Some Red Cross providers remain frustrated with costs and customer service despite lower learn-to-swim fees announced in February. Issues were aired at the Association of Aquatic Professionals’ inaugural conference in Austin, Texas, when Red Cross officials presented a seminar on the new prices and related changes to their aquatic program offerings.
The new, two-tiered pricing started as early as March 1, and
becomes official June 1. Learn-to-swim program providers who offer
the Red Cross lifeguard training course will be charged an annual
fee of $300 per pool property for up to 150 swim lesson students.
Additional students are priced at $1 per student. For operations
that do not offer the lifeguard training, the annual fee is $350
per pool property, which covers up to 100 students. Those providers
would still be charged $1 for additional students beyond what the
annual fee covers.
Annual fees include learn-to-swim certificates and program
marketing materials. Providers offering other Red Cross programs
will have the opportunity to receive additional discounts through
special incentives and credit.
But some program providers — perhaps most particularly those
at large agencies serving thousands of swim students each year
— say the price is still not affordable.
“We’re still getting our budget reduced every year so
we’re not in a position to pay more, and I can’t pass
it on to my customers,” said Jim Wheeler, who attended the
conference in Austin.
Wheeler is recreation services manager for the San Francisco
Recreation and Parks Department, an agency that serves between
5,000 and 6,000 students.
He seemed to echo the concerns of other providers who continue to
struggle with the Red Cross fees. Nearly 60 percent of
professionals think the pricing is too high and will seek other
training options, according to an informal poll on
Red Cross officials say they want to work with facilities that have
pricing issues. “We’re really looking to be
reasonable,” said Steve Glockenmeier, vice president of
product development, Red Cross Preparedness Health and Safety
He was among the Red Cross officials in Austin to address
providers. “We’re willing to sit down with anyone to
figure out how we can make it work for them. I think the larger
facilities have a concern, but there are ways we can work within
that without being unfair to the smaller facilities.”
The new pricing is an effort to address concerns over the pricing
announced in June 2011, which caused significant frustration among
providers. According to Red Cross officials, the intention is to
create a more equitable, uniform system that works to recoup the
costs of program development. But some industry professionals still
have questions, such as whether fees will increase next year.
Other providers expressed frustration in trying to obtain
information from local Red Cross chapters. “It seems like
we’re paying more fees and getting less customer
service,” said Craig Merkey, aquatics coordinator at
Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, in Middletown, Pa.
Glockenmeier said the agency is still in the process of making
organizational changes that are expected to improve customer
service. “We aren’t there yet,” he said a
number of times during the meeting.