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I just registered Melanie's '56 Chrysler for the Auburn meet and quickly realized that the AACA's meet registration system desperately needs an update. I don't want to step on toes if someone is already working on it, but the lack of online registration for a national meet from the biggest car club in the world is, well, really surprising. I had to log in to the AACA site, I had to find the meet list, I had to find the specific part of the event that I want to register to attend, I had to enter the car's information, and I had to determine what class it should be in (by wading through 50 pages of judging manual, another issue that's looking for a solution). Once all that was filled in, I was instructed to print out the receipt and mail it with a check to the AACA national headquarters in Hershey.


Really?!?

 

It's 2021. Online registrations of all types have been commonplace for two decades, at least. Credit cards can be safely and securely processed online by clubs and individuals using multiple services. There are even ways to process a check online for people who worry about credit card information circulating in the Aether.

 

Given the unreliability of the postal service these days, the AACA is doing its members and its volunteers a great disservice by forcing everyone to wade through this ponderous registration process, print a piece of paper, and mail it in with a check. I presume someone, somewhere, is just compiling a list using that mailed-in information--is it even on a computer (like an Excel file?) or just written on a piece of paper with some master list-keeper at the event level? I guarantee that at all events this year, you are going to have more than a few people who mailed in their papers and figured they were good to go only to show up and be turned away at the gate with no record of their registration. It's going to be a problem if it isn't already.

 

Fortunately, there IS a solution.

 

Four years ago, we switched to online registrations for our local CCCA region event at Stan Hywet Hall each Father's Day. We quickly found that not only were registrations received sooner, but we had a higher retention rate year-over-year and a fairly significant change in demographics with a lot of newcomers each year. We kept the old "print it and mail it with a check" system for the people who still want to pretend its 1978, but those folks now amount to less than 10% of registrations. Best of all, there are no checks to process--the money just shows up in the club's bank account. With bank branches closing and limiting the number of checks that can be deposited each day, this can be a significant factor. And before you say, "Well, our events are much too big for such a system," bear in mind that it makes no difference to the computer whether you're managing 400 cars or 40,000.

 

I think it's time that the AACA, the largest car club in the world, figured out how to make online registration happen. I know that the entry form is now going to sit on my desk waiting for me to find the checkbook (which I haven't used in years), find a stamp (which I also haven't needed in years), and mail it in. I surely cannot be the only one who finds this anachronistic these days. The old system isn't doing a very good job anymore and it's surely creating a lot of extra work for the volunteers who actually run the shows.

 

Before you assume that I'm just throwing out complaints without offering solutions, I am offering the talents of my incredibly smart wife, Melanie, the person who solves these problems for a lot of organizations. She has offered to figure out how to bring the AACA into at least the early 2000s in terms of online technology and help find a way to take online registrations and payment. She's putting her money where my mouth is. Now, if someone else is already looking at solutions to this problem, they really need to get on it and make it happen. They're already 15 years late. But if you don't have such a person, Melanie is volunteering--at the national level--to figure it out for you.

 

I know that there will be complaints that the membership doesn't want to do things online and that security is an issue and it's complicated and scary, but these are the same people wondering why young people don't show up for their events. Guess what? As soon as we switched to online registrations, the demographics of our annual show got a lot younger. Young people are more likely to register online and far, far less likely to participate if they have to jump through a bunch of hoops by printing stuff and mailing it in with a check. Online transactions are second nature to younger people and as I said, no longer something that older members should fear. Best of all, with online registrations, you get a nice database of participants and their cars, which you can use to do all kinds of things--mailing list, E-mail blasts, printed windshield cards, registration packets, whatever. All the data is digitized and organized so it can be put to work immediately. You don't need an army of old ladies filling out show cards and writing names on envelopes with magic markers anymore.

 

Besides, you've already got a cumbersome, complicated system that needs multiple steps just to make a piece of paper appear in my hands. What if we could both make it easier for the user and more functional for the club at the same time?

 

It's time to modernize, AACA. Commit to this and I bet you see greater rewards beyond simply making it easier for members to register for meets. I've offered a solution--step up and let's move the club into the digital age.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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From what has been explained to me before, the Meet registration isn't online because the fees go to the hosting region first, then National gets reimbursed after the fact and most regions cannot take money online.  I think I have that correct - however, please clarify if I missed something :) 

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I'll comment.......no surprise. My first AACA event was back in 1971. Been going to Hershey since I was six years old. In the 80's and later I have on and off had a membership in the club, until about ten years ago when I became very active here on the fourm, I figured it was a debt of honor to join and support national. It was a great move.........but let's stay on track about attending shows and tours. I agree with Matt's conclusions. Just last week, I attended my first tour with national since 1973. I was too young to know what was going on then as far as reservations and plans. I'll comment on how I ended up going on the Florida tour last week. 

 

I wanted to drive my 1917 White on an "age appropriate" car tour...........within 600 miles as soon as it was ready. So, before it even ran I was looking for events...............SOMEWHERE ELSE........... not because I don't like or want to attend AACA tours, but things are not "easy or user friendly" figuring out what tour a 1917 car can attend. You need to actually look through every month on the calender to find events near you, then you need to figure out if you car can go on the named tours.........what years does "Glidden" "Sentimental" "Founders" ect take for cars? Hell if I know, and I have been in the hobby 50 years. So, it's hard to know if my car is accepted. Also, sometimes the dates ebb and flow...........which I understand, as road conditions and traffic can make earlier cars problematic for the tour from a safety and time standpoint. Then we get............"Southeastern Divisional Tour" which I just attended. It was advertised in two different regions of the AACA North Central Region........and Kingdom Under the Sun Region. I saw the ad in the "Under the Sun" region page......and had to go look to find out where it was........to say it took some digging is true. Honestly........I was lucky to have found the tour, and it was EFFORT to figure out what cars could attend.......I actually sent emails and made two phone calls to determine if my 1917 was allowed, and then if that car was a good idea for the area. I received prompt answers to all inquiries. While doing all of this I was actually asking myself "was this a normal process for this event?" It seemed that if I wasn't determined to go on a tour......I would have never known about the event. 40 year members from Florida were not aware of the tour.........??????? So, it's not just me. Now.....I am NOT complaining, and I know how difficult it is to run car clubs. I also know how difficult it is to host a national or regional event............again no complaints. Also note.........I'm not complaining about the registration process that was snail mail...........I'm a dinosaur but the younger people would find the process difficult and cumbersome. 

 

Other observations.............my trusty side kick, Phil with "The hands like George the Animal Steel" was asking lots of questions while we were attending the tour and wanted me to compare it to past tours both by the AACA and other events I have done. It was a good exercise to make comments here. Here is my explanation I gave him. All tours and events are different within the same club, just by nature some are done one way, and others are done totally different or opposite. Since I have spent a lifetime touring and showing, I go with the flow, take things as they come, and enjoy every hour of the day. I don't look to complain, pick apart the tour book- pick apart the schedule-pick apart the venue-pick apart the hotel...............it's a ton of work and ten thousand things have to come together with LOTS of volunteers carrying the load. Different people have different talents. Makes for a varied and interesting time. I have lots of thoughts about last weeks event. All of them are positive. It was the first public national car event that occurred since COVID. The entire event was a gamble the AACA and the regions to even attempt so soon and with no known guarantee that one car would show..........so, I am grateful they took the shot and pulled everything off. Getting meals scheduled  months in advance when the venue was closed...........impressive! Getting the hotel to take a chance on a group of "old people" so soon after restrictions were getting dropped.........I knew I was fortunate to have a place to take my car, meet old and new friends, and have a shot at a "normal car event". I explained to Phil that this entire thing was a blessing, and we would take everything as it comes...........and deal with it. Were there a few issues.......yes. None related to the AACA or the regions...........the 'bumps in the road" were directly related to the shutdown and opening of the venue. It was all minor, and really not worth mentioning. I get it.......we were DAM LUCKY TO BE THERE. Would I do the exact same tour in the exact same location, with the exact same events......YES. As a matter of fact, we like the area so much, I plan on going back for Christmas week this year instead of going to the Keys. Honestly, the roads and scenery are so nice, I will take long weekends there in the future with my car because it is so much more enjoyable than Souther Florida traffic. I couldn't have been happier with the entire event.

 

THANK YOU TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE TOUR POSSIBLE. SIMPLY PUT, IT WAS FANTASTIC!

 

I would be happy to give feedback on a few small items that are minor in detail, and would only offer the feedback to national so they could offer a general guide to regions. I'm guessing they have already done this, and I'm also guessing it was COVID that caused the few things I'm thinking of to have been displaced due to logistics. NO BIG DEAL, I was a happy member and participant. 

 

As far as on line registration.............things evolve, and when everything gets settled at the new headquarters, maybe they can take a shot at upgrading to on line if it makes sense. Best to all.........a Happy AACA Member, Ed.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Ed, glad you wrote this while not in the bar.  Most importantly glad you enjoyed the tour, that is what it is all about.  A few things:

 

1.  Car eligibility for the tours has been spelled out for years in our magazine.  The carrier sheet (the cover sheet in the magazine) has a list of upcoming events and as far as tours are concerned a member only needs to send the card in and we mail them the complete information on the tour.  On the carrier sheet it specifically states what year cars are allowed on the tours.  Glidden, Reliability never change and occasionally vintage allows slightly newer cars.  Divisional Tours are at the discretion of the host region usually but are at the most 25 years or over.  Also ads in the magazine many times state the year requirements.

 

2.  This year tours have been done many "funky" ways mostly due to smaller tours that were cancelled last year and folks choosing to simply stay registered until 2021.  It has been a struggle to follow normal procedures.

 

3.  We are all for moving things online including paying for nationals (meets) but it will require host regions to be able to handle credit cards, etc.  This is more complicated than you would expect but we certainly are aware of these issues and hope that in the near future we can move more and more things online.  We DO understand that many think this is entirely simple but it is not.  Auburn should have been done completely online this year as national is handling it but it simply fell through the cracks.  AACA has recently gone through a massive restructuring with their IT operations as we moved from one IT company to another.  This moved us to the cloud (Azure), windows 365, a digital phone system and we have spent months in sorting this out with new switches, programming etc.  The registration system is also custom software that has to be integrated in what we do.  We are still to this day trying to get the kinks out of this change.  We are also getting ready to move from our shared data lines to a fiber optic dedicated line to this building.  On top of that we have been working for over a year to completely change our website and eCommerce store which MUST integrate with our custom software.  The four bids we have received so far are staggering!  I do not expect people to understand the complexities we are working with so we can only ask for further patience.  We have a lot of people with huge IT background working for a solution that is far more than a band-aid.  That being said, online payments are way past due and we are hopeful that the two new proposals due here soon will help us get to where we need to go and do so affordably.  

 

4.  One of the things this office and the club has strived for is doing away with people getting first crack at joining tours.  It was a problem many years ago and simply was the wrong thing to do.  That is why, for the most part, tour information is sent out at one time or at the least registration is not accepted before a certain date.  Everyone should have a fair shot.

 

5.  Not sure there ever has been a perfect tour but some tour chairpersons are highly experienced and have tours that run like clockwork.  Tours are managed by the host region(s) and they are responsible for all that goes on during the tour.

 

6.  The Florida tour was hit a big blow by their chairman ending up with a very serious medical issue very close to the start of the tour.  We all are praying for him as he is a pretty special guy.  I think, some of the issues that may have happened on the tour were just the rest of the region working hard to pick up the pieces.  We are grateful that they were still able to pull it off. 

 

7.  Our VP of National Activities  and our VP of Event Planning would be interested in any comments you might have  please forward to them at mbartemeyer@yahoo.com (Mary Bartemeyer) and/or Dave Anspach at AACADave1054@yahoo.com  

 

Ed, AACA tours usually are a lot of fun and you great a chance to visit places you might not have otherwise.  The comradery is great also although I understand in a certain area of Florida there now is a shortage of drinking alcohol.  Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and your support of AACA.  The club simply will not exist without active members.

 

Steve (the guy you owe lunch to!)

 

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54 minutes ago, Steve Moskowitz said:

3.  We are all for moving things online including paying for nationals (meets) but it will require host regions to be able to handle credit cards, etc. 

 

Why? I'm writing a check payable to the AACA and mailing it to AACA headquarters in Hershey (from which, I presume, the funds and information will be disbursed to the organizers). If the AACA could take online registrations using credit cards, how would it be different for the local region or hosts of the event? They'd still get a check from the AACA and some kind of list of participants, correct?

 

Instead of a custom system that integrates into whatever custom software you have now, why not use a simple third-party system like EventBrite? They can handle all the registration details of the car and members, process the transaction, and forward the money and data to either the AACA or the organizers. A stop-gap measure and not neatly integrated into the existing database, but it's at least something.

 

Alternatively, we just registered for a large car show later in the summer and they used this system that seems expressly designed to do exactly this: https://carshowpro.com/

 

So there are multiple third-party applications that can do what you'd need such a system to do. I'm not a programmer so I don't really know how this works, but I bet they have some kind of database function where information could be transferred between systems in a format that each system can use rather than having some kind of one-off custom system that's wholly integrated. Either the AACA uploads their database to the application or the application can access it on the fly or maybe it isn't all that critical as long as participants enter their data at the time of registration. I had to enter all the details about Melanie's Chrysler anyway since it wasn't already in the AACA's database. A difference without distinction.

 

There are solutions available, temporary or otherwise. Saying it's too complicated or expensive or that it needs to be a bespoke system created from scratch just for the AACA is merely kicking the can down the road. Other clubs, events, and organizations figured this out years--decades--ago. The world's biggest, richest, most populous car club should be able to do it, too.

 

It's not critical. I'll mail the check and the paper. It isn't exactly a hardship. But I'll bet $50 that if the AACA can figure this out, more younger people will start showing up to AACA events. Do you have time to wait for that to happen? I just turned 51 and I'm still the youngest guy everywhere we go in the hobby...

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Matt, I do not expect anyone to completely understand our challenges especially when they are unaware of the basics of our systems. With the exception of Auburn which national runs and therefore my mea culpa, money for these events go DIRECTLY to the regions, not to national.  Therefore your basic misunderstanding on how things work at our events.  Our largest regions also have also resisted the use of credit cards but the winds are changing.

 

AACA is not like other car clubs, many of those organizations have one national event a year or just a couple.  We have 16 this year and have to work with each groups needs.

 

We are aware of third party software and Peter Gariepy and I just had a Zoom call in this regard last week.  We discussed several options and Peter has a favorite that may integrate with us but it comes at a significant price for an organization our size.  We are also aware of payment options such as  ApplePay, PayPal, Mint, BillPay etc.  There are a lot of options for us to consider.  

 

We completely realize that more and more people, including the older generation are getting use to new technology and that we have to get with the program.  However, our custom software which came at great expense to the club (our members money)  and which does a mountain of things for us must be integrated in what we do.  To not do so would be a huge burden on a staff that is already working to capacity.  AACA members have no idea whatsoever of the mountain of work that our people are expected to do these days and as usual, the more that gets done the more that is expected of them.  Our custom software is our backbone in this office and allows us to  service members in a multitude of ways.

 

I suspect we will always have a traditional registration system also available to those who do not wish to use new technology.

 

In the meantime, as I said we expect to get to the finish line in a thorough and thoughtful manner that makes it easier for members to use and yet at the same times allows our staff to have a database that allows us to better serve our members and our events.  While you may think we are simply kicking the can down the road, which is your right and somewhat understandable, we are not.  The massive amount of change here in this building is a foundation for all future IT activity is now almost completely done and the next steps will get us where we believe we need to go.  I won't take your bet because you are right that some do not get involved because they want it to be easier but I wonder how passionate those folks are about the hobby or AACA if they cannot follow the same procedures as thousands of others do each year.  In any case, we are well aware that the world now wants as much convenience as possible and we MUST provide that and will.  After all, in the end we are a service organization and will not exist unless we meet the needs of our membership.  That is not lost on anyone here.  

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I trust you, Steve, and I trust Peter and his knowledge of the topic. I realize that this has surely been an issue that has been discussed ad-nausea with the board and management. I'm just puzzled why the AACA is so far behind. If tiny clubs like the LOC and PAS can make it work for multiple events around the country, I just find it surprising that the AACA cannot. If there are solutions in the works, that's great. If there have been solutions in the works for 10 years because conditions are never quite right to make it happen (which is the kind of entropy that happens to many clubs) then there's a problem. The will and the idea can be there, but the implementation struggles without firm guidance and [usually] one guy pounding it every day and dragging it across the finish line. Otherwise everyone just keeps saying, "Good enough," to the current system just to keep the wheels turning at some nominal speed. I understand that there are finite resources, but this is one thing that experience says can really change the demographics of an event or organization.

 

From a certain point of view, it may seem puzzling that someone wouldn't participate because it's hard to find out what's going on, or what cars are welcome, or where an event is being held, or that the registration process requires too many steps, but I've skipped events for those very reasons--there's a certain amount of work I'm willing to do to get involved and if it's too much, I don't bother. I can't say what that point is, but registering for Auburn was right at the edge of it and seems to be SOP for a national AACA event. Participating in an AACA show or tour really should be the touch of a button, not 10 steps plus doing my own research using the judging manual to figure out my class. It isn't laziness or an unwillingness to do anything but lift a finger, it's simply the comparative ease with which other online transactions are conducted. If you, accustomed to using E-mail in your business, were suddenly forced to write letters long-hand and mail them to conduct business with a certain client, you'd probably decide after a certain point that dealing with that client just wasn't worth the hassle. It's not the degree of difficulty of the task, it's the comparative ease of the competition and the current standard by which the task is measured.

 

Not that the CCCA is a paragon of getting things done the right way, but they do seem to have online registration figured out. Everything goes through the national--membership, events, tours, shows, whatever, and the national distributes funds to the regions holding the events. There's a centralized database and one master system for managing members and events. Letting each region do it their own way when they don't have the time, money, experience, or resources of the national seems like one step forward and two steps back. AACA national helps organize dozens of events each year. The people in charge at the local level might do it once or twice in a lifetime. Making them the stumbling block to implementing a system that can improve service to tens of thousands of members and dozens of events around the country seems untoward.

 

At any rate, those are just some thoughts. I'm glad to hear that there are efforts afoot to make an improvement. I look forward to seeing and using the system. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

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Ed, AACA tours usually are a lot of fun and you great a chance to visit places you might not have otherwise.  The comradery is great also although I understand in a certain area of Florida there now is a shortage of drinking alcohol.  Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and your support of AACA.  The club simply will not exist without active members.

 

Steve (the guy you owe lunch to!)

 

 

Steve......I confess........I toss the added sheet in the magazine bag in the trash and never look at it.........my brain is programed to think its a specialty supplier advertisement. I'll try and pay attention more............maybe I need to read the magazine at the bar...........🥴

 

I wasn't aware that the meet chariman had health issues in the middle of everything else. I wish him the best, and we had a GREAT time. I'll attempt to participate in more tours in the future. Now.......save me some work.......any major shows in Southern Florida this year?😎

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