Thursday, 14 May 2020

The customer is always right - unless they are wrong!

Having all this time being unable to work has given me the opportunity to reflect on some of the things that I didn’t like about work.  Namely, certain clients!  I don’t know what the statute of limitations for libel is, so I will try to keep this as anonymous as possible:

Firstly, viewing a villa with a group of 7 people (2 families who wanted to buy a large property together to share holidays).   We arrived at the house of Monsieur Propri├Ętaire in a convoy of cars, I introduced everybody, and the problems started. Two of the group started wandering around the garden and Monsieur P (quite rightly) wanted everybody to stay together for the grand tour.  I rounded everyone up, we started the tour, they began snapping photos (without asking) and two of them stayed downstairs while the rest of us continued the tour.  Monsieur P was becoming more and more agitated and said that if they didn’t stay together he would have to ask me to cancel the viewing.  I explained the situation and one of the couples decided to take this as an insult and said they would go and wait in their car.  The tour continued but then Monsieur P looked out of the window and spotted that they were using a laptop in the car and convinced himself they were part of a gang of international criminals who were checking out his property with a view to robbing it later.  The tour ended.  They did not buy the house - or burgle it!  

Usually I ask as many questions as possible so that I can match the right properties to the right clients, but there are two questions that I would love to ask but daren’t - in this day and age asking about height and weight would not be politically correct but it is actually pretty important!  A few years ago my old agency sent me to meet a couple who had asked to view 2 specific properties they had seen on the website.  To say Mrs Client was plump would be an under-statement, and she also used 2 walking sticks.  The first property just happened to be a bungalow which seemed perfect for them but even that was too much for her and she parked herself at the kitchen table while her husband visited the house with me.  I then very tactfully tried to explain that I didn’t think the second property would suit them (it was a 3 storey village house with very steep steps) but they insisted on seeing it -  she didn’t even get out of the car!  A funnier experience happened with another couple - the husband was an extremely ‘well-built’ ex rugby-player and despite my warning to be careful of the raised doorstep, he toppled over in slow motion and rolled gracefully into the hall.  Luckily his beer-belly cushioned his fall.  (If ever I give up this job I will become an actress as I managed to express concern despite the fact I was inwardly crying with laughter!).  Very tall clients can also cause problems - ‘Character Stone-built Village Houses’ are often a maze of different levels and low beamed ceilings and nobody over 6’ tall should even think about living in one - I now carry plasters and arnica gel in my handbag.

Other problematic clients are the ones who know exactly what they want - they turn up armed with maps, compasses, rejecting anything that isn’t facing the right direction (naturally at my old agency all the properties faced South or South-East…) and one couple were so fixed on buying a house with blue shutters that I was tempted to buy a pot of paint.  And then there are the clients who have no idea what they want - very recently I spent 3 days  with a couple who wanted a 2 bed house near the sea, then decided that because of global warming (ie raised sea levels in 50 years time) they preferred to be in Perpignan centre, then they wanted an extra bedroom for work, then they decided that a smaller town would be better but it had to have a train station, and finally they added that they needed secure parking.  Needless to say, despite several viewings I didn’t manage to find what they were looking for - and I don’t think I ever will!

So that is a brief look at the worst side of property finding; next time - rental nightmares!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Still trapped in Paradise

Confinement started pretty well for me.  I sorted out several cupboards, completely cleaned the kitchen, made 35 face-masks, painted lots of furniture, filed (and read) my bank statements, exercised, weeded the garden and made chicken stock.  Didn’t do so much the next day …  (!) Now we are on Day 40 of lockdown and (to quote my Granny), my Get Up And Go has Got Up and Went.  When you don’t know whether it’s Christmas or Tuesday as every day is the same, it’s hard to get motivated and it is too easy to just put jobs off until the next day, and the next day …

But this is also a time of ‘self-discovery’ - so here is what I have discovered:

  1. I don’t like cleaning!  You make the bed, wash the floors, dust, clean, drag the hoover around, but it doesn’t last for long and just a few days later you have to do it all over again.  I do, however, find myself strangely drawn to the adverts showing miracle gadgets that clean venetian blinds (even though I haven’t got any) and whiten the grout in the bathroom, but more in the way one watches films of people sky-diving - fascinating to watch but not something I would consider doing myself.
  2. I quite like cooking! There is a certain satisfaction in making something from scratch (I have at last mastered apple crumble) but it’s not something you should have to do every day and I miss being able to say ‘to hell with it, let’s eat out’.  It’s also difficult trying to make meals from whatever you find in the cupboard (see Item 5) and I very much regret not labelling stuff I put in the freezer.  (Stewed apple looks very much like mashed potato..) 
  3. I miss my family!  But then again, this applies to everybody and the fact that I am here in France and they are in the UK makes no difference as they can’t see each other either.  
  4. I am becoming English again.  I used to spend most of my time with french friends or french clients or driving around listening to french radio.  Now I listen to UK podcasts and spend a lot of time on the phone chatting to family or english friends (but the chats are becoming shorter and shorter as there are only 3 main topics of conversation now - a) How are you, b) What is the weather like, and c) what are you having for supper!  I should be able to stay fluent as I live with my french partner but we have barely spoken since Day 9….
  5. I don’t like Lentils.  On Day 9 my partner decided to make a rare visit to the supermarket as I think he considers me to be ‘elderly and vulnerable’ so need to stay in the house.  I gave him the list of staples such as cheese, bread, crisps and chocolate but he proudly returned with jars and cans of kidney beans, pois chiches, green beans, white beans (thank goodness I kept a couple of face-masks), and lots of lentils.  Nothing Edible!  I have since taken back control of shopping and normal meal service has been resumed.  
  6. I can’t live without the internet.  Here in our little village, the internet is very much a hit and miss affair and the slightest breeze seems to affect it - and I never understand that when I ring the helpline, their first suggestion is that I go onto their website.  If I could do that I wouldn’t be making the call.  I love the daily contact with friends via Whatsapp, or seeing what everybody is doing on Facebook; I can ‘travel the world’ or ‘see’ plays and concerts without leaving the house, and Google the answer to pretty much anything.  Apparently the most popular Google searches during the confinement have been:  Buzzcuts, Animal Crossing, Tiger King, Banana cake, Bread-making, Coronavirus cure, home workout, Zoom, Home birth and Hair tutorial.  On checking my own search history I see that as well as checking the banana cake and bread recipes (not the others) I have also queried ‘How to remove oil-based paint from jeans’, ‘Recipes using chicken stock’, ‘How to clip dog’s nails’, and ‘What to do with Lentils’ (although I was surprised to see that the obvious response of ‘throw them away’ didn’t appear).  Amazon has also been a lifeline but they are only delivering ‘essentials’ - which for me consisted of Hair Dye (no explanation needed), Vitamins (because I don’t eat Lentils or Beans), Print Cartridge (for all the paperwork you have to print and take out to explain why you are out) and Dog Nail-Clippers (although I have yet to use them as I don’t want to make a mistake and have to go to the emergency vet) (and it is quite useful to be able to hear Loulou the Dog ‘ticking’ down the corridor in the middle of the night to tell us she needs to go out!)
  7. I miss working!  The government may not consider the work of a Property Consultant ‘essential’, but it is to me!  There is only so much that I can do from home - which is essentially ‘Not Very Much’.  I miss driving round the region, meeting new clients, seeing different houses, matching the right people to the right properties and watching them fall in love with the region and starting new lives.  (I can almost hear the violins playing in the background as I write this …!)

I shall sign off now as my Fitbit alarm has just gone off telling me it is time to move.  I thought it was broken as it hasn’t done the buzzing/flashing thing to celebrate the fact that I have achieved my 10,000 steps recently.  Perhaps you are supposed to do them all in one day …!