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How Are Banks Like Airlines? Join Me On The Journey…

I read the article where Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of REALTORS®,  stated that lending standards are stunting home sales  http://www.dsnews.com/articles/survey-tight-lending-standards-stunting-home-sales-and-employment-2012-09-17.  Rather than analyze the article, my mind wandered…join me on this voyage.

Do you remember when buying a home was fun?   Do you remember when service mattered?

I remember only a few years ago when the airwaves were littered with commercials of REALTORS® self-satisfyingly placing the “SOLD” rider on top of their yard sign. Or commercials showing happy bankers gleefully dropping house keys into the hands of a beaming couple, who clutched them and turned to each other and embraced with the euphoria that comes from winning the Super Bowl, World Series and World Cup…COMBINED.

Now…not so much.

Now, the banker commercials are about “having money to lend” (but they never show you who actually gets the money), more ATMs (read: ways to screw you with off-network fees) than any other, and – this is the one I love the best – rounding your purchase up to dump 37¢ into your savings account which pulls about 0.00001% annual interest, while the overdraft fees incurred later when the account drains are $35 (per check), plus $10/day (per check), plus interest on the extended “credit” (you guessed it, per check).  So, the 37¢ savings is wiped out by $175 in “fees”… who writes this commercial copy?!?!

Anymore, ya ‘ never see the “happy couple” at the end of the lending process. It’s likely because the formerly happy couple just got done doing a short sale or finally got qualified with a 1340 credit score and 145% down, have been drained of bodily fluids for testing, have provided more paperwork than the Federal Register, the UN Charter, and the US Federal Budget document…combined…and are curled up in the fetal position in the corner sucking their thumbs in a catatonic state. Somehow, I envision them looking like the runners-up in the “Hunger Games” – or should I call it the “Lender Games”?

It reminds me (as if my daily abusive dose because I am a REALTOR® were not enough reminding) of how banks have forgotten that consumers are CUSTOMERS, not their servants.  This isn’t the Soprano’s National Bank…but somehow, it feels like it is.  It reminds me that banks now view investment as risk and risk alone, and not risk and reward that was taught to us all back in MBA school.  It reminds me how banks fail to fulfill a mission of using fractional reserve lending as a basis to RESPONSIBLY grow a community.

Banks treat lending like oxygen: It’s either too rich and causes euphoria and irrational exuberance, or is restricted to the point of deprivation or death.  There never seems to be a reasonable midpoint that promotes health, growth and constancy.

To draw the contrast of how abusively the American public gets treated in this market vs how others get treated in other countries, permit me to draw your attention to an equally poor industry – the airlines.

This situation reminds me of the contrast between an advertisement for Korean Air vs United Airlines.

Korean Air focuses on the “elegance of the experience”, the joy of arrival in exotic locales, and the service to customers en route – kinda like the banks USED to do.  If you have seen the Korean Air commercial, it features softly sung lyrics over a soft new age music bed with backdrops of exotic flight destinations, while lovely flight attendants gaze deeply into the camera and march in Rockette-like unison toward the soon-to-be-pampered traveler on the other end of the lens.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEYngxOMsmg

I tell ya’, it made me wanna fly again…

Now, to United…

Personally, I hate United, and in a former career racked up 200,000 miles with them IN ONE YEAR (about 550,000 so far in total) mostly flying overseas. It sucked pre-9/11…and it sucks worse now.   It’s no more than a flying cattle truck, the only difference is that the cattle get fresher air and have Federal laws ENSURING THEY GET TREATED HUMANELY!!

United Airlines has been co-marketing its airline behind their Explorer Card, as part of their “United Airlines” commercial suite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYkIdVMVKRg .  There is no soft jazz music score. There is no reference to far away locales.  In fact, the “Fly the Friendly Skies” is never ever mentioned anymore…remember that slogan?

Nah… instead, much like the banks, United takes the low road in its commercials — reminding us about baggage fees, TSA abuses, wearing loafers and not tied shoes, long lines and being bungled onto a plane like a prospective hostage (who, ironically, get more overhead space and legroom) and then being subjected to hostile on-board service that resembles juvenile offender boot camp.  And we mustn’t forget the safety indoctrination that occurs during the 88-minute “unscheduled delay” sitting on the ground because of the 28,000 flights scheduled to leave at 9:03 AM.

By the way, even Air New Zealand took the effort to make the safety video fun!  (If you haven’t seen it, it features flight attendants with body painting…declaring during the safety presentation that “their fares have ‘Nothing to Hide’”…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Mq9HAE62Y  (By the way, the video has about 7 million hits on YouTube and has made the crew celebrities.)

So, American service is so bad it can’t even make the safety video fun!

Has service gotten that bad?  Have we gotten so used to the abuse (and our clients, too)?

Fortunately for banks, you don’t see other nationals’ banks advertising here. If they did, and contrasted the way the Korean Air vs United Airlines did, they would literally MAKE BANK.  When are we as a body going to do more than just put up with this? I am NOT advocating legislation.  But why can’t we all take a stand to USE the market to drive business to banks that focus on service and not client indentured servitude?

We REALTORS® are over 1m strong. Why aren’t we using the power of the market to change things and not just write about them? Maybe, at least, the commercials would get better!

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