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Lenders, Liars and Losers – Observations of a Humorist

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I don’t know about you, but I am on the verge of a breakdown. Why? Because I am so frustrated with the lending institutions that I have developed a drool, a twitch, and a wicked rash. I truly think the lending institutions are hindering our economic recovery. The bailout money is not translating into increased sales as far as I can see. What I do see is a lot of bank execs with spray on tans, new hair weaves, and fake-tooth smiles that gleam like tombstones in the California sun. Due to the drop in home values, refinancing odds are worse than the odds that Ms. Lohan will drop off the radar, keep her clothes on,  and join a nunnery. And modifications are as challenging as navigating the L.A. freeways on a skateboard while wearing a blindfold. 

I have observed that there is double speak in all bank dealings. Thus, I think it would be helpful to have a translation guide to understand the dubious promises being made daily by these Not-Lending institutions. Does anyone remember Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live (“I slept with Morgan Fairchild)?  Well, Jon, I’d believe your imaginative claim before I’d believe some of the following promises (all of which I have actually heard):

For Those Just Off the Turnip Truck 

  1. “Qualified buyers can still get a loan.” (Translation: “Don’t forget to rip out your kidney and staple it to your application.”)
  2. “After you submit your loan mod package, we will reply in 30 days.” (Translation: “We will mutter, ‘Hell, No, Dude’ to a donut somewhere on the opposite coast, and then we will use your file as a foot stool. You have about as much chance of hearing from us as from Amelia Earhart.”)
  3. “We have your client’s application in our files.” (Translation: “We threw your paperwork into Modification Missy’s trunk. She’s on her way to Vegas, but she’ll get to it soon. Oh wait, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’…and so will Missy. She’s not coming back…and neither is your file. Next!”)
  4. “We require a complete modification or short sale package.” (Translation: “We require three packages –  one for the shredder, another one to be left on a desk so someone can steal your pathetic identity, and one to be erroneously sent to the Foreclosure Department.”)
  5. “We are the fastest in turnaround when your buyers need a loan.” (Translation:  “Underwriter Earl (Missy’s cubicle mate) will slip into his sparkling red pumps, click them together, turn around three times, and squeal, ‘There’s no place like home…and your client sure as hell ain’t gettin’ one, honey!”)
  6. “We sympathize with your client’s situation.” (Translation: “HaHaHaHaHa. Tell him to grow a set.”)
  7. “Your client’s file is in the hands of experts who have experience in navigating rough waters.” (Translation: “Our trained negotiators were formally pirates in the Carribbean, and your client’s ship is about to be seized.”)
  8. “This short sale will close about thirty days after approval.” (Translation: “This short sale will close about thirty days after Peter Minuit returns Manhattan Island to the Indians.”)

What Happens in Banking Stays in Banking

  1. “All we need is one more document to complete the file.” (Translation:  “All we need is your remaining kidney. We lost the first one. It was last seen in Missy’s trunk.”)
  2. “We are here to help those who are struggling to pay their mortgages.” (Translation: “Files of those who have stopped paying will be expedited because our values are backasswards. Thus, we encourage all applicants to blow their credit ratings. It’s trendy! By the way, didya notice my sparkling new chompers?”)
  3. “Your client has a chance to get his loan modified, but he cannot miss one trial payment.” (Translation: “Although he cannot pay, we will string him along for as much time as we can in order to get his savings and retirement money before seizing his home and kicking grandma to the curb. Incidentally, does Granny still have her kidneys?”)
  4. “Trial Payments are for a maximum of three months.” (Translation: “Then we call them “String” payments, because we string you along until you are ready to string yourself from a tree limb. In the meantime, we will be doing the limbo to see how low we can go.”)
  5. “The computer has given us a loan approval based on the appraisal.” (Translation: “Of course, Appraisal Reviewer Rita may lower the value of the appraisal even if it comes it at value, because she must account for dismal market conditions – for which we were largely responsible and continue to be largely responsible – and because Rita must cover her arse to keep her job because she just purchased your unemployed, disabled neighbor’s foreclosed home while the neighbor’s sobbing children clung to her fat ankles.”)
  6.  “In order to complete this short sale, your client needs to contribute cash.” (Translation: “Although the guy is losing his 20% down payment, has lost his job and has no money at all, why can’t he rip the braces off his kids’ teeth and sell them for scrap metal? C’mon – work with us here!”)
  7. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” (Translation: “You’ll never find me again. If you call back, you’ll just get someone else who has been working here for five minutes. You will have to start all over again. You will have to tell your story to fifty more screeners and submit three more short sale packages. You will develop another tick before this is all over…and maybe even Tourette syndrome. Now excuse me, I’m on my way to Vegas with Missy, Earl and Rita…and one of your kidneys.”)

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Agent for Movoto

    January 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to you, Gwen. this is about the funniest thing i’ve ever read about one of the least funniest things happening right now. well done.

  2. BawldGuy

    January 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    You’re far too polite, Gwen.

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    January 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Wow Gwen… Bank of America is gonna be pissed that your posted their internal memos’ on Agent Genius!

  4. Gwen Banta

    January 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks, y’all. And Matthew, B of A is going to be even more pissed when they see me pull up out front driving a flatbed loaded with cartons of rotten eggs. Is anybody with me here???

  5. Joe Loomer

    January 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

    What Mathew said 😉

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Katie Ruffino

    February 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I am reading this in our sales meeting in the morning….. Great stuff, thank u

  7. Gwen Banta

    February 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This great comment from Paul Donoghue was sent to my personal email, and I thought it was well worth posting:

    “Gwen, loved your post and your sense of humor. As a banker with 30+ years in the business, I’m embarrassed at the state of our residential lending industry.

    Speaking from the perspective of new originations, the regulations put forth from Washington are insane, and too few lenders are capable of providing applicants a complete list of needed documentation at the time of application … Most applicants will reluctantly give you their left kidney, but hate being asked for a lung, bladder, and liver three days before closing! ;D

    My recommendation is find an experienced lender, who knows the importance of VOC (Voice of the Customer) with a back office that is the antithesis of bureaucracy, likely a community banker or seasoned boutique mortgage banker/broker.

    As for short sales and modifications … what a mess. Small banks work, but the large banks and servicers are nothing but factories, and often without the financial incentive (they usually do not own the underlying loan). My recommendation would be to get to the executives that run these divisions and build a relationship … and you seem like the kind of person that’s capable of doing so. For those institutions that prove to be stubborn, I’d connect with a litigious advocate, who has the expertise and cares about his/her clients.

    I’d enjoy hearing what, if anything, you’ve found that works.”

    Paul lives in Cape Cod where he is in charge of business development, and is a mortgage specialist for North Easton Savings Bank.

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Business Marketing

Amazon attracts advertisers from Facebook after Apple privacy alterations

(MARKETING) After Apple’s privacy features unveil, Amazon adapts by taking a unique approach to targeting, disrupting revenue for the ad giant Facebook.

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Two African American women work at their desks, one viewing Amazon's advertising landing page.

As a de facto search engine of its own persuasion, Amazon has been poaching ad revenue from Google for some time. However, disrupting the revenue stream from their most recent victim – Facebook – is going to turn some heads.

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s recent privacy additions to products such as iPhones are largely responsible for the shift in ad spending. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram were originally goldmines for advertisers, these privacy features prevent tracking for targeting – a crucial aspect in any marketing campaign.

Internet privacy has been featured heavily in tech conversations for the last several years, and with Chrome phasing out third-party cookies, along with Safari and Firefox introducing roughly analogous policies, social media advertising is bound to become less useful as tracking strategies struggle to keep up with the aforementioned changes.

However, Amazon’s wide user base and separate categorization from social media companies makes it a clear alternative to the Facebook family, which is perhaps why Facebook advertisers are starting to jump ship in an effort to preserve their profits.

This is the premise behind the decision to reduce the Facebook ad spending of Vanity Planet by 22%, a home spa vendor, while facilitating a transition to Amazon. “We have inventory…and the biggest place we are growing is Amazon,” says Alex Dastmalchi, the entrepreneur who runs Vanity Planet.

That gap will only widen with Apple’s new privacy features. Bloomberg reports that when asked in June if they would consent to having their internet activity tracked, only one in four iPhone users did so; this makes it substantially harder for the ad campaigns unique to Facebook to target prospective buyers.

It also means that Amazon, having demonstrated a profound effectiveness in targeting individuals both pre- and post-purchase, stands to gain more than its fair share of sellers flocking to promote their products.

Jens Nicolaysen, co-founder of Shinesty (an eccentric underwear company), affirms the value that Amazon holds for sellers while acknowledging that it isn’t a perfect substitute for social media. While Nicolaysen laments the loss of the somewhat random introduction charm inherent on Instagram, he also believes in the power of brand loyalty, especially on a platform as high-profile as Amazon. “The bigger you are, the more you lose by not having any presence on Amazon,” he explains.

As privacy restrictions continue to ramp up in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how social media advertising evolves to keep up with this trend; it seems naive to assume that Amazon will replace Facebook’s ads entirely, tracking or no tracking.

Apple's privacy landing page showing iPhone users ability to shut off location services and a desktop image of a user's ability to control how their data is managed.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

This story was first published in January 2020.

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Business Marketing

Jack of all trades vs. specialized expert – which are you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It may feel tough to decide if you want to be a jack of all trades or have an area of expertise at work. There are reasons to decide either route.

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jack of all trades learning

When mulling over your career trajectory, you might ask yourself if you should be a jack of all trades or a specific expert. Well, it’s important to think about where you started. When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Teacher? Doctor? Lawyer? Video Game Developer? Those are common answers when you are eight years old as they are based on professionals that you probably interact with regularly (ok, maybe not lawyers but you may have watched LA Law, Law & Order or Suits and maybe played some video games – nod to Atari, Nintendo and Sega).

We eventually chose what areas of work to gain skills in and/or what major to pursue in college. To shed some light on what has changed in the last couple of decades:

Business, Engineering, Healthcare and Technology job titles have grown immensely in the last 20 years. For example, here are 9 job titles that didn’t exist 20 years ago in Business:

  1. Online Community Manager
  2. Virtual Assistant
  3. Digital Marketing Expert
  4. SEO Specialist
  5. App Developer
  6. Web Analyst
  7. Blogger
  8. Social Media Manager
  9. UX Designer

We know that job opportunities have grown to include new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, consumer-generated content, instant gratification, gig economy and freelance, as well as many super-secret products and services that may be focused on the B2B market, government and/or military that we average consumers may not know about.

According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics after doing a survey of baby boomers, the average number of jobs in a lifetime is 12. That number is likely on the rise with generations after the Baby Boomers. Many people are moving away from hometowns and cousins they have grown up with.

The Balance Careers suggests that our careers and number of jobs we hold also vary throughout our lifetimes and our race is even a factor. “A worker’s age impacted the number of jobs that they held in any period. Workers held an average of 5.7 jobs during the six-year period when they were 18 to 24 years old. However, the number of jobs held declined with age. Workers had an average of 4.5 jobs when they were 25 to 34 years old, and 2.9 jobs when they were 35 to 44 years old. During the most established phase of many workers’ careers, ages 45 to 52, they held only an average of 1.9 jobs.”

In order to decide what you want to be, may we suggest asking yourself these questions:

  • Should you work to be an expert or a jack of all trades?
  • Where are you are at in your career and how have your skills progressed?
  • Are you happy focusing in on one area or do you find yourself bored easily?
  • What are your largest priorities today (Work? Family? Health? Caring for an aging parent or young children?)

If you take the Gallup CliftonStrengths test and are able to read the details about your top five strengths, Gallup suggests that it’s better to double down and grown your strengths versus trying to overcompensate on your weaknesses.

The thing is, usually if you work at a startup, small business or new division, you are often wearing many hats and it can force you to be a jack of all trades. If you are at a larger organization which equals more resources, there may be clearer lines of your job roles and responsibilities versus “the other departments”. This is where it seems there are skills that none of us can avoid. According to LinkedIn Learning, the top five soft skills in demand from 2020 are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

The top 10 hard skills are:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Analytical Reasoning
  4. Artificial Intelligence
  5. UX Design
  6. Business Analysis
  7. Affiliate Marketing
  8. Sales
  9. Scientific Computing
  10. Video Production

There will be some folks that dive deep into certain areas that are super fascinating to them and they want to know everything about – as well as the excitement of becoming an “expert”. There are some folks that like to constantly evolve and try new things but not dig too deep and have a brief awareness of more areas. It looks safe to say that we all need to be flexible and adaptable.

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