“Couldn’t you, just once, tell somebody what they really want to hear?” my wife asked, almost immediately after I got off the phone with the Redfin recruiter.
“Is that a rhetorical question? You just asked me a rhetorical question!” I snapped. Ever since I turned fifty-five I get snappy when someone I love questions my intentions, especially when I’m hungry.
She didn’t answer but instead, continued her Words With Friends game on her iPad. I walked into the kitchen.
“They’ll call me back,” I said after a few moments of silence, my fat head deep into the refrigerator looking for just one thing to shove into my mouth that didn’t have soy as its main ingredient; something with a little gluten, perhaps. Is this too much to ask?
“No they won’t,” she countered from the other room. “You just used the F word during a job interview.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes you did. I heard you.”
I walked over to the sofa with some type of pickled vegetable wrapped in a grape leaf. My wife did not look up from her backlit screen.
“Does Xerox really have two x’s in it? Is that even a real word?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, now a little stunned by what might have just happened on the phone; not sure of anything at that moment. Appetite quickly waning.
“Two x’s? I don’t think so. Well, maybe…And it wasn’t really a job interview. It was only an initial phone call. Introductory.” No longer hungry at all, I tossed the unsavory snack into the waiting mouth of our slobbering dog who, in turn, spit it immediately onto the floor.
“Hmm,” my wife said to nothing in particular, or perhaps, to everything in general.
That was six months ago, and although the names and details are a bit blurry now, the gist of the episode remains clear.
It all began with a conversation I had earlier that same week with a fellow Realtor—-an old-schooler, like me. We were seated at our favorite Starbucks window bar nursing triple espressos when he mentioned a new type of Redfin partnership program that offered leads to selected non-Redfin Chicago brokers. You just had to pay a referral fee at closing with no other upfront costs. He pointed out two young women with strollers who were enjoying mommy-time with their toddlers out on the patio.
“Both of them are Redfin partners who work part-time in my office,” he said. “Pretty sure one of them doesn’t even know how to spell condominium and she already has three deals this month. I think the other skinnier one is a yoga instructor for her real job.”
“A yoga instructor?”
“I think so,” he said. “She’s always wearing yoga pants. At the very least that makes her a housewife. Either way, they both drive nicer cars than me.”
“If this Redfin thing is such a good deal, why don’t you sign up for it?” I asked.
“I hate this business too much already,” he said. “What I don’t need is a flock of twenty-somethings texting me every time they log on to Trulia and get a real estate stiffy.”
While my buddy, clearly, was too jaded for the job, I somehow felt that I wasn’t. With fifteen years experience, I figured I was a slam dunk partnership candidate; just what the Redfin folks might be looking for—a full-time, condo slinging, non-yoga instructing, ass-kicking, downtown Chicago real estate professional. And besides, business was slow and I could use a little boost. A slow drip of fresh blood would blend nicely into my current marketing mix; a few extra ‘my watch cost more than your car‘ condo buyers here, a couple ‘coffee is for closers’ listing appointments there. A steady stream of new prospects could keep me in the real estate game until retirement. All I needed were the good leads. The Glengarry leads. You know, the ones Mitch and Murray send in from downtown…
So I Googled Redfin, found the program, applied on-line, did the tutorial, attended the interactive webinar (even kept my mouth shut), and scheduled my initial phone interview which, true to form, I forgot to enter into my calendar and promptly forgot about.
A couple days later, my phone rang at an inopportune time–as it always does, the screen flashing a familiar Seattle area code. I was certain it was that Dave character from Zillow’s advertising department who had been calling every month for three years trying to get me to pay him for posting my listings on his real estate site. Go figure. Anyway, when I answered the call I was ready to let poor Dave from Seattle have it, right between the zillows.
“Hi GG! Sky from Redfin here! Can you talk?!”
“Sky (or maybe it was Sea) from Redfin! We have your interview scheduled for 2 p.m. Pacific!”
“Oh yes Sky. Of course (??)”
“Cool. GG. Let’s do this! What made you want to become a Realtor?!?!?”
It was such a stupid question I honestly don’t remember what I told him. Truth is, seven years ago I wouldn’t have even considered such an arrangement. Everybody and his gardener had a real estate license back then but we were all stacking paper. My biggest professional worry in those days was which Rolex to buy next and how to keep the nicks and parallel parking scratches off the bumpers of my big body Benz.
“What are your best qualities as a Realtor, GG? What makes you outstanding?”
Or something along those lines. And to be fair, there was an echo on the phone connection so maybe I was imagining the GG part. Maybe I was just in one of my snappy ‘Meano Geno’ moods that day. (Another Realtor actually called me that once, right before hanging up on me. “Meano Geno!” Click.) Anyway, like I said, this all went down six months ago. And I’m getting old.
“What I’m really good at, Sky, is negotiation. I’m really good at getting the other side to cave-in, thus procuring the best possible deal for my client.”
“Yeah. Cave in. You know, win,” I said.
“Win/Win, you mean?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess. Win/Win. Sure. Why not.”
“Okay, cool,” he said. “Now, what do you think makes you exceptional as a real estate agent?”
“I don’t know, Sky. I suppose the fact that I’ve negotiated over three hundred deals and more than a hundred million in transactions in my career. Something along those lines. What do you think?”
“Coool. And how do you envision the Redfin Partner Program fitting into your current business model?”
“Come on man. What kind of questions are these? You send me the leads. I get them to buy something they like. Get them a good deal. Everybody’s happy. It’s pretty simple. Just keep me on the North Side. No foreclosures. No suburbs. No ghettos.”
“Okaayyy…..What was the biggest obstacle you’ve ever had to overcome as a Realtor?” he asked.
“You’re f*king kidding me, right Sky?” I replied…
Anyway, it was about two seconds after that when my wife asked me the rhetorical question. A week later I received the following email:
To: Geno Petro
Subject: Redfin’s Partner Program
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for the Redfin Partner Program and taking the time to speak with us. While we are impressed with your success as an agent, after careful consideration we have decided to pursue other candidates in your market at this time. We will maintain your application in our active files and contact you if there is an opportunity for a future partnership.
We do wish you continued success in your real estate business. Thank you again for your time!
To be honest, I forgot all about this nonsense until a Redfin ‘Partner’ called on one of my listings last week, requesting a 7 p.m. showing on a Friday night. After bitching about the time (and weather) for thirty seconds, I finally agreed. And even though I’m apparently not qualified to have her job (but am somehow qualified to show her one of my properties on a Friday night in the middle of a week-long ice storm), she sounded very nice. Like someone’s wife.
So she shows up thirty minutes late with her three-year old daughter and a 2014 Infiniti QX60 full of Millennials. Everyone was holding Starbucks cups and wearing North Face and UGGS.
“Sorry we’re late. Traffic sucks,” she says.
“Yes it does,” I tell her. “That’s why I left my yoga class thirty minutes early. To arrive here on time.”
“You practice yoga?” she asks me.
“No,” I reply, as I watch them slosh, one by one, across the family room carpet, “I just like wearing the pants.”