(Photo by Ray Johnson)
Is Sheepshead Bay being invaded by a herd of pigs?
Recently, while walking toward the Sheepshead subway station, I was approached by two people, with what appeared to be lottery cards. They encouraged me to take some time, from my busy rush to something more important, to win a prize. At first, I thought that it was a legitimate introduction to a new state lottery, so I stopped to listen. It soon became apparent that it was a promotion to get people to visit the Banco Popular across the street. I told them that I couldn’t spend too much time, since I was in a bit of a hurry and I asked them to tell me what kinds of things I could win. In well-rehearsed unison, they said, “We can’t tell you that. You’ll have to scratch the card to find out.” I figured, “It’s a bank. They went through a lot of trouble to hire these people and make these scratch-offs. Who knows? They might be giving away something green. What have I got to lose?” After I scratched the card, it revealed that I had won a prize. Being a little annoyed at this point and having my curiosity piqued, I followed their instruction and decided to ‘take that to the bank’ (the scratch off ticket, that is) to finally find out about my prize.
Running to catch the walk sign, I headed across the street. Once I was in the bank, I showed a customer service agent my scratch-off card. She handed me a flyer printed in bold colors with some fine print, that even with a magnifying glass would be too tiny to read. She started off on a whole introduction about their bank accounts. When I told her that I was in a hurry and was just curious about the prize, she handed me a small, purple acrylic pig keychain. I suppose it was meant to represent a piggy bank – but, what kind of piggy bank doesn’t have a slot to put money in? Is this the ‘looks like a bank, but can’t save a thing’ kind of banking we should expect?
“A new meaning to Bay of Pigs,” I thought. As I turned to leave, she asked me for the scratch off card – so that noone else can claim the prize! What? Is this pig such an in-demand commodity that everyone is rushing in to get one? Don’t get me wrong, ‘this little piggy’ is cute and I realize there are quite a few people who collect pig trinkets, as I found out from Pam who saw me photographing my big prize at the bay (not that she wanted a keychain emblazoned with Banco Popular on its back to add to her collection) – but what does this have to do with the banking industry? Maybe, the rationale is that with such cute little piggies sitting at its entryway, even the bank robbers (such as, the likes of Smithson Smith) wouldn’t have the heart to commit their crimes.
Are all banks resorting to such silly gimmicks to get customers in the door? Whatever happened to gifts of cash and small appliances for account openings? Where is the no-nonsense personalized service and solid interest rates? Does Banco Popular think that they can win customers over with the cuteness factor? Can an acrylic pig keychain help ease the pain when I get charged $1.50 for an emergency withdrawal at a foreign ATM? I think not.