RPA Renewal Questions

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Rasputin

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Jan 17, 2019
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I am wondering if others have had this problem.

I renewed my Rail Passengers Association membership in December and based on my credit card statement, they received my money.

Yesterday I received two mailing from RPA asking me to renew my membership. The letters were worded differently. One began: "I know you are no longer a member of the Rail Passengers Association,..."

I don't seem to have this problem with other organizations.
 

jis

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RPA has been going through what appears to be their periodic cockup with memberships renewals and membership fee collection. Could you please check whether you can login as a member and see if it says your membership is active? If not send me a PM, and I will try to get the info to the right people and get it fixed.

It absolutely astounds me that RPA has been unable to get such a simple thing as getting membership management to work flawlessly in spite of multiple attempts to get it fixed over the last five or so years. At least they have stopped spending money like a drunken sailor and got their budgets balanced for a change. :rolleyes:
 

Rasputin

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I have a suspicion of what may be going on with this problem. Last year I had heard through some internet sources that RPA had increased the cost of some memberships and that the senior membership was going to increase from $30 to $50. However I kept getting renewal notices which quoted the $30 price. So in December I renewed my membership at $30. My credit card statement shows that RPA received the money (I have not checked my Amtrak guest rewards account to see if I got any points but I will do so.)

When I try to log in I get a notice that there is a problem with my membership and that I need to contact them (which I have not done yet).

However if I paid $30 for a senior membership when I should have paid $50, I am baffled why I did not receive a notice to that effect and a request to send an additional $20. A little communication would have gone a long way instead of a letter beginning with "I know you are no longer a member,..."
 

neroden

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Feb 23, 2014
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RPA has been going through what appears to be their periodic cockup with memberships renewals and membership fee collection. Could you please check whether you can login as a member and see if it says your membership is active? If not send me a PM, and I will try to get the info to the right people and get it fixed.

It absolutely astounds me that RPA has been unable to get such a simple thing as getting membership management to work flawlessly in spite of multiple attempts to get it fixed over the last five or so years. At least they have stopped spending money like a drunken sailor and got their budgets balanced for a change. :rolleyes:
I talked to staff about this. I don't blame them and it doesn't astound me. I have dealt with this sort of problem, and it *isn't* simple.

They swtiched banks *twice* in the last few years, because they have had trouble getting a bank who will process payments correctly. Their banks have repeatedly been misprocessing and misallocating payments. IMO, they probably should have taken the payment processing in-house and hired a staffer, but they keep having banks offer to handle it for them...

They also switched the IT backend on the membership database. That was expensive but totally worth it. It actually went well and the new system is WAY better. But they're now cleaning up the mess from the transition.

The previous database was such a mess that I had SEVEN separate membership records, and they had to manually merge them after the transition to the new database. (Luckily they can actually do those manual merges in a matter of minutes, so call them up.)

I strongly suspect that's what happened to the original poster -- I bet you're getting letters under different membership numbers.
Call them up and have the memberships merged.

Jim Matthews was complaining about the disastrous state of the membership database he had inherited way back at the Chicago meeting in 2017, and at that time they hadn't started replacing it. It is *not* trivial to replace such computer systems and transition them, it's always a multi-year nightmare. They seem to be in the home stretch now, after 3 years of work, which is about right in my experience. The existence of an old system actually adds multiple years to the schedule; starting from scratch would be quicker, but you can't just throw out everyone's memberships and start over.

Consider how long it's taking Amtrak to replace ARROW (it's been over 20 years of work so far). Building a new reservations system from scratch takes less time, but you can't do that, you have to transition the old reservations across...
 

Just-Thinking-51

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I talked to staff about this. I don't blame them and it doesn't astound me. I have dealt with this sort of problem, and it *isn't* simple.

They swtiched banks *twice* in the last few years, because they have had trouble getting a bank who will process payments correctly. Their banks have repeatedly been misprocessing and misallocating payments. IMO, they probably should have taken the payment processing in-house and hired a staffer, but they keep having banks offer to handle it for them...

They also switched the IT backend on the membership database. That was expensive but totally worth it. It actually went well and the new system is WAY better. But they're now cleaning up the mess from the transition.

The previous database was such a mess that I had SEVEN separate membership records, and they had to manually merge them after the transition to the new database. (Luckily they can actually do those manual merges in a matter of minutes, so call them up.)

I strongly suspect that's what happened to the original poster -- I bet you're getting letters under different membership numbers.
Call them up and have the memberships merged.

Jim Matthews was complaining about the disastrous state of the membership database he had inherited way back at the Chicago meeting in 2017, and at that time they hadn't started replacing it. It is *not* trivial to replace such computer systems and transition them, it's always a multi-year nightmare. They seem to be in the home stretch now, after 3 years of work, which is about right in my experience. The existence of an old system actually adds multiple years to the schedule; starting from scratch would be quicker, but you can't just throw out everyone's memberships and start over.

Consider how long it's taking Amtrak to replace ARROW (it's been over 20 years of work so far). Building a new reservations system from scratch takes less time, but you can't do that, you have to transition the old reservations across...

So why can’t you use two systems. In case of NARP just update your account into (let’s say) 1 June, on the old system, and create a account in the new system starting 2 June for the remainder of your membership.

For Arrow you pick a date and if your selection is before the cut, you book Arrow, after the cut you get Super Arrow. Trains crossing the date, can be shown sold out, for all or some of the route. Not very efficient for a three day train, but once ever 30 years.

I would think NARP could do this manually, Amtrak would be a bit more interesting with all the internet sales.
 

jis

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To do something it requires staff, something that RPA is not in a position to get more of as it is finally trying to cut its expenses to stay within its means. For reasons that is complicated to explain it has been rather profligate the last few years, but those days are behind us now. So any proposal that requires more staff and maintenance of two systems is just not going to happen.
 

Rasputin

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Jan 17, 2019
Messages
704
I strongly suspect that's what happened to the original poster -- I bet you're getting letters under different membership numbers. Call them up and have the memberships merged.
No, that is not the case. All of the mailings I have received, including the two on the same day, have my correct membership number.

I intend to give them a call when I have time.
 

neroden

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Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,778
So why can’t you use two systems. In case of NARP just update your account into (let’s say) 1 June, on the old system, and create a account in the new system starting 2 June for the remainder of your membership.

For Arrow you pick a date and if your selection is before the cut, you book Arrow, after the cut you get Super Arrow. Trains crossing the date, can be shown sold out, for all or some of the route. Not very efficient for a three day train, but once ever 30 years.

I would think NARP could do this manually, Amtrak would be a bit more interesting with all the internet sales.
The existing NARP membership system has staggered renewal dates. If everyone's membership expired Dec 31, like in many organizations, it would be easy... but they don't. :-(
 

MikefromCrete

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Mar 24, 2009
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I received my membership renewal notice during the past week, I was stunned to see my senior membership fee jumped from $30 to $50. I don't recall receiving any notification of this large increase until I was asked to renew my membership. I guess I could pay $5 a month (another option), but wouldn't that add up to $60 over the course of a year? I'm honestly thinking about not renewing. It's a big jump from $30 to $50. I'll be pondering this for awhile.
 

Devil's Advocate

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May 24, 2010
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I received my membership renewal notice during the past week, I was stunned to see my senior membership fee jumped from $30 to $50. I don't recall receiving any notification of this large increase until I was asked to renew my membership. I guess I could pay $5 a month (another option), but wouldn't that add up to $60 over the course of a year? I'm honestly thinking about not renewing. It's a big jump from $30 to $50. I'll be pondering this for awhile.
On the one hand it's a steep increase (67%) that seems penny smart and pound foolish. On the other hand funding the RPA is still cheap as chips compared to direct political lobbying and if they're in trouble I'd rather they do this than go bankrupt. Perhaps someone closer to the decision makers can chime in at some point. It was a silly bigwig shindig a few years ago that turned me off. Railnation Chicago was a bad look at the wrong time with little to show in return. It almost felt like the benefit to membership was an afterthought compared to schmoozing the stakeholders.
 

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