Packet Pick-up (PPU) is a colloquial industry term that refers to when participants receive their bib (/pins) and giveaway(s).
Some events literally package these items as a single 'packet', but that is not required. PPU is typically configured
as a set of tables with either letters (of the last name) or bib ranges (ie. 1-100, 101-200) hanging above where each line should form.
A person gets in the appropriate line, walks up to the table, tells the individual her/his name (or bib # - known from a pre-race email or webpage), possibly shows identification (if you require it),
and is handed her/his materials.
It's also possible to assign bib numbers dynamically, such that no one is assigned a bib number until physically at PPU or someone in their stead.
Note: Some events require the participant, her/his self, to be physically present at PPU, while others allow for one person to pick up for others, provided
that person has their identication and/or a forward of their confirmation email. We highly recommend that when you allow designees to pick up for others,
that you record the name of who is picking up for that person. It's not uncommon, especially when not requiring verification of permission, for someone at PPU
to decide that they'll pick up for someone else without telling that person - only for the other person to arrive and their bib is gone (or assigned dynamically already).
Best to know if it truly was picked up or a mistake was made. The next section goes into detail about bib assignment methods.
When/Where to Hold PPU
First, do note that PPU is an opportunity to leverage a sponsor. Perhaps you have a local running store that wants to get involved with your race.
Having PPU at their location, in exchange for something from them, can benefit you both. PPUs are highly desired by running stores as it puts a captive audience inside their door.
As such, you may be compelled to hold pre-race day PPU(s), even at multiple concurrent locations, for such a reason.
If your event has less than 500 participants, unless compelled for the reason above, we highly recommend only offering race-day PPU.
The additional logistics of being setup and ready the day prior, coupled with the issues that can result (ie. people showing up on race day forgetting
are not worth it when you have a few hundred participants. It's not wrong if you still elect to do it, but the major advantage - to YOU - of pre-race day PPU is the reduction
in race day staffing and space associated with having to process more people in a matter of typically just the 90 minutes before the start.
For race day only PPU, we recommend that your PPU have lines limited to 100 participants each. Based upon your giveaways, you will need 1 or 2 helpers for each line,
handing out the items/potentially retrieving them. As such, if you elected to have race day only PPU for 5,000 person event, you now need 50 lines.
The sheer amount of space, overhead coverage, and personnel to do this would be unwieldy. There is also the added anxiety and pressure on race day as the clock is ticking
down until the start - and long lines can greatly frustrate your participants and lessen their experience.
PPU (On-Site) Registration
Some events have a cap (registration limit) forced upon them. Perhaps it is a restriction of your permit.
Other events create a self-imposed cap or simply a hard cut-off registration date, so as to ease their planning/ordering and not have to worry about estimating quantities.
If your event is not (externally or internally) restricted from accepting registrations come race week, you need to decide if you will allow for registrations race week/race day.
It is our strong recommendation that if you are in a position where you can think
about whether or not to do it, then you should do it. Simply raise the fee
(make it excessive if you so desire), limit what they will receive (which reduces your anxiety in placing orders well in advance), and allow their participation to both
increase the fundraising efforts of your event while mitigating the likelihood they bandit your event anyway.
If you are accepting on-site registrations, be sure that you advertise (and are prepared for) whichever payment methods you are accepting, including:
Come with a cashbox(es) that have sufficient/appropriate money for making change.
(A $40 or $100 race day fee is a lot easier on your staff than $28, $89, etc.)
- Credit Card
Do you have credit card swipers? Able to rent them if you don't own them?
Be clear in your communications indicating to WHOM the check is to be made out to and in what amount.
When permitting on-site registration, we recommend accepting cash and credit cards. (You don't want to deal with bounced checks/tracking money down after the event.)
For any payment methods not accepted, explicitly indicate that in your description of how people can register on-site. (ie. "Cash or credit cards only, no checks will be accepted.")
As part of AREEP's consulting package, we can walk you through what works best for your event and how to optimize your PPU configuration.
First, we highly recommend that your PPU setup include a 'Solutions Area' - namely a single table with at least one dedicated person there whose only task
is to assist people who have a problem/need a data change. Your general PPU staff should solely handle 'normal interactions', namely giving out/assigning a bib.
If your general PPU staff member has an issue assisting someone, be it an inability to find the person's registration record or bib, that (supposed) registrant should be sent to your solutions table.
The Solutions Manager (SM) is, ideally, your registrar. It should be the person with the deepest understanding of your registration system, with the capability to
check every possible piece of information attached to both a person and all of the transactions associated with your event. It is best that the SM be on a computer, with the following
two pages/places open:
- Registration Entrant Administration Page (ie. ZippyReg Entrant Maintenance Screen)
- A spreadsheet with a complete export of all registrant data
When someone approaches the solutions table, your SM should immediately ask that person to pull up her/his confirmation email,
while your SM asks her/him for their birthday, which your SM then does a search for in the spreadsheet.
This is faster than beginning with the other approach of searching by name, generally because it was probably a typo that caused the issue in the first place.
In addition to typos, sometimes people reverse their FN/LN or register with one LN and then it changes before PPU, and they forget which they used. Birthday will not change - and hopefully they entered it correctly.
If you don't find a match on DOB, try phone number, street address, or email.
If you can't find it, and the person can't produce a confirmation email but swears
they registered, the simplest solution
(that benefits the event) is
to simply ask that they re-register as though they never did, and if they can find proof of their registration the following week, to contact your registrar for a refund of the second payment.
Some considerations when dealing with this particular type of situation that may affect the actions you take:
- Is your event sold out?
- Are you otherwise accepting registrations today?
- How much to charge if they claim they registered when it was cheaper.
- Their disposition/attitude during this interaction.
Are they respectful/belligerent/somewhere in the middle?
- Do you have a line of people in front of you waiting?
Can you afford to spend more time trying to figure this out?
- Is there an audience watching this scene evolve?
- Do they seem tech-savvy enough to be able to pull up their credit card history on their phone? (And not take 30 minutes to do so.)
Rarely will the charge explicitly make it clear that it is for that exact event (it may either shown the merchant's name or an abbreviation for the event) - so while it is helpful to be shown a charge, your SM might
not be able to fully determine if it was for this exact event.
A word of caution:
If it gets to this point, it is highly unlikely that they registered.
Do also be careful - there are some people who lie about his to gain free entry into races.
Ultimately, if your SM can't find a record of the registration, the event director should have a stated internal policy that either mandates the SM
require a new paid registration (if still taking registrations), give the person the 'benefit-of-the-doubt' and accept that person without paying, or empower the SM to decide on a case-by-case basis.