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Credit Where It's Due

May 13, 1986|Bill Ritter

A ranking of area credit unions by a Wisconsin publishing firm has united many of those institutions in protest.

The credit unions claim that the firm's survey may have been a marketing device to attract clients to its investment consulting subsidiary.

Deanna Ulibarri, advertising coordinator for Mission Federal Credit Union, said she called the firm--Investment Dynamics--last month to ask why her credit union was ranked only as "good."

The cut-off for a point ranking was "arbitrarily decided," Ulibarri recalled. "Then (the Investment Dynamics representative) asked me what I was investing in . . . she was very interested in getting us to invest with them."

Ulibarri said that she soon "realized they were trying to get credit unions to wonder why they weren't in a better category and then, boom, pitch them and try to get their investments."

In response, Investment Dynamics Vice President Doug Johnson countered that the company has "two completely different" operations--a publishing subsidiary and an investment advising operation. The president of both enterprises is the same person--John Rickmeier.

Copley Federal Credit Union, whose members include employees of the San Diego Union and Tribune, felt "compelled" to write to its members to explain its "below average" Investment Dynamics ranking.

General Manager Vicki Mion told members that the ratings weighed more heavily on income, profit and retained earnings--and played down services and dividends to members, which would drive down profits.

"I hesitate to give credence to an 'analysis' published by an 'interested vendor,' " Mion said last week. "I refuse to acknowledge a rating scale created by a potentially biased organization."

The California Credit Union League has also thrown its hat into the protest ring. In a letter written to the San Diego Tribune, the league reported that its members have complained that Investment Dynamics is asking credit unions to invest with the firm. The survey's results, said the League letter, give an "unfair, out of context picture of credit unions."

Immediate Seating

A sluggish dinner trade and slower-than-expected lunch business have forced the Grand Tour restaurant in Horton Plaza to change both its menu and its name.

The eatery last week added steak and lobster to its offerings, trying to ride the seafood success of its parent, Harbor House.

In fact, later this month, the Grand Tour will change its name to the Harbor House Top of the Plaza. The restaurant got the go-ahead for the name change last week from Horton Plaza officials.

"No one knows the name Grand Tour--people think we're a travel agency," deadpanned general manager John van Es, brought in from Harbor House's Seaport Village site last month.

A huge Harbor House sign will be hung from the restaurant's outdoor dining porch in back, which faces both the upscale but virtually empty Meridian condo project and the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Other restaurants at Horton Plaza also report slow business, especially at night.

"It's been fairly slow at night," acknowledged Bill Bender, manager of Third Avenue Restaurant. "We're eagerly awaiting the opening of the San Diego Rep (later this month) downstairs. That's the type of clientele we're aiming for. We're looking for a good summer season."

Bender said his eatery isn't planning any menu changes, although the restaurant will reopen its main dining room--closed Sunday through Wednesday evenings since March--next week.

Despite the slowness, some merchants remain optimistic.

"We feel strong that it will take a little bit more time (and) we'll do great," said Andrew Chan, manager of the Panda Inn.

Recording Tells All

Callers to the Consumers Distributing outlets in San Diego and Chula Vista hear only an upbeat, recorded message that the retail catalogue showrooms are having their "going out of business sale and are unable to answer the telephone."

That's the most lucid description of what is happening to the Canadian-based company, which last week said it will soon close 11 of its California and Nevada stores and plans to close 50 unprofitable outlets by summer if a buyer isn't found.

"There will be no future announcements on which stores will close," a Consumers Distributing spokeswoman said last week.

The company's 88 West Coast stores lost $5.6 million in the fiscal year ended Feb. 1 and $2.8 million the previous year. The company's 200 Canadian stores are profitable.

The recorded telephone messages warn buyers to "hurry--the bargains won't last forever." Indeed, the out-of-business date is May 31.

Truth in Advertising

First National Bank of San Diego has a new ad campaign--its first ever--with a rather catchy jingle: "We're selective about our clientele, we have to be . . . "

Ahem. The bank is the named defendant in more than 300 lawsuits brought by investors of one of the bank's carefully selected customers: J. David & Co.

Setting the Tone

Marketing pros working with the San Diego Symphony have struck a cute advertising chord trying to sell this summer's San Diego Pops series.

The popular extravaganzas feature light suppers before the music and fireworks after.

Hence, the new slogan: Snack, Crackle, Pops.

New Kona Ownership

Escrow is expected to close May 22--three weeks behind schedule--on the sale of half of the fabled Kona Kai Club to Aircoa, a Denver-based hotel company that operates the upscale Clarion Hotel chain.

Bill DeLeeuw, who will retain his 50% share in the Shelter Island resort, will give up his general manager title when escrow closes. DeLeeuw will continue to lead the facility's renovation efforts--which require San Diego Unified Port District approval--and head the push to boost membership, which stands at 800, up from 500 when DeLeeuw bought the facility a year ago.

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