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In the latest in a string of defections since company founder and CEO Charles Smith’s conviction for failing to pay payroll taxes, real estate showing appointment company eShowings has lost its biggest client, the North Carolina-based Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors.
Newark, Del.-based eShowings recently reopened its two call centers under the leadership of Smith’s wife, Catherine Lanouette Smith, following an unexpected shutdown on Dec. 9, just days after Charles Smith reported to prison to begin serving a 2 1/2-year sentence.
Since Charles Smith pleaded guilty in April to 10 counts of failing to truthfully account for and hand over payroll taxes to the government during a nearly three-year period between 2007 and 2009, eShowings has lost several large clients, including Prudential Fox & Roach (now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors) and North Carolina multiple listing service Jacksonville MLS. Both have since switched to other showing service providers.
Now, eShowings’ last remaining big client has joined that group. Although eShowings reopened its Wilmington, N.C., call center to service WRAR, the association noted at the time that it was still coming up with a contingency plan to protect members.
The latest notice on WRAR’s website reveals that the association has ended its relationship with eShowings, and that a deal with a new vendor is in the works. The association said it terminated its data feed to eShowings at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
“While the situation may be a bit challenging in the short term, I am happy to announce we are finalizing details with a new vendor that will provide amazing tools and services to you,” Jody Wainio, WRAR’s 2013 MLS president, told members.
“In addition to the services that we had with eShowings, you will enjoy mobile apps, the ability to choose communication methods that include texting, new report capabilities, and much more.”
Once the contract with the new vendor is signed, WRAR will offer more details on the deal, Wainio said. Although the entire process of switching to a new provider, including training, may take a few weeks, she said the service itself is expected to be available within a shorter window.
Sandy Beals, WRAR’s new MLS president as of Jan. 1, told Inman News WRAR had ended its relationship with eShowings because ”(i)t has always been our intent to provide the best and most reliable showing appointment services to our members, which is the direction we are moving in with a new service provider.”
When asked whether the association had been unsatisfied with eShowings’ service after the company reopened, Beals said there were “contractual issues” the association is “not at liberty to discuss.”
EShowings’ spokesman Lee Hoffman said WRAR’s decision did not put the company’s survival in doubt, but declined to comment further on advice of the company’s attorney. He would not say how many clients eShowings had left.
Several former eShowings’ employees say they have yet to be paid the back wages they are owed.
Hoffman said the company was “making every effort” to pay former employees, but declined to elaborate.
Some former employees are planning a class-action lawsuit against the company, though some employees fear that option would be taken away from them should the company declare bankruptcy.
“No doubt we would win, but like our last two paychecks, judgment would never be paid,” said Christine Bright, a former eShowings service operator.