Meetup.com: The Unsocial Social Company

This is a typical customer service complaint story. The shocker (at least to me) is that it is a story about a social networking company that ought to know better.

Is it really possible that company with this mission could suck this badly at customer service?

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Please indulge me—I need to vent. Besides, I told them I would blog about my experience and I don’t want that to be a idle threat. I’ll be quick about it.

First some background: I am the head organizer of a local running club. We train hard for 26 weeks with the goal of doing the Disney Half or Full Marathon or another winter marathon. We meet every Saturday for a long run and do speed work or hills during the week. The other 26 weeks of the year we plan weekly social runs and participate in community races to raise money for charities. This is my sixth year as a member of the club. As the new organizer, I thought it would be great to get the running club up on Meetup.com to attract new members and expand our reach. So I did.

Only, two days later they took it down and sent me this message:

Your Meetup Group, was brought to our attention as specifically promoting a one-time event, which is not in compliance with our Terms of Service.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize long-lasting local community and help people around the world self-organize, and the Meetup platform is intended for groups that will help further this mission.

As a result of our inquiry, we’ve closed your Meetup Group and refunded your Organizer Dues.

In the Terms of Service, Meetup reserves the right to remove members, groups and content if the platform is used in a way that is inappropriate.

For more information, you can review the Terms of Service here: http://www.meetup.com/terms/

Sincerely,

Meetup HQ

Did Mr. and Mrs. HQ actually name their first born “Meetup”?? And exactly which Term of Service did I violate? How was my group or content inappropriate? How is my group promoting a one-time event? Why did they deactivate my group without even giving me a chance to explain or fix it?

They didn’t tell me. So I sent Meetup HQ an email further explaining my running club and asking why it was deactivated.

Here’s the next response:

Hello Julie,

In preparing a Group for its announcement to the community, it’s important that a Group’s intent be clear to members of the community who will receive that announcement and be invited to take a look and decide whether or not they’d like to join.

Otherwise, members may believe that the Group is not truly committed to fostering a long-lasting, local community.

I’m afraid that your Meetup Group will not be reinstated;  however, if you would like to start a new Meetup Group, please review the Terms of Service for clarification:

http://www.meetup.com/terms/

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reply to this message.

Sincerely,

Meetup HQ

Huh? Well, at least this time Meetup HQ addressed me by name. But I still don’t know what I did wrong and they have invited me to spend another 2 hours setting up my group, possibly making the same mistake, and once again being deactivated! And of course, I could always read the legal mumbo jumbo again. THAT should clear things up for me.

Since I was tired of corresponding with an automated email system, I went to the meetup.com website to find the “contact us” info—only there is none. There are lots of photos of the employees (so there are real people behind that automated customer support machine) and clever paragraphs about what the employees do and their little personal quirks, but there is no way to contact them. I can read their blogs or follow them on Twitter, but there is not an email address or phone number to be found on the entire website. The communication is one-way only. They can broadcast to me but I can’t contact them.

Luckily there is a physical address buried in those Terms of Service! (Good thing I read them as instructed.) So I sent the CEO and founder a snail-mail letter (don’t worry—I cc’d Meetup HQ to keep the automated email system in the loop). I’ll let you know if I hear back.

Don’t hold your breath.

If ever a company needed to learn to listen to the voice of the customer, this one does. Perhaps Meetup.com wants to hire ITSMA to implement a Net Promoter Score (NPS) program? They desperately need one. I am NPS certified and more than ready to help. Hear that Scott Heiferman?

30 comments

  1. pat kelley

    After reading all of these comments I think I do not want to partake in any meetup reindeer games. I was thinking of using Meetup for my local Toastmaster Groups but this garbage service and arbitrary boot offs over one-time events or reoccurring is not my bag. Hey Meetup – sometimes groups have one time events. Get a support line for your customers and start putting your mouth where your money is.

  2. Tammy Cromarty

    Hi, thank you for this blog. I tried to start a meetup too, they have one in New York, several actually that are exactly the same as mine, but I’m in Canada. They denied my account and are refunding me the money. They say it’s not within the guidelines, um -what? So i tried to reply to the email, nothing. I tried calling the number I found on Google, nothing. No voicemail – nothing. So I’m going to have to find another way to do this group without Meetup.com and keep my cash. You’re totally right, they are very poor at customer service. And there is absolutely no way to contact them. I appreciate that I am not alone in this view. Thank you

  3. Alex

    My meetup group was cancelled too, no explanation given, no way to contact them.
    Someone needs to start a similar site, with better customer service, to put meetup out of business.

  4. Matt

    I just found this article since Meetup just did the exact same thing as mentioned above and I’m incredulous as to how they can delete/remove a group with recurring events, members and event attendees with no contact or actual explanation provided in advance. In this case we created a community group for customer support professionals in our region for recurring happy hours and coffee meet-ups, they happily charged us to create that group and within 24 hours of announcing this group to our circle of colleagues and friends in the support community, they deleted it and sent an email after the fact. This is not a lead-gen event, a one time event, or a sales pitch – it is simply a group of like minded people in the same industry that live in the same region to connect over drinks and coffee. The email was even more generic saying it didn’t meet their guidelines. I’m hoping this was a mistake just to give MeetUp the benefit of the doubt as I can’t fathom a successful company in this day and age having an actual policy of deleting PAID user data with no attempt to explain or contact prior – all while impacting that users time and reputation (posting a dead link and having to scramble to re-organize). We emailed support and they sent the same response and then closed the ticket. Hopefully someone from MeetUp is listening and can make this right.

  5. Jo

    I accidentally joined meetup twice, using two different email addresses and I started receiving spam emails, two at a time, to both of these addresses. They obviously sell their mailing list. I also tried to find a contact link or email address on their website to complain – and there is none – nada, zip – no way that I’ve found to let them know this is unacceptable behavior. Don’t trust them with your data!

  6. MJ Brick

    Nope, not buying it. Even if that was, indeed, Heiferman in the reply to Julie, there are copious numbers of companies a fraction of the size of Meetup with phone lines/direct e-mail addresses for use by the customer. Heck, I e-mailed a small game company in Australia(!) called GamesLab saying that we can’t find their products here in the States, but that I’d like to promote them; the head of the company replied to get my address and shipped me a few hundred US$ worth of product ON THE HOUSE, and followed up by working out a way for a local store to carry the stuff. Here they’re on the other side of the world serving their own region’s customers, and he personally responds to me and sends me free stuff. THAT’S customer service by a small company! I’ll not spend a cent on Meetup.

  7. Pandolowski

    It seems every single one of these millennial internet-company snot-noses seem to have the same mindset – that behind the curtains of their startups, the REAL point of operations is to do as LITTLE AS POSSIBLE to maintain a funnel of money pouring into their coffers.
    Having customer support opens the door to personal accountability, and exposure of the puppeteers pulling the strings behind these closed-door cash generators.
    Heiferman’s comment to Julie came after 3 -days of fermentation
    (in internet terms, enough time to develop compost IMHO)
    I , too, have not received any semblance of customer support from Meetup. Where there is no accountability (i.e. direct contact information), there will be no response from behind the curtain that has any substance or resolution.
    I will not ever do any business with any company, service, person, etc. who is purposefully (and determinately) operates anonymously. Always investigate customer service BEFORE buying. No customer service? BIG RED FLAG.

    I’ve learned my wallet speaks louder than any complaint emails. I quit Meetups permanently. Craigslist and a HANDWRITTEN sign on the side of the road seems to work as effectively to set up common-interest groups locally. Word spreads – just like Meetup.com – and for free. And no one “cancels” your subscription.
    ——————————

  8. Lori Cova

    I too am angry at meetups. I was not an organizer just a person trying to find social gatherings. I started going to a volleyball meetups. it was great, it was fun, then i got injured stopped going for a long time. healed opened my own business and now I’m ready to get back out in the world and socialize. well guess what? they blocked me stating I was spamming people. never happened.. ever, and it pisses me off to be accused of this. so to everyone out there. go to wikipedia type in “list social media groups. soooo many come up! screw you meetups I will never go to your site again i will never recommend you to clients and friends. your email above to Julie was incredibly stupid and unprofessional Scott Heiferman. I would never have given you a second chance. to everyone on this page, drop meetups, go to wikipedia find a new group there are hundreds of other sites. happy networking!

  9. Carmen Gomez

    I had a Meetup account since 2010. I participate in several Meetup groups as a member and I’m a co-organizer of one Meetup group. A few days ago, I renewed (made the payment) for the Meetup group I co-organize. The payment went through but the Meetup was cancelled anyway. The organizer can’t administrer the account anymore, and my personal account, which I had for 6 years was deleted.
    I sent several emails to technical support, they just said I have to send the email from the email account registrer with Meetup, which I did, I kept sending me the same text.
    They don´t read my emails, no phone number to comunicate, no solution. My personal account was eliminated, I can’t access it, but I’m still a co-organizer and nobody else can modify the meetups I created. They collected the money for the Meetup group I co-organize, but after a week it says when the organizer sign-in that: “This Meetup group no longer has an organizer. A member needs to step up as the new organizer, or this Meetup will be closed in 8 days.”.
    I can’t tell how frustrated and dissapointed I feel. If someone had a similar problem and solved it, please let me know.
    Carmen
    (Meetup user member # 12517574)

  10. Jenn

    Hi, Great article, thanks for taking the time to complain. There are meetups in our area that are for one event so I am not sure why you got shut down. I found that meetup has a lot of security issues. For example, in our area we had a hiking group with over a thousand members and the leaders were pretty sketchy. The main couple were involved in an drag out fist fight over “her” —really nasty details, I will spare you–which lead to charges for him. They were sketchy about money they raised and when drunk bragged about how it paid for trips to places like Peru. As well he assaulted a fellow hiker-female- on a hike and was charged. They had to shut down the group. But while he went to jail she started another group with another man with a fake name and no photo. Actually she has always used a fake name. Now such things are apparently happening (all over again) in this group, like they offer “points” of reward should you do something risky (like jumping over cravasses when the fall could easily–and has—killed people)I don’t understand how meetup can want to help the communities but has a hands off approach on simple rules to ensure or at least support the security of those who innocently join these groups without recognizing these sketchy people. Facebook has put some measures in place, and if you are not a “real” person with your name and photo you are removed (if reported) I have no idea why they can’t insist that organizers identify themselves and if they have a criminal past (and she was involved in a crime ring—stealing televisions etc.) to not allow the meetup. Thanks for giving me this place to rant, I help co-organize a great group in Canada.

  11. Jan Triplett

    Meetup not just unsocial but provocative. One notice. 20 days to correct (if you saw the one notice). 4 yr old groups closed down. No appeal. No restart possible. Online groups are green — they still can do everything face to face groups do (mine did) except not use any gas to get people together. What century do you live in? Don’t you care about the planet? Meetup really is something else. Yes, you have the right to change but you have the obligation to treat good customers who pay you with some respect not as if they ripped up your favorite toy. Grow up and tell the truth about who you really are and how you really operate your business. You take money and you run and hide.

  12. Kim Lurie

    wow, wish I had read this BEFORE I hit send…they offered me an inexpensive deal to set up the meetup and then charged me double..NOW I can’t find someone to call/email as you all wrote…I barely started and already the red flags are waving!

  13. Julie

    Quite a while later, seems like not much has changed. I found this post while searching for how to contact Customer Service at Meetup. The organizer of a group I had requested to join emailed me to make sure I was the kind of person they were looking for. I tried to reply to her email, but no matter how I worded my response, it kept being blocked for looking like spam to the automated system.

    The best I could get from the Help section was that I should make my email “more personal” so I’d sound more like a human. There was nothing formulaic about what I was writing. After a few failed attempts, I looked for an email or a live chat option to ask someone what was going on. No luck. I was really shocked.

    Plenty of sites will say that they can’t respond to every email, or that it will take a few days for someone to respond, but nothing at all? I’m glad I hadn’t already paid money before finding this out. What are you supposed to do when things go wrong or you need help figuring things out?

    My issue is just annoying. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it would have been if my group had been deleted and there was no one to contact about it. What’s up with that?

  14. Kent

    I was removed from a group without any explanation — even though I requested one from organizer. I have reason to believe that the reason may be illegal under the ADA and other US disability law. Meetup will not let me address this issue — always citing organizer discretion. BUT I AM SURE THAT MEETUP IS SUBJECT TO THE ADA, ETC. — AND SHOULD OR MUST ALLOW REPORTING OF ILLEGAL ORGANIZER BEHAVIOR. HOW CAN I DO THIS?

  15. Theo

    I can’t believe that is really Scott Heiferman at all. I find it unfathomable that as CEO his justification for having non existent customer support is “we are not selling $100 shoes to everyone”. ARE YOU SERIOUS!?
    Is our $240 a year to host an unlimited group not enough?
    I don’t think anyone here is expecting world-class, just somebody there at the other end to provide a basic and reasonable level of support when we encounter problems. Not an unreasonable ask, surely?
    I wonder if Scott has ever considered that by failing to provide this, people encountering difficulties are unlikely to get the problem resolved and therefore very likely to quit instead. Lost revenue there!
    By terminating groups without seeking any clarification and without offering any kind of personal explanation, some of these are bound to be unnecessary, but people will be pissed off and not likely to be willing to try again. More lost revenue!
    Its so ironic that an organisation that purports to be all for long-term sustainable projects doesn’t understand the value of repeat custom, or the you build that by looking after your paying customers….not completely ignoring them!!
    There is no justification (financial or otherwise) for running a social media website of this size and not even having a proper online support team. I’d personally much rather wait a few days for a human email response and get my problem solved EVENTUALLY rather than feeling like I am paying good money for a service and being ignored.
    Right now I am not feeling I get fair value for money from this service and am moments away from quitting for good.
    It appears I’m not the only one!

  16. Rita Gonzalez

    I am run ragged trying to get a simple e-mail address to write to Meet Ups phantom ‘customer service’ team. I guess i too shall have no option than to quit. Now here’s a great oportunity to set up an alternative site. !

  17. BILLY

    I just sent a message to the email address posted at the bottom of the Meetup “terms and conditions” page. I had a legal question about re-posting meetup meeting details for the community. I assumed the email on this particular page might go to their legal dept or an atty, etc. Certainly a customer with questions about official terms and conditions isn’t asking for a meetup sticker or autograph.

    I received this back:

    “Yikes! It looks like you sent an email to Meetup’s Community Team using an email address that is not recognized by our system. **Your email will NOT be read.**

    If you are a member of Meetup, please re-submit your inquiry with the email address that you use for your Meetup account.

    For faster support, take a look at our Help Center:
    http://www.meetup.com/help/

    Yours truly,
    Meetup HQ”

  18. susan

    why are they hiding? what’s the goal ? Whose behind the curtain?
    all of the “about us”
    joke? The joke is on us, new definition for transparency
    waste of time
    the impressively social network!

  19. Therese

    I have tried repeatedly to pay my organizer dues and I keep getting an error. This has happened twice. They gave me an extension but my time is up and it is still not fixed. I tried everything: Different cards,disabling spy wear, incognito windows….nothing works! You can’t call to get help which is just unbelievable to me. Why do they not have a phone number. Every other company has one. Meetup is not user friendly, infact, they just aren’t friendly. So you are right…it’s an unsocial social group. If you have any suggestions let me know. I’ve worked hard to grow my group and I may lose it.

  20. bobby gladstein

    The Meetup organization was so automated in its responses and the webpage so difficult to understand, that I just quit. Not being a computer savvy woman I found the experience frustrating. Too bad, I had 136 people interested.

  21. Jonathan Milenko

    I just cam across this page.
    There are a few issues with Scott Heiferman’s comment.
    1) As CEO he’s empowered to know about, and fix, the issue detailed on this page. Instead he just posted a few generalities.
    2) He used the phrase “one-time event(s)” in his attempt to explain Meetup’s actions. The problem is in the parenthesized s. Once you’re talking about plural events, the “one time only” idea no longer applies.
    3) As Julie posted, the approval process needs to work collaboratively with organizers. Many well-intentioned groups are declined with little or no explanation, and no easy recourse. While plenty of groups (singles companies, party promoters, yoga classes, etc.) which can never form “in person community” are plentiful on meetup.com.

  22. Marcie Judelson

    Julie,
    Your comments about your frustrating experience with Meetup mirror my experience almost verbatim. Like you, I am a Meetup Organizer, however, I am a long-time member and my activity (a dance class for Boomers) is not a one-time event, it’s been a recurring weekly event for about 3 years.

    I just emailed Meetup (and had the same frustration about trying to contact them), and tried to solicit some advice and support about how to better promote my activity. Because frankly, I rarely get new students from Meetup and I’ve been thinking about cancelling my membership. But I wanted to ask if a) I could be promoting more effectively and b) if my activity was suited to Meetup.

    Instead of a proper response, I received a similar automated email to the one they sent you — telling me I had “violated the guidelines” and my membership/Group had been closed. What?? I don’t even know what guideline I’ve violated, and at the very least, I expect a personalized email EXPLAINING the situation and giving me a chance to CORRECT it.

    I plan to contact the CEO, as well. Because this is shocking behavior for a company that prides itself on valuing their customers.

    The good news is, I was already thinking about cancelling my membership. Now the decision has been made for me.

    Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one who is sorely disappointed (and angry) with Meetup.

  23. scott heiferman

    hi julie, this is scott heiferman at meetup. sounds like you had a pretty frustrating experience. i recently started a new meetup group, myself, and i know it can take a while to set it up — so if it were removed after all that work, i’d be pissed too. i don’t know what triggered the removal of your meetup, but let me tell you: we prefer to not refund people’s money! Please respect (even if we made a mistake with you) that it’s because we care about the meetup experience for people… i’m guessing that you put a heavy emphasis on the one-time event(s) — despite that not being your intent — and we’ve learned that people (members) get really confused when this community platform is used for one-time events. As for our lack of phone/etc support, please understand that this is how we can make a service for millions of people — while keeping prices low and not bastardizing it with over-commercialism. We’d like to have customer service that’s as good as zappos, but we’re not selling $100 shoes to everyone. We’re really proud that we actually read & respond to every email (including yours) — i’m not sure that google or facebook or most websites can say that. bottom line: i’d love it if you forgave us, tried again — paying extra care to saying that your meetup isn’t just the one-time events…. and we hope it’s wildly successful for you. thanks for understanding (even if we pissed you off!)

    • Julie
      Julie

      Scott,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. That means a lot and shows that meetup is listening. Your response is genuine and personal. This is what I expect from your support organization. Even though I understand what you are saying about the experience and keeping costs low, I do think you need to reexamine the automated messages with no names coming from the support organization. Not a good business practice. If indeed you read every message, then it shouldn’t cost too much more to have people sign their names and use personal emails for their responses. If they signed their names I bet we customers would see a lot more empathy. I also think your support team should suspend a meetup, pending clarification rather than deep-six it. They could have helped me rather than made me angry. Even if you have a great product/service (which you do!), it is all about the customer experience.

      I will forgive and try again.

      Julie

    • John

      Hi Scott,

      This problem still hasn’t been solved. 3 years later, my meetup has been rejected with a similar terse email, without any proper explanation as to why. With the click of a button, someone at Meetup has undone an hour of my time, and made me look stupid to everyone I’ve sent the link to. The emotion this causes is anger.

      John

    • Moe Badderman

      scott heiferman [lowercase his choice] wrote: “We’d like to have customer service that’s as good as zappos, but we’re not selling $100 shoes”

      L0L, they’re selling $240 service not as good as Zappos.

    • Jacqueline Foust

      I started a meetup to help promote my kids painting business, after one year of paying I decided to close my group of nearly 400. Meet up has since given my account to someone I’ve never met and allowed her to send a series of emails to my most loyal clientele proclaiming herself as a more experienced art instructor and the new owner of my bussiness. Now she’s posted 11 events at the location where my real business takes place. I have emailed every contact – really meet up let’s worry about people like this instead

    • Lili Griffin

      I tried 3 times and even copied someone else’s and was still rejected. I am an engineer. I am not stupid. We should have a right to be able to create a social group without someone overlording on us. Give me a break! This is like the English teacher who for some reason just doesn’t like your writing or is it because it’s a dating group and meet up is tired of those. well the on-line dating is a horrible way to meet people. Meetup is the only way to fillup the face to face dating gap. I created a monthly meet up for 40’s and 50’s because the closest one’s are too far away and it was rejected. Exact same language from one that exists in another town and rejected 3 times and I lose all of the writeup each time! I can’t even edit all the work I put into it. they suck!

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