From Peonies to Service to Loss of Jobs to Value Propositions

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

My single peony bush is blooming beautifully right now.  With so much time being spent at home and looking at my garden, I resolved yesterday to finally get a second and third bush so that my collection of peonies will be expanded - and I will look back fondly at those two new bushes in years to come as my COVID bushes. I have been meaning to get a new bush or two for several years now - and when every year goes by, I am annoyed with myself that I didn't buy the bushes when I thought about it.   Peonies take a little while to root and get happy before they start to bloom, so these are not plants for instant gratification - sort of like farming!

I set out yesterday to combine a trip to the local nursery with a short trek through the grocery store.  I could have gone to Home Depot or Lowes, which has a good collection of standard plants at reasonable prices, but I didn't want to drive an extra 10 or 12 miles to the ex-burbs, and since I only wanted a plant or two, I didn't mind the 50% mark up of going to the local Bethesda nursery.  I was looking forward to the joy of wandering around the nursery for a few minutes, exploring different types and colors of peonies, making my choice and bringing them home to thrive in my little garden.

I arrived at the parking lot and was greeted by someone who explained the rules of engagement to me from behind his mask.  I had to wait to be assigned a parking space - Check. I had to wear a mask - Check.  I had to stay 6 feet away from everyone - Check.  The staff couldn't help me beyond telling me where things were. What?  No advice.  No suggestions. No communications. Huh? I had to pay with a credit card and I had to follow the rules.  Check.

I parked and started looking for peonies.  I read the signs. I could find roses and black eyed susans, basil and tomatoes, but no peonies.  I walked around. I looked.  I even was so bold as to ask someone working there where the peonies were.  She gestured to the area I had come from.  Eventually I bought three black eyed susans, two basils and three lavenders.  I stood dutifully in line 6 feet from everyone.  I put my cart on the red spot close to the cashier who is protected behind plexiglass.  Then I stepped back to the yellow spot 6 feet away.  The young woman wanted to know if I had a frequent rewards account with them.   She had to yell at me to make herself clear behind her mask, the plexiglass and me 6 feet away.  I paid and left feeling grumpy and without my peonies.  I won't return - even though that is the closest nursery.

I don't object to the rules to keep everyone safe.  I don't object to the higher prices at my local plant store.  I object to the loss of service that the COVID compliance is bringing to us unnecessarily.  There was no reason why there couldn't have been someone at that store who walked over to the right section with me and showed me the peonies.  Instead, I was warned at the entrance that there would be no help and only vague directions.  At least I was on notice.  I will go to Lowes next time which has the same plants at half the price and I will serve myself.  I will find cashiers who are protected but at least audible.

So what does this mean to the American economy and more importantly to real estate?  Well, I think we are going to go through another transition in the work force like we did in 2008 when a lot of jobs went away and never came back.  My local garden store will discover that it doesn't need roving gardener clerks in its plant store knowledgeable about the stock to help people choose the perfect plant for a particular spot in their garden.  They can make do like Lowes and Home Depot do now.  We will grumble and wonder why we bother going to stores at all now when we can stay home and shop from a glossy catalogue that explains everything we need to know about the plant and will ship them right to our front door.  No need to go out to the store, wander about looking for a plant that isn't in stock, bringing others home and dirtying the car and then having to lug them into the house.  Let Amazon or UPS do that heavy lifting.   With that momentum, not only do the jobs go away but the businesses too.

It is the value proposition of knowledge and service that keeps a business going.  It is the confidence that consumers have in a business - that their questions will be answered and their concerns recognized, that their needs will be met, and that they will walk away better for the engagement - that keeps them coming back to a business. 

That knowledge and service joyfully given is what keeps the pipeline full for successful realtors.  It is what separates them from limited service realtors and rebate based agents.  If we don't continue to provide that knowledge and service, we will disappear just like all those stores on Main Street that let their values drop and were beat out by the cheap competition.

I will let you know when I get my peonies!

Comments (20)

Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Things sure are different now, and we have a new normal...not all bad...good luck with the flowers!

May 30, 2020 07:12 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Lise,  I am spending more time in the flower bed this past month then ever before,  Have to do something when the phone is not ringing.


May 30, 2020 09:04 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Lise, for sharing your shopping experience.

our peonies are blooming as well. It is a shame that they do not continue to bloom during the summer.

May 30, 2020 09:25 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Lise - I feel a bit cheated by your post(could it be titled pissed at peonies?)  as I was expecting a nice visit to a local nursery as they gladly welcomed neighborhood people who yearn to be enlightened and informed. 

I realize that this time is a work-in-progress and hope that your experience on subsequent visits is more pleasant.   

May 30, 2020 11:43 AM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Lise- what an awful experience!!!  Knock wood, I have experienced excellent service so far from our stores here from people outside our local grocery store chain who do nothing but clean the carts with disinfectant to the lady at Target who told be the best time to come in to find hand sanitizer!!!

May 30, 2020 05:13 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

May 30, 2020 06:58 PM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, Lise Howe our listing presentation begins with our value proposition..... potential clients need to understand how we work....

May 31, 2020 04:39 AM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Peonies are my favourite plant, I miss those in my old garden. When I get a place of my own again, I will plant some as you see them often on Chinese porcelain, so it is a double enjoyment. I agree we will see many more people ordering on line.

May 31, 2020 06:14 AM
Brian England
Vacasa - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I am sure that your covid bushes will look wonderful after a while, haha.

May 31, 2020 07:42 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

I would have felt the same way - the extra price is fine, but now there's no service? You can't ask a question? No one can show you where something is? No thank you! That wouldn't work for me either.

Enjoy your day!

May 31, 2020 12:27 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Kat Palmiotti - thank you for understanding!  I also was at the local wholefoods last week.  In Maryland and DC we have to bring our own shopping bags or pay 5 cents - which raises a whole new philosophical debate about whether you are bringing infection along with reusable bags!  But now that we are all on COVID alert - the cashiers are all behind plastic screens (which I understand and agree with) - but now they don't even bag your groceries for you.  I am not a good bagger - I end up needing 4 times as many bags as a good grocery clerk does for the same amount of food - and if I don't have enough bags - then I get to buy them at 5 cents a piece- Remember when there were people - generally young working for some extra money- who bagged groceries? not any more - another job gone! 

May 31, 2020 07:52 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Because of Covid, they won't bag at my grocery store (if you bring your own bags), but they will bag if you use plastic or paper - and those last choices are free. Your process sounds frustrating!

Jun 01, 2020 04:56 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Brian England - spring hopes eternal that I will find a peony plant this year.  I may be too late. 

May 31, 2020 07:52 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543 - I agree - they are lovely and their season is so short - and they take so long to bloom! 

May 31, 2020 07:53 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Barbara Todaro - I agree that it begins with your listing presentation - some people don't even know what theirs is! 

May 31, 2020 07:54 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Kathy Streib - thank you so much for the feature- as always I am honored! 

May 31, 2020 07:55 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

Relationships with advocates earned through relational competence & character is what keeps my phone ringing. You're right, many transactional agents are going to feel the pinch.

Nothing like a good crash, recession or pandemic to sort & qualify REALTORS*.

May 31, 2020 11:22 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor e-Pro, CRS, RCS-D, Vets you are so right. I am working on expanding that list of advocates and business allies

Jun 01, 2020 04:31 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Need not drive 10 more miles... Here is what you are looking for.

Jun 01, 2020 09:17 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Prior to Covid my husband and I were taking walks every day in the mall or in Walmart or Hobby Lobby.  Other than that, and the grocery store, I wasn't spending much time shopping. 

Now, forget it. We walk (weather is good now) outside and enjoy it. We shop on Amazon. My husband hits the grocery store alone, averaging every three weeks. I'm wondering if I'll ever be inside a store again, LOL.

Jun 01, 2020 01:08 PM
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

I feel the same way after going thru all the rules, the arrows, the lines, the 6 foot buttons on the floor. You're exhausted before you even start & that's my point.

All the rules are exhausting & time consuming taking the joy out of getting out of the house! I'm thrilled to go anywhere!

Jun 06, 2020 07:02 AM