August 09, 2007

Hocus, Focus

So, the public opinion poll takers want Alice's opinion of "investment products and services." For $200, cash, and three hours of her time. Alice falls for the offer of cash and leaves the sanctity of air conditioning in her apartment on an 95+ degree day to place test-market dummy. Big mistake.

Alice used to have a friend in advertising who called focus groups "fuck us" groups. Alice is mightily pleased to have succeeded in doing just that. She can't help thinking the guy "leading" the group -- its so-called moderator -- got just what he deserved.

He neglected to inform the group when the meeting began that they were all to assume they were clients of a particular brokerage house who possessed a certain type of account. Two big errors, right there.

Yes, Alice is a client; no, she neither possesses that type of account, nor does she know its fee. As a financial planner, she counsels her clients against these all-under-one-roof offerings. She know that focus guy defined the account terms incorrectly: error 3, and Alice hasn't finished her first bag of pretzels. Focus guy made a mistake in beginning by asking the group how they felt about their banks.

Alice had a run in with her bank that very day: it would be happy for her to roll over her CD by phone, but not to take her instructions to cash it out and put the proceeds in Alice's checking account. For that, Alice must get her ass to the branch. So, how does Alice feel about her bank? Two words: "It sucks."

You want more details? You don't? Well, you shouldn't have asked at all, because it's hot; you haven't provided enough food, and Alice is cranky that you have kept her waiting. Alice has not had a decent enough dinner to prevent her blood sugar level from compelling her to tell all.

How would Alice feel about getting rid of her bank account? Does the brokerage house have a safe deposit box on Alice's corner? I think not. And thank you, Alice's bank probably doesn't suck any worse than the rest of them, and it does have proximity going for it. Then, too, there is Alice's rule separating church and state:

Don't give Alice direct access to more money than she needs at any given time. The bank is for day-to-day operations; the brokerage house is for long-term investing. Let's not confuse the two. Let's enforce some discipline into whatever part of Alice's chaotic life we can. Alice won't even accept a debit card from her bank: the ATM card is for cash-only business. Her checkbook is inscribed in free verse as it is; let's not compound the problem.

Focus guy doesn't get it: wouldn't it be simpler for Alice to have all her finances in one place? Are you out of your fucking mind? She doesn't care if her checking account is off by $500 or so. She would care, big-time, if her investments got entangled in the mess that is her day-to-day situation. Thanks again, and no thanks.

Wouldn't Alice like a debit card to have access to the cash in her investment accounts? No, no, and no. If you missed that, Alice will sing it for you. Failing that, Alice will slap you silly until you get the point.

Three hours like this. Alice knows that behind the corner is a representative of her brokerage house, along with a fuck-us group person. She hopes the brokerage rep is brighter than the fuck-us person.

It is Alice's strong opinion that the fuck-us group moderator should be out on his ass. The next time you want her opinion, it's not going to come nearly so cheaply.


Anonymous MetroDad said...

I liked it better when every individual financial institution only wanted part of my money. Now, each one seems determined to try and take control of all of it. Makes me feel dirty. And angry.

I agree with your "separation of church and state analogy." Especially this past week, when the prospect of gaining an additional 1% interest off my checking account pales in comparison to the enormous hit my portfolio took. Seriously, I think I lost the equivalent of a nice European sports car.

On the plus side, our mutual friend (The Oracle of Omaha) seems to have done quite well over the past week.

9:08 PM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

Scout and I went to one of those for a failing t.v. comedy once. When she said that the show wasn't funny, the lady running the thing said, "and does that matter to you?"

No. Not a little bit. Having access to my money does, though, I have to admit.

1:31 AM  
Blogger scout said...

Yeah, and we participated in that TV focus group, which similarly demanded three hours of our lives, for the "compensation" of $10 and a sandwich lunch. Of course, this was in an era when my job sucked so much that my time seemed to be worth about that much or less. Still, I was on multiple occasions moved to shake people to death, facilitators and focus-groupers all. Alice is to be commended for completing her task without incident.

1:28 PM  

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