Being "a number" is okay for some

I know it seems like I've been slacking, but over this busy summer I HAVE managed to ask three people what it would take for them to become a credit union member (remember this post? Johanne, thou hast not been forsaken!)

And dang it if all three weren't ALREADY credit union members! But here's the ironic thing I found out. My question opened a very emotional memory for one of these people–I'll call him John.

"I recently lost my member number." John told me. He used to have quite a low number, and when his credit union merged they adopted a new banking system which resulted in him losing his low number. Now he doesn't feel special, he said.

Let's forget for now that, after some scoop reporting, I tracked this merger down to find out it happened OVER FIVE YEARS AGO and that he obviously has difficulty with the definition of "recent." This fellow still hasn't gotten over it! I've only HEARD stories of people like him (and they're usually in their 70s. This man is in his mid-40s.)

And that begged another question - why was his sense of importance to the credit union tied to a number? Didn't the credit union make him feel valued in other ways?

His answer? No. Now (he says) I'm just like everyone else. Before it was a topic of conversation, now there's no conversation. This could have been one of those catalyzing moments that had him moving all of his business away, but when I broached this he shrugged in that ambivalent way many consumers do when weighing the aggravation of the event against the aggravation of finding a new financial home and said "I have all my stuff there."

I'm completely unaware of whether or not I have a member number at my credit union. The only numbers that matter to me is my account number and my PIN numbers, because I need them for transactions. Maybe if I had a member number I would feel more like I belonged?

What are your thoughts about numbers?


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