"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Morris banks engaged in deceptive practices?

I have discovered to my chagrin that our area banks may not be operating in the most ethical way. There is nothing downright sinister about this, it's just that it's an outgrowth of our current U.S. ethos demanding that no stone is left unturned in seeking profit.
What I have noticed is that banks are starting to offer "specials" for certificate of deposit (CD) rates. Meaning that you have to 1) become aware of the "special" and 2) then go in and ask for it.
"Well, this is all quite fair, isn't it?" you might ask. Businesses offer specials quite often. Look at the ad circular for Town and Country.
I have never likened bank accounts to combing the local businesses for "specials." If you aren't paying attention, if you do not become aware of a certain "special" or ask for it, you are a chump or sucker and you'll end up with an interest rate on your CD close to zero.
I took advantage of a special at a bank recently and am getting one per cent interest for that account. I was told that had I done nothing, had I allowed my CD to roll over automatically, I would have gotten .15 per cent interest. I should note that this "special" was apparently not announced to the public, rather it was announced via a mailing. You had to bring the letter to the bank.
Considering all the crap that can be in your mailbox, like a sale at Schweiter's Chevrolet or myriad hearing aid offers, you might miss something like this. We often hang up on telemarketers.
We hear about the need to "save" the U.S. Postal Service. I'm not sure we need to generously compensate the local mailman for filling my mailbox with credit card offers.
Up until recently, I just assumed that when a CD rolls over, I'll be getting the standard fair interest rate for that time. Maybe I wouldn't be paying so much attention if interest rates hadn't fallen so ridiculously low in the first place. Who in his right mind is going to choose to purchase a bank CD if the interest rate is down around .15? What's the purpose? This is a CD and not a standard passbook account.
Many older retirees like the safety and simplicity of simply putting money in the bank. The FDIC covers it, right? I know plenty of people in the financial services industry laugh and scoff at the idea of putting any importance on the FDIC. Well, I don't know. What happens when this whole "party" ends in the stock market, as well it might? People might suddenly start thinking that safety is important.
Banks have always been available for people with conservative sensibilities, for people who don't wish to stick their neck out. Now banks are forcing us to do this little "dance" to be aware of when we might get higher interest.
I brought up this issue to the head of a local bank and he said "it was in the paper," meaning that the bank had placed an ad promoting their "special." I won't name any names here. It should never be assumed that everyone locally, or even 3/4, buy the Morris paper or look through it meticulously. I don't wish to fumble with a whole pile of ads for Alexandria businesses. No way am I going to buy groceries at that Elden's store - I shop at Willie's. I don't wish to see the "Canary" with its full-page ads for Jim Gesswein Motors. I'm not going to go to Milbank SD to buy a car.
This bank person should be advised that saying "it was in the paper" is going to be taken as an affront by a lot of people.
The rule of thumb now is going to be, that whenever you have a CD mature, contact the bank and ask if they have a "special." Can we even trust the bank 100 per cent to tell us about this? Remember that at one of the banks I've cited here (which I won't name), you had to be on a certain mailing list. If I'm not on that list but learn of the special, can I go into the bank and demand this interest rate anyway?
Will this whole pattern lead to a practice of having to "haggle" with your bank or banks? "Haggling" is a practice that is associated with third world countries.
The cynical side of us can theorize that the banks are trying to get by with paying decent interest to only a portion of their customers, i.e. the ones astute enough to come in, make demands or "haggle," while playing all the other customers for "chumps." In an age where a rapacious capitalist like Mitt Romney can make a good run at becoming president, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.
This top-down system of huge enterprises pulling strings to maximize profit, where their employees, even "branch managers" and the like, are just automatons following directives from above, has been passively accepted by us up until now. Many people who work for these companies know full well they are following ethically challenged directives. But this is 2014 in America, and this is the ethos we have passively acquiesced to. And this will continue until there is some sort of financial earthquake. Or, until the disappearance of the middle class creates so much stress we'll finally see a political backlash.
We'll suddenly realize the Republicans were never on our side. The Republicans have used trickery - populist language - to get elected, and it's all too cute by half. We all know what Republicans stand for. If you don't know now, it will all become clear in due time. Forget the personalities. All Republicans stand for the same set of ideas.
I am distressed that I have had to find out the hard way that we must all watch our certificates of deposit very carefully. I'm not the kind of person with a good instinct for "haggling." I'm the conservative type who has always felt comfortable just putting my savings in the local banks.
While I was able to take advantage of one local CD special at a bank, I missed out on the chance to consider another, at that bank that just assumes we all see newspaper ads. I don't like being dissed like this. Banks should offer uniform and fair CD rates to all their customers. No one should have to jump through hoops. Banking in Morris should not have to be like keeping an eye out for the sales at J.C. Penney.
Addendum re. the Morris newspaper: All those Alexandria ads - do you really think those businesses are paying the standard rate to be in the Morris paper and to reach the Morris audience? Would Elden's pay the same rate to reach the Morris audience as Willie's, in light of how Elden's must only get a minuscule amount of business from here? So, why are we showered with their ads?
Morris businesses should assert themselves. If nothing else, I would implore Morris businesses to stop supporting those "sig ads" in the Morris paper - you know, where you put your name on an ad with some sort of touchy-feely message. The recent full page devoted to MACA sports schedules falls into that category.
"Oh, but shouldn't we support the school sports teams?" Of course we should, and the paper could simply publish those schedules as part of their reporting mission. The only reason they try to sell those ads, which are absolutely tiny boxes in which appear names of businesses, is that they can.
Maybe the day will come when the paper will say: "yes, we can provide thorough coverage of the Tiger football team, but we need sponsors." What the paper would really be saying is this: "We'd like to get more money."
The newspaper is owned out of Fargo which isn't even in Minnesota. Do not feel obligated to subsidize it. This fall, if you want to see a review of a Tiger football game in print (in the Morris paper), you'll have to wait eight days until after the game is played. In other words, the next game will have already been played the night before.
Don't just support the newspaper because it's "there." Don't do it out of old habits. Take care of your own interests, please. Knock off those "sig ads" (also known as "sucker ads" to some in the newspaper industry).
 Back when the paper went to once a week, their salespeople reportedly went around town saying they "wouldn't cut staff." Well they didn't right away. But it seemed that not long after that, two employees were in fact laid off. Was the paper lying to us? If they were, I'm sure it was because of "directives from above." The local people are just (smiling) automatons.
And now the local Chevy dealership is pleading hardship with taxes, wanting some sort of "abatement." Car salesmen would never mislead us, would they?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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