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Last week I got a salmon-colored form from my postman, informing me that I wasn't home when he tried to deliver a Certified Mail item. I was instructed to come to the Post Office to pick it up. I went down that afternoon, a few minutes before closing, but the carrier was still out on deliveries, so I had to come back another day. I went in today and got it. So that's two trips for this important piece of mail.

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It cost the National Auctioneers' Association $2.79 to send me an annual membership renewal INVOICE by Certified mail. This was after they sent the first one by first class mail. The piece has three sheets of paper, printed professionally. So it was no cheap mailer to produce, and a lot more expensive to mail. What do you think, maybe $10.00 each for design, mastering, production, inserting? And then there's the postage.

There's more to this story, tho. The NAA charges over $200 annually for a membership. For this they send you a monthly magazine, and make a Web site available to you. Yeah, sure, there are other services available, but few use them. Mostly, it's an organization of good ol' boys, with cigars in their mouths, patting each other on the back. Oh, and a pretty-much ineffective lobby at the state and national level. On a regular basis, they notify me by email about classes available in every city of the Union (except the one I live in) that I can register for (for a not-so-small fee). They offer legal advice, but warn that it's not legally binding, and that one cannot depend on it in a court of law. There are stories of successful auctions. They have an educational fund that you can voluntarily contribute to, but the membership invoice has the "donation" hard-coded at $30, and it's included in the invoice total. I have NO IDEA what this money is really spent for.

About the only thing I get regularly from the NAA is email asking for help: help on an industry survey; help on a particular subject matter; help by contacting my elected officials; help on an industry health insurance survey. So I guess I'm paying for someone to ask me for help, I don't know!

Now, LAST YEAR I returned my NAA invoice with CANCEL carefully magic-markered across it. A young lady, who identified herself as vice-president of something-or-other, on a conference call with some membership mucky-muck, called me personally a few days later. I suppose I should have been honored with such personal, preferential treatment. She wondered why I chose to terminate my membership. I told her that I got very little from their publication, and that the cost of the membership did not equal the value I perceived it to represent. I also suggested she look at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) for some guidance on membership costs. They produce a monthly glossy magazine, with lots of helpful information for anyone who is a pilot, current or not. They charge $40.00 annually. And they have VERY EFFECTIVE local, state, and national lobby programs that get things done! She did a good sales job, tho, and actually convinced me that I should re-UP, with a less expensive Associate membership, at a mere $175.00. (WHAT was I thinking?) It was one of those weak moments, and I allowed that I may not have given the organization a fair shake.

I actually read the monthly magazines more carefully this year, but found nothing that actually presented great value (or $175-worth of value, anyway.) Coincidentally, someone from the magazine wrote and asked me for some input on online selling. Since I am primarily an eBay seller, I (of course) had some opinions as to how online selling relates to the auction business in general. They actually published my picture and a couple of paragraphs in the magazine containing my comments. That was cool, but I don't recall any checks or money orders crossing my desk as a result. So the result of my 12-month evaluation was a "negative" on membership renewal.

(big breath...) OK, so here's what I think. First, NAA charges FAR TOO MUCH for a membership. There's no value returned to the auctioneer that I can see. Second, membership entitles you to weekly, sometimes daily, advertising mail from NAA and their marketing partners, selling everything from credit cards to posters. Third, the magazine is surely paid for just by the HUGE amount of advertising in it, so THAT isn't justification for the annual dues. Fourth, the organization does little at the local level. (They do seem to have some sort of affiliation with state organizations, like the TAA, but it seems to be limited to sharing of membership marketing information. Fifth, they seem to be spending a GREAT DEAL of money wooing members. Wouldn't it be better to provide value for the membership, so people were standing in line to apply for membership? Sixth, and finally, who came up with the idea to send a renewal by Certified Mail, which requires (in many cases) a physical trip to the USPS? This shows absolutely no consideration for folks' time or gas money. We don't all live next door to the Post Office. I drive ten minutes, 4 miles, and about $3.00 in gas to get there. Multiply that by however many members who have figured out there's no value to NAA membership, and they've cost a number of us a large total of WASTED TIME AND MONEY.

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