This Consumer For Sale?

This Consumer For Sale?I was at home flipping channels between news stations, catching up on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and figuring out what I would write about for last month's article.I was behind deadline (as usual).“B-rring!” The telephone rang.It was my friendly neighborhood mortgage guy. Not the goofy loser in the Di-Tech ad, not the cheesy bald disco reject in the “Stop This Man!” ad, and not the bunch of goofballs you used to see in the Lending Tree ads. Those are caricatures and I’ve never met loan officers that resembled anything like what you see in those ads.

This guy was professional and he was following up on my online refinance application.


That was a pretty fast response, especially because I didn’t remember filling out a mortgage application on the web.

He was surprised, too, and suggested that he verify my information with me. He had my name right. He had my phone…


I have two lines at home. One is personal. The other is business. He called my business line.


He also had my business address, not my home address.

Obviously, someone had entered my name on an online form. I didn't do it. If I wanted to refinance, I could do it myself.

Anyway, we had a friendly chat and decided I didn’t need a mortgage, so we ended the phone call.


Another friendly neighborhood loan officer. Eight calls in one day that I can verify, plus at least two hang-ups.

Now I knew what it was like to be a “lead.”

You see, there are some web sites that specialize in getting you to fill out “lead-generating” forms. They don’t identify what company or individual will get the form and call you. That is because they “sell” you. They sell your name. You are a commodity. You are how they make money.

They sell you multiple times.

To mortgage lenders, it is common to be sold for ten to forty dollars a pop. Since ten lenders called me up today, I was probably sold at least ten times. Some company (I don’t know who) made $100 (or more) off me.

And I didn't even want a loan.

All the mortgage lenders who called, paid to get my name. At least ten mortgage companies got ripped off.

But someone made money.

As a real estate lead, you (and I) are worth even more -- sometimes a lot more. Maybe you get sold for $75 a lead. Some lead-generating companies charge agents a subscription and guarantee a certain number of leads per month. Some will only provide leads to agents if they give up as much as 35% of their sales commission or a certain minimum, whichever is higher.

Now there’s a middleman for you.

Sure, when I subscribe to a magazine, I realize they are selling my name and I will get junk mail from credit cards or whatever. That isn’t their main source of business, though -- and I have a trash can just for junk mail.

These companies are different.

Consumers bought and sold like commodities for big bucks.

I don’t like being sold. I don’t like being bought.

For some reason, I don't mind calling an ad if one person or company is behind the ad. Like a mortgage lender. Or a real estate office.

But when the ad is from a company that doesn't do loans or sell real estate -- and they make their money just for selling my name to companies that do -- well, that bugs me.

Some home buyers and sellers (and borrowers) obviously don’t mind it, or maybe they just don’t know this is going on.

Maybe I'm just over-sensitive.

Because I was in the business, I look at real estate agents and lenders as more than "just" salespeople. Most are licensed by the state. The state licenses them because they have obligations to do MORE than just "sell" the client.

They are supposed to act as an agent.


They are supposed to help me. They are supposed to tell me things I don’t know that they think I should know. They are supposed to advise me, not just “sell” me.

Or buy me.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think there is a difference. I don't like being sold.

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