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Straddling the awkward line between friend or family and client

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As realtors, our sphere of influence can reach as far as across the globe with social media or as near as your neighbor across the street. Leads appear anywhere nowadays, be it at the grocery store or from your Facebook page. These encounters are chance meetings that you can’t really predict, so you are not that disappointed if they don’t convert into a deal. However, there is one group of people from your sphere who are not chance encounters: friends and family.

This group is arguably your core. They have known you the longest, you have stuck by them through thick and thin, from high school, marriages, kids, divorces, surgeries. You have history. So is there a reasonable expectation they would be your clients too? Or is it presumptuous to think they are your clients by default? The distinction of whether your friend is a potential client or not is often blurred.

Questions abound! Is there an unstated expectation your amigos will use you as their agent? Do you feel slighted if they don’t? If so, is that possessive? And let’s assume they do want you to represent them. Can you stay objective with someone with whom you have a long personal relationship? (Try telling your best friend that her home, that you have visited for years, is not fit for public viewing!) If your transaction goes down the tube, does your friendship go down the tube too? Don’t get me wrong. I have sold property to friends and family (who, ergo, become clients), but I will admit I still have mixed feelings about straddling that fine line.

For instance, a couple years ago, I found out from a mutual acquaintance that one of my good friends had put an offer on a property in my neighborhood. Unbeknownst to me, he was shopping for a while. Given that we had gone to university together and still hung out regularly, I was a bit taken aback. But I swallowed my pride and didn’t say anything. After all, he has a right to work with whoever he wants, right? He is not obligated to me.

What irked me later was that during his escrow he grilled me for my professional advice. (His agent apparently wasn’t very seasoned). On one hand, I wanted to help out a friend who really needed my expertise. But on the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel a bit used. Maybe I was sore or maybe he felt embarrassed, but after he closed escrow, we drifted apart and haven’t really spoken since… Sigh…

Every agent has stories about a terrible client or transaction from hell. We brush those off more easily because they are practically strangers and there is emotional distance. But sometimes those terrible clients and transactions from hell are our own friends and family. How have you handled those awkward moments dealing with friends and family as (potential) clients? Please share.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Erica Ramus

    August 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    It is akward. I had a very good friend for years and years (we had lunch once a month and she had picked my brain every lunch for business advice). She wanted a particular property and told me to watch for it. She called me nights, weekends over this one that she was watching to come on the market. It hit the MLS 10 am on Monday and I called her, excited! She told her secretary (avoidance) to tell me she had it “covered”. WHAT?

    I called her again and asked what does that mean?

    She called back and explained she saw the sign go up so she stopped the listing agent at the house and told her she wanted it. Kicker: her husband told her to wait, not to do it, but to call me first. She replied “I want this house and I don’t care how I get it.” (yes she told me her husband said this and told me what her response to him was)

    I was stunned. I gave free marketing advice to this friend for years to help her in business. When I told her this is how I pay my bills she replied “I just wanted the house and really didn’t care about you at that moment.”

    It totally soured our friendship. Perhaps I should not have let it get in the way, but her callous disregard for me — and feeling used about it — really hurt.

  2. Ken Montville

    August 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Excellent topic!

    I used to take it very badly when someone I knew used another Realtor. I was hurt more deeply when, on a couple of occasions, people I had known for decades and shared Thanksgiving dinner with for years, started out with me (asking some questions, doing an Internet home search) but ended up in the arms of another.

    I’ve also worked with close friends and “just regular” friends that have worked out extremely well complete with good PR afterward.

    I’ve tried to immunize myself against the friend or family member who chooses to work with someone else. If they end up asking for advice, I tell them there’s an ethical consideration I need to keep in mind and they should, perhaps, talk to their chosen real estate agent or their manager.

    What’s really tough is when an acquaintance or friend says they’re definitely going to use your services while they ask for advice and maybe look at a few places and then find out that they’ve used another real estate agent for both buying and selling —– on their Facebook page!!!

    I “un-friended” them immediately. That taught them! 🙂

  3. Vicki Lloyd

    August 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Unfortunately, this in pretty common, and falls into the category of S—Happens!

    Over the years I’ve provided advice for several friends, relatives, or neighbors on real estate questions believing they appreciated and respected me and would ask me to represent them when they were ready. Then “something” happened! A relative ended up listing with the random agent who knocked on his door (with client in car) a few days before our appointment to write up the listing. Another close friend that I had been showing property to for several weeks ended up buying a FSBO from a co-worker’s relative. Another listed her condo with the agent she met at open house when she stumbled in to check out the decorating.

    I try to explain that I don’t get paid by the hour to offer my knowledge, and that I will advocate in their best interests at all times, but there are too many ways that people just lose their minds and forget how valuable your services really are to them.

    We can’t dwell on these disappointments, so just set it aside and say “Next!”

  4. Charles Mackenzie-Hill

    August 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I think if your in a different industry, it’s a mystery the outsider how things should work. Maybe if one took the time to understand why you weren’t approached from the beginning will help to explain a lot. Could be for the strangest of reasons. Try making a light about being pushed for details, by a comment like, I Hope your not just going to drain for me advise, as were on the same side, you know. Might just save a friendship.

  5. john glynn

    August 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    We work in a trade where we provide a service to our community. You can definitely cross this line, and probably in fact can’t avoid it. It is inevitable. Some clients turn into friends, and some friends come to you for business, and become clients. You have to keep the friendship in front of the business. Make your decisions with that in mind, help them get what they want, and it will work out just fine. They’ll refer you to people you don’t already know.

    We all have stories (like in this post, and the comments thus far) about friends who have abused our services, taken free advice and leveraged it to their advantage, and in essence put their business in front of the friendship. In those cases, you may see a change to the ‘friendship’. And who cares? True friends wouldn’t take advantage of you, and as long as you remain cognizant of the friendship first, those breakdowns are on their conscious, not yours.

    And then you move on…

  6. Lani Rosales

    August 2, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I don’t think this is exclusive to real estate, it’s a hurtful time when any business person relies on referrals. But sometimes, there’s a good reason outside of being frivolous or thoughtless…

    My grandmother chose another agent over my husband and I called her to frantically ask why? I took it very personally as we’d put our own elbow grease into the house and laid the slate floors in 1200 sf of the house ourselves! We loved the home and had actually considered putting in an offer ourselves. Why would she arbitrarily pick someone else? The answer was one I hadn’t expected, “she’s been my Realtor for 30 years and she sold me this house in 1977.” You just can’t be mad at that. We assured her she was in the right and things stayed cool, but imagine if we’d just assumed that she was a jerk!?

  7. Tom Bregman

    August 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    What a great topic! Of course this has happened to everyone who works as a real estate professional or in a similar capacity.

    When my sister in-law and her new husband purchased their new house in an area that I service, and used another agent, I was quite upset. According to my wife, her sister, she did not want to use me because she and her new husband wanted to keep their personal information private. Never the less, I was very upset with her for a long time and I still retain some mixed feelings about her choice.

    I have taken the philosophy that “it is what it is” but my parents and siblings still resent my wife’s sister for not using my services. In all honesty, I know that I would have provided my sister in-law and her husband with better representation than they received from their chosen agent. Truth be told, I still harbor a certain amount of resentment toward them.

    Thank you for letting me vent! :~)

  8. stephanie crawford

    August 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    You’ve got to have thick skin in this business. Sure, I’ve been hurt, angered and rejected, but over time I’ve learned to let it roll off my back. Recently I fired a buyer (who wasn’t a friend, but I had spent MONTHS searching for in person and online) and that was even more traumatic for some reason. You can’t be everything to everyone. And some people have unrealistic expectations. I take my commissions where I can get them. I’m grateful to still be standing in the biz right now. I’ve seen some mighty fall.

  9. Debby Crane

    August 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you all for your candor! I agree, you do need a thick skin in this very competitive business to deal with all of the ups and downs. I think many people not in real estate don’t understand how long it takes, expensive and time consuming it is for us to develop a business and that we do need help from those closest to us to be successful in a timely manner if we want what I consider to be the best possible business, a referral business.
    Perhaps we need to continually remind people as Brian Buffini suggests ” I’m never too busy for your business or your referrals”, so that they know we have some needs and expectations”? I do agree if you are passed over or slighted by a friend or stranger it is best to try to pull yourself together as quickly as possible and remind yourself that “It’s just business”.

  10. Dan Connolly

    August 3, 2010 at 11:57 am

    One of the best things for me about learning how to find clients online is that I no longer need to worry about my sphere of influence staying loyal. One of the things I have always tried to strive for is not being the “salesman” at parties. I have asked well meaning friends not to introduce me as their friend “the Realtor”. I think it puts up a wall. Just introduce me as your friend and if the subject of what I do comes up, the information will be more natural and less forced.

    There are several reasons why your friends don’t use you. 1) You aren’t the only Realtor they know! They don’t want to offend anyone so they use an outsider. 2) The home is most people’s greatest investment. They have been getting mailings from the neighborhood “expert” for years and they are afraid that you won’t do the same kind of job.If you do mailouts you will get some business on the other end of this thought process! 3) Many people don’t mix friendship with business because they don’t want to have to fire a friend if things go wrong. I think if you let this affect your friendship, you really aren’t much of a friend to begin with. 4) Most people don’t know how we get paid. If they are pumping you for info and you would feel betrayed if they didn’t use you get them to sign a buyer’s agency agreement before you give them the “free advice”.

  11. Relative Buyer

    August 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I’ve read all of these comments, and Dan’s rings the most true.

    As a first-time buyer, I did use my sister-in-law as my buyer’s agent, despite my better judgment. I knew a little bit about the business (my grandmother is also an agent, but lives quite far away), and I knew how agents are paid. I also knew my sister-in-law could certainly use the money.

    At first, I asked for a referral. She refused to give the referral, and insisted she “help” us instead.

    Please, if your friends or family ask for a referral, take the fee, and walk away. In fact, I believe if your friends or family ask you to represent them, you should give a referral, and walk away. She was not the right agent for me.

    Dan, regarding point (3) above: I could not fire a relative. Not three months in as a buyer’s agent, with no accepted offers, despite following every word of advice she gave us. Not six months in. And not nine months in (when an offer was finally accepted on a short sale…which led to another lengthly adventure).

    It was an awful, bitter experience, and we are doing our best not to cause or contribute to a rift in the family. While she’s a great agent, she was not a great agent to me, because we were family, and she was doing us a “favor”. In fact, in the end, it was the perception that she was doing us a favor (she received a full commission, kickbacks from at least two of her “preferred vendors”, did NOT deliver a full closing package, and, in fact, did not deliver anything to us at closing). We were certainly left feeling we would have been better off going with redfin, or another discount brokerage, and getting a small percentage back.

    We’ll never buy through family or friends again. And personally, I doubt anyone should. All of the agents above mourning the loss of the “free advice” they gave…welcome to being a freelancer. Those who still have sour grapes over someone going through another agent for a transaction (especially a relative), think about it this way:
    If they don’t use you, you are writing them out of your life for: about $5,000.
    If they use you, and something goes wrong, they are stuck paying (and resenting you for): about $500,000.

  12. hermanchan.com

    August 3, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you all for sharing/venting/devil’s advocating! Honest and with merit! i love it

    bottom line, there is just no easy way around these awkward moments/feelings w/ friends & family….agents have been going thru this for decades, and for decades to come this issue will still arise. Whatever reason, legitimate or not, why your friend/family uses someone else, it doesn’t make it sting any less. after all we are only human, not machines who can robotically move on to the next file.

    at the very least, we can get it off your chests with fellow agents on Agent Genius who can EMPATHIZE….take solace in the fact you are not alone!

  13. Nadina Cole-Potter

    August 3, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Almost everyone in my close and extended family has a policy not to do business with family. The one relative who invited us to work with him on a business adventure (which turned out to defraud him) had no business training, no business experience (he is an academician in a field unrelated to business) and is a know-it-all who doesn’t ask questions or listen because he knows it all. Thank goodness my husband has such a good cr-p detector!

    When I was in residential real estate, I received a call from a guy a knew from a couple of social groups, one who had bent my ear on some personal matters (TMI) and acted like I was his new best friend. He then sold his condo through another agent (who did not follow through on something that cost him a couple of thousand at closing) and then hired the same agent to help him and his fiancee purchase in home in a manufactured home park (which is really a land lease). He called me for advice on the transaction and I just referred him back to his agent saying I couldn’t interfere with another agent’s transaction.

    There was a woman in my church who was selling a home and then buying one with her boyfriend (liberal church). Instead of using the services of one of the experienced agents in our church — and she knew who we were, she used the services of a woman who attended a different church of the same denomination (they met during a combined choir rehearsal for a joint event) who had just received her license. LSS — The timing was off; the new house was purchased before the old one was sold. In a fast-moving seller’s market, the old house lingered on the market for quite a while, thus 2 mortgages due for close to a year. Oh, yes, she said she picked the agent because they had so much in common — singing in the choir!

    With buyers I wonder if they just don’t want their friends and family to know that much detail about their financial status. Perhaps it’s true for sellers as well.

  14. KW Realtor

    August 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    LOL – yes, yes and yes,..I have this friend who has been grilling me for R.E advice for awhile. He mentioned he would like to use me to sell his place and help him buys some investment property. So, he grilled me – on issues had me send him information – called me at odd hours and had me do all the title searches for homes he liked. Only to find out he was using a very bad agent who would not or could not figure out how do do all of the work i was doing. I was steamed. Later he called again to find out about property his parents wanted to buy. I mentioned I would be happy to help them. He then told me he had a list of the best deals around. It was a list his parents had bought of REO homes. I mentioned to him that ALL homes for sale Short Sale, REO, etc are listed and I give everyone a full access pass – for free. he blew me off and said these are pre-REO and that they would use me to buy the property. OK,…so I do th leg work on a property – and find out it is NOT REO and is no where near a price of under $500,00 like they had hoped – and got all the information to them as agreed. I mentioned that we should be active and really meet and preview the property – he then tells me his parents will only work with me if I can guarantee that they will get the lowest price from me and not from anyone else. I told them that is part of the process – to work the best price. He told me they where not interested then and has not talked to me since.

    This is not the first – it is frustrating to end up being the go-to guy for everything people need except to buy a house. It is not the first and is not the last. I just take a much stronger stand on meeting and previewing before I do all the leg work. These issues even happen inside my own office. 🙁

    • Herman Chan

      August 7, 2010 at 4:54 am

      geez, it sounds like jesus could have been their realtor and they STILL wouldn’t have been happy.

  15. Nadina Cole Potter

    August 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Prospect Due Diligence and Commission-ectomy Prevention: To prevent being used by “friends” and from becoming a flake magnet, I learned to say, “Let’s get together to explore what you want and how we work together.” It sounds like the friends who expected the buyer’s agent to get them the “lowest price” — and you will only know that when the seller accepts the buyer’s lowest price offer — does not understand how buying real property works. It sounds like they were treating you like a car salesman.

    The question, “Are you or have you been working with another agent?” before embarking on a research project is also a good one. We already work on spec as commissioned agent/brokers. We cannot also work on spec as to whether the person asking for so much information will or will not become our client (the most freebie anyone should do before someone becomes an actual client is to send automated property searches from the MLS and to make sure they get pre-approved (not just qualified) with a local lender.

    That is another reason to have the face-to-face “how we work together” conversation — to check out each other’s expectations and clear up misconceptions. It’s probably better if the agent/broker severs the relationship when there is not a meeting of the minds then to have a commission-ectomy without seeing the possibility of being rewarded for all the research you do. If the “friend” pulls relationship as a reason not to formalize the buying relationship, then you can always use the, “my broker requires it” reason.
    My BB Agreement is exclusive only to the properties I introduce the buyer to (including listings that are sent to the buyer by automated email — I program them to be sent to me at the same time) or that the buyer consults me about. Some commercial buyers balk at BB Agreements (having seen only those where they pledge their first born child and totally indemnify the agent/broker from everything) but I have found they are willing to sign Non-Disclosure, Non-Circumvention, and Fee Agreements which pretty much amount to a BB Agreement only as to properties introduced and discussed.
    And now that I have become a maven at finding and evaluating “off market” multifamily properties, I always get a NDNC and Co-Broke Agreement with any broker who has the buyers but doesn’t know how to connect with off-market properties and their owners.

  16. Eric Reed

    April 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Wow, this is very instructive as I’m on the opposite side of the fence – a friend feeling like not using anyone who is a friend as an agent. I’m annoyed at the expectation I’m supposed to go with a friend because they’re my friend.
    First, I personally do not like mixing business and friendship. Period. It’s
    much easier to get a new agent than a new friend and going with someone you don’t know is a good way to void making that choice.
    Real estate transactions are frought with stress and I’ve experienced where that has stressed the relationship.

    I also recognize the advice thing and would never take advantage of that. I really want to have a business transaction with someone I don’t have a friendship with so that when (because it will) get messy, difficult, annoying, crazy, etc – I want nice clean lines and the allowance for me to have game face without worrying about the effect on the friendship.

    My sister is a realtor and so is one of my oldest friends it was interesting because talking to them this weekend I brought this up and they were shocked when I said I wouldn’t ever use them as agents.

    Just thought you could use this perspective so that you could understand why sometimes your “sphere of influence” balks at hiring you.

    • john glynn

      April 13, 2012 at 1:42 am

      I think that’s totally fine. A practitioner who expects their friends to use their service is as wrong as a consumer who takes unfair advantage of their friend’s professional insights. We want to be there when needed by a friend, but forcing ourselves upon them is clearly taking it too far. And you learn pretty quickly that some people will appreciate the friend factor in the equation whereas others prefer to keep a firm line of separation. I don’t resent that one bit. It’s the straddle that gets awkward.

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Opinion Editorials

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.

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New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.

Anyway.

I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

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This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

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I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS pic.twitter.com/Fk35g98Z83

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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