There’s always something to howl about

Search Or Sell, Young Man

Teach or be Taught

I entered my freshman year in college (the second time) sporting a 1967 VW Beetle with no radio, a grant-in-aid to play Division III football on the crumbling edge of Pennsylvania coal country, and $200 in my pocket from a half-finished summer house painting job back east. I emerged eight years later with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre, spitting distance close to a master’s degree in English, and a 1972 Riviera that served as both my wheels and my address, off and on, for several months to follow. Oh yeah…and 30 grand in student loans, give or take a few deferments. And a soon to be ex-wife. And a kid.

My choices, as I recall them now, were quite simple, really;

I Take a teaching job for $14,000 a year in a Pittsburgh inner-city high school and get buried even further below the rusty Monongahela crust–an option, rather than an actual choice, I suppose…

II Go back to graduate school (rather, stay in graduate school and be pushing 30 when I got out) adding another 20K to the loan tab–albeit a longshot wager as far as any lender with my correct SS number was concerned…

III Or run.

The first two choices were subsequently ruled out leaving me alone in a bar one night pondering Option III… to run or not to run. Run, that is, OR… possibly… pursue what I had ended up doing in the interim while trying to figure out an escape route from those winter stained strip mines of western Pennsylvania… Sales. The default career of all default careers. Knife and pot sales, actually. Door to door throughout the surrounding counties. My first crack at this profession of eating what one kills. And a natural born killer, I was not.

I’d forage the wedding announcement notices from back issues of the local weeklies then drop in on the family homes of the blushing brides-to-be, a suitcase full of kitchenwares in one hand and ten cent daisies in the other. Knock, knock, knock…“Why, you must be the the future Mrs Thaddeus McLelland Stump {pause} Oh…you are her mother? Dear Lord… I must say…a picture must be growing old in an attic somewhere…” (I’d throw in the O. Wilde reference to keep a mental tug-line on the fastly fading life I’d just abandoned as I slid one foot between me, the screen door and the kitchen table, poised for my next move. The Sit.)


Hmmm, indeed. It all kind of kind of sucked, really. Weeks turned into months turned into years. Decades. A lifetime, nearly.

I ultimately took the higher ground, cutting off what was left of my hair, shaving my graduate school beard, and trading in the Fryes, corduroy and tweeds for, as you might imagine, the uniform: wing tips, splashy neckwear and two identical blue pin stripe suits (sales people being among the biggest suckers of all, I’d soon discover as I stared into the mirror each morning looking exactly like the day before). I would shortly thereafter abandon the Riviera, old faithful, on a bridge in Pittsburgh during rush hour, buy a new Chevette with no radio on the remaining threads of my credit, and set out to read everything there was written on the Art and/or Science of Salesmanship while simultaneously searching for the most palatable commission based career that didn’t have a suicide clause in fine print buried in it’s mission statement. In other words, I wanted desperately to find a sales job I didn’t loathe, with associates I didn’t want to drown, and a sales manager whose ass I could kick if things were suddenly to go sideways. I needed to make money but I hated the profession. I took a deep mental breath and re-doubled my efforts.

I read Zig, and Waitely, and Carnegie, and Hill. I read Robbins, the Kinder Brothers, Zeller, and Joe Girard. I bought all the tapes and went to all the seminars. I waited in anticipation during those early years for the ‘SuperSalesMan’ bug to bite me on the rump and inject my spirit, for the magic ‘Closing’ pill I’d washed back with untold quarts of happy hour whiskey to take effect, for the ‘Surefire System to Success’ to unfold like a galaxy before my Moonpie eyes. I was locked, loaded and ready to ‘shoot for the stars’ and ‘settle for the Sun,’ those echoes from the piped-in tapes of the regional sales office pulpit. So I took unsteady aim in the general direction of Alpha Centauri (the closest and biggest celestial target I was told), with shaky hands and only half a heart, waiting for the perfect bead in my crosshair sights before firing off a maelstrom of rapidfire salesman frenzy…..

And I’ve been waiting 25 years, with sights now blurred and trigger finger on safety, for the true religion to hit me. Not just garden variety Faith, which I already have a freezer full of, but the good stuff like you see on the Discovery Channel, people speaking in tongues and collapsing on stage. I’ve been waiting for the likes of that but not with bated breath, I assure you. It’s more out of curiosity than anything, these days. Still, ‘What would it be like to really, really be driven?’ I often wonder as I wait for the phone to ring and my listings to sell and this market to move in another direction. Trump driven, or Mark Cuban driven, perhaps…

Sell or be Sold

I’m sorry but I don’t buy into any of that Tom Hopkins ubiquitous ‘unbelievable’ crap. Not anymore.I know he makes major coin and I write for free but still, I’m all over the sales chatter. I’ve found my own niche in this business of selling homes and if nothing else, it lays at my feet like an old, comfortable pair of shoes, ready to hit the pavement when I’m ready to walk. On the contrary to Mr. Hopkins’ pat answer, it is very believable.  

I was a real estate consumer before I was a real estate professional. I had sold enough insurance in my previous career and purchased enough residential property as an adult to make the transition into this profession seamless and respectable. As you may have supposed by now, sales is not my first or greatest love nor do I believe it will ever be more than an interesting and challenging way to provide for my family.  It is not the air I breath nor the progenitor for the tears I shed. It is, more than anything, a lifelong companion that I know very, very well.  At times it my cell mate.  At times, my challenger.  In it’s purest form, it is the wellspring I need to access to get the best deal done for my clients.  At the pinnacle, it provides an upscale lifestyle for the wife and myself and an inside track on anything we personally take a run at in the marketplace. 

Chop off my fingers if they start to wag. I don’t wish to use this platform as a soapbox but rather as a safe haven for my personal and candid observations of the real estate world thatv surrounds me here in Chicago. Sometimes it’s dead serious and I find myself hesitant to mince words.  Often times it’s enlightening and I must pass it on. Usually, it’s just plain funny (to me). ‘Funny how?…I don’t know, funny…you know, just funny…’  I’ve been an advocate for some knuckleheads, for sure. And speaking of Goodfellas…

I once sold a condo to a semi-mobbed-up guy who couldn’t get a mortgage. I didn’t actually plead for my life per se, but I did make a pretty good case against the banker, also a gentleman of questionable means, redeflecting the flak toward it’s proper recipient during the multiple and constantly expiring contingency extensions of the contract.  The money somehow got wired to the title company on closing day and as I sat alone at the settlement table waiting for everybody else to arrive, I became a little uneasy with anticipation.  No one showed. An hour later the Closer came out from a back office and handed me a commission check. It was quick and it was silent but probably most of all, it was Chicago.

Run Forrest Run

As a youngster I was always the fastest kid in my class and in later years, the entire city if high school track records mean anything. I was born with an uncanny instinct to flee. My ancestors that passed on this gene must have surely been weak in other regards, I’ve concluded.

My first thought, even to this day, is to run. Usually it’s just a momentary flicker quickly snuffed out by reason and responsibilty. I rarely act on my first thoughts anymore. I carry into my middle years a routine and a process.  I believe I’ve stuck around long enough to be credible in what I say and competent in what I do in this business of real estate sales.  That in itself gives me a leg up on the competition here although the Realtor ranks in Chicago are thinning, even as we speak.  I’ve become more of an observer, I think, and less of an outspoken cocktail party maven these days.  The urge to stay and see how it all plays out has well overtaken any trifling idea of sprinting into the night with the escrow account.

Thus, you have the beginning, and the middle derivations, skeletal as they be, of this man’s real estate point of view. I’ll try here to provide you with a running account of how the future reveals itself to me on a weekly basis and how the third and final unity of this hybrid Aristotilean Cyber-Construction unfolds. And barring any late breaking newsflash! from the present, that unity, of course, would be…The End.


16 Comments so far

  1. Michael Cook October 31st, 2007 5:56 pm

    As a salesman I know the joy and pain, mostly pain of selling. I spent a year selling jewelry to pay for my wedding. Like most sales organization we spent the hundreds of hours of idle time gossiping about each other or the many odd looking mall people.

    I am glad I got out, but I think you made a fine choice with real estate. At least the mob pays cash, you dont have to worry about any credit checks killing your sales.

  2. Teri Lussier October 31st, 2007 6:57 pm

    You do belong here. 😉

  3. Russell Shaw October 31st, 2007 7:09 pm

    Welcome, Geno! Really nice to have you here.

  4. Vicki Lloyd October 31st, 2007 7:36 pm

    Great story Gino! Glad to see you at Bloodhound!

  5. Ardell October 31st, 2007 9:30 pm

    Geno!!! I see the herd a thinning just because it’s time to pay the dues.

    I loved this line: “It was quick and it was silent but probably most of all, it was Chicago.”

    I’m perched on the edge of my chair…

    One thing you have to give that Swann guy…he’s got good taste.

  6. Brian Nygard November 1st, 2007 3:52 am

    Always a pleasure to bump into you Geno!


  7. Geno Petro November 1st, 2007 6:14 am

    Thanks all, for the comments and extending your welcomes. I’m still getting the hang of WordPress so hopefully, my responses will be more directed when I don’t have to log in as a reader to answer.

    Yeah Ardell, $1200 or so a year (MLS & Licensing fees) to be a non-producer doesn’t make sense to me either.I knew I shouldn’t have been when worried when my dry cleaner, my dog walker, and the guy who photographed my wedding all got their R.E. licenses.

  8. Kris Berg November 1st, 2007 7:14 am

    Geno – Greg wants all his big words back!

    (Welcome, and beautifully written).

  9. Brian Brady November 1st, 2007 7:24 am


    I’ll bet you are the best non-salesman in all of Chicago. Did you get Mrs. Stump to buy any property?


  10. Geno Petro November 1st, 2007 8:20 am

    Kris…I was just rustling through his recycle bin and took the ones he discarded.

    B.B…No, she didn’t buy. But she cried twice.

  11. […] By way of background, I too used to contribute to the Bloodhound Blog. My tenure was cut short when some “Geno Petro” guy showed up. My spell checker says his name is really Genoa Petrol, but I don’t think that’s right. Anway, he knows books, he knows pop culture, and he can certainly turn a phrase. He even uses colons! […]

  12. Mona November 1st, 2007 9:53 am
  13. ken November 1st, 2007 11:26 am

    You got skills bro….substance too.
    Sharing as only true tribe members can.

  14. Jay Thompson November 1st, 2007 5:49 pm

    Mona (Mrs Petro, I believe) –

    That was a good one, but my favorite is still:

    January ’07 was a very good month for Geno.

  15. Geno Petro November 2nd, 2007 7:17 am

    Jay, thanks, as always, for your input. Has it been a year already? Yikes.


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