Too many interesting odds and ends to dedicate a column to onetopic this week. Here's a rapid fire look at some things I findworthy of comment:

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o The Don't Start Device. A company is marketing a device thatstops a car from functioning if the owner is late on their payments(see story page 8). The late period can be set by the lender.Obviously there are some benefits to this type of device, but Iwon't even list them because the negatives far outweigh them!

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What have credit unions become if they have to rely on a BigBrother-like tool to shut off someone's car? I'd much rather seecredit unions utilize well thought out risk-based lending thanthis. Credit unions tout their ability to get to know a member'sunique financial situation. Relying on this device means a creditunion didn't like what they learned about the member. Then don'tmake the loan. Think of the PR implications of a member tellingeveryone their car was shut off by the credit union, whether it wasjust or not. I know there are safeguards, but I worry aboutemergency situations of a car not starting. Credit unions don'tneed that potential legal or PR headache. And to those CUs thatdon't believe in risk-based lending, remember you can reward themember with a better rate if they meet payment milestones.

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o Parish Comes Clean. Kudos to Wings Financial CEO Paul Parishfor at least being honest about the takeover attempt of ContinentalFCU. Parish was quoted in a Minnesota business journal saying thatthe cost of acquiring Continental would be much cheaper than goingout and winning over new members one by one. Duh! Of course it is!It's a steal! But that's a lot different than touting how the dealis all about the members, which Wings has been saying all along. Ithink the Wings/Continental fiasco has gone too far. Continentalhas been forced to threaten legal action against Wings, while Wingssays despite that threat it will push on courting Continental'smembers. Once again the credit union industry has everyone'sattention–bankers, regulators and legislators–and it's for a badreason.

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o Clipped Wings. Speaking of Wings, it appears the CU wasattempting to consolidate airline credit unions. If you think aboutvarious airline hubs, routes, etc., there probably could be somebenefit, but it's certainly not necessary, it could hurt the moraleof airline and credit union employees and members, and Wings isn'tthe crew to pull it off. Is Wings forgetting the deep loyaltiesairline CUs have? The venerable Mr. Tippets down in Texas couldsurely enlighten them on that. Delta, American Airlines, becomingone? I don't think so.

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o What You Say Is What You Say. The sad story of Don Imus'scomments about the Rutgers women's basketball team (located in mygreat home state of New Jersey) had me thinking about quotes.

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I recently sat down with a credit union CEO who has been part ofsome controversial stories of late. This CEO was livid about beingmisquoted in a credit union publication multiple times. And I meanlivid. The CEO pleaded with the editor and reporter to make acorrection and let him set the record straight, and he was shunned.The CEO said to me, “Paul it just drives me nuts, but what can Ido?”

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There is plenty the CEO could do. In fact it's very simple.Despite being advised by PR experts that he or she should betalking to all publications, the CEO needs to learn from history.If you feel you are misquoted or often misrepresented, don't say nocomment when the offending publication calls you, instead say thetruth: “Sorry, you have repeatedly misrepresented me and myposition in your stories. You and your publication have lostcredibility with me and my organization.” Be very clear that youdon't say no comment, but say those words! That is your comment!Then see if you get the record set straight. Continually talking toreporters that misrepresent you is just rewarding bad behavior. Andyou know me, I am an advocate of always being straight with thepress and having an open, good relationship–that's how you buildcredibility in the marketplace. You should be proud of yourorganization and your actions so getting that out in the press isvital and you should also come clean when your organizationstumbles, etc., but if a media outlet is being sloppy or slanteduse the above quote–don't reward bad behavior. That hurts those ofus who do it right! Of course don't get uppity either. If areporter shortens a quote with no material effect or makes acontraction two words, take it easy.

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o Michigan's Message. I have mixed feelings about one aspect ofthe Michigan CU League's upcoming branding effort. Of course I am100% behind branding efforts. I think they are worth the money. Ithink it's a travesty there is no national CU branding effort,especially after seeing the check cashers doing it. I thinkbranding CUs can cure ills such as conversions and now takeovers. Icommend the Michigan CU League for being able to succeed in gettingsupport for branding efforts and understanding their value.

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However, the Michigan League this week is expected to launch afew radio ads that focus on Comerica Bank's relocation out ofMichigan, hammering the bank for leaving when times are tough. Iwould have stayed away from that. Drive home the CU difference,credit unions' passion for serving members, their dedication toMichiganders, but if we're now saying organizations can't pull outof areas they don't feel fit their plans, that's getting a littlehigh and mighty. Michigan's biggest credit union almost convertedto a bank for goodness sake. Not to mention lost in the Comericastory is that Comerica is keeping 7,300 employees and 161 branchesin Michigan! It's not deserting the state, it's moving itsheadquarters to an area of the country where business and bankingis booming. Isn't that smart business? It's not the CU model, butnonetheless.

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I stress though that this is only one aspect of the MCUL's greateffort to brand credit unions in Michigan. –Comments? [email protected]

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