Bank's Blog-Like Site Invites Complaints - And Gets Them

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Customers who have gripes with their banks have been given a forum here for sounding off-courtesy of a local bank.

The $2-billion HomeStreet Bank has been sponsoring advertising in this market directing consumers to www.mybankdoesntgetit.com where they are encouraged to "vent" their frustrations in dealing with banks. Initially, HomeStreet's sponsorship of the website was anonymous, but in the latter stages of its campaign it has identified itself and adding the tagline, "Click here for a bank that gets it." In addition, it added the site, www.homestreetgetsit.com, which also lists its offerings.

The bank, which launched the campaign saying it was seeking to generate "buzz," reported that it has received at least 7,000 hits on the site, which currently lists more than 70 consumer stories and in at least one instance an ex-bank customer says he switched to a credit union. The bank said it has received at least 70 submissions on the site, designed to act as a "blog" for frustrated consumers.

Part of the motivation for the campaign, according to HomeStreet, is that it is known primarily as a mortgage lender even though its retail product menu is broad. The goal is to make consumers aware of the other products it offers.

In addition to newspaper ads, the bank also sponsored ads on the radio, on billboards, bus sides, bus stops and on posters.

In response to the campaign, Joseph W. Veneziani, president of the $231-million Group Health CU in Seattle, sent a letter-to-the-editor of a local newspaper noting that credit unions do "get it."

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