Saturday, July 14, 2018

Well - Spitting

Well – Spitting!
It seems to be an athletic sport; spitting, that is. It doesn’t matter what sport you look at, all the players are constantly spitting out their phlegm onto the field. Some of them are better spitters than players I think. Really, these people (unless they’re in a suit and tie) all do it. Yet, if you look around the world, there are fines in a lot of the cities and towns for spitting (among other things). I don’t know if they’re enforced or not, but they are there and they ought to be.
So what gives athletes the right to dispose of their germs all over the sports field? It’s disgusting behavior to start with, akin to having a pee against the park fence. And don’t think those germs don’t travel because they certainly do; only nobody takes note of it.
I think the whole business started with baseball and those players who chewed tobacco (another disgusting habit). Not having a cuspidor or spittoon at their disposal, they emptied their mouths on to the field. Of course they had to step in it and drag their germs all over the place.
The strange thing is that I’ve never seen any women athletes do any spitting, so it must be a male macho thing. In fact, thinking back to when we were kids, the guys used to do it all the time. I suppose it’s a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality.
Well, they used to have cuspidors in public places where you could get rid of your chewing tobacco mostly and any other garbage that had collected in your lungs and throat. In fact my own grandfather had a spittoon he used after contracting asthma. At least he didn’t leave his coughing fits all over the farmyard (though I wouldn’t have envied my grandmother having to clean the dad - blamed thing.) I imagine many a marriage was put to the ultimate test by cuspidor cleaning back in the day.
The point here is that today’s athletes aren’t spitting because something is in their lungs or their throat. They’re just spitting to spit. That’s the macho thing to do. Well, they’re a captive audience on the athletic field and can be fined for their spitting and that’s what I think should be done. Given their hefty salaries these days, one could raise a fair amount of fine money in the process.
That’s what I think.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather
Actually, the only thing I remember about chickens on the farm is that they were a form of entertainment for our dog. Mother would go out daily, putting out chicken feed for the birds in a long line and they would come greedily to peck away at their breakfast or dinner. That of course was the signal for our dog Max to go into action. His job as he saw it was to march along the line of feed picking at feathers here and there, causing mayhem among the chickens, sending them flying in all directions. Each must have derived some degree of pleasure from it because it was a twice daily ritual, always the same, with mother yelling at the fool dog to get outa there.
Well a kid on the farm wouldn’t think of the birds as anything but a roast on the Sunday dinner table when you watched them hanging in the barn getting their throats cut and being plucked and cleaned for the table or given away to city folks who might come out for a visit.
Who’da thought chickens might have personalities but my Tante Liese who was known as the egg lady in around her area all the way to Winnipeg Beach. Old Ab Marley, the paint salesman in my office and a real character would stop by her place weekly to pick up eggs asked her one day if he could go see the chickens. No, she said, they’d get all upset and stop laying their eggs. I remember him coming into the office with this tale that we were all laughing about.  
Well it turns out Tante Liese knew her birds better than most. One of her daughters confirmed that in a later conversation. It still didn’t register until one day recently I was watching something on TV. There was a lady there who, among other animals, kept a number of exotic chickens. Well, she would pick them up, rub their necks and ruffle their feathers, all to the birds’ enjoyment. Well, I never . . . even the visitors got to do it.
Chickens have never been good fliers, maybe good enough to get up into a tree, but little else. These days they are bred to be wider and heavier to provide huge breasts for the market. So for the birds it’s a lost cause. The millions of birds that are abused and force fed to provide more savory food for drooly mouthed buyers. No matter what they do, they’re still nothing more than a commodity.
A sad situation.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Canadian Military

Canadian Military
I’m just a little confused about our Canadian military personnel these days. We don’t seem to have a large military base compared to other countries but still we have troops deployed all over the world. We seem to be serving everywhere in almost every capacity and largely training foreign armies how to fight etc. Of course there are rescue missions right here in Canada too, but the only ones a person really hears of is the army filling sandbags.
Well, they’re burley young buggers, full of brawn and energy who can fling them things around like they were paper napkins. What a boon to have them around at flooded out places to help out. Of course they’ve got them big vehicles too to get in and out of places nobody else can, an’ boats an’ helicopters an’ all that sort’a stuff. An’ a few years ago they even had to shovel out a severe snow storm in Toronto, remember that?
What I wondered at was, were they hiring?  I went on the internet to find out and sure enough they are! Of course I immediately got curious as to whether I could hire on. But I suppose at eighty-three, the only job I could get is as a decoy of an old man in trouble that they would have to rescue. Of course that would be an automatic failed project ‘cause I’d never survive such a rescue attempt anyway. No, I thought, I’d better not apply.
Of course I’m now thinking in an entirely different direction. I’m thinking in the direction of our Indigenous communities with their water and sewage problems (and housing of course), not to mention education.
Well here we have an opportunity to hire a bunch of young Indigenous people, giving them an opportunity to become disciplined soldiers ( or naval or airmen), giving them good paying jobs, free training, free education and a purpose in life on behalf of their communities and themselves beyond their military service.
It sounds pretty fantastic doesn’t it? Imagine our nation being defended by a bunch of native warriors. The only thing is that a warrior in native languages does not necessarily mean the same thing as it does in the English or French languages. Of course it means the same thing, but also many other things to defend against.
We tend to think of native warriors as people like the code speakers or like Tommy Prince in our own country who made tremendous contributions to the military and without whom the wars may well have had a different outcome. But that’s only part of the story. There are wars and warriors to defend against other things in the community such as alcoholism, diabetes, shortcomings in the community etc. These are things that must be defended against, requiring warrior-like dedication. So a group of warriors dedicated to safe water systems and sewage systems could well be imagined.
It really is not all that complicated for the Indigenous communities who, in spite of the white man’s efforts to annihilate them, still retain the basis for the culture. In my mind it is a very wise culture.
So to get back to the point, it occurs to me that all these communities need tending to. And what better way than to enlist in the military, getting a good paycheck, free education in a field of choice and contributing back to the community. There is something very appealing about that whole scenario. But it ain’t quite that easy, especially among us white guys who are only interested in our own view of things. Not only that, but there’s enough corruption among chiefs and counsels to warrant investigations.
I would say it’s a well worth while effort for the Indigenous communities to make in order to bring such a system about. Certainly each community is different, with different issues, but the basis is the same. What is needed is a consensus and commitment by the Indigenous community and pressure brought to bear on the white community. Not a simple task, but it must be done.
They say the Elders have gone silent because they don’t know what to say. But the young people, if they grab hold of the opportunity can move mountains, and so they should.
Imagine our nation being defended by the Indigenous community. Now THAT’S a twist. Worth thinking about.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Evil Admen

The Evil Admen
It’s all about the money. It’s always about the money. It’s all about figuring out ways and means of getting us to offer it up to their clients.  Is it any wonder that these salesmen for people from non-profit organizations to mining companies to shoe stores to sanitary products to toothpaste and foods spend so much time in research and testing of what makes us buy what we buy and contribute what we do.
Well it’s quite an operation to figure out what makes people want something badly enough to fork over the required amount of money. They work on the premise that buyers are liars - with some justification. For example, they might put up a display in a store of – say – shoes, and watch as the ladies walk by. Slowly they stop at the flashy display and then walk on. What the H-E double hockey sticks is that about? Not one bite.
The display is deliberately set up to attract women to buy the product but for some reason it’s not working. So they upped the ante. They put little cameras in the display aimed at people’s eyes. It was amazing what they discovered. The eyes are a window to the heart, so the evil admen milked that to the max to the delight of their clients.
Then there’s the non-profit organizations begging for donations to help feed, clothe and educate the underprivileged around the world. I don’t think they quite have that figured out yet. There are too many inconsistencies in their ads, but the main thrust is a guilt trip heaped upon the recipients of the ads. It’s a sorry story to be sure, but largely misguided and misdirected.
These evil admen are everywhere. They have their tentacles out like giant spider webs in order to not miss any potential opportunity to pick our pockets. For example, the other day I was looking up an organization called Red Bubble which is geared to independent artists selling their work. I think it was within an hour that I suddenly was bombarded with information (ads) about Red Bubble on face book. It hasn’t quite stopped yet. Well it was just an inquiry for cryin’ out loud folks. I guess I can’t really get any information unless I sign up. Well, forget it! I ain’t THAT interested.
The latest thing I noticed was that Credit Karma business. That doesn’t affect an old geyser like me, but I was curious to find what it was all about. It is after all, FREE. Oh yeah, let’s find out, I thought. It turns out that you have to sign up and then give a lot of personal information (in order for them to check your credit). What they do then is to sell that information to various people who can use it to try to sell you something or other. Hm – free huh? NOT!
I suppose it’s all legal, more or less, but it borders on false promises, errors and omissions and a whole lot of fine print designed to make a reader give up and sign in without studying the whole concept first.
Immoral, that’s what it is. And when you feel the wind blowing up your bum because your pants are down around your ankles, it’s often too late to do anything about it. Welcome to the world of the evil admen!
Oh, and another thing that makes my blood boil. Clothing and shoe manufacturers have convinced young people that it’s a status symbol to wear things with a particular brand name sewn on or into the particular piece of apparel, or stamped on a style of shoe. And then they’re charging an arm and a leg for it. If I want a name stamped on my shoe it certainly isn’t Nike. THAT’S NOT MY NAME YOU GUYS! And it isn’t Gucchi either. And the whole idea of Levis is an absolute insult. They’re bloody barn pants (in case anybody’s noticed) for crimeny sakes.
Well, don’t get me started.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

And Another Thing

And Another Thing
Well I seem to be continually harping on the activities of the world’s white population. But let’s face it, there’s a lot to harp about. A little while ago I was on about the extinction of the white race by way of intermarriage. I had alluded to the world as becoming a population of taupe colored people, much to the chagrin of some white people.
But I discovered that white people themselves have found new ways to make themselves brown, at least partly in the parts of their bodies exposed to view. They used to do it by way of stripping down as far as was considered decent and exposing the naked skin to the sun. Of course it was a dangerous and precarious thing to do. If you overdid it the first day, you ended up with ruby red skin that would blister and peel off in a matter of days. Then you’d have to take your time on the next outing, getting just the right amount of sun so you didn’t do further damage. It would take half the summer to get to a decent tan and from there it was a matter of some intense tanning to darken the color. Of course those areas covered by clothing of any sort of clothing seemed to become more white and anemic. By September, you were as dark as you could possibly be. But at least you weren’t white anymore (at least not where anyone could see).
Well, that was then. The German scientist Friedrich Wolff first introduced the ultra violet light to tanning beds in order to provide healthy tans to people year round. What a boon to die hard tanners. Tanning beds were becoming popular by as early as 1908. Over time there was a literal explosion of tanning beds that people would use to avoid the dangerous sun’s rays and affording a year round tanning ability – until it became unsafe.
Well, whatever. The point is that white guys just don’t like the color or non color they are naturally endowed with. What they’re trying to do (whether they know it or not) is to look more like people of color. Those parts that don’t look like that are covered up with clothes. Somewhere there’s a disconnect between the body and the brain in differentiating perception from reality.
Being white isn’t as much about being a certain color but rather being a certain culture (the white culture), no matter what color you are. So interracial sex for want of a better word, is what will turn us all into taupe colored people and before long we won’t be able to claim the superiority of the white man because there’ll be no white man. That’s a reasonable assumption which may or may not have some wrinkles in it while the race is dying out.  But what the heck, the experiment is well worth it. Firstly it involves sex and who ever complained about that? The only other thing that might help is a good universal power outage. That works every time.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Judas and the Sheep

Judas and the Sheep
Metaphors are kind of a mixed bag. While they make a lot of sense to us old geysers who have been there and done that, they make a lot of sense in painting a more accurate picture of what’s happening, to younger people they might be nothing more than confusing. Chances are though that the younger crowd will have picked up something from their upbringing and the picture that is painted will come into focus.
With that in mind, picture a flock of sheep having been herded around by what is called a Judas goat for a whole season. He (the goat) has led them around the pasture, showing them where the best grasses are, defending them against dogs and coyotes, and generally becoming accepted as the boss of the herd. He’s been their guide and protector, and they’d follow him anywhere. So when shipping time arrives, they have no problem following him up the ramp of the big semi trailer and into its van. By the time they all get packed in, they can no longer see him, but they hear his bleating so that’s good enough. All jammed into the giant trailer they take off for their destiny, quite content.
When they get to the abattoir, the goat leads them off the truck into a large enclosure where there’s space, and hay and all sorts of good adventure. Well, they’re shorn to start with. Imagine how good that feels. The sunshine on their now exposed skin and the soft breeze wafting over them. They want to thank the goat, but he’s nowhere to be found. They hadn’t noticed him slipping out a side gate and back into the van to get another load of sheep. I could go on and on as they are slowly funneled into a squeeze gate, zapped and hauled off to the butcher’s table, but I think I make my point.
Take this then to the political landscape. Who then among us is Judas? Who then among us are the sheep blindly following along behind him/her, believing his or her promises until they hit the squeeze gate and the butcher’s table?
The same can be said for the financial industry, and particularly for the advertising industry. They all have or are their own Judases.  And we the sheep, all we do is bleat in thoughtless approval of what our particular Judas tells us.
And when we finally reach that terminal squeeze gate, we realize we should have discussed the matter rather than just bleat our mindless approval.  Back when the Quebec situation was so dicey the CBC managed to produce a program where participants from both sides of the argument were invited to participate in a discussion. They were charged with the responsibility of solving the problem of the social divide between the two solitudes that governments hadn’t been able to do. It was a very high profile program and the two sides of the argument sat down to seriously talk to one another for whatever time it took. I think it was a matter of hours they were given.
I have to mention that the two sides were totally opposed to the others opinions, but were bent on solving the problem. They were not allowed to protest the others position but had to focus on bringing a satisfactory and workable solution amenable to both sides. If I remember correctly, there was a facilitator to help them stay focused.
The participants represented a cross section of trades and professions (other than politicians) and with the help of the facilitators stayed on topic. It was a fairly tense negotiating process, but long before the time for the program to end, the participants had come together on each of the large number of topics, not necessarily compromising but adjusting their point of view on them after careful thought and discussion.
Needless to say there was no Judas in the room. There were just people and facilitators (or as I call them: leaders).  Of course, it must be noted that this particular session had no bearing on political outcome of the problem, but hopefully it was instrumental in shaming the Judases into rethinking their positions.
The example is crystal clear. The Judases of the world are super salesmen motivated to get people to follow their promises in order to get what they want for their own benefit. Facilitators on the other hand are the real leaders causing meaningful dialogue with the general populous to arrive at a meaningful solution to most of the community’s problems. It’s kind of like the method Indigenous communities used at one time to solve their issues. Surprisingly our current Liberal Government has made an attempt to do it this way. They only thing is, they don’t have enough qualified facilitators.
Well, life will go on.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Endangered (Human) Species - The Disappearing White Man

Endangered (Human) Species:  The Disappearing White Man.

Not too long ago I posted a document suggesting that continuing intermarriage would soon wipe out the white race altogether. It was in response to the white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and all the other white racists. Little did I know what would happen in England of all places. But what better way to set an example to the world than that the head of the commonwealth which represents a full third of the world population recognizes that we are no longer one color – (white, that is) or one religion (Anglican, that is) or even one culture.

The only time this ever happened in recent memory between the U. S. and England was in 1936 when I was only a year old. So I don’t really remember it, but a few years later while at school, we would love to paraphrase different traditional songs to amuse ourselves in boyish fashion. For example when we sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, we would add, “Mrs. Simpson Stole Our King”. Then we’d chuckle away, much to Mrs. Shaw’s chagrin. Of course we didn’t know what we were talking about. Some British comic likely made that up and he wasn’t nearly as amused as we were. In fact, the British aristocracy as well as the government found their stiff upper lips starting to quiver at this outrageous affair and the couple eventually ended up in France where they lived out their days. Their concern was obviously lost on us.

Of course that occasion was not a color issue or culture issue, but more or less an issue of shame for the British aristocracy and a bit of a coup for the Americans. But now it seems that an evolution has quietly been taking place over the years, attacking the very heart of the white race until its demise is inevitable.

The (white) Americans were certainly upset with Obama winning the presidential election. They just couldn’t see a “Black” man in the white house. Excuse me. How can you be black if your mother is white? It didn’t matter at all to the entire population of the U.S. He is “Black”! That’s a bad thing for the white people, and an extraordinary victory for the black population, even though they are both wrong. If anything when it comes to color, he should be gray.

Well now, fast forward to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Nobody in America is annoyed at this Coup. Despite the fact that she is mixed race, divorced and a total commoner, she (not Harry) is the American darling. She has taken ownership of a royal prince and opened the door to the royal family, color and culture be damned.

On the other side of the pond, it must be remembered that nothing happens without the approval of the queen. You can bet that she went over every detail and she approved. She seems to be a far sighted woman and has welcomed Meghan into the royal family, getting things done on time and in perfect order. That will set the tone for future mixed race marriages in the Royal family and make that sort of thing more acceptable for the general population of the commonwealth at large.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Open Houses

Open Houses
Now there’s a dangerous game. Back in the day of three piece suits and big Lincoln cars, I came into the office one Monday morning to the news that a young woman had been murdered in an open house she was holding in the Tyndal Park area of the city. I don’t really recall all the details, except that a grey haired man with a grey three piece suit had been seen there around the time of the murder. The woman had been alone in the open house at the time. I don’t remember if they ever caught the killer, but there were a lot of rule changes around open houses at the time.
The awkward thing was that I (with my graying hair) had shown up at the office in my grey pin striped three piece suit that morning. You can bet that was the last time I wore that thing for quite some time. In any event, women were not allowed to hold open houses by themselves any more, and quite a few refused to hold them at all. There haven’t been any murders like that since.
As can be seen, open houses were a risky business, what with tire kickers looking around, people with their own properties for sale making comparisons, people with nothing else to do on a Sunday afternoon all coming out to see what was available.  Not only that, but other agents, hanging on to their buyers would bring them through in order to claim a commission should their customers buy directly. See, in those days things were a bit different. If your buyer happened to walk in on your open house without his/her agent, you (representing the seller) were entitled to the whole commission. You can’t imagine the number of fights that caused or calls from agents claiming that THEIR buyer was in the open house and they would be writing an offer. It got to the point that there was more going on about (possible) commissions than about selling a property.
Of course you couldn’t really blame the (potential) buyers not wanting to make rigid plans to engage an agent to go around and casually look at properties when they weren’t sure of what it was they were looking for. Not a moment too soon, the Real Estate Board instituted buyer agreements = similar to seller agreements to protect the buyers agents. The most difficult part of that was for agents to sign up their buyers, but other than that it freed everyone up from a lot of the politics and infighting. In this day of the internet it’s even more relevant.
In my day, I was never too concerned about being alone in an open house. I always advised my vendors to put away their valuables. Probably they should go for a ride so they didn’t have to answer questions from buyers. They should anticipate what a buyer would look for to be included in their purchase price, and mark it as “Sold” so there wouldn’t be a question about it later.
Of course it would be necessary to organize the furnishings in the house so the place looked as spacious as possible and neat and tidy. I would usually get to the house early enough to turn the oven on to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and place a little container of vanilla in it so that by the time buyers came by, the aroma of fresh baked bread would hit their nostrils in an inviting way. That actually worked very well. Besides, it gave me a pleasant smell that didn’t hint of air fresheners to be in during my time there.
Mind you, if I held an open house where I thought it would be particularly busy, I had the luxury of bringing the Missus along to direct traffic and keep an eye on things while I was giving tours. Being a “dyed in the wool” retail person, she was particularly good at it and certainly saved my bacon a number of times. We actually made a pretty good team.
Regardless, open houses were a necessary part of the business and their popularity among agents was largely dictated by their success in selling that particular home or, the number of buyers one could glean from them. For myself, I would rather have spent my time riding my horses or tending my garden on a Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, that’s now all in the distant past. I’m too busy being retired.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Dim Sum Commissions

Dim Sum Commissions
Chris Hashimoto used to brag about making better Dim Sum than her husband Ben. In fact, they used to have contests in which both of them would get into the kitchen with their flour and oil and frying pans, each claiming to outdo the other. I had chuckled at these two competitors so when an occasion arose for me to sell an Asian restaurant I thought it would be interesting. It was the business only in a leased property.
The wife was the cook and general everything else while the husband watched the till. He actually had his own business of tinting windows like on cars, showroom windows and so on. They were a lovely young couple making their way in the business world. But she was pregnant with her second child and needed some time off, so they wished to sell the business. I have absolutely no idea of how they came to us and that I ended up with the listing, but I imagine that we were the only company close by and, since I was the only one doing commercial real estate, I was it I suppose.
Well it was a lovely restaurant in a newer strip mall but since it was also a newer residential area, it was somewhat struggling. As it turned out, the owners were not inactive either. The fellow (whose name escapes me) found a chap willing to take on the restaurant provided the wife would stay on to teach him her recipes for a period of two months. It was an agreeable situation for the owners, but now they wondered about how to pay me for the listing agreement.
I had a solution to the problem. Let their lawyer draw up the agreement to purchase the business (which got me out of that end of things) and in exchange for any payment, the wife should teach me how to make Dim Sum and we’d call it even. The woman looked at my big white hands and the look on her face indicated some doubt as to the possibility. But she agreed and we made a date to do it.
We chose an early afternoon when the restaurant was quiet and got right down to business. All the ingredients were already laid out and the lady greeted me cheerfully. Was I ready to learn how to make Dim Sum? Absolutely I was so we got into it. Among other things, she’d chopped up some pork, some shrimp, and various vegetables. She had some rice with it and began shoveling them all into circular skins of dough.
“This is the hard part,” she smiled as she deftly folded the ingredients into the skin, closing and sealing it in a fancy series of folds until it was magically formed into a round thing that looked something like a garlic pod. Now it was my turn and it was a little awkward at first making all the fancy folds in the skin, but I imagined myself making perogies like I used to do and it became amazingly simple. I had made a lot of perogies as had my mother before me as had the whole Mennonite community as well as the Ukrainian community at large. Mind you, the filling was different but that was no big deal. My mother had a whole variety of fillings to hers too. They were more like Perishky that she made except for the folds and the shape of the dough. So that’s what these were then was Japanese fancy Perishky. Ha, ha, that was a blast! No wonder Chris was so good at making Dim Sum. She came from a Ukrainian background and she could out maneuver Ben’s culinary skills any day of the week if she put her mind to it.
Giving my hands a little artistic encouragement, I managed to make the required fancy twists and with the cook’s help we managed to get several dozen made. She steamed half of them in traditional Japanese style and we fried the other half. It was a delightful afternoon of cooking and chatting and cleaning the counters and when we were done no one would know that we had been there. But I came away with what was left of the Dim Sum and a warm feeling of friendship.
Of all the commissions I’ve ever received, this one ranked right up there with the best of them.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Alberta Connection

The Alberta Connection
I had family in the real estate business in Alberta a number of years ago. It was a volatile time in Alberta with fluctuating prices; down one day and up the next. It was a little bit like them Chinooks they get down there. One day I got a call from one of them wanting an evaluation on an investment property one of his clients had purchased in Winnipeg. The downturn in Calgary had prompted disposing of this unnecessary investment.
When this fellow had bought the property, it had been a bargain according to his reckoning. Well, you have to understand that for Albertans, Calgary and Edmonton are the centers of the universe and all the world’s wisdom flows from there. Had he done his proper due diligence in the first place, he would have found that Manitobans have a slightly different view of things. Now he had to find out the hard way.
You can bet your boots that I had a ten page summary of pictures, comparable costs and sales to hand over to support my appraisal. It all came in at about a third of the price the client had expected and I wanted to protect myself as well as my brother-in-law without making apologies.
Needless to say there was an awkward silence of some duration at the other end. I had expected that, wondering if I had alienated that whole end of the family. The thing was that I had a verbal offer from the tenant of the property who was already at odds with his landlord. It seemed as though I had walked myself into another mess (again). Would I never learn to leave this commercial stuff alone?
When I finally heard from my brother- in- law again, he expressed total disbelief in the evaluation. How could this be possible? Places in Alberta were going for much higher prices. His client was still trying to reconcile this anomaly and he needed some time to think about it. I told my brother-in-law I could likely prompt an offer close to the price shown and he promised to consider it. Finally he said “Bring it.”
The tenant, having other businesses as well, put in an offer under a numbered holding company. I encouraged him to come close to my appraised price (which was fair) and he agreed. I don’t remember exactly how the whole thing went together, but it did and my client (the tenant) continued on cooking his Indian food.
What I wanted to mention here has nothing to do with real estate, but rather the Alberta mentality which shows up in the oil business these days. The story illustrated here is exactly the same as the basis for the oil business. They discovered they had a valuable resource, started to develop it and then called on the country to allow them to transport it here, there and everywhere. They were totally surprised by the push back to their preconceived plans and couldn’t understand the unfairness of it all. It seems nothing has changed since the days of Peter Lougheed and P. E. Trudeau.
Just think what might have happened in either case if Alberta(ns) would have consulted with stakeholders first before making decisions based on Alberta wisdom. I’ll leave that with you.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Getting Listings

Getting Listings
Let’s face it. In order to sell a property, you must first list it so that you (or anyone else) can sell it. Listings are after all, the core of the business. The question is: how do you get listings?
I’ve got to say there are a million ways to do this, most of which are never used. For starters, most real estate sales people are not really sales people to begin with. They are hard wired for rejection. If someone seems willing to do business with them, they automatically get suspicious. I think the business of direct sales is a foreign concept to most sales people that is difficult to grasp.
I remember once when our company closed our office and moved us to another in a consolidation move, several agents in the office we moved to quit the business altogether, citing a lack of referrals coming into their office and how would they make a living now? These were not sales people. They were sales clerks and didn’t know the difference. That’s the thing. Direct sales are a whole different category. You need an entirely different mindset for that.
I remember the old Xerox course in direct sales that was so simple it was understandable by most everyone. It said (more or less) to paraphrase; find (or establish) a need and present your product to fill that need, answer any objections until the need is met; ask for the order. Well it went something like that.
There was another course called the Spech sales course for real estate. It was also an excellent course in having the (potential) client participate in establishing a price for the property. I used its philosophy quite successfully in my marketing technique. On Dwight Whalley though, it had the opposite effect. He was a friendly, gregarious fellow whose personality invited friendship. Dwight was literally making an excellent living selling real estate with never much of a problem. But once he got into this method, his sales began to slow down to the point he wasn’t making any sales at all. Finally desperate, Dwight went back to his old ways and business picked up for him.
The point of the whole story is that not everything works for everyone. You have to take what matches your personality and go with that. Not even drumming into our heads that in cold calling we needed to call, make the appointment and get off the phone got through our heads (well not all of us anyway). It seems the blockage occurred in identifying oneself as a real estate agent and the perceived tirade of abuse that was sure to follow from the person on the other end of the phone. Well it was a time when lawyers, used car salesmen, and real estate salesmen were all the butt of many jokes. Agents would identify themselves in the strangest of ways to avoid saying “real estate agent”. Some would be “doing a survey”, others would be selling insurance, etc. – anything but looking for real estate business.  Then, if they didn’t get their ears burned off from the other end, they would begin to talk to the potential customer and blow their whole cover.
We had one agent in our office who I think I’ve told you about before who had mastered the art of getting appointments. He was indeed an experienced agent who would go around the office asking people how many appointments/listings they wanted.  Of course, everyone was happy to get a listing or to and would be happy to pay a referral on the sale of a property.
“Listen,” he would say in response to a tirade about real estate agents. “I’m with you sir/madam. I just hate them crooks. I’m an agent myself and I have no end of trouble with them. They drive me nuts!”
First thing you know he’s got the party on the other end agreeing with him. “Tell you what,” he says. “I’ve got some good people I trust working with me. I’ll send Mrs. Palmer over to give you an evaluation of your home. No, no, there’s no cost or obligation. But I’m sure you’d like to know what your home is worth.”
Of course they would. Who wouldn’t like to know what their home is worth? “Is tomorrow evening good for you – say 7:00 p.m. or should we make it 8:00?”
“No, seven is fine”.
“Mrs. Palmer will be there.” He hung up the phone and went on to the next.
The thing was that he wasn’t ashamed to be a real estate agent at all. He was rather proud of it in fact. In the course of the evening he had racked up thirteen appointments, with a referral of ten percent on each sold listing. Not bad for sitting on the phone enjoying yourself for a few hours.
So there you have it. You need to be proud of what you do to do it well. It works.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Liar, Liar,Pants on Fire - Purely a Business Venture

Purely a Business Venture
I don’t really know where to begin this story because it really comes in two parts. No, not two parts but probably four or five. Life cannot ever be simple it seems. It started off with our company hiring a Mrs. Park, a somewhat controversial commercial agent. Not that she was so controversial but rather she marched to her own drummer and had difficulty with Real Estate rules in Canada. I spent a lot of time sorting out her real estate problems during the course of her business. She somehow couldn’t get the hang of doing business in Canada, more or less following her Korean ideas.
Her husband was an entrepreneur, buying and selling things between Korea and here and he seemed like a personable fellow. We first got involved in a meat plant I had for sale in Killarney. It didn’t work out in this case because the plant was only provincially licensed and in order to export one needed a federal approval.
Well we got to talking on the way back and I discovered that Peter had apparently escaped from North Korea and had come to Canada. While here he had written a book on martial arts of some sorts. He had opened a grocery store which had been highly successful and had become an elder in the Korean United Church. He had also been an elder and advisor in the Korean community. Something happened to his business and he had to sell the store, causing a diminishing “respect” in the community for him, but somehow he prevailed and exercised a still formidable respect in his community.
All of this is a pretext to the story I want to tell. I had been working with an Indigenous group of artists in connection with a non-profit organization I had founded.  One day I get a phone call from a fellow who said so and so had recommended he speak to me about an animated video project he was trying to get published. He needed me to find him some funding and/or some means of getting it done. Could I please meet with him? Well of course I could! This would be another adventure.
We had to meet at his place since he had everything laid out there. I got to the door at a nice little place in Fort Garry and it was all surprises from here on in. Firstly, a six foot six bodybuilder filled the door frame as he welcomed me in a soft spoken voice as his big hand closed over mine.
Up in the loft of his house there were drawings and notes of all sorts spread out over a variety of tables set up between weight lifting equipment. His day job, or rather night job as it turned out was being a bouncer at a local bar, which then turned a light on in my head. His friend who had referred him to me was also a bouncer (and an artist). I couldn’t figure out how that squared up but paid it no particular mind.
Basically what my new friend had was a whole raft of beautiful and articulate drawings that followed a story line, but he hadn’t got beyond the concept of what he wanted to achieve. There was another thing he wanted to achieve (which didn’t make any sense to me on the surface of things). He wanted the proceeds (or a portion thereof) to go to rescuing the endangered white rhinoceros. That didn’t make any sense to me either until I discovered that the L.A. zoo was working to do just that. Also, Lou Ferigno was in the area and would do a video on the animal. The light went on. My client wanted to meet Ferigno. Well alright then, who was I to argue?
When I told all this to my Korean entrepreneur friend, his eyes just lit up. He could accommodate this. He knew people in Korea who did this sort of thing. He would make a few phone calls and get back to me. I in the meantime got to work to complete a formal business plan including naming all the stakeholders and payment schedule for each.
There are many side stories I could tell about this adventure but the whole thing would become too cumbersome, so I’ll just summarize as best I can. To start with, I completed my business plan for my friend with what information I had and left it with him. Funding was scraped together by my Korean investor for the trip to L.A, and for a trip to Korea to meet the animators which was apparently necessary according to custom. Five days in Korea got the business started and the animators were then to come to Winnipeg to present their story board to my client.
The first thing I know (just before the arrival of the Korean delegation) my investor is driving a brand new Cadillac. Well, he reasoned, you can’t drive around in just any crummy car so he dipped into the budget for that. Another five days went by and I heard from my animator client that he had been approached by my Korean friend to have me removed from the equation. What did he need me for anyway? By eliminating me from the profit picture, he would save a lot of money.
Things went quickly south from there. Apparently the Korean company had been cleaned out (by my investor friend) and they had to go home with their tails between their legs and declare bankruptcy. He in the meantime saw his chances of being a big time movie director slipping away. So he decided to have it out with me and came to my office.
Well, we sat down and began discussing the whole affair. It didn’t go particularly well. Did I get paid for any of my services, he wanted to know. Yes of course I did. That seemed to inflame him. Didn’t I know he had come from North Korea? He had killed a lot of people before and it wouldn’t bother him to put me away too. When I didn’t react to his threat, he decided he had other things to do and left my office.
I don’t think I ever spoke to him after that, but came to a satisfactory conclusion with my animator friend. In fact, he sent me the most hilarious copy of the tape with Lou Ferigno trying to get that stupid rhino to co-operate while he was speaking. That in itself was reward enough.
I didn’t much stay in touch with the animator/bouncer after that. His father had recently died and left the family in somewhat of an uproar. I did speak to his mother though a few times on advice about their real estate, but slowly that all petered out and I went on with my business.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Broker

The Broker
Sometimes I think the job of being the broker in a real estate organization is directly proportionate in size and importance to the number of agents in his office when it comes to solving problems. An agent, for example will have a question, any sort of question or problem, he comes to the broker for advice. The broker of course has to know all the answers, based on the rules of the game, and advises accordingly. It’s pretty impressive; almost like a tribal chief.
But that only holds good in a very small brokerage. As the company grows and takes on more agents, a surprising phenomenon arises. Of course you have agents who are new to the business and then you have others who have been around for a while and joined our company for their own reasons.
Normally my advice was not overly encouraging, but it was fact based according to the rules set out by the board and/or the securities commission. I didn’t often get into moral issues since that was another subject entirely and I generally kept my own counsel.
It wasn’t long before I began to notice complaints crossing my desk over things happening against the advice I had given. What the . . . . ? Was I losing my mind or were the agents just not listening? It turns out they were listening alright, but just not to me. What they would do is go around the office describing their particular situation to various other agents, all of whom had different opinions, and then pick the one they liked best, and act on that one. That usually ended them up in the kind of difficulty I had predicted in the first place. Well, it did provide work for a broker to iron out all the wrinkles in a crumpled agent’s life.
As our company grew, so did the number of agents who were disgruntled with the owner of the company. Well, he was getting on a bit and they wanted to take the company in a new direction, so negotiations got under way and seven of them bought him out. Can you imagine seven owners of the sort I just described owning a company? It was sheer pandemonium.
I wasn’t part of the partnership, not that it wasn’t offered, but seeing that I was the broker and I was needed, that was good enough for me. I wasn’t going anywhere anyway so we were all more or less well satisfied. The first thing the new company did was take on the Sutton Group franchise which was probably the best thing that ever happened. No, that’s not true. The best thing they ever did was to hire Roberta as office manager. She came to us in an opportunity resulting from mismanagement of a local Remax office. Well, their loss, our gain.
The partners meetings were loud and boisterous. There wasn’t a wall flower in the bunch. But with all the diverging opinions, it wasn’t long before the partners fell off one by one. It wasn’t so much the different opinions as it was the expense of the company. It wasn’t long before there were only two partners left. Nobody left the company but five of the partners just didn’t have the wherewithal to foot the bill. We were growing into a family of sorts.
One of the partners decided that he should become a broker so that we could open a second office as per his agreement with the franchisor. These were rather uncertain and tough times for the company, what with meeting the daily bills, looking for a new office, recruiting new agents and so on.
I was involved in very little of this except as an outside observer, just doing my job as a broker and taking in all the machinations of the company. I’m going to tell you that once Roberta got her hand on the tiller, it wasn’t long before the company started moving forward. Of course there were discussions, disagreements, insults and threats, but she prevailed and slowly it all came together. I have to say I understood all these things and Roberta’s approach to them. I have two daughters who have exactly the same personality, whom I admire tremendously too, but I wouldn’t want to be caught in their crosshairs.
Finally we got another office at the opposite end of town which I was the broker at while Blaine presided over the original office. They sent me about fifteen agents and a sweetheart of an administrator with a part time assistant. It was quite a set up. Every once in a while Blaine would drop in to see how things were going and we’d have a good chin wag.
One day he showed up at our office and was talking to the girls when the assistant administrator complained to him about my wanting things done. She wanted him to speak to me about this attitude of mine. In other words, who did I think I was being so demanding?
Well Blaine, in his inimitable laid back style only chuckled, saying that she must realize that I was the boss (broker) here and could easily fire her if her work wasn’t up to snuff. Apparently her eyes widened somewhat and she busied herself doing what I had asked in the first place. Nothing more was said. I only mention that last bit as a point of amusement in the many adventures we had together, especially at the North Kildonan office.
I still go in once a year to look in on my real estate family, pretending to be on inspection. Judging by the hugs I get, I think I am well remembered and am still part of the family. I guess I had a good time working there.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Board Hearings

Board Hearings
I guess it’s time for a little change of pace. The Real Estate Board arguably has some purpose in the life of a real estate agent. Aside from its staff, it has a number of various committees dealing with all sorts of issues that come up in the course of daily business, so it is a source of constant activity usually involving any number of board members and committees.
One such committee is the disciplinary committee dealing with complaints against a particular agent or company. Well I was never on any such committee, but was often called as the broker of my company to defend my agent(s) on complaints made against them by either other companies, agents, buyers or sellers.  And of course there was always the reverse where one of our agents or the company was complaining about someone or something else. Regardless, it always fell on me as the company broker to represent our interests at the board.
The complaints panel was comprised of a board member of course, a member of the public, a church cleric and I don’t remember who all else. Each represented a segment of public interest (whatever that was). There was some structure to the proceedings in that the complaint was first read out and then each of the parties to it was asked to make their case for or opposed to the complaint. When it was done, you either went for coffee or back to the office, none the wiser for what the panel was about to announce. Sometimes it went well for my agent and me, and other times not so much.
 Generally, I would speak for the agent in question while he or she sat quietly nodding or shaking her/his head at my arguments, occasionally throwing in his/her two cents worth. At times the discussion could become heated, calling for a separation and perhaps coffee break, and then we’d go at it again until we got through all the issues. After that the committee would deliberate and render a verdict that had no appeal to it. One got the message and lived with it. Period.
It didn’t of course always go as planned though. One particular case I remember involved a complaint against one of our agents who was reported to have taken somebody else’s buyer at an open house. Well, I didn’t get a word in edgewise. My agent put on her warrior cloak and lit into the other company with a ferocity that put the whole committee into shock. I have to say that she had come much more prepared than I had. I had to take into account that she had come to Canada from a war torn country which maybe colored her attitude somewhat, leaving us trying to catch our breath. Ultimately though, her lack of civility caused her more problems than the business was worth and she ultimately left the business.
One of the most amazing pieces of business at the complaints committee hearings happened one morning when we were all a little early for the appointed meeting. Over a cup of coffee we got to discussing the complaint made by the opposing broker. It turned out to be a total misunderstanding on his part. Well, he decided to fix it at the meeting.
By the time everyone got settled in and read the complaint out, the broker piped up and simply stated what had transpired at coffee and that he was withdrawing the complaint. I must say that I’d never seen the committee so befuddled before. Thinking back now, it was kind of funny just to see the look on their faces, having nothing to make a judgment over. The upshot was that the broker’s company was fined five hundred dollars for having wasted the committee’s time in coming together to do nothing and we had no penalty.
There are many other stories I could tell about this part of the business (if I could remember them) but suffice it to say that it was all a toss of the dice to go into one of those meetings and ponder the outcome. I could easily have done all my homework, checked my facts and go in fully confident of the outcome, only to have it completely reversed by the committee. I was more than pleased for our company to grow to the point where we had a second broker so I wouldn’t have to go anymore.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Winnipeg Drought

The Winnipeg Drought
It was quite a number of years ago that Winnipeg experienced a time of drought and a basic lowering of the water table. I remember it well because there were several calls regarding it. I don’t really know now whether it was confined to the south end of the city or was generally all around. But it happened about a year after I had sold that place in Wildwood Park. The whole business stands out in my mind in that there was an apparent first time problem with that place.
These homes were built by C. T. Lount in a radical manner in that they were slab on grade with a network of copper piping in the slab to heat the floor. What that did was to eliminate the furnace while keeping the whole house warm in winter. It was especially comfortable on the feet in January. This was a radical departure from the usual method of construction and was quite a remarkable marketing coup for Lount at the time.
The problem that came up was that the floor was experiencing some serious cracks to the extent that the copper pipe in it was also cracking and causing a serious amount of distress. While I somehow heard about this problem, I had no ambition to get involved in it. I had my hands full with other things and didn’t need that added to them.
At about the same time I had another call about a house in Riverview where the earth had shrunk away from the foundation and there was (now) water coming into the basement. (Of course it wouldn’t rain unless preconditions existed to do the most damage). Well, now it rained.
Doing some research on the property, I found that it had been built by Hiro Hashimoto. Hiro was one of those builders who, if he built something, it stayed built. Well this was a situation that even he could not get under his command. If you build something on a virtual swamp and then somebody drains it, well there was nothing to be done about it. So I blew that one away too.
I must say that this had nothing in particular to do with my real estate business, except that it was one of the peripheral consequences one had to deal with. And it was one of the things that had happened to one of the houses I had listed and sold. I tell it here merely to point out that there is more to real estate than real estate alone.
I suppose I could do a whole section on what happens to houses in this eternal bog called Winnipeg like the periodical disappearance of the third sub-basement of the Hudson’s Bay Store and so on, but suffice it to say that like the people of the Florida Coast, we don’t know any better either. It’s strange how the people along the Mekong Delta know how to protect their entire villages from flood and we, here in the developed world can’t figure that out.