Renting the Rubber Room
Apartment hunting reveals what happens behind closed doors
Posted Mar 17, 2011
  

It’s moving time for my girlfriend and me—and our cats. Even better, we’re all moving to the same place again, abandoning the comforts of a Queens neighborhood to answer the siren call (I hope it’s not a fire truck) of Brooklyn. I realize that these qualifiers are meaningless to most of my readers and I would apologize if it weren’t for the fact that New York is the center of the universe.

I am constantly reminded that the moving process is different from how it is depicted on television on all those home shows that I watch. Although I fantasize about having a huge fan club in the social CRM community, I am not a celebrity. I don’t have a camera crew backing me up either, so as far as the landlords of the world are concerned, I’m just regular people.

I’ve had to deal with the rental agent who got us the place and will be doing the same for the next tenant. I won’t name the broker directly, but I will point out that his name, one that denotes nobility in the East, is also the same as a popular brand of condom. This is apt because he acts as an annoying barrier, reducing the pleasure of what should be an exciting and gratifying experience.

So far, the agent has tried to strong-arm me into getting the place ready to show just two days after my girlfriend and I found out we were moving, threatened my security deposit if there wasn’t a tenant in here by the first of the month, and tried to bring clients over to see the place on 20 minutes’ notice (the standard stipulated in leases is 24 hours). All of that came to light after I had already discussed things with the landlord, making the agent guilty of misrepresenting his client’s wishes.

I also recall that when he showed us apartments three years ago, he had the habit of letting doors slam in our faces. The landlord and I agree when it comes to describing the broker’s personality; the word we used for him was extremely fitting, considering how I’ve described his name to you.

The funny thing is, despite his repellent personality and tendency to wander dangerously close to illegal methods, the agent is still gainfully employed. In fact, he’s probably quite successful. The reason, presumably, is because he gets results. He earns his fees and commissions, and the touchy-feely stuff can wait. He’s the worst kind of salesperson, the kind who never sees a reason to change.

This means the broker is a terrifying sort of businessperson to me, one who is mostly immune to the effects of social CRM. While I don’t advocate consumers’ using their newfound power to become bullies (except when it’s fun or effective), I do want to live in a world where I can fight back when I feel abused. Potential renters don’t always know who the broker is when they see a listing, so as long as the apartments are more important than the relationship, this agent will find work. Any attempts to hold him accountable would look like a smear campaign.

Maybe a smear campaign is what’s needed. A reputation for getting apartments filled is quite an asset, but a reputation as an abrasive jerk can’t be helpful. I know it hasn’t gotten me very far.

There are those who would argue that posting negative reviews of goods and services online effectively besmirches one’s good name. Most of the people who hold that opinion would like to get away with something they shouldn’t. Take the hotel owner who rebuts bad reviews by calling guests liars and has them thrown out. He makes no attempt to improve service. Let’s avoid being thugs but still rally behind the idea of holding businesses’ feet to the fire. We’d be a kinder, gentler torch-and-pitchfork crowd.


Marshall Lager is the managing principal of Third Idea Consulting and has never lived outside of New York State. To organize some mob justice, contact him at marshall@3rd-idea.com, or at www.Twitter.com/Lager.