I was going through old emails and came across one detailing what is still the strangest experience I’d had working in this industry. This was sometime in September of 2004 when I was still a lowly loan officer assistant:
I just had the strangest experience of my career as a loan officer this morning. I don’t mean this in the sense that it is the strangest thing to date, but that it’s the strangest thing that will ever happen to me in this field. We had to verify that a client worked at a particular place and had been calling the business number the whole week. The strange thing is that either the phone would ring 20-25 times without an answer or it would be busy. Usually if it’s a made up number you get a fake voicemail or answering machine. Strange enough that, but wait till you hear what happened when we showed up:
J (another assistant) and I show up at what is obviously a sweatshop. There are large wrought iron gates that are very, very locked. No doorknobs either. We bang on the gates… a large hispanic woman wanders up and asks, rather rudely, what we want. She is wearing two shades of lipstick, one on the lower lip and the other on the upper lip. Only thing is, the one on the upper lip isn’t anywhere near being confined to just the upper lip… it is also all over both cheeks. I think I could do a better job applying makeup than that. She is obviously oblivious to her appearance. We are not. We ask to speak to the owner or manager. We have to negotiate with her for that privilege. We have to explain our situation and reveal our credentials. Finally she fetches what can only be described as the next act in the freak show that is this VOE (verification of employment). A tiny Asian woman comes to the door, yelling to her workers in the oddest Spanish I’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of hearing. She has what appears to be a garter or panties tied around her face. A red lacy piece of fabric is tied in a band all around her head, passing over her upper lip and just under her nose, it has a large flowery (and lacy) knot in back. It is obviously there on purpose. Question is… what purpose? She comes up to the door and demands (in English worse than her Spanish) to know what we want.
Now; keep in mind that we are talking through a wrought iron gate. We once again relate our story and flash our credentials. We tell her that the lender is going to call her number and that we need her to answer the phone and answer all the questions to the best of her ability. She nods her head vigorously, agreeing multiple times… “ok, ok, ok.” I think all is well and call the lender to give them the green light while she is walking away from us and towards the phone. A minute later the phone rings… The phone keeps on ringing, the owner/manager woman and her assistant stare at it. The look like ancient tribespeople seeing and hearing a phone for the first time. It is as if they have never encountered technology before. The phone rings about 10 times, they don’t answer. This despite the fact that J and I are jumping up and down, yelling at them to answer. We are also employing crude sign language that we hope would convey the idea that; “ANSWER THE BLINKING PHONE SO THAT WE CAN LEAVE THIS FREAKSHOW.” Our efforts are in vain.
The lender calls my cell phone asks what the heck is up. I tell her what happened and tell her to try again in a minute or two.
A minute goes by and the phone rings again. Once more with the jumping, yelling and signing. She finally answers. She talks for less than a minute and hangs up. This worries us because the VOE process should take longer than that…
I call the lender to see if she got what she needed. She is in stitches when I call… I have to wait 30 seconds for her to get her voice back from all the laughing. I ask her, “Did you get what you needed? Are we good to go?”
She replies, “I think so… not really sure. I don’t really know what just happened.” There’s more laughing. “That was the strangest call ever.”
To which my natural reaction, “You should see it from this end.”
More laughter… “Don’t worry it’ll get funded, talk to you later.”
She’s laughing as she hangs up.
I drive home shaking my head and wondering, “Who does that lady’s makeup?”