Monday, April 25, 2011

What Does it Mean When You Pose the Question and Then Don't Answer it?

I’ve received notice from my credit union that its board has decided to merge with another local credit union. I’m not keen on the idea—my experience has been that when credit unions decide they need to be bigger, service suffers—and I think it should have been put to a vote of the members (evidently the other credit union’s members get to vote, but not ours), but what really caught my attention in the “information” packet I received in the mail was how little real information it contained. And what a dandy job its creators did of dancing around questions...even though they were the ones posing the questions!

Take this example, for, um, example:

Okay, good to know...but tell me: How much is the merger going to cost??

Sort of never gets around to saying. And much of what little id does say makes no sense. “...instead of two computer systems, we will operate on just one.” Uh-huh. Well, I can tell you how much money that will save the current members of my credit union: Precisely nothing at all. See, my credit union currently operates one computer system. The other credit union, a competitor, operates its own, as does every other credit union in town. What they do is not an expense to me or my fellow members, just as what wedo is not an expense for them. The same goes for “combining facilities, our insurance bond, card programs, and much more”—these are not duplicated expenditures, as implied, since currently the two businesses are completely separate. The idea that merging two independent businesses cuts duplicated expenses is ludicrous. It’s tantamount to saying that if I double my expenses, then cut them, I’ve “saved” money.

And while there may be “cost savings” in the future—real cost savings, I mean, not sleight-of-hand “savings”—it bothers me that not even ballpark guesstimates are being put forward. Absent any figures, it’s impossible to judge whether the board is indeed accurate in claiming that bigger will in fact be any better for the members.

Looks like I might have to drag myself to one of the “informational meetings,” even though it feels like a waste of time. We don’t get to vote, and it’s obvious where the big shots weigh in on the deal. Still, my longstanding motto is You have to make your own fun, so perhaps I’ll turn up and ask some salient questions.

Like, How much is the $!#@&% merger going to cost??


Melanie Rigney said...

I've written some FAQs like this in my time and I have to say I HATE them. If you're not going to provide the answer, don't give the question! What it likely will mean in this case is layoffs or not filling vacant positions. But God forbid they say that.

William J Reynolds said...

Puts me in mind of my advertising days, where I frequently would encounter clients who really wanted to make a bold statement, lay it all on the line, and take no prisoners. So I would write the copy accordingly, wondering aloud to the owner how many times I'd be rewriting it to un-bold it, take it off the line, and allow for prisoners.