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Musings about Professionalism, plus today’s 365 Creative

January 5, 2012

A couple of days ago I was offered the opportunity to ponder what it truly means to be professional.

This golden opportunity came to me in the most inspiring way: a snarky, rude email.

That Brokedown Palace I wrote about last year is surprisingly under contract for potential short sale. We were contacted by a realtor last spring who fished around for the status of the house (I’m not sure what tipped her off, exactly, but the house is obviously vacant) and when we told her we were in default she offered to try short selling it for us.

We agreed, after explicitly stating that we would be willing to do so only if we didn’t come out of pocket one dime. Not even one penny. The sale was her baby, and hers alone. We’re so over it and done, and not at all interested in preserving our credit rating.

She agreed. We signed papers. Then, a few months later, someone made an offer. To get the contract ready, we had to send in paperwork. A hardship letter, bank statements, taxes, blabbedy blah. Chris prepped it all, we signed stuff, he emailed everything they asked him for…

And then, over the holiday break, while we were spending time with family in Arizona, we got an email from the realtor’s paperwork coordinator saying that she still needed the taxes, that Chris never sent them despite promising to do so a month ago, and that in addition she would also need current pay stubs and bank statements since the taxes were coming in so late.

Chris wasn’t amused. The tone of the email was ever so subtly accusatory. I emailed her back to clarify, mused that maybe it landed in Spam, then promised we’d take a look when we got home the following week. She replied that she had nothing from us, even forwarding the email from Chris saying he’d get them to her on the 22nd of November.

When we got home, Chris sat down and found the email he sent on, you guessed it, the 22nd of November. He sent it to the realtor’s assistant again, along with everything else she asked for (which took an hour or so of work to compile).

He wasn’t happy about the extra work, but he was polite and professional in his email.

The following day, we received this reply:

Thanks Chris.  I see that you sent it back on the 22nd of November, but it was sent to my personal email address and I don’t normally access that from work.  There are times when I respond to email from my cell phone and the phone is tied to my personal email.  But, please make sure that you are using my work email in the future.

I was fairly dumbfounded, and got to thinking about this in terms of my own business.

Would I ever tell a client of mine that they should make sure they use a particular email address for me if I am the one who threw more than one into the mix?

No. If I don’t want someone using one of my e-dresses, I don’t ever use it to write to them. Simple.

Further, would I infer that my client is the irresponsible party in a case such as this?

No. NO.

Hell no.

I’d do the gracious thing, smack myself in the forehead with my palm and apologize. Period.

My question, following this, is simple: is true professionalism a dying art? Do people really just not care anymore?

I see evidence of this everywhere, from lousy service in restaurants to ridiculously unprofessional emails like the one above. Are we just becoming a nation of total uncaring slackers?

Tomorrow I plan to compile a list of important things to do as a professional, written from the POV of a freelancer (me!). I have learned a lot over the years. I’ve screwed things up. I pissed off a client once (I think just once, but if I come up with any others I’ll include those too) and also…worked very very hard to make a lot of people very very happy. I take great pride in my work. I am a perfectionist to a great extent and I will not hesitate to go the extra little bit, always being pleasant and courteous no matter what.

And in case you’re wondering how I replied to the realtor’s assistant, well….I’ll tell you. Here’s what I wrote in response. (This is the third draft, by the way…I do understand the desire to be, shall we say, snarky!)

I realize that it’s hard to juggle a lot of pieces–as a freelancer and mom of 4 I really do understand! However, if you reply to anything with a personal email address then you should expect that address to get into the mix. Ultimately, the onus is on you to insure that your communiques are properly organized. I am dismayed that you already had these documents whether at home or at work and yet you still asserted that they were never sent. I would never dream of doing business of that nature with my own clients.
I speak both for myself and Chris when I say that if you do not have everything you need at this point and/or if this deal doesn’t go through, please remove the house from the MLS and let it go.
Thank you,

And now, for today’s 365 creative…look who I saw today!

Now here’s something funny. Two years ago today–the 5th day of my Year of Birds and Clouds project–I shot these two pics:

History repeats itself, evidently!




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