and age of internet banking, then hung up.

I am happily a Bright but believe I should support a local outfit. So, I persevered and found the Atheist Foundation of Australia which appears to be a more professional organisation. I downloaded their application form from their website, entered my details in Word, paid with a credit card online via Paymate, then emailed the completed application form to them and Bob’s yer uncle. All over red rover in 10 minutes. Get with the times, Ancient.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

FYI, I just checked their website www.rationalist.com.au, and the membership form now includes a bank account number to make transfers to. So you may have helped create a little rational progress there. Cheers, Anon. (Dec 2008)

Adrienne Patrick said...

I have the same problems with a lot of memberships I have, and a lot of events which expect you to RSVP by snail mailing things back!
One society which shall go unnamed refuses to take credit card numbers over the phone! It seems to be a boomer-generation problem, perhaps this problem will dwindle as they all drop off the perch....
One thing that really annoys me is the fax, I dont have one, I use my computer, as purchasing one seems like an invitation to waste paper. Clients are encouraged to scan and email any documents they wish to send to me.
There is nothing I hate more than getting useless bits of paper in the mail. It does seem to be a generational thing, again, anyone above the age of Gen x seems to love wasting time and paper with things that can be done electronically.