Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Worldcon Trial Memberships

L.A.con IV to Offer 'Taster' Memberships

L.A.con IV is going to attempt something that they hope will attract more people who suffer from "sticker shock" at the high price of a Worldcon membership. The way it will work is that if you buy a single-day membership, it will be time-stamped, and if you come back within three hours, you can get a refund of all but $20 of what you paid. This will allow you to have a look at the Worldcon without having to commit $75 to it, a daunting amount to people used to paying less than that for an entire weekend. If you like what you see, you just stick around; if it's not to your taste, you can get most of your money back. It removes a lot of the risk.

I'm happy to say that I had something to do with this experiment. I was part of the discussions at SMOFCon in Chicago a few years back where we worked out a lot of the fiddly bits that go into such a policy. And yes, I was inspired, if you want to call it that, by descriptions of how Toronto Trek reportedly does trial memberships. (I understand that if you come back within the trial time, you get your entire membership back; Worldcon this year is imposing what you might call a "restocking fee" on the returned membership.)

Is this something that will attract more people from outside of the greater L.A. area? Of course not. Anyone who is willing to make the commitment to travel that far and probably rent a hotel room is probably not put off by the price of the membership. But if you're a local within driving distance of Anaheim -- which is a larger area than people who aren't familiar with California Car Culture may realize -- then you're in the target zone for a trial membership.

Despite what some may think, this isn't completely aimed at attracting walk-in members who have never heard of a science fiction convention, although it does have some application there. For the people who hear about the event but show up and are dismayed by the price, this gives them a chance to look around and make sure it's really to their taste without risking hundreds of dollars for a family. But it's also aimed at people who may be familiar with SF conventions, but only their local con, which generally costs much less than a Worldcon. I know that I spent many years sitting behind sales desks and talking to people at parties at Bay Area conventions like BayCon and SiliCon. People attending those conventions already know what an SF convention is. What many of them don't understand is how a Worldcon is any different from a BayCon, and why they should be expected to pay as much for one day as BayCon costs for four. Because it's so difficult to get past that "sticker shock," many people who I think would enjoy events like Worldcon don't even have a look during the relatively rare opportunity to attend it when it's close and (relatively) cheap. That's a shame, in my opinion, and I'm glad to see L.A.con IV grasping the nettle and making the extra effort to try these "taster memberships."

In my opinion, if this program doesn't work (in the sense of generating additional new memberships from people who say they would not have attended without it) at Anaheim, it won't work anywhere. The L.A.cons have the largest potential commuting-distance membership base of any recent Worldcon -- this is one reason the 1984 and 1996 Worldcons are the first and fourth-largest Worldcons ever held, in my opinion. It will take effort -- L.A.con needs to get the promotion out there to tell people this offer is available -- but I think it's worth trying.

If you know anyone in the Greater L.A. area who you think might be interested in going to Worldcon but who has told you the price is too much for them, let them know about this offer.
Tags: l.a.con iv, worldcon

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