fe[e] fi fo fum

Yes. Fee. Or more accurately, FEES!

They’re everywhere and in increasingly more places (for some more than others (account over drafters, parking ticket hoarders, you know who you are!).

Some fees (see above parenthesis, are justifiable); other are an abhorrence. Take for instance:

Just this weekend I heard that my hometown’s Championship swim meet, the Peachbowl, was collecting $5 from every swimmer entered in a race.

These swimmers already pay a) for membership to a private swim club, b) swim team yearly dues, c) for the suits, the towels, the goggles, the swim caps, the sweatshirts, the pancake breakfasts, and now the best swimmers have to pay an extra $5 to swim in a race that should be nothing if not an honor.

Kids, from 5-18 years old, work all summer, getting up at the crack of dawn while others sleep, perfecting their stroke, shaving seconds and milli-seconds off of their times to qualify for a championship seed. Now, they also have to have a summer job; an impossibility for half of these kids given the current state of child labor laws.

Of course, 99% of these kids aren’t paying a dime out of their own minnie mouse pocketbooks, but that doesn’t make the situation any different, especially for a family with three champs, who now have to pay $15 for their kids to swim the well-earned race (add on the entrance fee for each parent, and there goes the tradition of an after-meet celebration of hotdogs and ice cream!)

The atrocity here is less the five dollars and more the notion that if everyone decides $5 is decent to pay, overtime that becomes the norm, and soon each swimmer is paying $10, $15, where does it end?

The idea that you must pay to play is certainly not a new one to me; after all, I danced my way through thousands of dollars learning tap and jazz steps I couldn’t recall now if there were a gun to my head. I swam and played soccer and basketball year round, at no small price. And while high school sports were free to play (save equipment for select teams), it was well understood that the kids who had grown up at the batting cages and with dad on the gold course were going to do better than those walking on to the field without the backing of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars of experience behind them.

This I recognize to be increasingly true as I watch my brother progress from a toddler who carried my basketball from game to game during my heyday to a powerhouse of a soon-to-be collegiate all-star. He’s logged countless hours at college camps where the scouts hang out, with a membership to a local college’s gym as well as the YMCA and with a personal trainer honing his defensive and three point skills, at some point the scholarship money he receives will only cancel out all that was spent getting him to that point.

Moving away from sports, my eyelids have recently been stretched wide open by another practice I find abhorrent regarding fees: architecture submissions to magazines.

Contests as they pertain to competitions are one thing; you are submitting a body of work that some people with some airs of prestige must take their time to review. You’re paying administrative costs, for those good people’s time, for the possibility of winning.

Paying a few hundred dollars to be named the runner-up for “best commercial project” in a magazine created purely to push  the companies/products that support the magazine seems criminal. I reference Architect, a free magazine to the trade filled mostly with ads. Sometimes a worthwhile article comes across the pages, but I hardly hope to find the most inspiring of design. The “blind judging” advertised here means that they won’t look to see how many other of your projects they’ve published, or how much money you’ve contributed, or how many times you’ve backed one of their supporters (yeah right – if your project truly is worthy of the best in show title this year, then I damn hope the Architect panel knows about it and recognizes it! Maybe blind jury here really means deaf. dumb and blind (could also be the title for the sales depo at this magazine; for I cancelled my order after they announced they were charging for print issues and low and behold my print mags still come, but for free! What if everything could be made free with a phone call!?)?

ps. if you’d like to enter, you have 9 days left before your entry will be assessed a $50 late fee – a week after the contest opens. WOW!

In a nickel and diming world, you have to spend a buck to make a quarter.

2 thoughts on “fe[e] fi fo fum

  1. Modative, a firm in LA, had a post on their blog about competitions not so long ago:


    They also have a follow up about 5 things you should do instead, which is a bit snarky, but at least a little valuable.

    As far as print versions of magazines go, I really wish more publishers would just release them in Kindle or Tablet-App format. I love print magazines, I was looking forward to having a permanent address so that I could start getting Rolling Stone again. But they pile up and get old and useless; you can’t even compost them. I just love the print format way more than the scroll-down-for-days web format.

  2. Thanks, Ray! Looks like Modative has a good blog. I’ll definitely keep up on them. One of my favorite points from their post:

    “5. (Open Competitions) devalue architects.
    Ooh look, we can get all these silly little architects to work for free. Have you ever seen doctors or lawyers sign up in droves to do free work?

    AND when you do see doctors and such doing pro-bono work it’s for people who need the aid, like disaster relief orgs. The AIA doesn’t need us to pay THEM to submit renderings to an “Ideas” competition!!!

    Plus the idea of showing work in front other architects, to me, is like schmoozing with architects at networking events. If you’re not looking for a job, what, are these architects going to commission your firm’s work? Don’t think so chief!!!

    AND I also agree with the paper mail – I’ve heard rumors about Saturday mail being discontinued! No! I get too many emails to look through them, but if I received twenty postcards in the mail a day I’d take a gander at each one.

    So, not an environmentalist, but there are a lot of fun things you can do with old magazines!!!

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