Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
July 21, 1976
Sean McCray sat at the table next to Tim. He was still feeling a little stung by the dressing down he had gotten from Benny and tended to keep his distance from him. Yet, he had to admit that the kids had delivered more than what they had contracted to pay him and his sister. After paying the commission to the real estate company, he was personally getting $6,911 out of the sale. This was more than he had expected after learning about the real condition of the house.
The closing was scheduled for 10:00 and it was still ten minutes before the hour. The buyers, a young couple, sat at the table anxiously waiting for the lawyers to arrive. This was their first house, and putting up the money for the down payment and fees had wiped out nearly every dime they had. They were a little confused by the mass of people on the other side of the table. There were two elderly couples and two couples who were definitely younger than they were. The younger people looked like teenagers.
When the lawyers finally arrived, the closing started. There was a bewildering stack of papers to sign for the young couple purchasing the house. They had to deal with a mortgage and all of the paperwork that encompassed. The closing took 45 minutes. The young couple left short of cash, but with a set of keys to a house in their hands.
Sean McCray and his sister were each given a check for $6,911. After seeing the condition of the house after they had finished remodeling it, he was convinced that the kids were responsible for more than half the price that they had received for it. He was convinced that he would have been lucky to sell the house for $5,000. The original $18,000 he had demanded was a pipe dream and was the reason the house sat there for so long without an offer.
After clearing his throat, Sean said, “I have to say this, you kids delivered more than you promised. I’m really impressed with what you did to our old home. I think my parents would have been shocked to see it fixed up like that.”
“Thank you,” Tim said.
“We had better get back to the house and let you kids get on with your business. I wish you a lot of luck, although I think you’re the kind of folks who make their own luck.”
Sean stood and shook everyone’s hand before he and his wife left. His sister stayed behind. She said, “I did have my doubts when I first met you. You quickly erased those doubts, and I’m happy that my faith in you was not misplaced.”
“Besides, I owe you for straightening out my brother. We actually sat down and talked about my days out in California.”
“I’m glad,” Cathy said. “You should tell your story to more people. You did something special out there and a lot of women need a role model.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Benny said, “You really should tell your story. Cathy is right. A lot of young women need to understand what you achieved.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“I’ll seriously consider it. Well, I’ll, let you get back to work. Thanks a lot.”
Once they were gone, Tim, Benny, Cathy and Sandra remained behind. They had another closing at 11:00. The representative from the bank was running late and it would probably be 11:15 before he would show.
Cynthia said, “Two closings in day for me. That’s a personal record.”
“Particularly considering the kinds of properties that jerk you work for has given you,” Cathy said.
Cathy was still offended by the guy who had tried to steal this sale away from Cynthia. Although she understood why it was done, she was irritated that Cynthia had to split the commission with the real estate company. Her payday was $855.00 for the lead house. It would be a mere $420 for the shit house. For the day, she would bring in $1275 which was a good payday. She was lucky that the real estate company was listed as the seller agency for both properties. If not, her commission would have been half of that.
Cynthia was more than ready to strike out on her own. Her boss was a sexist jerk. When someone would make an initial appointment to meet with an agent of the agency, he would check a little of background of the couple and route the sale to the agent he felt was in line for the sale. He did have his favorites. His opinion was that men always needed the sale since they had families to support. She was just a woman and her needs were frivolous. She could get by without buying another frilly dress. As a result, she always got the least likely prospects. Of course, that was why she had ended up with Two Guys Working as her customer. Her boss had misjudged them. Her commission on that sale had been $270. That was ball park for most of her commissions.
Cynthia was doing well to make as much as Cathy. She was given empty lots, lots with condemned buildings on them, and repossessed properties. She was only given those properties when a customer specified an interest in that kind of property up front. This was her first sale of a property that was over $20,000. The only reason she had been allowed to make the sale was that Two Guys Working told her boss that she was going to be their agent and they wouldn’t accept anyone else. She really owed Tim and Benny big time for that.
The representative from the bank finally showed up. The closing took half the time of the previous one. There was no mortgage. It was a simple exchange of money for property. The bank walked away happy at having sold a property that had been on the books too long. It had been particularly embarrassing to the bank to discover that the property had been used as a marijuana farm. The arrests of a low ranking detective and a patrolman from the local police force had created a lot of publicity.
Cathy distributed checks to herself and to Sandra for $348.75 which was the remainder of their share of the sale after investing the majority of it in the shit house. The two girls flew out of there to stop by the bank, deposit their checks, and head over to the car dealership. They were buying cars.
Tim, Benny, and Cynthia were left in the conference room of the real estate office talking about the details of the sale. Her boss stepped in the office acting like a proud peacock. He congratulated them on their sale and their purchase. He more or less ignored Cynthia.
“I’ve got to admit that the ‘little lady’ came through for us. It was nice seeing her handle such a big sale all by herself.”
Tim could see Cynthia getting angry. Then he glanced over at Benny. His friend was furious.
As a general rule, Benny didn’t notice the people around him. He had a hard time remembering names because the people attached to them made little to no impact on him. He honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you if the clerk at the convenience store today was the same person who was there yesterday. He just didn’t see them beyond a human like figure. It took someone with a very strong personality or someone who had done something nice for him to be remembered.
This kind of obliviousness to the people around him was typically a bad thing as far as most people were concerned. People liked to be noticed. There was one thing very positive thing that could be said of him: he had absolutely no prejudice based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. He was blind to those kinds of things.
In a cold hard voice, Benny said, “You are a complete and total asshole.”
“What makes you think you can talk to me like that, you damned little punk?”
“Tim, explain it to him.”
“I am going to speak as a businessman for a moment. A sale is a sale. Small or large, the sale is a sale. With each sale Cathy has made, she has brought money into your company. We’ve made the majority of our money with $3.00 and $4.00 sales. We’ve made a lot of those sales. As a result, we’ve made a lot of money. The fact that you don’t appreciate some of the sales your people make demonstrates your lack of business acumen.
“I’m going to speak as a customer for a moment. We bought an office, a half interest in a house, we sold a house, and we bought another house through your firm. Each time, Cynthia has handled the sale. As customers we are not happy to see the person we’ve worked with belittled. This is not the first time you’ve undermined her in our presence. Frankly, that leaves a foul taste in our mouths.
“I am going to speak as a human being for a moment. What you said about the ‘little lady’ was rude. She’s not a ‘little lady.’ She’s an employee. She works for you. You belittled her in a public setting. You cast doubt on her abilities. Those are the actions of despicable person.
“That’s what makes Benny think he can say that to you. He’s just being truthful. You are a complete and total asshole.”
The comment about how much business they had done with his firm penetrated his anger enough to stay his reply. Instead, he turned around and stormed out of the office. He slammed the door behind him.
“When do you get your license?”
“The application is in. I’m just waiting for the official reply.”
“How long do you think it will be?”
“A couple of days. It’s probably already in the mail.”
“Do you have any more closings scheduled?”
“We have an office for you,” Tim said.
“I’ll take it. Let me get my stuff and last paycheck. I’ll leave with you.”
They were waiting in the conference room for a little less than a minute when they heard yelling from the office area. They left the conference room. Cynthia’s boss was screaming at her. He was even threatening to not pay her.
Once again, Tim wished he had a cell phone. A video recording of this would be extremely valuable. It would also be nice to call a lawyer and let him listen in on this. In the later days, his actions would make a wonderful sexual harassment and hostile workplace lawsuit. She’d own the place by the time she got through with him. Unfortunately, this was 1976. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 1972, but it was never ratified. That it wasn’t ratified reflected the sad state of affairs in the world of that day.
Benny shouted, “Enough. Shut up and pay her.”
When her boss turned to glare at Benny, one of the other women who worked in the office went over to Cynthia and handed her a check. They exchanged looks that spoke of shared misery working for the owner of the agency. Cynthia took her check and picked up a box. She quickly threw her stuff into the box. She marched out of the office with Tim and Benny following her.
Outside, Tim said, “It’s lunch time. Let’s stop and get something to eat. Then we’ll take you to your new office.”
“Thanks. Where would you like to eat?”
“Where’s a good place to eat around here?”
“There’s a barbecue place up the street that’s pretty good.”
“You wouldn’t prefer a seafood place or something?”
“You don’t like barbecue?”
“We like barbecue. I just figured you might prefer something else.”
“Actually, they’ve got a really good brisket sandwich.”
“Okay. That sounds good to me.”
“Fine with me. I love barbecued brisket.”
“How about I meet you there in abut fifteen minutes? I’d like to drop this check off at the bank.”
“Sure,” Tim said.
After she left, Benny asked, “Couldn’t she wait until after lunch to deposit her check?’
“She’s going off to have a cry.”
“Let’s head over to the barbecue place. We can read the menu and see what we want.”
Rather than going in right away upon arriving at the restaurant, they sat in the truck to wait for Cynthia. It was actually a good chance for them to discuss their next options.
Tim asked, “So what’s next?”
“We need to get Cynthia settled into her office. We need to call the dumpster service and get started on demolishing the interior of the shit house.”
“Don’t forget that we need to act excited when the girls come back with their cars.”
“You deal with the people. Maybe I should just go somewhere.”
“Benny, you’ve been doing fine lately. Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m going to visit Carol before we go to clean the offices.”
When Cynthia arrived, they got out and met her at the entrance to the restaurant. Her eyes were red and puffy, but neither man commented on it. Tim understood and Benny didn’t even notice. She seemed to have it together.
After lunch, they went to the office. The room which had been Cathy and Sandra’s bedroom had been turned into an office complete with desk.
Tim said, “For now, you can use Sandra to answer the phones. Cathy can do your books if you’d like her help. What you pay them is between you and them.”
“That would be fine.”
Cynthia looked around the office realizing that it was now her place of business. She was the boss and her earnings were up to her. She ran a hand over the desk and said, “I didn’t expect to find that you had furnished it.”
“It was easy enough. Cathy found the desk at a garage sale.”
“Thanks. You’ve done a lot for me.”
Benny said, “I’ve been doing some thinking about your situation.”
Tim perked up. This was news to him and he wondered just what Benny could come up with. He had a feeling that her previous employer was going to regret this day.
“You need to visit the hardware stores. They know the names of people flipping houses like us. Contact the people flipping houses and give them your card. Let them know that you understand their needs - low upfront costs, simple repairs, and high resale value. Get their contact information so that when you find a house that fits their specific needs, you can call them. You could get them on the purchase and the sale.”
“That’s a great idea,” Cynthia said wide eyed.
“So long as you’re the listing agent, you’ll make money on the sale. Also check the folks picking up houses at the tax auctions. You won’t make any money when they buy it, but you know they are buying them for resale. Let them know that you’re interested in handling their sale.”
Cynthia said, “You’ve given this a lot of thought, haven’t you?”
“Not really,” Benny said.
“Do you have any other suggestions?”
“Don’t waste your time with mass mailings, bill boards, and all of that. You’ll be one little guppy in a big sea. What can you do to really stand out? Nothing. The only exception is yellow pages. Get a good ad and state that you handle low end properties, commercial real estate, and relocation.
“Call up the large companies in town that often hire people from out of town. They’ve got a major relocation problem. Let them know that you can help. You know the kind of positions, along with the likely pay, and the locations of company offices. You can go through the listings to pull out properties that would be of interest to their new employees, and forward it to them. Let them know that you’re willing to work with them.
“If the company buys employee houses as part of their relocation package, let the company know that you’ll handle their listings at a reduced commission. Explain the advantages of being more flexible about prices, and that they’ll get 1% more of the final sale price. They’ll get an extra 2% if you sell the listing as well. You could easily pick up an extra five to ten houses a year.”
She had worked in that real estate office for several years and not once had any of the people done anything like he suggested. They did mass mailings, business cards on bulletin boards, newspaper ads, and billboards. They cast a huge net hoping to get a decent catch. Benny was suggesting that she target specific high volume customers. She could see where his approach would work.