Now I finally have confirmation that I’m worthless.
The comedown occurs at a charity auction for PS 41, one of Manhattan’s better (but still thirsty for money) public schools. I had received a letter at my real estate office asking me to donate money and/or goods to the auction gala, and I thought, “Hey, what a great idea.”
So I searched my closet — not hard, because the stuff I own is already overspilling the shelves — and came up with a couple of pieces of jewelry I had never really worn. Yay, I thought, tax deduction.
Plus, I decided to offer a real estate consultation as a way of snaring a client. Since everybody knows that talking to a Realtor is free, I thought, “What’s in it for the client?” And then I sweetened the deal by offering a meal for four at a local restaurant called, charmingly enough, Home.
So I went to the PTA office and handed all this stuff to one of the PTA co-presidents, Mindy Garelick. She thanked me profusely for my donations, though she told me donors don’t get comped to the event. What the hey, I thought, it’s for a good cause. I bought two $50 tickets.
Then I told a friend of mine at the Daily News about it, and landed in the little newspaper gossip section. Well, fantastic! Things were looking up! I was going to go to this gala, and snare a client, and meet neighborhood residents. This was all going to be great.
First I bought a dress. The credit-card debt isn’t as mountainous as it was two years ago, but it’s still there, so I didn’t spend a fortune, but I wanted something new and nice. Better, I thought, to get a new dress and put off going to the hairdresser for a while. The $200 was worth it when I was all dolled up, hanging onto my husband’s arm.
My first inkling that something was wrong was when we entered the gala and discovered a table right near the door run by a competing real estate broker. The folks running the gala hadn’t told me one of my competitors was sponsoring the thing. This broker had made up PS 41 tote bags with their Web address and everything. “Gosh,” I thought, “I bought a new dress when I was supposed to be making f#@&!ing totes. I have a lot to learn.”
What’s more, this man had taken out an ad in the program saying, “future PS 41 dad.” Pretty ballsy for somebody with no children! Guess there are plans in the works, and that’s enough for him to advertise on … but I couldn’t. It’s not that I lack vision, it’s just that that marketing strikes me as building castles in the air. If somebody can do that, how can I compete with them to sell castles on the ground?
My mood went from bad to worse when we picked up the auction catalog. Item #2023, “Diamond and Emerald Earrings,” estimated value $500, donated by … Mindy Garelick! Same with my “Gold and Tourmaline Ring” … Mindy Garelick!
Not my name, not my firm’s name, not my Web site. My whole plan had been to circulate and point out to the partying moms and dads that I was such a good supportive neighborhood agent I was helping their school.
I still tried. I would meet people, and say, “I’m a Realtor, I donated those earrings to help the school.” Then the people I was chatting with would look at the auction catalog and see Mindy’s name. “She’s not Mindy,” they would think. “We know Mindy, she’s our PTA co-president. This must be just another one of those real estate people with truthiness problems.” And then they would slide away from me the way you edge around pet doo-doo on the sidewalk.
OK, I thought. This is horrible. Here we are in a posh ballroom all decorated with Japanese paper lanterns and children’s art, and I get no credit for being a donor. But I can’t ruin all this fun by pouting. Let me go see who has bid on having a meal with me, real estate whiz extraordinaire!
That would be … nobody. Despite the fact that I had thrown in a meal for four people … worth probably $200, no one in the world wanted to pay even $30 to get that if it meant having to talk to me.
The problem, I think, was the merchandising. This item was listed as “Real Estate Lunch at Home Restaurant,” but there was no particular indication that it was with me.
This was the case all over the professional services section. “Architectural design consultation, est. value $550”; no mention of who the architect was. “Adult teeth cleaning, value $125”; no mention of who the dentist was. We neighborhood small-business people, who had donated to make a connection to the community, didn’t get our names mentioned once. Each donation had a little display poster, but these were pretty generic: mine was just a caricature, where I was apparently selling a house to two women with extremely skinny necks. Dammit, that should say DG Neary Realty, servicing women with skinny necks for a quarter-century!
Worse, there was a real estate agent with a better donation than the one I had made: “FREE Apartment Sale! I will sell any PS 41 home and waive my side of the commission” — since you’re talking an average seven-figure sale price, this could have been a major donation, in the range of maybe $30,000.
But of course, there was nothing indicating on the card who it was, so that poor generous agent never got any credit.
Nor client, either. As the auction closed, my earrings went for $190 and the ring for $90, but most of the professional services stuff wasn’t bought at all. It’s not like these parents didn’t have imagination or checkbooks — the chance for a kid to be “Principal for the Day” had gone for $2,700 — but I think there had been a wariness about the unknown teeth cleaners and architects and real estate agents.
I’m just fuming. Fuming! I thought I would get a client, I needed a client, but at the very least I thought I would get awareness, and not the deep dark void. Now I get to write a letter to the PTA complaining about the lack of branding. (I would join together with the other neighborhood business people who got screwed, but of course I don’t know who they are.) What’s the take-away from this? “Nobody wants to eat with a Realtor, but they all love jewelry,” said my husband.
So we put together a plan. Next year we’re marketing DG Neary Realty earrings.