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Holiday Open Houses – Dumb and Dumbest



funny witch on broom
The holidays are approaching, so I thought I would share my favorite holiday blooper tales so that some of you could avoid the pitfalls of theme oriented open houses.  Those who pay heed may avoid disaster. The rest of you are on your own.

Ditch the Witch

One clever agent decided to increase traffic for her Brokers Open by planning a Halloween fun house. She advertised in the MLS Open House Guide that there would be a few “Halloween surprises.” It never occurred to her that SOME agents just follow the MLS open house lists and do not read the Open House Guide. (Cue the music from Nightmare on Elm Street, maestro.)

On the day of the open house one broker entered, delighted to see the Halloween décor. As she began her tour of the house, she opened the door in the foyer. Suddenly there was a piercing cackle, and a witch dropped down on a broomstick. The agent screamed and nearly fainted from shock. Fortunately there was no pacemaker involved, but the hapless agent unexpectedly emptied her bladder and had to go home – wet, humiliated, and p_ssed. (How redundant!) Moral of the Story: It’s great to come out of the closet, but make sure your audience is prepared…or wearing Depends.

What Day Is It Anyway?

Full of holiday spirit, one agent decided to do a Christmas open house in mid December. The day before, she baked,  decorated, and set up for the open house in the seller’s dining room. While adding the finishing touches, it dawned on her that a large target group in her area hailed from Israel. At the last minute she decided to do a Hanukkah theme and hurried home to send out email fliers announcing a Hanukkah Brokers Open. She ran out to purchase Star of David cookies and other non-Christmas baked goods so she would be politically correct and oh-so-hip.  (Cue the music from Fiddler on the Roof, boys.)

The next day, the open house had steady traffic, but the reaction of many agents seemed unusually reserved.  In fact, a few seemed downright curt. Finally one person from her office spoke up and said, “The cookies are delicious, Barb, but if I were you, I’d lose that centerpiece. The hostess glanced at the table and her jaw dropped in horror. There, proudly displayed, remained her original centerpiece: a lovely crèche, complete with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.

Moral of the Story: Mixing holiday themes is like mixing your colors and whites when doing laundry – the result could involve serious bleeding.

Come One, Come All

My friend told me about an agent in Lake Arrowhead who makes gorgeous holiday wreaths. Apparently there is no end to her cleverness. She decorates like a pro, and every open house she does is worthy of a spread in Better Homes and Gardens. She even sells her handmade crafts, so open houses are a great venue for advertising her side business.

One year she had a holiday open house that was lavish in its décor. One highlight was the handmade wreath on the door. It was a prize-worthy beauty adorned with velvet ribbon, silver balls, and copious amounts of dried fruits. Perhaps this agent had been dipping into the eggnog. Perhaps this agent had been knocking back some Mothers Little Helpers. Whatever excuse she had, there was no explanation for her colossal lack of judgment. (Cue the music from Jaws, and then run like hell.)

The day of the open house, she was dismayed that an hour had passed and no one had arrived. Finally she heard a car horn beeping madly. She ran to the window and looked out to see a caravan of agents sitting in their van – they were wild eyed! They hit the horn again and signaled to her to stay inside. She glanced at the porch and noticed a pile of shredded ribbon and shattered balls. (Christmas balls, in case you’re wondering.) Hunkered over what had been the world’s most glorious wreath was the world’s most satisfied bear.  Fortunately, the honking of the horn drove the critter back into the woods, but not until he swiped the car with one paw and came periously close to eating the agents. (I’m sure there were some shattered balls in the car, too.) The open house was a bust.  The subsequent press did garner the seller some free advertising, however, and the agent sold a lot of wreathes that year. I’m told that none of them contained dried fruit.

Moral of the Story:  Will food draw a bear? Answer: Does a bear s __t in the woods?

A Short One for the Road

One Los Angeles agent with a big heart and lousy baking skills made reindeer-face cookies for her open house. The cookies were the talk of the office because not only were they awful, but the reindeer faces, when viewed upside down, were very phallic in appearance.

The irony: her last name is Johnson.  Seriously.

Moral of the Story: Never eat a cookie if it’s a Johnson.

(You can cue the hook and drag me off now.)

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn,, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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  1. Gilbert AZ Homes

    October 9, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Wow! That is a lot of misguided creativity!

  2. Joe Loomer

    October 9, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Wonder if the Pope was s____ing in the woods too, after hearing about the Meshuga Christmas party! Oy Vey, Boy am I Toisty!!

    Navy Chief, Lakhaiim!!

  3. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    OMG that’s a bad one. Resltors are always outdoing themselves in the marketing area.


  4. Steven Beam

    October 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Keep it simple right? It usually works best. I hold very few open houses as they seem to be mostly a waste of time in our area.

  5. Lani Rosales

    October 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm…AWESOME! LOL

  6. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    You know, Gilbert, “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

  7. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    “Misletoef,” Joe 🙂

  8. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Or, UNDOING themselves, RM!

  9. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    A lot of agents agree with you, Steven…but they can be SUCH a source of entertainment. I recently went to one where an agent sat in a chair where a pie had been placed. It was hilarious. (Well…at least for the observers.)

  10. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Lani, my world is crazy enough, but my brain takes it to a whole new level, I know. Maybe it’s time for me to consider meds. But honestly, can’t you just picture those reindeer cookies???

  11. Matthew Hardy

    October 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    You know, you look a lot better in your profile picture than you do in the witch outfit… any other costumes, Gwen? 😉

  12. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I tried the French Maid outfit, Mathew, but I couldn’t get the vaccum cleaner to lift off.

  13. Matthew Hardy

    October 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    yeah. they suck.

  14. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    So much for a “lightweight Oreck!” I thibnk I will just stick with baking reindeer cookies 🙂

  15. Matthew Hardy

    October 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    > baking reindeer cookies

    You don’t have to tell us what you’ll be wearing. if. you. don’t. want to…

    (gawd, i’m going to get in such trouble…)

  16. Joe Loomer

    October 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you Matthew and Gwen – my next Open House is going to be “clothing optional!”

  17. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    It’s no secret, Matthew – I’ll be wearing my antler hat and a big red nose. Enjoy the visual!

  18. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Let me know how that goes, Joe. You should expect a lot of traffic…including the Augusta PD. be sure to take photos for your AG family!

  19. Matthew Hardy

    October 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    > antler hat and a big red nose

  20. Matthew Hardy

    October 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    { . . . }

  21. Gwen Banta

    October 9, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Ho Ho Ho

  22. Augusta GA Homes

    October 10, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Amusing stories…These agents must have way too much free time on their hands.

  23. Gwen Banta

    October 11, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I like your comment @ Augusta, but I have never known a working agent who has ANY time on his/her hands. I do agree, however, that sometimes a few could use a compass…

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.



small businesses new tech

While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.



skilled worker

The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.



side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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