Author Topic: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness  (Read 12248 times)

Dezrah

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 458
Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« on: February 17, 2014, 11:48:02 AM »
Iím part of a large extended family (my dad was one of nine kids) that is very close but scattered across the country.  Every other summer we have a reunion for about a week with about 40-50 people in attendance.  This year, I have volunteered to act as lead organizer.  Iím looking for some objective (or at least less biased) opinions on the financial fairness of my plans for how to break up costs.

Weíre renting a resort house in California for 8 days, 7 nights.  Not everyone will be able to be there every day.  Furthermore, some people are likely to choose to spend the night in a nearby hotel.  Hereís my plan:

Every day a person is in attendance (eating food, enjoying facilities, etc.) counts as 1 unit.  If a person spends the night on site, it counts as 1 unit.  Children ages 0-5 wonít accrue any units and children 6-12 will accrue half the regular number of units.  I will then take the total facility costs and divide by the total number of units to get a price per unit.  Grocery costs will be totaled at the end of event and divided in a similar fashion based on who is there in the daytime.

Hereís a simplified example to illustrate.  (Not actual prices or attendance.  There are slight rounding errors.)

Letís say the only people attending were my husband and I for the whole time (8 days, 7 nights), a cousin for the weekend (3 days, 2 nights), and an aunt and uncle with a 7-year-old who are staying off site for the whole time (8 days).

The total number of facility units would be
DH+me:           (8+7)x2 = 30
Cousin:      3+2=5
Family:      8x2+8x1/2=20
Total:      55

If the facility cost $5000 total, the price per unit would be $5000/55 = $90.91 and each groupís facility cost would be
DH+me:           $90.91x30 = $2,727.30
Cousin:      $90.91x5 = $454.55
Family:      $90.91x20 = $1,818.20
Total:      $5000

If groceries cost $500, the price per day would be $500/(8x2+3+8x2+8x1/2) = $500/39 = $12.82.  Each groupís grocery costs would be
DH+me:           $12.82x(8x2) = $205.12
Cousin:      $12.82x3 = $38.46
Family:      $12.82x(8x2+8x1/2) = $256.40
Total:      $500

The total price per group would now be
DH+me:           $2,727.30+$205.12 = $2,932.42
Cousin:      $454.55+$38.46 = $493.01
Family:      $1,818.20+$256.40 = $2,074.60
Total:      $5,500

My hope is this method will encourage people to spend the night on site but not overly punish them for going elsewhere on their own dime.  I also want those with busy working schedules and/or tight budgets to know that their costs will be appreciatively lower so that they will at least come for a little bit of time.  This will inevitably result in bills that some people will simply not be able to afford at which point Iím depending on more well-to-do families to pitch in for others (i.e. aunts and uncles pay for their struggling adult children).

What are peopleís thoughts?  Am I being reasonable with this distribution method?  Is this method overly hard on some groups over others?  Any feedback is appreciated.

Thanks.

Weedy Acres

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 280
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2014, 12:35:14 PM »
Wow, for a minute I thought your dad might be my brother.  I'm one of 9 kids, we're scattered across the country, and we have bi-annual reunions.  :-)  But we kids rotate planning duties, and you're a niece/nephew, so I guess we're not related. 

My parents kick in $10K for the location rental, which covers 1 bedroom per kid/family in a large house, and the rest of the costs are ours.  Some of us don't fit in one room (too many kids, or kids get older/marry/have kids of their own), so we pay the costs of our families needing more space.  It's just pro-rated by space used for the whole week, no matter how long you stay. 

With food, every family takes a night to cook dinner for the whole crowd, and pays for the groceries.  Breakfast and lunch are on your own, but families often combine on an ad hoc basis.  And there's a lot of "who needs my extra eggs" and of course leftover day/night on the final day, as we scramble to use everything up. 

That's how we do it.  Some comments on your formula below:
1.  It's a lot of work to plan all the food for all the varied preferences and ages and allergies and habits of 50 people for 24 meals.  So there's going to be a big burden on one person to plan for/buy it all.  And there could be eaters that feel like they're paying for everyone else's indulgences and not getting their preferred indulgences.  In our experience, everyone buys their own stuff and then pretty freely shares it, and it all works out.
2.  Will the lodging formula be applied in advance or afterwards?  In advance lets people plan and budget, but what if someone changes their mind and stays longer/leaves earlier?  Think through how you'll handle this.  If you're going to adjust afterwards, then you'll be hitting someone unexpectedly with an extra charge because someone left early.  But if you don't adjust, then someone might resent the person who paid for 3 days but then stayed for 4. 

So while I think there's nothing wrong or unfair about your formula, I worry that the logistics of managing it have the potential to cause grief.  Especially if, as it sounds, there are some not-so-well-off family members. 

Will fewer people staying onsite lower the facility cost?  Or is it fixed no matter what?

MrsPete

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3519
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2014, 02:19:16 PM »
That's complicated. 

The first thing I'd want to know is, How many people want to spend the night in "the location" vs. a hotel.  If I stay in a hotel every night, yet spend my days at "the location" so I can visit with family, am I sponging off those who paid for the place? 

I lean towards the other poster's idea of people bringing food themselves -- food just seems to be one of those things that "works out" , at least in our family.  I don't think you want to sign up for the job of buying the food and transporting the food.  When you're talking about groups, it's always more work than you expect, and you're always blamed because you bought this kind of sandwich fixing instead of that kind.

I'd handle the sleeping arrangements first . . . Then do a sign-up for meals.  Perhaps everyone gets one breakfast during the week . . . A good way to handle a frugal extended family dinner:  every family brings its own meat for the grill plus one side dish.  If you bring chicken, you eat chicken, and everyone shares the sides . . . And pick an inexpensive buffet for 1-2 nights of the week . . . Look into the cost of having something like a simple BBQ meal catered in.  It might be easier than trying to please the whole group . . .   You make a schedule for how meals will be handled so people can decide whether they want to be present for cookout night vs. buffet night.   And make it clear that meals a flexible:  your family doesn't like the BBQ you're having catered in tonight?  Cool.  Don't sign up so we won't order plates for your family, and you're on your own for that meal.  Oh, Uncle Bob's family's going with you to eat Italian instead?  Good -- we'll see you all later.  Don't have thin skin about people coming and going. 

mlipps

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1086
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2014, 02:39:48 PM »
I think it's logical, but that doesn't mean other people will follow it. There will always be that person who says "Oh, it's just too complicated, let's just split it evenly." Good luck convincing them otherwise...

Dezrah

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 458
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2014, 02:49:27 PM »
Weedy Acres,

Your family gatherings sound great.  Isn't it fun to have everyone around, even if for just a short time?  Here are some answers to your questions.

1.  It's a lot of work to plan all the food for all the varied preferences and ages and allergies and habits of 50 people for 24 meals.  So there's going to be a big burden on one person to plan for/buy it all.  And there could be eaters that feel like they're paying for everyone else's indulgences and not getting their preferred indulgences.  In our experience, everyone buys their own stuff and then pretty freely shares it, and it all works out.

There was a point in the history of our reunions where the ratio of adults to kids meant that a handful of the aunts did all the cooking and cleaning everyday and little else.  We did that once before opting to use resorts with included meal plans instead.  Two reunions ago we gave it another shot and found we could rotate duties/let people fend for themselves without overly burdening any one group.  You're right that the planning and shopping will be a lot of work, which is why the current goal is to plan as much as possible in advance and knock it out with one trip to Costco.

There is one vegetarian in the group and one non-beef eater but happily there are no food allergies or special dietary needs beyond that.  Separating the meat from the pasta sauce is about as careful as we need to be, so large group meals like colanders of spaghetti or taco bars work pretty well.  There is very little gourmet or extravagant in these dinners.  Alcohol is strictly BYOB and people are free to hoard or share. 

As far as I know, this system of food planning has not been a sticking point since the average food bill is usually pretty cheap by the end.

2.  Will the lodging formula be applied in advance or afterwards?  In advance lets people plan and budget, but what if someone changes their mind and stays longer/leaves earlier?  Think through how you'll handle this.  If you're going to adjust afterwards, then you'll be hitting someone unexpectedly with an extra charge because someone left early.  But if you don't adjust, then someone might resent the person who paid for 3 days but then stayed for 4. 

This is the tricky part.  I want to approach this issue with spirit of honesty and transparency.  What I'm dreading is that once I tell people "this is how it is" there are going to be a great deal of whining.  Among my family, there is so much love and kindness, people are open and inclusive, we love conversations as much as physical activities, but by golly do they whine.  In a one-on-one basis, I feel like I could handle it.  I'm more worried that if I announce too far in advance, the long term whining is going to build to a point where people are going to opt out of coming or try to game my system more out of pettiness than actual financial need.

At the same time, I can't ignore the fact that most want and need to know in advance how much this trip will cost them.  Ultimately this must be handled delicately yet firmly.  I will continue to think on this.

So while I think there's nothing wrong or unfair about your formula, I worry that the logistics of managing it have the potential to cause grief.  Especially if, as it sounds, there are some not-so-well-off family members. 

Will fewer people staying onsite lower the facility cost?  Or is it fixed no matter what?

I should clarify.  The vast majority of my family members are doing very well for themselves.  The ones that are less well off are mostly the young adult cousins struggling to find permanent work while being undereducated in a really tough California economy.  I expect that these people will have their stay heavily subsidized by other family members.  However it doesn't feel right to presume person X will pay for X+Y so I am hoping I can simply state "anyone who would like to financially help out another family member, please come speak to me" and then everything will work out.

The facility's costs are fixed regardless of how many rooms we actually use (costs will go up a little for every person over 50 we have per the guest policy).  I have one aunt/uncle pair who a bit dog-crazy and insist they cannot leave their dog with a kennel for any length of time, so it's likely they will choose to stay in a dog-friendly hotel and come in during the day.  Also, the place we're staying is more specially geared toward corporate events and only a few of the beds are queen-sized.  I've heard some people express a dislike (there's that whining) that they can't share a private bed and room with their spouse for that week.  My attitude is that they need to just get over it, but if it's that important to them, they can get a room elsewhere but they're still going to chip in for the group's cost with that daytime unit.

Numbers Man

  • Guest
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2014, 02:56:23 PM »
Kudos to your family for wanting to spend a week together. I guess my family is not as close to want to spend 8 days together.

If I was organizing this I would tell everyone to figure out their own sleeping arrangements. Cater one or two meals during a 2-3 day weekend. Then split off into smaller groups during the remainder of the time. I can't see paying much more than $30 per person for a catered meal like at a Maggianos, etc. Everybody is responsible for their own alcohol. Or alternately have an outing at a park or forest preserve or someone's house. A bunch of you could pitch in for probably around $1,000 to $1,500 bucks to buy all kinds of different food, beverages, park rental fees, etc. I've done all of these scenarios over the years with much success.

Dezrah

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 458
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2014, 03:40:59 PM »
MrsPete,

Thank you for your input.  I can tell by your questions that we think a lot alike.

The first thing I'd want to know is, How many people want to spend the night in "the location" vs. a hotel.  If I stay in a hotel every night, yet spend my days at "the location" so I can visit with family, am I sponging off those who paid for the place? 

This is what I'm currently trying to pin down.  After the first round of Google Group emails, about 20 people have posted their plans and a few more have acknowledged they won't know their schedule for a few more months.  Hopefully in about a month after I've started calling the handful of procrastinators, I'll have a firmer number on how many to expect each day.

Personally, I do feel like those people who want to stay at a hotel would be sponging off the group if they didn't contribute at least in part to the facility costs.  With the system I described, a person who stays for the just the day and leaves at night would pay about half as much for that privilege as the person who stayed there the entire night.  It seems unlikely they could find accommodations for less than this price difference.  Effectively, I am deliberately trying to engineer they system such that people are encouraged to stay on location.  Of course this raises the point that people won't be encouraged to do anything in particular if they don't know rules first.  Hmmm.

I'd handle the sleeping arrangements first . . . Then do a sign-up for meals. 

This is exactly what my plan is.  Everyone will be able to see the floor plans and get an idea of where they'll be staying and will have the opportunity to switch rooms if both parties agree to it.  The meal plan and chore duty will also be public leading up to and during the reunion.  People will have plenty of time to suggest meals or switch jobs with someone else.  Any outings will be billed completely separately from the general boarding and food costs and will be unlikely to be difficult (i.e. everyone just buys their own ticket to the zoo).

read books

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2014, 05:47:01 PM »
I'm not sure if I understood correctly, but if what you're suggesting is that a parent would come to you to pay for her underfunded adult child, I would reconsider. I wouldn't want to be involved in that. Of course, these people could just do it that way. I'm just not sure how too much involvement in the financial details will, unless you're proposing some kind of scholarship system? That could make sense if you want to encourage people without funds to come, but it could make for some complications.

Good luck. I've helped organize many large  family reunions and smaller family trips, but I wouldn't wan to take on what you're doing!

vivian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 86
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2014, 09:33:17 PM »
Have you thought about just splitting the room cost by how many people are sharing a room? My large family also has big reunions like this and we split it evenly by room. So my immediate family of two adults and a toddler will pay the same as my sister's family of 6 adults/teenagers/tweens b/c they prefer to all squeeze into one room to save costs. Young adult cousins can then share a room to reduce their cost a bit.

Your plan seems fair, but also complicated and thus likely to turn people off. I would simplify by assuming everyone will be there for the same length of time. It allows people to know the cost more in advance as it's not dependent on how long everyone else will be there. You can try to build a little bit of cushion into it if you are worried of the total not coming out to what you need to pay overall. On our last trip, we were not sure if one sibling could attend due to work duties. We determined the cost based on assuming he was not coming, and then the sibling who was the lead organizer gave us a refund when it turned out he could go.

elaine amj

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3116
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2014, 10:24:45 PM »
I get your plan (its the way I think). However, i would avoid the word "units" when communicating it to your family. It sounds hopelessly complicated.

How about wording it like this:
$xx per day per adult
$xx per day per child

What about running this like a hotel - $xx for a room with one bed and $xx for a room with 2 double beds. If you want, the extra nice rooms could cost more so people don't fuss that Cousin Charlie got the master suite while I got stuck in this dingy attic.  If you keep the per day costs separate from the accommodation cost for EVERYONE, it will be clearer how "cheap" the accommodation is. Plus it will be obvious to everyone that all attendees need to chip in on the facility's use during the day.

You are then basically splitting the facility's rental costs between all attendees, and then also offering accommodations. Kind of like if you stayed in a hotel. You would rent the ballroom/meeting room and split the cost between everyone. Then those staying pays for their rooms. Food is yet again a separate cost.

Also, I like a PP's suggestion of assuming everyone will be there for the same length of time. In your aunt's case, if she is only staying for 3 nights - will someone else be using her empty room after or is everyone coming for some main event? If you cannot get someone else to use (and pay) for her room when she is not there, then it is fair to expect her to pay for the whole week, whether she uses it or not.

Good luck!

Dezrah

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 458
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2014, 07:39:58 AM »
This has to be a quick reply since I have to leave for a business trip soon.

General consensus seems to be there's nothing inherently wrong or unfair about my proposal but it's so cold and complicated that I'm likely to turn people off with that alone.  That's a fair response and I'll try to consider solutions.

I could price per quality of room but I haven't and won't be able to see the location until the event has already started, so I'd be relying on the objectivity of the one aunt who has visited the site a few months ago.  If all the rooms are comparable, it'd probably work out the same I expect.

I'm reluctant to price $xx per child/adult per day simply because this is likely to either over/undercharge for our actual costs.  If I was looking to make a profit, this would be fine, but I'm trying to break even as much as possible.  In the past, the organizers were also the people who could write the $10k+ check to cover the whole costs and then patiently wait for reimbursement, so they usually didn't mind if their accounting fell a little short.  I'm by no means poor, but I couldn't float that kind of money.

Thanks again everyone.  You've given me a lot to consider.

jexy103

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 124
  • Location: Seoul, South Korea
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2014, 02:49:01 PM »
...I'm reluctant to price $xx per child/adult per day simply because this is likely to either over/undercharge for our actual costs.

You could price with the goal to slightly overcharge, and the refund the money proportionally. Just be upfront that this is your plan, so people don't think you are out for profit. ;-)

In reading other people's responses, I like the idea of charging per room/per night for the overnight accommodations, but I don't know what to advise if rooms go empty. It sounds like you've sent out feelers for who will stay at the location, so maybe estimate for that? Have a per room cost per night, and then the daytime guests split the difference for the total accommodation cost based on the days they spend there?

Some more things to consider

- What if people spend less than half a day or even just a couple hours at the location? What if they stop by one day between their own activities but don't eat? Should they pay as much as someone who arrived a 9am and left at 8pm and ate three meals? For this reason, I like the PP's idea of everyone bringing their own food and figuring it out amongst themselves. Hopefully, they're all adults (or adults will be adult-like in handling their kids' issues) and be able to share without conflict.

- How will you keep track of who is there on each day? Sign in sheet? What if people forget or "forget" to sign in/sign out?

- Are there children very close to the 6-year-old mark? If people can be whiny, you don't want to deal with "Susie just turned 6 last week, why should I pay 1/2 price for her when Johnny turns 6 next week and he's free?"

Again, I would set out with the goal to slightly overcharge and then pay out the extra after the fact. With so many people, so many moving parts, and all the potential for last-minute changes, you're not going to break even. One person getting sick and staying at their own hotel room instead of coming to the location for the day would throw off all your calculations. I would figure out the overnight guests (since this is less likely to change as much), and then estimate the number of people at the location each day (estimate low), and figure out how much each person would need to pay in order to cover the accommodation's total cost (estimate high). If you have extra at the end, you'll divvy it back out proportionately to the amount paid/amount of time spent there. This would logistically be easier than asking everyone for $20-$50 extra after the fact, and it would be a pleasant surprise instead of an unwelcome surprise afterward, especially for the families who are struggling financially.

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2014, 06:13:35 PM »
I agree it's reasonably fair, but complicated. I would:
- Ask for non-binding estimates if people will attend and for how long
- Create a model budget for a smaller group
- Tell everyone you created the following prices based on the smaller estimate and costs will likely be even less than posted.
- Set a date by which people need to RSVP. Explain you need this to plan.  State upfront because you have some non-negotiable costs and you're spreading costs out evenly, you can't refund afterwards if something comes up and someone can't make it. You'll see what you can do, but make no promises. If someone RSVPs late, let them know they are welcome to sleep over if you have space, but you'll charge an extra fee for RSVPs after the date because it hampers planning.
- Tell folks if there ends up being a small amount extra for some reason, you'll spend it on a surprise (e.g. Ice cream, a bit of alcohol, fancy BBQ foods etc). If there is a bigger amount you'll refund.
- Charge a higher price for the coveted queens (or any other popular room).  Tell folks it's subject to availability, but confirm the number with the venue.  (For what it's worth, I get not wanting to spend vacation in a different bed than a spouse. I get two weeks and I would not be wild about the "fun" of spending one in different beds.  Not to mention two family reunions in a year - his and mine, would eat up entire vacation allotment.  Cut them some slack. Also, consider asking around if anyone can drive up a air mattress they own and see if that solves a little bit of the issue.  Ours is pretty nice - and a queen.). Rooms are first come, first serve.
- I suggest not a per night policy but a full week and weekend option, the weekend option being about half the week cost.  (I suspect most folks will fall into those two camps).  So: facility share, weekend stay, week stay.  Everyone also pays a per day food share.
- Do NOT advertise a scholarship program. It might make people feel bad/obligated to supplement another etc.  Let any parents contact you on their own as I bet they would do.  (If my parents paid for part of our traveling costs for an event like this, they'd tell us they were doing it and reach out to the organizer too).
- Request understanding from all.  Acknowledge it's not perfect but you tried the hardest you could to share costs out equitably - and joke/be serious and tell them you thank in advance any complainers who you assume have volunteered to organize the following year.  Reiterate patience, understanding etc is critical to organizing a varied group.

foobar

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 731
Re: Family Reunion Pricing Structure Fairness
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2014, 08:42:45 PM »
I think just tracking 50 people and the time they spent would be a logistics nightmare.

I guess the questions is what was done in past years as far as costs go and can you do something similar? If it just you not having the 10k, talk to some family members about it. Maybe one can put the cash down for the house, another buy groceries, and so on.

This has to be a quick reply since I have to leave for a business trip soon.

General consensus seems to be there's nothing inherently wrong or unfair about my proposal but it's so cold and complicated that I'm likely to turn people off with that alone.  That's a fair response and I'll try to consider solutions.

I could price per quality of room but I haven't and won't be able to see the location until the event has already started, so I'd be relying on the objectivity of the one aunt who has visited the site a few months ago.  If all the rooms are comparable, it'd probably work out the same I expect.

I'm reluctant to price $xx per child/adult per day simply because this is likely to either over/undercharge for our actual costs.  If I was looking to make a profit, this would be fine, but I'm trying to break even as much as possible.  In the past, the organizers were also the people who could write the $10k+ check to cover the whole costs and then patiently wait for reimbursement, so they usually didn't mind if their accounting fell a little short.  I'm by no means poor, but I couldn't float that kind of money.

Thanks again everyone.  You've given me a lot to consider.