Real Talk: Pissing People Off

CAUTION: Swear words ahead. Please don’t read if they will offend you. The X is right there. 

7:55 AM

My phone rings.

I am, admittedly, still in bed.

The restless night before still lingers and I hit the snooze button a total of 4 times before the unrecognizable call came in.

I glare at the phone thinking “Who the hell is calling before 8 am…” and send it to voicemail.

If it was important they’ll leave a message.

If it was important, they’ll call again.


8:27 AM

Predictably, I dozed off.

The phone is ringing again. I’m thinking: ‘I must have fallen asleep for an hour’

Below the time of 8:15 (so it was a 32 min nap) the same number is shining back at me.

Strange. But at this point I’m awake, curious, & figure if it was a pushy telemarketer I know how to kindly decline their offers and block the number after.

I answer in the least-groggy voice I can conjure, “This is Hannah!”

No answer. There’s some rustling & clicking on the other end.

“…Hello?” I ask again.

“Yes, hello,” a curt voice responds.

“This is Hannah, how can I help you?” I’m genuinely wondering what is going on at this point.


8:28 AM

It takes a good minute for her to explain why she called, she asks me if I worked for Windermere, if I sent out a mailer, if I created the mailer, and asks the questions again after I reply, “Yes” the first time.

From her tone she is clearly NOT calling to compliment me on the thoughtful design, valuable list of Tacoma events, or useful info regarding the Tacoma market. I start to brace myself.

“This is the most unprofessional thing I have ever received from a Real Estate agent.”

Let me provide some context:

I’m a Realtor who loves just about everything in the real estate process except for cold call sales, stale marketing, or sending people what is essentially spam. I value a genuine connection with someone who can trust me & who I can trust. I like grassroots, organic networking.

That being said, I previously refused to produce any direct mail because of every piece I recieve that I feed to the dump (recycling depending).

However, I’m a bit of a romantic. I like getting meaningful mail. I like the impact of hold something thoughtfully crafted in your hand. I want to send something to people that stands out, be memorable.

I designed this vertical fold postcard:

As any creator would, I see things now I would change. Small shifts in text, the tweak of image placement. But I was proud of it and more importantly I was proud I created something honest & intentional. (If you’re a creator you know how difficult it can be)

Anyways, I targeted 121 people in Tacoma who fit a variety of criteria, based off that criteria, would most likely value the info I sent. It’s worth mentioning the age range targeted was 25-45.

Let’s go back to the phone call. Here are the lines that are still clear as day:

  • “You’re offending a lot of people with this kind of language”  (I used the word “crap.”)

  • “I’m 60 years old & people my age are not comfortable with this.” (How did you get the postcard…?)

  • “I have a degree in journalism from the UW and it is also terribly written. It sounds like a young person in their 20s wrote it.” (I am in my 20s, I’m also the last person to care about your degree as a point of proving yourself)

  • “I had my 25 year old son who works at Amazon read this and he was offended.” (Okay.)

  • “I have 3 properties, my son & I co-own the one you sent this to and you’re not getting any of my business” (now I know how she received the postcard in the first place, since she wasn’t a target)

  • “I’m taking a picture of this and sending it to my agent who helped me buy all 3 homes. He’s worked 20 years in banking as well. He’ll laugh at this.” (well that’s nice)

  • “It’s extremely offensive” (I used the word “crap”.)

  • “People of religion are not comfortable with this” (The majority of my family either was or is a pastor, but okay.)

  • “I’ll be calling Windermere about this.” (This made me nervous because Windermere is an absolutely classy company & suddenly the word “crap” sounds like it might be equivelant to “fuck shit damnit” )

Now, let it be known, I am fucking sensitive. I just am. I take criticism harshly because I will easily believe it about myself. If you say I suck I usually internalize it & think “you don’t even know how bad I suck” then throw a bit of a pity party. Sharing this allows me to breathe life into it,  further resolving to strengthen that sensitivity by exposing this weakness. It’s an ongoing growth process that this scenario actually helped.

Anyways, my initial reaction was to apologize, be as kind & understanding as possible.

I take a moment, breathe, “I’m so sorry it offended you. Other than removing your address from the mailing list, is there anything else I could do?”

She scoffs, “Well you will absolutely be removing me from the list.”

I don’t remember exactly how she phrased the next things she said, but it was essentially repeating everything she already told me (see the list above).

By the time she finishes her Rant Part 2 (with a couple extra snide jabs about how “young I sound” and how “obvious” it is) I’m annoyed. I’m still calm, but I don’t get what she wants. What I really don’t get is why she didn’t just throw it away. Why did she feel so compelled to call (twice) before 9am to let me know how much she hated it? What was her motive? Also, what ACTUALLY pissed her off? Because I understand that using the word “crap” isn’t exactly “Professional”, but it’s also not exactly the most atrocious thing to read. I figured something else was going on.

“Can I ask you a question?” I say carefully.

She sputters, literally sputters, “It was offensive, it was offensive, it was offensive, it was offensive. It was poorly written & offensive. If you don’t understand why it was wrong you never will.”

(please note I did not ask my question yet)

“Why did you take the time to call and let me know all of this? Why wouldn’t you just throw it away?”

At this point, she asks me for my name. Which I think is strange since I thought she listened to my voicemail message that has my name on it.

Now I’m a little defensive, “Only if I can have yours,” but keeping calm.

She repeats something about how I’m with Windermere, she’ll find me & call them.

And the call ends. It’s 8:39 AM.


So I’m a little shaken. I try calling my managing broker twice, forgetting she’s on vacation.

Now I want to know who this lady is. She gave me her address and since my job involves extensive research I looked her up on the Pierce County Assessor’s website. I found her name, her son’s name, I found them on Facebook, found out where she works, I found info about them that isn’t mine to share.

I did this because there’s a part of me that was just unbearably curious, wanting to know why. Also apart of me that wanted to reconcile it. I also needed to know who to avoid, if only because Tacoma is an easy town to bump into people you’d rather not bump into.


Next, I call my mom. Because if there’s anyone who has dealt with crazy amounts of bullshit from other people, it’s her. She is a pro at navigating it now.

On the phone with her I go from generally despondent to impassioned, provoked, & inspired.

I hang up and see the tiny G-mail notification: At 8:21 am (while I’m being railed by this lady) I received an email from someone asking for me to help them buy a house. Someone I didn’t know, who found me, who took the time to send me an email.

The dichotomy of the woman’s words to this single email asking for help meant one thing was for certain: My mailer did exactly what I intended it to do.

It was remarked upon. It was opened, read, absorbed, and for better or worse hit home with someone enough that they took action. The action may have been letting me know they would never be my client, but it still weeded out someone who I definitely have no interest in working with.

I reevaluated my approach to branding (I think I’ll always be reevaluating it to some extent), I want branding that positions me, branding reflecting something I believed in. Which inevitably meant, as positions do, I would position against something. There would be people who didn’t get it, hated it.

That’s good.

  • “Real Estate services for people who like to stand out & get stuff (shit) done”

  • “Real Estate services for people who give a shit about the places people live”

  • “Real Estate services for people who want to be a part of something bigger”

  • “Real Estate services for people who aren’t going to classify everything that’s not the North End as ‘not good’ “

All lines are true.

I get to work for the rest of the day and when lunch rolls around my roommate brings me a piece of mail: It’s my postcard. It’s beautiful. I hold it, run my fingers over the gloss cover , read the word “crap” and smile.

Later that day a wise friend told me, “Anything that means something is personal.”

Knowing your people, knowing yourself, will piss some off.

Time to lean in.

Notes:

  1. Unprofessional” seems to be the word used to undermine anything that is unexpected or risky. I’ll take being honest, creative, strategic, & an expert over being someone’s definition of Professional any day. It’s a comfy box we try to put people in for the sake of pseudo-comfort. Let’s break the box.
  2. If you have read this or consumed any of my other content and you just don’t like it, I invite you to send me your email & mailing address. I will make sure you don’t receive from me directly. There’s no catch. You just go on my personal “do not mail list”

By Hannah-Clarke Gilmore

By | 2018-04-05T19:07:56+00:00 August 21st, 2017|Real Estate|0 Comments

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