The Invisible Customer

One of my pet peeves is poor customer service.  And I wasn’t disappointed during my last trip.

modern apartment buildingRecently, while I was apartment hunting in the town of Dunwoody (Atlanta), GA, the leasing consultants made a big mistake.  They lost about $12,000 for this mistake.

All because they ignored me.

Here’s the background: This past February, I emailed this particular apartment complex to get information, and they responded quickly with a personal message, which I took as a good sign, as well as a coupon to waive the application fee as an internet customer. I let them know that I would be coming in from out of state in April to look at a specific apartment of interest. Then a few days before my trip, I reminded them, since it had been so long since our last contact.

When I first arrived at the leasing office, there were about 8 of 10 parking spaces available, so it wasn’t busy.  I opened the door and there were two desks facing me with leasing consultants. There was also an office to the left with a door. The woman in that office saw me standing there, (I’ll call her Jackie) pleasantly asked what I needed, and told me that someone would be right with me.

The woman I had been conversing with—I’ll call her Lisa—was on the phone. I could overhear her making an appointment for a massage. It wasn’t long before I got to see why she needed one.

When Lisa got off the phone, she asked me how she could help, and I re-introduced myself to her. She had no real reaction and told me to have a seat. I told her which apartment style I wanted, then remembered that I left my driver’s license in the car. Since you’re not allowed to tour apartments without giving your ID to the leasing consultant, I told Lisa I’d be right back.

I was not parked far—I was close to the door. But when I came back, the person (a resident) who was waiting by the door when I walked out was now seated at Lisa’s desk, talking with her.  Lisa then got up, went into Jackie’s office for a few moments, and came out with a bunch of paperwork. Lisa did not look at me or acknowledge me, even though a moment ago, we were going to tour an apartment.

ticket dispenserWas I missing something? Are we playing “move your feet, lose your seat” here?

Other residents were going back and forth through the door too—and the other leasing consultant whose desk was next to Lisa’s—I’ll call her Sydney—was handling her business, too. But most of the people asked for Lisa.

So finally, when Sydney got free,  she asked me if I wanted to see an apartment. I said yes. She grabbed her keys and said, “Do you have a car?” And then she told me to follow her car. Everyone else at apartments I visited used a golf cart to take me around, but I just went ahead and followed her.

Sydney showed me two apartments that were way-deep-down-a-hill-far-away-I-was-like-where-are-we-going?!-far, but she never asked for my ID, even though I had it now. I lost “my place” to get the mandatory ID, remember?

When we returned from the tour about 10 minutes later, there was one parking space available. And you know what? Sydney took the spot.

I parked on the side in a strategic way so as not to be in anyone’s way when they left.

I don’t know what was going on that morning, but apparently, Lisa and Jackie were swamped. And what did Sydney do? She started talking to another resident on the sidewalk as soon as she got out of her car and they quickly walked inside together.

Woo-hoo!! Over here! Remember me—the person you just showed two apartments to? The one who flew in from Virginia to find a place to live? Do you want to close this sale?

I guess not.

So I left—and took their $12,000 of potential rent money with me.

Epilogue: I found my new apartment during the trip, and I’m moving in next month.

Amy Alkon, author of I See Rude People, has handled inconsiderate people in hilarious ways. How do you deal with rude people? Would you have handled my situation differently?

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6 thoughts on “The Invisible Customer

  1. Here’s the sad part – they didn’t lose any money that day, they only lost YOUR money. They obviously had people falling over themselves to take apartments, and there didn’t have to be overly courteous. They weren’t salesmen that day, they were order takers.

    Also, since you didn’t TELL them you were leaving, and why, they literally don’t remember you.

    Walking out didn’t make an impression on them when you were just getting your ID; she didn’t even remember you when you came back. Do you honestly think they were going through their day and trying to remember who did the paperwork with that nice lady?

    You walked away, head held high but tail between your legs. When something like that happens, if you don’t make an abject point of bringing it to their attention before you leave, they will not remember, or even notice it happened.

    Before you walked out with your deposit check in hand, you should have waited to talk to someone, explain in exacting detail what you just went through, and THEN left. At least then you’ll have known they were aware of their blunder. You just got out of their way, which considering the busyness of their day, they were probably thankful for.

    1. Vinnie– you’re right. Sometimes I do confront and complain, but after all the frustration that morning (they were the first place I saw), I kept it moving to another apt complex. But agree with you 100%.

  2. Thanks so much for the recommendation of my book. I’m writing my next book on topics like the one you mention in this blog post, so it’s really helpful to see it. Because we’re around strangers all the time, we need recognize the need to treat strangers with care and respect — ie, like neighbors. This blog item you wrote illustrates exactly how NOT to do business.

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