Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Used to Work For a Traveling Circus

Or just about. It was this company that manufactured and sold electronic locks for real estate agents. Some of you may have seen them. They are the huge gray or blue padlocks real estate agents put on the doors of houses for sale. Agents can then access those locks with a device that looks like an old school pager, or their smart phone. I haven't worked there for a few years, so I am not sure exactly what products they have now. My job was to work for the Installations Department.

Every so often the keys or the lockboxes would have to be exchanged out. My company would send a team of people out to their location; take back their old product; and give them new product. Also included in that package a shiny, new 6-year contract. And you thought cell phone contracts were bad! My job was to supervise temporary employees to take the first payment and newly signed contracts, making me Verbal and Occasionally Physical Abuse Representative as well.

Our install was set up so the agent would begin by attending a 30 minute information session. After which, they would be checked in at the first station with photo i.d by a temp who would also take their old key and lockboxes. The temp would start their paperwork with basic information. Then they would come into the room and be divided by product type. If they wanted the basic key they would follow one line of tables. If they wanted the software programed into their device, they would follow another line of tables.

The process looked the same for both sides of the room. They start at the distribution table where they would be given a key by a temp who would document the key assignment by hand. The next station was my accounting table where they would sign their contract; complete the paperwork; and make their first payment. At the following station a temp would program the key with the agents preferred pin code. They would also assign the agents information into the key for tracking purposes as well as electronically documenting the key the agent actually went home with. At the last station another temp would test the key with a live lockbox to ensure it was working. Then it was off to a training session. In the meantime, a group of temps would assign the correct number of lockboxes to the agents and make them ready for pick up after the agent was done with training. Sounds simple enough for changing out an entire city's system, right?

Most of my time was spent fending off angry people. On average, the team traveling for our company would consist of 6 - 10 people. We would hire 60 - 100 temporary employees. Because we could only hire one temporary agency, they would barely have enough temps available to fill our needs. We would send them a list of qualifications we needed for each job and they would send us every available body they had. Then, and I swear this is true, they would go out and recruit whoever they could find. I was lucky in that I needed a higher level of temp, so I usually got the best of the bunch which consisted of students and retirees, people who had a reason for only working part time. But I did meet some real wackos. A common saying among us is that these people are temps for a reason. We would bring them in for four hours on a Sunday to train them.

The training consisted of the Project Manager (PM) going over our company and what we did. They would cover all the basic rules and guidelines for timecards, breaks and such. After that, they would split the group into all the different stations they would be working at. IF I was lucky, that process would only take 30 minutes to 1 hour. Sometimes, the PM would take up to two hours to cover the basics. This left the remaining time for me to train my team of 8 - 14 temps.

In order to explain all the payment plans and amounts they would be charging the agents, I had to explain the differences between the product options. In order to explain the different product options I had to explain how our product worked. In order to explain how the product worked, I had to explain what a real estate agent's job entailed. In order to explain what a real estate agent's job entailed, I had to explain how houses get marketed and sold. Then I had to split them into two groups so I could explain how to fill out the paperwork according to each key. After that, they had to learn how to use the credit card terminals. In. three. hours. Pit these under-trained people with almost no knowledge against the rageaholics and egomaniacs that make up 90% of the real estate agent population and you get some interesting results.

There are some really good Realtors out there. But when 10% of the agents are making 80% of the money as a whole, you have to realize that 90% of the agents are splitting whatever is left. So, not only do they suck at their job but the small income they do make goes towards the fees and costs of being a real estate agent. I had no interaction with the other 10%. They came and went without a fuss. I went to real estate school. I saw the same people at the installations that I saw in my class. There are the people who think they can get rich quick and people who do not work well with others and go to work for themselves. Not your cream of the crop types. Not the types to embrace new technology or understand how it works.

But, that's what our team would bring them. New technology that someone else decided they were required to use. On top of being told they had to use a new system, they had to now pay annual fees and could only lease their product instead of owning it outright. Oh, and by the way, here is a six year contract that you can only break at any time, but you will not receive a prorated refund of the prepaid annual fee. Now sign here. No, I cannot answer any questions you might have, you can ask those in your training class. Yes, you must make a decision before you understand the product you are leasing.

I have been screamed at by a little, old man for 20 minutes; seen someone pick up a chair to throw at me but toss it across the room instead; watched someone dance because they were so angry; knocked over by a woman using a door to hit me; physically inserted myself between a fist waving agent and a teenage, female temp; and been smuggled out of a city because my life threatened by an anonymous phone call. I have cost hundreds of agents million dollar deals, and destroyed the lives and livelihood of hundreds more. I know, they told me. The first six months of the job, I went to my room and cried every night. This is how I went from a meek, mild tempered, caring, idealistic twenty something to a hard nose, cautious, blunt, argumentative, totalitarian thirty something.

Why am I tell you all this? I have plethora of stories I have been holding back because each requires you to understand the volatile background those stores take place in. Please tell me it has at least piqued your interest!


  1. I love the stories! Never have heard any of these that you have written and love them. Keep blogging! U R A.MAZ.ING.

  2. Sheesh. You wouldn't believe the hoops I had to jump through to make a comment! :) but I stuck it out because I wanted to tell you how much I wanted to hear more!