This is a tenuous time for the real estate professional. So much market uncertainty, so much technology to get your head around, and so many status updates to attend to. But there is one contemporary issue that trumps all of those worries, and the future of real estate could very well hang in the balance.
I’m talking, of course, about QR codes.
I predict that QR, short for "quick response," codes (think: square, newfangled bar codes) will enjoy a career in the spotlight only slightly longer than Snooki. And here’s why. Like Snooki, there’s no intrinsic value.
They’re free, their easy, and you couldn’t manufacture complexity or a deeper meaning if you were waving a series of reasonably priced how-to webinars above your virtual head with the promise of a new, accredited professional designation dangling from your PowerPoint.
First, a little full disclosure. I use QR codes, but I started using them a year ago before they went viral and only after having thought through the cost (zero) and possible benefits (maybe more than zero, but that remains to be seen).
In short, I’m a girl who will try anything once. Now, it seems, much like we were told we needed to have a FaceLinkedTwitSquare account if we expect to ever eat again, QR codes are being tossed around as the new business essential.
People these days like to follow. And it’s not just people; real estate agents are no different. Capitalism and commerce today are fueled by the followers, and there are two ways to win the follower’s affections:
- 1. You can build the perception that all the cool kids are doing it and one must make haste to assimilate, lest one wants to be relegated to the B-list lunch table, alone and friendless, wearing a "kick me" sign on one’s backside; or
- 2. You can resort to bribery.
Steve Madden, that purveyor of the really cute shoes, sent me an e-mail suggesting I become a fan. That’s odd, I thought. I’m kind of already a fan. I’ve built a veritable shrine in my closet consisting of enough moderately priced pumps to outfit a stylish centipede on his next listing appointment (assuming he is a size 7). What more do you want from me?
To be a real fan, it seems, I have to "like" the company’s Facebook page. And as soon as I and 99,999 other people have properly, publicly expressed our adoration, every single one of us will be receiving a "gift." How exciting! What could it be? I found myself picturing a Lamborghini in my driveway with a note pinned to its collar: "From your friends at Steve Madden."
As I spent the rest of the afternoon with my nose pressed to the window waiting to take arrival of my new high-performance touring machine, I began to have doubts.
Lamborghinis are kind of expensive. That wouldn’t pencil. And they are hard to fit in a bulk-rate mailing envelope. Rather, my money’s on a free shipping coupon good on my next purchase of $4,882 or more (some restrictions apply).
I can also pretty much guarantee you that Steve Madden (if that is his real name) will get his 100,000 likers, because we have turned into a click-happy society of followers. Our new "social" requires that we amass as many "friends" as possible, until, having "friended" every man, woman and corporate logo on the planet, we find we are too busy wishing their Facebook walls a happy birthday to get back to doing any real work.
Today, we seem to have this need to buy our way into success. I suppose it is easier to write a check than to put down the mouse long enough to engage in a little critical thinking.
It’s that and the fact that our online existences have given us each a stage where we can feel liked, special and just a little bit famous, while that same online stage is a constant reminder that, compared to all of our friends, we are pathetic, underachieving losers who lead miserable and mundane existences.
Take my youngest daughter. In her first year of college, she is already agonizing about what she will do over the summer. Her older "friends," it seems, all spent their first college summers climbing Everest in support of Athlete’s Foot Awareness Month; kayaking through Costa Rica on a mission to end hunger in some place less fun to spend your summer vacation than Costa Rica, like downtown Houston; and interning at the White House.
Accordingly, her latest plan involved spending a month teaching Tanzanian orphans to play games and speak English — but only after she takes a one-week safari to acquaint herself with indigenous customs including several scheduled stops for indigenous souvenirs and hair-care products. And the volunteer opportunity would only cost a little over $3,000.
"But, my ‘friends’ are going!" she argued. "If I am ever going to get a job, I need to get internships to build my resume!"
"How’s this for a resume builder?" I thought. "Get a job!"
Now, I am a big fan of internships, and I am a bigger fan of volunteer work, but you shouldn’t have to pay for either with anything but your time. So really, what this is about is looking for the more enjoyable and easy way out. And it is about following.
Real estate agents like to follow — heck, everyone does. Steve Madden knows this, and so does Realtor.com. They, too, want me to "like" them. Recently, out of the blue, when I was thinking about everything except listing enhancements, they surprised me with a festive holiday box of almond toffee.
At first, I was skeptical. The card said this gift was from my "friends at Realtor.com." "Why me?" I pondered. I don’t recall having clicked a "like" button. In fact, I canceled my "super-special, featured agent of premier check-writing awesomeness" enrollment two years ago when, in a moment of weakness, I began to suspect that paying four figures a year to allow people to see all of the photos of my listings — photos that I had previously uploaded to my multiple listing service on a third-party, for-profit site that purports to be "my site" — was, how do you say, slightly moronic.
But, almond toffee? This changes everything!
Now, I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that Realtor.com didn’t order just a single box of toffee and slap my name on it. I am kind of a big deal, sure, but I am also realistic. Let’s say there were 1 million boxes of yumminess involved in this little campaign of holiday cheer and simply multiply that by $3 (and I am being generous here, given that Realtor.com might have "liked" the candy manufacturer and gotten free shipping — or a Lamborghini — in return).
So, taking $3 times one million, that would mean that the company spent the equivalent of the deductable on my health insurance coverage to communicate how much my friendship means to them — and to inspire me to never let my listings go picture-less again.
Call me slow, but I’m having some difficulty with the logic. Realtor.com is the "Official Site of the National Association of Realtors" — it says so right on the site’s big, proud banner. And the core purpose of the National Association of Realtors is to "help its members become more profitable and successful" — it says so right there on their site’s "About" page.
So, that would mean that by pitting my pocketbook against those of my fellow card-carrying, dues-paying members in a grown-up form of the school lunch class system, I will become more profitable and successful? Or maybe that’s what the toffee was for. I’m really not sure anymore.
So, what was I talking about? Oh, yes. QR codes. No one can sell me one; I can get them for free, which makes the whole idea destined for failure. And the concept is too simple. My dog could generate a QR code if he had access to my administrator login (which he might, because it appears I am now following Pizza Hut on Twitter).
Make the whole concept more confusing — maybe give QR codes a name that is longer and more difficult to comprehend, like David Hasselhoff. Or, make them harder to acquire by, say, requiring me to "like" them first. Then you could sell me a series of seminars on "Best Practices in Attaching David Hasselhoff to All of Your Marketing Materials Like Everyone Else is Doing so You Can Make an Insane Amount of Money, but Only if You Pay for this Seminar, and then Everyone Will ‘Like’ You, Too."
Or, you can just send me toffee. That works.