Friday, January 05, 2007

Large Family Discrimination

Seems like more and more local places are succumbing to it...

For years, we have been happy members and visitors to our local science museum, the Montshire Museum. We joined soon after we moved here in 1998, and have been members during most of the time since then. We have spent many enjoyable hours in the museum.

We always have used a family membership, allowing us to admit our whole family at once. Now this year, to celebrate 2007, they suddenly decided to change the membership to a new structure, a so called flex membership. Basically , we can pay more and bring less people, not sure what's so flexible about that. I wouldn't mind them offering the flex membership as an additional option, but they decided to offer it to replace the family membership.

Last year, we paid around $85 for a family membership. (I don't remember the exact number, but this is close to it). Let's do some math to see what we have to pay if we want to renew this year. Looks like our most fitting choice is a 6 person AND a 4 person membership. This means $105 added to $90, which totals to $195. This is MORE than a 100 % increase from last year's membership fee. This seems unreasonable to me.

They have a Frequently Asked Questions page and address the large families issue there:

I have a large family and now have to pay more! Why?

* Each Museum visitor translates into a cost for Montshire, so we're striving to meet members' needs while making the cost more proportional to the level of usage.

* We hope everyone will understand that admission fees and memberships cover only a percentage of the cost of Museum facilities and exhibits — this is despite the fact that our operations are highly efficient compared to many peer institutions. The difference is made up through charitable contributions.

* If you contribute $150 or more, you will receive a complimentary 6-person Flex Membership, 10 free admission passes, and a complimentary Caregiver Card. This option offers additional flexibility that may work for a large family. And you'll also have the satisfaction of making a charitable gift.

* A passbook of 12 admission passes for $80 is another option. The passes have no expiration date and are significantly less than admission fees.

Somehow the explanations do not satisfy me, but I'll have to think about the right reasoning. One thing which bothers me is that large families often have less money to spend, and here they are required to spend more money. Of course, we can start blaming people for having 'too many kids' but somehow that doesn't feel right. I sincerely doubt that my visits with my seven kids are a HUGE burden on the museum compared to an average family visiting with 2.4 kids.

I want to write them a letter and bring up the issue, maybe asking them to provide a family membership in addition to the flex membership. I need to think about the right reasoning and the right wording though, feel free to leave any ideas in my comments. Of course, if you feel like writing them yourself to gently point out the error of their way. This is their contact information:

I still have questions. Who do I ask?

* Please contact the membership department at 802-649-2200, or email Jennifer Rickards, Director of Development and Membership, at, or Michelle Kersey, Development Assistant, at


Anonymous said...

Oh! But LOOK at what you get for it:

".... satisfaction of making a charitable gift."

I'm sorry, but that is crap. Pure crap.

O_Scientist said...

Yeah, i feel a gift is something freely and voluntarily given.

I still have a hard time finding the right words, but it all feels wrong (although your "I'm sorry, but that is crap. Pure crap. " feels like a pretty good description ^^) I just need different wording for my letter :)


Anonymous said...

I think you said it best yourself. Larger families tend to have less money in general to go to different places. It doesn't really cost the museum more for your 7 children than someone else's 2.4 children. IE: they don't sell you a "Family" meal with your season pass, and it wouldn't matter if it were you or their good patron with only 2.4 kids, they still have to keep the lights on, they still have to pay the curator/guide.

IF they give an institutional discount (say a school group or something) maybe they could include us larger families under that discount. I'm not saying this would be the same, and may indeed cost MORE than what you're used to paying, but I know that where I live, certain businesses give institutional rates (and with 9 kids, our family qualifies for those rates) that are a fraction per person over the door rate for other families.

However, with the new price increase, I imagine the museum will find that they will have LESS patrons and therefore their expenses will actually RISE to stay open. IE: less patronage, but still the same costs to operate the museum.

Good luck writing your letter, I champion your cause, but having been there, I suspect it will fall on blind eyes.

O_Scientist said...

Thanks for the feedback, yeah, it feels like they might lose out on number of people visiting by this new policy.

Even if a letter doesn't help, it feels important to let my voice be heard.


Anonymous said...

That is horrible. We just visited the museum last week and it seems like a fun place.
I remember going out to eat with my family and we always had to add the 15% gratuity fee.

txmommy said...

you go! This is realllllly annoying. Why is a family pack of anything for four people? Argh!

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a pain! I get the part about each visitor translates into costs. I also think that there are very few families of seven that actually come to the museum compared to families of 4. We used to keep a membership to several places around town - Omniplex Museum, Zoo - and every time we went we spent money on snacks, souvenirs, etc. Not a lot, but some. Now that we don't keep a membership, those places are losing out on that money. Maybe in your letter you can mention that most families who buy a membership probably spend more in other places at the museum than those who just dropped a small fortune at the door, especially families with more people in them. They may think they are losing money by offering a better deal on the membership, but maybe they should consider how many people will now NOT buy a membership, therefore NOT come to the museum and NOT spend money on snacks and souvenirs. I always felt justified spending money of food and stuff because we had gotten in "free"! I bet others out there are just as silly (sillier?????) than me!


Anonymous said...

It's the children they are hurting, and it's not going to help their bottom line much. Too many larger families can barely afford the regular membership let alone this other stuff. I forget where you are, but maybe there are things you can do. Are they a member of the ASTC program? Find a museum in your area that is a member and check out their family rate. Often you can join a place 90 miles away and get free admission to the ones closest to you. You can also tell them if they are a member, your going to spend your money farther away, and still come anyway, and see how they like that!

Annelies said...

Waar je over moet klagen is de ongelofelijke prijsstijging tov vorig jaar. Dát is een argument dat ze niet kunnen weer leggen! Want ze komen natuurlijk met het argument dat 7 kinderen je eigen keuze zijn...

Die prijsstijging is echt NIET te geloven.
Al eens gedacht aan de mogelijkheid om een plaatselijke krant in te schakelen? Dat wil nog wel eens wonderen doen...

Anonymous said...

They did this a couple of years ago at our local zoo, so we no longer have a membership. They also did this at our local science museum, so I got a membership at another place that is a reciprocal museum. It's $60 a year and covers some zoos as well. Not our zoo, but others. You can get a membership at a place in Anniston for $35 that is reciprocal.

However, our museum decided that anytime they see another museum membership, they will only allow 4 people to get in with the membership (EVEN THOUGH OUR MEMBERSHIP INDICATES WE HAVE 4 CHILDREN). So I dunno. Maybe you can find out if your museum will accept reciprocal memberships and how many people they will accept on each membership. It seems to me that even if they only accept 4 people per membership, you might be able to get by on 2 memberships from Anniston.

I hate that larger families have to work around this stuff. I guess they may miss out on your $85 this year, only to have another family pay it in additional costs. :(