Mortgage Brokers and the 3rd Commandment

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Mortgage Brokers and the 3rd Commandment

I find myself a bit repulsed lately by anything having to do with mortgage brokers, bankers, loan officers and a bevy of other foul, blood-suckers who were responsible for blowing immense amount of toxic hot air into the recent housing bubble. In fact, I will purposely go out of my way to avoid any location, event or otherwise where I might have to engage in conversation with someone in these particular professions.

I spent about a month working at a small Columbus, Ohio mortgage brokerage in 2003. I had recently left a full-time job to do free-lance design work. Selling mortgages for part of the day seemed like a good way to supplement my income. The bubble was in full swing at the time. The brokerage was an electric environment, full of people making substantial incomes from peddling truckloads of subprime loan packages to people who could not afford them.

After about two weeks in the environment I started feeling like I needed a bath every time I left the place. What had initially seemed like a magic, happy, money making possibility started to feel like an immoral fleecing of people who had no comprehension of finance. The mendacious, car salesman-like aura of most of the brokers bred an endless array of foul tactics that would be used to garner the trust of the public and put sales on the board. One of the most disgusting tactics was the use of the following phrase: “God Bless.”

This seemed to be a particularly popular phrase thrown out at many points in the potential sale to instill some sort of faith on the customer’s part that the broker shared their religious faith.  Occasionally a broker would be sincere in their heavenly well wishes but more often than not, it was an empty phrase thrown out to soften the sod. Infact, many brokers would intentionally turn up the God rhetoric especially high for specific customers from whom they felt it would garner the best results. Old people for example where pummeled with “God bless” throughout a sales pitch.

In one example, during my training, an agent was pitching a refinance to an elderly woman. The agent, after a couple drops of “God Bless” and “God be with you,” had succeeded in making the woman comfortable. She then began unloading on him some personal details about a sick husband and other life tragedies that were making her life difficult at the moment. The agent put his hand over the phone, looked at me and said, “watch this, it always works.” He then said to the woman, “We are all praying for you and your husband here, infact, I will say a special prayer tonight just for you.” He smirked as he said it, clearly having no intention of a prayer or any other kind of well wishes for the woman. Substantially softened up, he then moved in for the kill. Needless to say, after about two weeks of that I began planning my exit.

I got to thinking about the religious connotation of the phrase “God Bless” and its use in this context. Aside from being downright slimy and disgusting, those agents who actually considered themselves religious, specifically the Christians, Jews and Muslims, were technically breaking the 3rd of the 10 commandments which states: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

For my non-religious friends, this commandment is generally the reason why you would hear someone say “gosh darnit” as opposed to “G_d Dammit” as they would feel that using the word “God” in an exclamation is taking the name in vain. I would go as far as to say that, screaming “G-d Dammit” after smashing your finger with a hammer is perhaps a far lesser violation of the 3rd commandment than using “God Bless” to strap an old lady with a subprime, adjustable rate mortgage that will reset in two years at an interest rate that will double her payment and make her lose her home.

“God Bless” was by no means a tactic specific to this particular brokerage. It was used all over the industry and even made it into television commercials. Namely, Sean King, the president of King Capital in Columbus Ohio, used the phrase to end many of his television commercials that air in the Central Ohio market. I might add he also shamelessly clowns his young son in his commercials, a tactic that I find equally as rank as “God Bless.” Here is an example of one of his commercials where he uses both aforementioned tactics:

Perhaps I am just too sensitive about the whole thing, reading too far into it, or just plain angry about the state that greedy, sightless financiers left our country in.  If I could, I would ask these ravenous phonies the following: Does your God bless a company who voraciously chases elderly and economically challenged individuals with little education for multiple refinances over a series of short years only to leave them in a pitiful subprime product that will eventually reset and leave them on the street? Mine doesn’t.



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