Rental Dementia: The Suit Salesman


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Rental agents shouldnít wear suits. In my opinion it gives off the wrong impression. When it costs an average of $10,000 to move (first month, one month security and fee), most of my clients arenít exactly sucking financial wind. They usually pull in a lot more dough than I do, and would it be too obvious to mention that they enjoy far better careers as well? In fact, in typical, smug, New Yorker fashion, they consider themselves experts on any number of subjects, most notably real estate. At least half of my previous clients have in one way or another insisted that they know more about the business than I do. A suit wonít overcome hubris.


When initially looking for a chop shop to hold my license, I interviewed at one of the large rental factories in Midtown Manhattan. With the bar hovering just above my beat up shoes and too low to trip over, my job interview wasnít exactly intensive. As education prior sales experience, and a basic grasp of English arenít mandatory requirements, there is really very little to discuss. ďSo, you actually live in an apartment yourself? That will be useful. Youíre hired.Ē And yet while sitting across from the manager, I was told to observe an agent at work. Pacing in the middle of the mini-desks and semi-cubicles was a dashing young guy with his arms folded. The top dog in these parts wore a very nice suit, an earpiece and seemed to be in the middle of three conversations at once. If I was lucky, I would be able to work beneath him as one of his rental minions. I have to admit, he did display a certain presence in this particular environment, but bear in mind there were more than a few slackers in flannel shirts reading paperbacks at their desks while they waited for the phone to ring.

The suit guy looked slick, perhaps a little too slick, as if he were trying to convince you of something. But whatever it was, it didnít add up to trust. If youíre on a sales appointment and looking at $700,000 condos, fine, wear a suit. But if youíre pitching rentals in Midtown, I say relax and wear what ever the hell you want.

In other words, I had no intention of buying a freaking suit that afternoon. And yet there I was getting measured up in a strip mall in the suburbs. Curious enough, I guess, to walk in and see how much a good suit would run me in the sticks, but I was honestly only looking. The suit salesman didnít care what I wanted, and he didnít care what my intentions were. In fact, he didnít even care how it fit me. He either woke up that morning with a few extra affirmations, or he just saw me coming.

This guy was good. Thank God heís not a rental agent. He was lousy with the measuring tape, knew nothing of current fashion, but he knew how to sell a suit. I still wonder if itís only a matter of getting a good read on someone and then exploiting their weaknesses. I went in completely unprepared with my New York prejudices and grossly underestimated my suburban opponent. He initially came across as disinterested and acted as if I were wasting his time. He even jostled me a bit with a few remarks about my waistline, and I naturally joked back, which only cemented our relationship. He was that good. He knew the importance of establishing a connection, any connection, even if it wasnít a good one.

I was only interested in two button jobs, but the suit salesman would hear nothing of this. Two buttons were for old guys and bankers. Establishing his authority, I suppose.

We argued, he rolled his eyes and gave me a three button to try on. I demanded to see a two button. He produced one, but it didnít fit right. Nothing deterred him. He patiently, even rudely, but always consistently, moved me in one direction. From the moment I stepped foot in that goddamned shit-strip-mall-suit-store, he was going to sell me. You would think that my years as a rental agent would have alerted me to the majority of the tricks, but I even let him box me in. Itís the classic move of eliminating choices until the dupe, me in this case, is faced with what he or she sees as his or her only choice: this one or that one. So it took about an hour to thoroughly size me up and then narrow the choices down for me. I was staring at five possibilities. His strategy even occurred to me at one point, but I honestly donít know what happened. I left feeling slightly dizzy with a three button suit that Iím still not sure I really like. He got me.

Now Iím hoping someone gets married. I need an event to wear this stupid suit to, or Iím going to feel like a real idiot. I still wonít wear it to the office though.

The suit guy looked slick, perhaps a little too slick, as if he were trying to convince you of something. But whatever it was, it didnít add up to trust.

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