A fishy claim by the JREF.

Let me start off by saying that The Amaz!ng Meeting is a pretty shmancy event.  I’ve never been able to afford to go, but the stories I hear from others paint it as a rockin’ good time.

That being said, it has one of the highest price tags attached to it of any skeptic conference, if not the highest.  It always has.  It’s the JREF’s big fundraiser every year and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Hell, it’s a good thing.  But recently I got an email with six reasons to attend TAM which contained this one at number 6.

6. TAM 2013 is actually cheaper than any other skeptic conference when hotel, travel, and meals are factored in. Hotel rates for similar conferences range from $150-200 per night, while our TAM group rates go as low as $45 a night! But the group rates end tomorrow, so book your hotel room right now with JREF’s group code AMA0707!

Say….what?  The blog Dubito Ergo Sum breaks down why this claim is rivaled only by Christianity for being flagrantly untrue.

Like me, the writer at DES’s first thought was that Skepticon is free (and that includes access to everything, at TAM you have to cough up even more than the $475 price tag to get access to all workshops and what not) and in a much cheaper (and more accessible) part of the country.  The response from the JREF would most likely be that Skepticon is not a skeptics conference, which just plain silly.  It’s a skeptics conference that includes critiques of religion, the same way TAM criticizes psychics and UFOs.  If that’s the distinction upon which the truth of this claim hinges, then TAM is the cheapest skeptics conference in the same way that Corn Pops are healthy because they’re packed with vitamins.

Look, I have nothing against TAM or the JREF, which is probably why I expect them to be better than this kind of misleading bullshit.  If you can afford it, go nuts.  You certainly won’t regret it.  But the JREF should be honest about what it is.  Don’t go thinking TAM won’t have a hefty price tag attached to it.  And if you’re like me and money is really tight, don’t think that TAM is your most affordable option.  It won’t be.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jasper

    I swear, if I hear another argument that skepticism doesn’t apply to untestable claims, I’m going to shoot nuclear eye lasers.

    Because, clearly, if someone walks up to me, and makes batshit insane fantasy claim, the conversation would go like this:

    “Hi! I have a clone in parallel universe that is the King of the entire galaxy”
    “Huh, your claim doesn’t appear to be testable”
    “Yup!”
    “Well, I guess I’m not skeptical of it then.”

  • John Evans

    Marketing wags will be marketing wags, no matter who they are shilling for. Based on my own experience alone (so take with all due grains of salt), I imagine someone at JREF sighing, rubbing their temples or perhaps the bridge of their nose, and telling the Marketing wag “no, you’re not in trouble, but please let’s not do that again”.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    I got that email too. Sounds like they are worried about attendance this year, and when I went on a Surly Grant two years ago it was sold out. Hmm.

    To go to WIS2 cost me a little over $200 in registration, plus subway fare, and a little extra for tshirts/books, and lunch. (Of course I’m local for that one, so that’s not totally representative) Taking my spouse to TAM this year (which we are planning to do) is going to cost great wads of money, even considering that we’re using frequent flyer miles to cover our airfare. And that $45 a night is only for weekdays, the weekend days are higher.

    They really should not talk about “inexpensive”, they should talk about “value for money”, which is a much better approach. Or just book Morgan Freeman and Ricky Gervais and Tim Minchin as speakers, and they’ll have a sellout without needing to bring up cost at all.

  • ptah

    I went to TAM, and all I got was this lousy regret.

  • Zinc Avenger

    Its just the math he does as a marketer that makes him feel better.

    • Loqi

      Nice of the JREF to give poor Karl a job. He’ll do less harm to the general public there.

  • Chris Ho-Stuart

    I note that on May 30, @jref was tweeting this:

    “JREF’s amaz!ng hotel rates end June 8 (makes #TAM2013 cheaper than any similar conference). Be sure to book now! http://fb.me/1iyPf3wBz

    That phrasing might pass muster; it is so ambiguous that you have no idea what conferences to compare. My guess is that it got firmed up at some point, which gave the comment enough real content to be plainly false.

  • John H

    DJ Grothe should really stop talking to members of the public; he is, not at all surprisingly, just digging himself in deeper with responses to PZ’s critique of the same thing. Dude appears pathologically incapable of ever admitting he (or his organization) made a mistake or apologizing for such.

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