As readers may have seen from the many letters to the editor Credit Union Times has been running in recent weeks, a number of readers took the time to send in comments about my June 6th column on pet peeves. Apparently most everyone has a pet peeve or two of their own, and is eager to share them. The usual pattern of responses was for readers to make a comment on one or more of my pet peeves before adding one or two of their own. With one exception. A senior staff member of the American Bankers Association (ABA) took me to task for allegedly saying in my pet peeve column that I was critical of “credit union people who talked about the member as a consumer.” The banking lobbyist went on to say in his e-mail to me: “But you did exactly the same thing in your column of June 13, 2001.” On top of all their other shortcomings on display when they go after credit unions (and apparently those who write about credit unions), it appears that ABA staff has trouble reading. Or as I put it to him in my response: “I think you read a different column than the one I wrote. I didn’t criticize people who call members consumers anywhere in that column. I did, however, criticize people, especially bankers, who call members customers.” The point that the ABA staffer missed is that members are indeed consumers. They are also mothers, fathers, bowlers, firefighters, fishermen, volunteers, teachers, airline pilots, etc. I didn’t say that credit union members were only members and nothing else. But I did say that in referring to them in connection with their credit union that they are not customers. Hey Mr. banker, let’s not get confused between the words consumer and customer. In credit union parlance there is a big difference. Members are members and consumers. But they are definitely not customers. Add to my list of pet peeves what he did next, namely, twist factual statements into a false conclusion. Here’s how he did it: “You just drove home the point that there is no fundamental difference between credit unions and banks. The credit union philosophy is dead and you all in the industry killed it.” Such blatant falsehoods are probably not worthy of a response, but naturally I couldn’t resist. I suggested that he not plan on going to the credit union philosophy funeral anytime soon. He might be surprised to find himself there alone without a dead body to mourn. Fact is, credit union philosophy is alive and well. The “fundamental difference” between credit unions and banks is defined in exactly the same way it was the day the first credit union was organized. I reminded the ABA loyalist that credit unions, as not-for-profits, have members who also happen to be owners and consumers. Banks, as for-profits, have customers who may or may not also be owners (stockholders). But they definitely aren’t bank members. Another of my pet peeves is that I know he knows all this, but is paid to argue otherwise. So much for a banking trade group representative’s take on my pet peeves. Other responses were much more fun and on point, although in a couple of cases, not much less biting. One reader, for example, after saying he loved my pet peeves, told me his pet peeve was seeing (fill in the name of a CU CEO who is also a national credit union leader) being elected or appointed to every single board, special interest committee, or ad hoc group in the country. “Doesn’t he ever visit his credit union?” he asked. One of my favorite rejoinders came from a good friend and credit union CEO who took dead aim at Credit Union Times. His pet peeve, he said, was “Editors who won’t print stuff that they don’t get exclusively and publishers who get peeved at those of us who circulate their stuff to save a buck.” Ouch! One retired league CEO told me in reference to my being peeved at CU CEOs who refer to the credit union as “my” credit union that he agreed with me. However, it equally peeved him when that same CEO referred to credit union employees as “my staff.” He put it this way: “My VPs and my department heads at the (fill in the blank) League during my watch could expect my wrath when making such referrals.” Note in his quotation his use of the word “my” when referring to former league staff. “My VPs?” Whoops! Some respondents asked to be nameless and for good reason. Like this credit union staffer: “I share your pet peeve regarding people who speed through their phone number on voice mail, but my real pet peeve is credit union CEOs who have gone into retirement, but have forgotten to tell their boards. They just keep collecting their paycheck.” Then there’s the just plain nice e-mail from a credit union lady who said: “I appreciated your pet peeve column. It’s nice to know that everyone in credit unions faces a lot of the same situations. Thank you for the laugh.” One of our own correspondents weighed in with this observation: “I would say the two (pet peeves) about people leaving their phone numbers so fast, you have to replay the message back several times, and people who don’t return phone calls are at the top of my list.” What is it about getting a message from a reporter that sends some folks into hiding? Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves, one that I neglected to include in that first column, is having to deal with incompetent people who act irresponsible in responsible, high-profile, high-paid positions at large and reputable organizations. How do they keep their jobs? But then I guess that’s really another column. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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Peter Westerman


Credit Union Times

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