A Wonderful PR Moment: Oak Park Bank Wins Our Hearts, Then Business, With Screening

The triumphant scene from
It’s A Wonderful Life

Last Saturday, It’s A Wonderful Life played at the Lake Theater in downtown Oak Park.

Sponsored by Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, which is situated directly across the street from the elegant theater, it was a free screening.

It also made for brilliant PR.

Call us sentimental saps, but my wife, Bridgett, and I were deeply moved by the classic film. (We were also shocked to discover that it was the first time either one of us had seen it from start to finish.)

In recent months, we’ve been mulling the idea of moving our money from JP Morgan Chase (or “Chase” for short) to Community Bank. Our resolve would only increase when, every time we went in with a question, Chase personnel would use the opportunity to try to sell us products we don’t need, rather than simply provide fast, attentive customer service.

Located just down the street from Community Bank, Chase is the latest in a series of titanic institutions occupying the northeast corner of Lake and Marion streets in the heart of Oak Park.

For the past 15 years, we had gone along for the ride, whether the sign on the door read First Chicago or Bank One or Chase. We tolerated little “mistakes” such as the time, just in the last year, when Bridgett noticed the bank had more than halved the interest rate on our savings account.

Oops!

Makes you wonder how many other accounts got shorted–and if miscues involving a too-high interest rate ever befall Chase.

Our decision to flee Chase has been made easier by Chase itself. Beyond the prior clumsy efforts to sell, rather than serve, us, an employee two weeks ago linked our debit card to a just-closed account. Three phone calls later, including one on a Sunday to a customer service rep, Bridgett cleaned up that mess.

All of which brings us to this past Saturday afternoon. Moments after we emerged from the Lake Theater, red-eyed from our tears that flowed throughout the movie, Bridgett deposited a check at Community Bank. It was on behalf of an association of which she is treasurer, and we chuckled about wanting to move, that very day, our personal funds there, too.

On Monday, on the heels of It’s a Wonderful Life, we began the transition. The movie, including Community Bank’s civic-minded role in its screening, has doubtlessly hastened our pace.

To be fair, I am sure that Chase has many wonderful, caring professionals. I wish the bank great success. But, at least in Oak Park, it has a ways to go in seizing opportunities to genuinely nurture relationships and engender trust.

Community Bank, on the other hand, seems to really get it. At a time when monolithic banks, and their greedy, tight-fisted ways, are high atop the list of citizens’ Reasons to Get Angry, it’s especially powerful to associate your company with a story whose central message teems with community, integrity and love.

Of course, you’ve got to be able to back it all up with action. The ball–and our money–is now in Community Bank’s court.

Related Posts:
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It’s A Wonderful Life’ Flashback: My Chicago Trib Story on Karolyn Grimes, aka ZuZu Bailey

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