Today — yesterday by the time you read this — we had an ice storm in New York. I figure that much of the country had this, because when I went to take a look at my favorite journalism site, it had a headline that read, “Tips for Covering the Ice Storm.”
So anyway, not unexpected. I knew I was going to have to be out in it, so I brought an umbrella and my waterproof bag.
But I also knew I was going to an open house to preview an apartment for clients. So I wore decent-ish clothes (for me, that means a Banana Republic blouse and slacks) and sensible dress shoes instead of my usual sneakers. Since I was going to a “fancy” building, I figured I had better dress up a little — even though this is theoretically a public open house to which everyone’s invited. So I left my ski parka in the closet and threw on a nothing-but-cashmere coat instead. And then I put on my Serious Jewelry, which includes a watch that, frankly, cost more than a car.
Well, it didn’t help. By the time I got to the open house I felt bedraggled, and even though I primped my hair in the lobby I must have looked just a tad rained on.
There would have been two ways for the broker hosting the open house to have dealt with this situation — “Yes, it looks just frightful outside; everyone who has been coming in has been absolutely frozen” — and the other way.
And yep, this guy picked the other way.
Of course, he read my sign-in first, and then he decided I was Not The Right Kind.
I have to say I’m a little tired of it. I went to work for a small firm because I love my sponsoring broker, and I am tired of the agents who work for big brokerage firms scraping me off the soles of their shoes. I am a beachcomber at heart, and I hate the effort it takes to look “presentable” — when I really get to be established enough to be eccentric I am going to work in flip-flops — but, darn it, I had made the proper concessions. I don’t care if I was wet; I was wearing my money.
Sure I was in a snotty building — where one of my friends from college lives, thank you very much.
It happens over and over again, that other brokers treat me like — well, I don’t know like what, because I was raised not to treat other people that way. (I was going to say a cabdriver, but I ask my cabdrivers what kind of day they’re having, quite politely.) The way I was raised, how gracious you were to others reflected on you, not on them.
The only game these Snot Brokers understand is an I’ll-see-your-haughtiness-and-raise-you-a-sneer, and I am just not going to play that. If I had sailed in imperiously and said, “Oh, my dear friend from Harvard lives here, possibly you know her?” the other broker might have been a tad nicer. But that is just a complete 180-degree turn from my manners, which are warm and friendly.
And that warmth and friendliness is why my clients trust me. I decided when I started this business that I was going to take the tough path — to build a low-volume, high-dollar-transaction practice. It involves a lot of cozying up to rich people, which is an art, but it’s an art that I’m developing. They deal with snotty sales help in nearly every corner of their lives, and find it a little refreshing to be approached by a Golden Retriever instead of a Shih Tzu.
And look here, too-cool-for-school other brokers, if someone with 10 million bucks trusts me, shouldn’t you?
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”