TIME: THE ROUGH YEARS
PLACE: THE STREETS OF NEW YORK
the closest thing I have to a real client is a couple moving here from Pittsburgh who have their heart set on an apartment with a “porch.” You know, someplace where they “can sit in the evening and watch people.” I’ve explained to them that in these parts we call those restaurants, and that they rarely come attached to one-bedroom apartments. Regardless of my insight, they are determined. A friend of theirs, who left New York in the late ’70s has already told them all about the market and what to expect. She’s apparently an expert and also warned them to be weary of rental agents.
It’s been a month since my last deal and as I can’t seem to muster any thing else, I’m trying to find them a building with a roof deck. I’ll throw in a pair of binoculars and everybody ought to be happy. While they’re holding out for the porch, I’m rereading The Art of the Deal, and wondering how to pull myself out of
A month ago it all seemed so easy. Pick up the phone, make a few appointments, meet some new people and close a few deals along the way. Now, the job is draining, my clients have dried up, I’m being stood up in the Financial District and my best sales pitch is starting to sound like a bad Yanni concert—emotional in the wrong places and it lasts about an hour too long. I’m reaching—talking too much and starting to sound desperate.
I’ve gone through dry spells before, and it would be easy enough to chalk this one up to a bad market and a slow time for everyone. But I have the misfortune of sitting next to Stacey, who is currently knocking back deals like shots of tequila on Cinco de Mayo. While I’m in a terrible debate over whether to play another game of solitaire or take a walk, she’s closing her second deal of the day.
It’s almost bizarre. All of a sudden, she’s Michael Shvo on steroids and everything she does ends in a rental. She needs a break, goes for coffee, sees a young woman crying, decides to help, learns that the young woman has just broken up with her boyfriend and needs a new place. A day later, the “crying chick” is sitting in the office, filling out paperwork, while I’m seeing how many words I can spell without using spell check. Stacey can’t take the subway without closing some kind of deal or another.
At first, I thought it was merely a coincidence that every time I went cold, Stacey started a hot streak. Part of it may have to do with some weird karmic alignment, but my manager is also pulling some strings in this tiny universe. The hotter one agent gets, the slower everyone else seems to become. Managers take a cut of the overall office profits. That’s a lot of incentive. They steer business away from agents with slippery hands and feed the closers every decent client who calls or walks in the office. Work breeds work and managers rarely encourage slumping agents by wasting potential clients on them, no matter who’s due on the list. She’s working a $3,200 corporate transfer, with the rent and fee paid by the company, and I’m looking all over town for a one bedroom with a terrace large enough to call a porch … in a high traffic area no less.
It would all be completely tolerable if my sunny disposition and winning attitude got me anywhere in this business. But here, your worth is strictly measured in closed deals per month and nothing else. It matters little that you’re a team player, that you bring good ideas to the table or that you get to the office early and stay late (Not that I possess any of these qualities, I’m just making the point). As a matter of fact, no one gives a shit what time you roll in, and even your personal hygiene counts for little. A shady, disheveled, whoremonger prone to fits of screaming, with a list of pending lawsuits is the office sweetheart when she’s bringing home deals. Not that Stacey fits this description; she’s actually a nice dresser.
I don’t harbor any hurtful feelings toward Stacey, but I do hide my client list when she’s in the office. Let’s just say she’s thorough and a really good real estate agent. When I first started, she was one of the few people who went out of her way to teach me about the business. It doesn’t matter that her method of teaching entailed screwing me out of my first deal and using her seniority to justify it. I learned my lesson, and have never forgotten the special attention she showed me. The slacker agents in my office, including myself, could all learn much from her example. She’s a real asset.