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WeWork's Meetup slaps RSVP fees on events ‒ then tells everyone not to panic amid backlash

Meeting app insists it is running a 'small payment test' after outcry over new prices

Netizens are scrambling to find or build alternatives to – after the event-organizing app maker indicated it would charge people $2 per-RSVP.

Previously, it didn’t cost a single cent to click the tick mark to confirm that you’d like to attend a particular free event organized via Meetup.

Earlier this month, Meetup said it would in future charge individuals two bucks each time they reserved a spot at "select" meetings.

Meanwhile, the biz said it would slash the subscription fees it charges organizers to keep their groups listed on the Meetup website and mobile app. Thus, the balance of revenue would shift, with attendees forking out rather than organizers.

The pricing for running a Meetup group varies depending on a number of factors, such as if organizers want to pay in monthly or six-month installments, and where the group is located. The usual base cost for holding meetups in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States is $23.99 per month or $16.49 if you pay for six at a time. Those figures would be reduced to $2 a month under the new pricing plan.

However, that shake-up in costs sparked outcry, leading to the software maker swiftly insisting that these changes will be rolled out as "a limited test for a small number of groups."

“We are conducting a small payment test,” a Meetup spokesperson told The Register on Tuesday. “Currently organizers pay to manage groups and events, and we are exploring ways to reduce this cost. One of the options we are testing is to introduce a small event fee for members."

"We have not committed to any changes at this time,” they added.

Meetup, which is popular among techies arranging confabs to discuss programming and other geek stuff, did not answer our questions regarding who was affected by this so-called “small payment test.”

That backtrack in full

After the aforementioned backlash, the biz amended its official announcement of the price changes to read:

“This payment change is currently only a limited test for a small number of groups. Organizers of these select groups have the option to opt-out of this test. We will not be making any significant payment changes in the near term. We are committed to providing advance notice before any changes go into effect.”

The new payment system is designed to “distribute costs more evenly between organizers and members,” apparently. The dotcom earlier announced: "Beginning in October, members of select groups will be charged a small fee to reserve their spot at events."

Not everyone was thrilled about these changes, and some Meetup users took to social media to vent their frustrations.

Bridget Kromhout, a principal program manager at Microsoft working on the Kubernetes ecosystem, who runs a DevOps-focused group, said she was unhappy about charging admission for what should otherwise be a free event.

Others, such as Quincy Larson, who started freeCodeCamp, a non-profit that teaches budding engineers how to code, started a new project to build a free alternative platform to Meetup.

“Let's do some quick math,” Jones said. “Before, it cost a group of people $20 per month to use to organize their events. With this new pricing, let's assume you have a medium-sized meetup group that meets once a week and has 30 RSVPs each time. The group's total collective fees will now go from $20 per month to about $240.

“Oh, wait - I forgot to add that will still charge group organizers $2 per month on top of this. So $242. That's a 1,210 per cent increase in cost.”

Meetup was acquired by WeWork, the office-renting startup, in 2017 before WeWork fell out of grace after it failed to IPO and its CEO Adam Neumann quit, and oh yes, its phone booths may be killing you. Some people have speculated that Meetup’s new pricing experiment is a desperate plea to stay afloat while its parent company faces running out of dosh.

Unsurprisingly, the spokesperson for Meetup was pretty quiet when we quizzed them about this, declining to comment on the record. ®

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