Honesty is the Best Policy - This post is funnier than the title would indicate
I thought of a funny real-estate related story earlier this evening and I wanted to share it here. Years ago (maybe 1998), my business partner and I were invited to lunch by a mortgage broker who wanted to get our business. We were a young, up-and-coming team focusing on high-end properties, and he wanted to ride our coattails a bit. No harm in that.
He took us to Canyon Café in west Austin (pictured above), which has since closed, although I have no idea why. It was one of my favorite semi-upscale places for lunch for years. They had the best jalapeno gravy that I have ever tasted, and a mango tea that was simply perfect. I saw several local celebrities there, and I even saw Dan Rather eating at the table next to mine once. It was hard to miss his exceptionally recognizable voice. I think he still owns a home somewhere near Lake Travis.
As usual, I digressed there.
So, I could tell that he was a little anxious as he talked to us, although I don't really know why anyone would get nervous around us. We were very laid-back and interested in what he had to say. As I recall, we talked about doing some advertising together in the local home magazines, which were a popular source of business back then.
We got near the end of the meal, and he reached for his wallet, and IT WASN'T THERE. This was obvious to both me and my partner, but the guy didn't tell us that. Instead, he excused himself from the table to go to the restroom (perhaps to go throw up from his ever-more-apparent nervousness), then went OUTSIDE (where we could still see him through the windows) and got on his phone and started making calls, maybe to his wife? He grabbed a pen and started writing stuff on a scrap of paper. I assume this was his credit card number. He came back in and went to the hostess stand and then he must have asked to speak with the manager, who promptly appeared. After discussing the payment arrangements for several minutes, he apparently convinced the manager that he was good for the bill.
Why didn't he just fess up? In retrospect, it reminded me of an episode of "The Office", like something Michael Scott would do on that show. It was really awkward and strange behavior. If he had leveled with us, it would have been fine. Instead, we left lunch laughing about it privately and making fun of him, truth be known. Although he paid for lunch and I appreciated that, he lost any semblance of credibility with us. Yes, I felt bad for him, but I also didn't trust him to handle our mortgage business.
I didn't really give it a second thought after he acted strange and secretive. Would this be the guy that I would be happy to have my clients work with? Clearly, no. He was too nervous, too jittery, not honest in the face of adversity. I could have overlooked the first two.
I don't expect this to be an earth-shattering lesson for anyone, but honesty goes a long way. I have always tried to handle myself with integrity and openness, and most clients respond accordingly.