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Opinion Editorials

Straddling the awkward line between friend or family and client



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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  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.


    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

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).



bullet journal

It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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Opinion Editorials

The perfect comeback to that earnest MLM guy you meet at every coffee shop

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all been cornered by someone that wants to offer us financial freedom for joining their pyramid scheme, but we typically freeze or just reject them. There’s another way…



The following editorial was penned by Chris Johnson who offers the perfect comeback to that stranger who approaches you in Starbucks or that person you haven’t talked to since high school that wants to discuss your financial freedom:

Last week, I was at Starbucks, doing some marketing work. This was apparent to all who could view my laptop by the big 72 type “Marketing” headline that I was working on in my browser.

A man sharing a table, with no apparent laptop of his own, was taking interest in what I was doing. He was mid-40s and he was ambiently stalking and sizing everyone around him up. He was swallowing and always “about to talk.”

Finally, after I looked up to collect my thoughts, he broke my reverie.

“Are you in marketing?”

See, our man (Justin was his name) had just stated a business, an e-commerce business. He was vague on his details.

I knew where this was going. We all know.

Anyone that’s ever worked from a Starbucks has met Justin.

Justin mentioned a couple of his relatives, also with businesses. And, without asking what type of clients I serve, told me that they’d be a great fit for me. He’d love to introduce me, if we could just exchange contact info.

I knew exactly what he was doing. As God as my witness, I knew the only place where this interaction would possibly go. I wasn’t, not for a minute, fooled by the promise of referrals that would never happen.

Of course, I give it to him, not because I think there’s any hope that this will work out. But because I want to know. We exchange texts, and I save his contact info.

He excuses himself and gets into his 2002 rusty Kia, and drives off.

The next day, I get a call with the ID: MLM GUY STARBUCKS 2019.

“Chris, we met at Starbucks,” he says, “This is Justin. And I was wondering if you were open to financial opportunities for your family.”

Well, knock me over with a feather. This was such a surprise.

Without a plan in my head, I said “Justin, are you in the Amway organization? Because if so, I have been waiting for your call.”

Justin confirmed that yes, he was in Amway. And he was really glad!

“Justin, I’ve got some great news for YOU, would you like to hear about it?”

“Sure,” he goes.

“OK, well, you have to be open – and committed – to improving your relationship with Amway. Is that something you’re open to right now?”

“Yes,” he said, “Definitely.”

“Great. So let me tell you about what I do with the Amway people I meet. See, I’ve made a really profitable career out of helping them, and it’s turned into the focus of my life.” This is, of course, a lie, but we were even because Justin got my phone number on the pretext of referring me business.

“OK, so the deal is this. One of the problems with Amway is that it turns you into someone that has to monetize all of your family and friends. And when that happens, you become less about the relationship, and more about the money. Has that happened to you?”

“Yes. Yes it has.” Justin admits.

“Yes, great, this is what we’re hearing.”

The words tumbled out of my mouth: “See all over America there are Amway distributors, just like you. They are chained to various Starbuckses. This is the old model, there’s simply no freedom.

They have to fight tooth and nail to get appointments and most of ’em don’t go anywhere. For most of the Amway owners, this isn’t working once they pitch all their friends and all their family.

So I’ve created an organization called Amway Freedom. All you have to do is sign up. By signing up, you agree to automatically pay $5.00 per month to me, to be free of Amway.

But the REALLY good news is that you can sign OTHER people up, and keep half of the money for your family and your freedom. And when they sign up, half goes to support the reps, and the other half goes to support your opportunity!

From what I hear, over 1.5 million Americans signed up for Amway at some point. Tell me, Justin, if you got just 1% of that market – 15,000 people to pay you $5.00 a month without you having to do anything, would that change your life?

Would $75,000 per month change your life?”

Justin said “Um, well, this isn’t really what I was think-”

“Look Justin, this isn’t for everyone. I know that. Most people won’t be able to take advantage of this opportunity. They only think of the problems. They can’t imagine how this could work, a business with no merchandise and freedom.

But, Justin, you’re helping people get free of the endless random meetings… the Starbucks bills… the gas expenses. You’re turning your story of struggle into a story of success. Are you ready, Justin?

This is my business,” I said, “And this is what I want for you, Justin. Are you ready to join your challenge and fight for the freedom of 1.5 million people that have tried Amway?”

“Um…” Justin said. “I just don’t.”

“I see. This might not be working for you, Justin, and that’s 100% OK. Take all the time you need. But, if you sign up today, I’ll offer you the EXCLUSIVE market rights to help free people from Younique, Herbalife, Infinitus and over 30 other household brands. That makes a market – just in America – of 20 million Americans! Doesn’t that sound great, Justin? If you captured just 1% of that, that’s 200,000. And that business would earn 1 million every MONTH.

All without products to store, all while helping people.

Will you be paying with a Visa or Mastercard?”

Justin paused for a moment. “This was a waste of my time,” he finally said.

“You don’t really have a business!” he spat.

Well done, Justin, well done indeed.

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Opinion Editorials

Funny females are less likely to be promoted

(CAREER) Science says that the funnier a female, the less likely she is to be promoted. Uhh…



funny females promoted less often

Faceless keyboard warriors around the world have been — incorrectly — lamenting that women just aren’t funny for years now (remember the “Ghostbusters” remake backlash?).The good news is they are obviously wrong. The bad news? When women dare to reveal their comedic side in the workplace they are often perceived as “disruptive” while men are rewarded.

That’s right. Women not only have to worry about being constantly interrupted, receiving raises less frequently than men despite asking for them equally as often, and still making nearly $10,000 less than men each year, but now they have to worry about being too funny at the office.

A recent University of Arizona study asked more than 300 people to read the fictional resume of a clothing store manager with the gender-neutral name “Sam” and watch a video presentation featuring Sam. The videos came in four versions: a serious male speaker, a humorous male speaker, a serious female speaker and a humorous female speaker.

According to the researchers, “humorous males are ascribed higher status compared with nonhumorous males, while humorous females are ascribed lower status compared with nonhumorous females.” Translation: Male workers earn respect for being funny while their funny female coworkers are often seen in a more negative light.

There are, of course, several reasons this could be the case. The researchers behind this particular study pointed to the stereotype that women are more dedicated to their families than their work, and being perceived as humorous could convey the sense they don’t take their work as seriously as men.

Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon offered another take, putting the blame directly on Sam the clothing store manager, calling out their seemingly narcissistic behavior and how society’s tolerance for such behavior is “distinctly gender-based.” She says these biases go back to the social programming of our childhoods and the roles mothers and fathers tend to play in our upbringing.

So what are women supposed to do with this information?

Gourgechon’s status quo advice includes telling women to not stop being funny, but “to be aware of the the feelings and subjectivities of the people around you.” While recommending an empathetic stance isn’t necessarily bad advice, it still puts the onus on women to change their behavior, worry about what everyone else thinks and attempt to please everyone around them.

We already know that professional women can have an extremely hard time remaining true to themselves in the workplace — especially women in the tech industry — and authenticity is often a privilege saved for those who conform to the accepted culture. We obviously still have a long way to go before women stop being “punished” for being funny at work, but things seem to be progressing, however slowly.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama shared her thoughts last year on the improvements that have been made and the changes that still need to happen, including encouraging men to step up and do their part. In the wake of the #metoo movement, CNBC recommended five things men can do to support women at work. There are amazing women in STEM positions around the world we can all admire and shine a spotlight on.

All of these steps — both big and small — will continue to chip away at the gender inequality that permeates today’s workplaces. And perhaps one day in the near future, female clothing store manager Sam will be allowed to be just as funny as male clothing store manager Sam.

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