Illegal or Just Inappropriate in Someone's View??

Real Estate Agent with 'Til Dawn Real Estate



   Yesterday I had a rather interesting conversation...I was visiting with a Director of a local business who had, from what I gathered anyway, her Marketing person on speaker phone. The conversation was regarding marketing ideas, utilizing social media, etc. When they were discussing print marketing, they were talking about being extremely careful to use pictures which would represent all races, genders, age groups, etc. And apparently when this business held their Grand Opening event, one of the owners led a prayer before the event. The marketing person mentioned that this was a "no-no." She said as long as we are talking about this kind of thing...he needs to not do that again. They then discussed how the business handled being open for its first Christmas and whether or not it was ok that they had a Christmas tree, do they need to have decorations for all varying holidays...on and on. The marketing person knew I was in the room and said "Well, as Dawn knows being in real estate with the Fair Housing can't say Merry Christmas." Huh? I told her I was fairly certain that the Fair Housing Act did NOT prevent me from saying Merry Christmas to my clients. I wouldn't list a house on the MLS saying - This house is great for Christmas parties...but I believe I can wish someone a merry Christmas." She, however, felt fairly certain that we are not allowed to do that. And ended with saying, Well, I wouldn't

     So this brings to me my question - am I wrong? Is it ILLEGAL to wish a client Merry Christmas? There was a great featured post - "Politically Correct or Just Sincere?" which highlights opinions on saying Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays. And I see and understand the millions of reasons why a person would use one phrase over another. But this not about just being politically correct. If she had simply stated, you may not want to do that so as to avoid alientating some people, then I could understand her viewpoint (whether I agree or not is irrelevant, I would have understood the point she was trying to make). But there is a rather huge difference in possibly alienating someone versus violating the Fair Housing Act and risking your license, business, livelihood...

     And I guess I can save the discussion for whether or not the business owner had a right to say a prayer before his event or not for another post another day... :)

Comments (17)

Dan Coleman
Associate Broker, Silverhawk Realty - Ontario, OR

I am sure it is NOT illegal and I say "Merry Christmas" regularly around the Holidays.  I also sent out calendars with Merry Christmas on the front.  (purchased them from a Real Estate supply company)  I have never received a negative comment and most often the client/customer returns the greeting.

Jan 06, 2010 02:48 AM
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Freedom of religion does not mean people who want to be free from religion can impose unsubstantiated allegations of speech restrictions upon you. I frequently talk about my husband being Jewish and I being Christian on my blog. I say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays without thinking about the religion of the person I am speaking to because I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY BELIEVE. I simply say what ever I mean to say. I have atheist friends who wish us both lovely thoughts during the holiday seasons. Your marketer is mistaken on several counts but I am not about to get caught up in being accused of giving legal advice.

An MLS restriction is about business rules. Wishing someone well is about personality. Fair Housing isn't about reverse discrimination against religious or non-religious Realtors, it is about not discriminating against consumers.

Ask your dumb-dumb marketer how they would market AIG products that conform to Sharia Law that are specifically marketed world wide as being financial products that conform to Islamic requirements. I really want to hear what dumb-dumb has to say about the billions of product sold this way. Including international religious real estate. Seriously...

Jan 06, 2010 02:50 AM
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Featured @ Club Chaos

Jan 06, 2010 02:52 AM
Dawn Nuzzi
'Til Dawn Real Estate - Raleigh, NC

Dan - I too have bought those calendars, from our local Realtor store, and couldn't imagine they would sell them if they went against FHA!!!

C - I love you!!!! I'd be curious to hear her responses, as well. Oh and I do have to point out, this person is so not MY marketer!! LOL She was the marketing person for the other business. If she had been mine, she certainly wouldn't have been after spouting all her "laws"

Jan 06, 2010 02:56 AM
Julia Odom
Select Realty Professionals - Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga Homes for Sale

I'm with Carolyn. That's absolutely ludicrous (and I come down firmly on the Happy Holidays side of the argument in general). I agree with your thought about not mentioning Christmas in a listing but simply wishing someone a happy holiday - whatever that holiday may be - doesn't violate any law that I know of.

Jan 06, 2010 02:57 AM
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

LOL @ Dawn. I am glad that marketer is not your marketer and I shall bite my tongue on my thoughts in this regards (LMAO). I will be lurking on and off here for the rest of the day because I too am looking forward to watching the conversation progress...

Marketing is about putting the best interests of the project campaign forward, not about imposing personal religious preferences on a client. I think that is why I am really picky about my small little newsletter. I don't just take any ad request that comes along. One of my friends accepted a rotating ad account from a client who purchased X amount of slots for a specific project. They then sold off their unused ad slots to a third party because they abandoned the venture. The third party forwarded their new ad under the original party's account that produced ads the printer and publisher found offensive and refused to run. It triggered the owner looking into the account to resolve the issue. My friend discovered the unauthorized assignment of the account so she had a choice: dump the printer and publisher or dump the third party ad. She dumped the ad because she valued her reputation, business relationships and friendships with her regular vendors. 

The third party argued with the publisher (Christian) and printer (Jewish) for allegedly interfering with a business relationship, then threatened to sue her for various torts inclusive of citing religious discrimination. Her stance was she was obligated to run the contractual, specific ad of the original party which was previously approved in writing and not the substituted ad of the third party (not approved, no change order on file, no termination fees paid for the work of designing the original series of ads to run for a specified duration and there was no contract with the three firms refusing to run the ad of the third party).

Graphics are a communication service and the service agreement was not transferable but it did have kill fees for terminating the 12 month project. There was a withdraw and termination clause in her graphic artist contract with the original party because the artist paid cash upfront for material, supplies, press and publishing expenses. Assigning the ad space for profit was bad faith circumvention of paying the kill fees.

My point? You need to find a way to have an exit strategy so people can't drag you into third party crap you didn't anticipate when advertising and marketing firms do what they want instead of what they are supposed to... When we don't pay attention stuff gets inserted that has no business being there (e.g. ignoring breach of contract, substituting without permission, OR A MARKETER TELLING YOU YOUR HABITS ARE ILLEGAL (LOL). Isn't a legal opinion something your LAWYER makes for you? This is why I said I do not want to get accused of the unauthorized practice of law (LOL). ;-) 

Jan 06, 2010 04:30 AM
Dr. Stacey-Ann Baugh
Century 21 New Millennium - Upper Marlboro, MD
A doctor who makes house calls.

Can't imagine why someone would think it would be illegal to wish someone Merry Christmas.  That just seems ridiculous.  I'm with C- glad this person is not your marketer.

Jan 06, 2010 10:02 AM
Dawn A Fabiszak
Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado - Aurora, CO
The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience!

That marketer was clueless on fair Housing.  It sounded like she was very controlling and opinionated.

Jan 06, 2010 02:50 PM
Celina Gleason
AgentOwned Realty - Manning, SC

Great post, Dawn!  If we have to conform our own values to suit every religion or group we may as well live our entire lives in a hole somewhere!  Hey, free speech trumps these ridiculous opinions any day!  Not every individual who calls themselves "professional" knows what the heck they're talking about! 

Jan 06, 2010 03:34 PM
Gary Swanson
Century 21 Harris & Taylor - Grants Pass, OR

Dawn, I can't believe someone would possibly think it's illegal to say Merry Christmas.  I also don't believe it is inappropriate. especially if you know that person celebrates Christmas.

Jan 07, 2010 03:54 AM
Dawn Nuzzi
'Til Dawn Real Estate - Raleigh, NC

Thanks guys! I'm glad to know I haven't lost my mind! Well, at least not on this topic LOL I do worry about what kind of "advice" this person is giving the other business associate. I'd hate for her to take to heart too much what this "marketer" is telling her...

Jan 07, 2010 10:48 PM
Katherine Barnett
Re/Max Realty Specialists Inc.,brokerage - Milton, ON
Milton, Oakville, Burlington & area Real Estate

Wow, I never thought about it like that, maybe it is different here but I will definitely check next year, I always send out holiday cards...better than Merry Christmas, as I know some clients don't celebrate at all or celebrate different faiths and holidays.


Jan 08, 2010 11:04 PM
Jim O'Donnell
Raleigh Cary Realty - Fuquay Varina, NC

I sent both Christmas card and Happy Holiday cards.  I do have some jewish clients and I made it a point to send them a holiday card, but I do openly wish a Merry Christmas

Jan 20, 2010 06:01 AM
Jason Graves
Linda Craft & Team - Raleigh, NC

Belated Merry Christmas, Dawn! I laugh about this every year! Isn't it crazy???

Jan 21, 2010 07:46 AM
Dawn Nuzzi
'Til Dawn Real Estate - Raleigh, NC

LOL And a belated Merry Christmas to you too Jason! It was great catching up with you the other day!

And I agree, of all the things people could get in a tizzy about....I'm just happy when someone wishes me a merry, happy anything! LOL I accept ALL good wishes of all varieties!

Jan 24, 2010 08:22 AM
Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes - New Home Builder - Raleigh, NC
Design/Build Custom Home Builder in North Carolina

Well, Merry Christmas to you too.

Noticed that the Cary Christmas Tree is back to being officially the "Cary Christmas Tree" after a LOOONG debate this year.

Jan 24, 2010 09:25 PM
Dawn Nuzzi
'Til Dawn Real Estate - Raleigh, NC

Ha yeah I followed that debate too, Penny. I just don't understand of all the things going on in our world today, THIS is what people choose to debate and get up in arms about? Personally, I celebrate Christmas and like the idea of it being called a Christmas tree. But I was allowed to call it whatever I wanted to regardless of their vote. Just as others are allowed to call it a holiday tree, community tree, charlie brown tree....whatever their little hearts desire. Sigh, maybe now that they feel that have reached an all-important decision they can focus on bigger (real) issues lol

Jan 24, 2010 10:33 PM