Service of Disregarding the Obvious: Laziness, Stupidity or What about Disengaged Travel and Real Estate Agents?

November 20th, 2017

Categories: Real Estate, Training, Travel

News of two incidents fell into my lap at once involving agents, one travel, and the other real estate. Both could have caused costly inconveniences.

  • The first customer immediately discovered the omission made by the travel agent yet the agent fought tooth and nail not to fix it.
  • Luckily, in the second instance, the customer found the alarming basic oversights of the real estate agent before damage was done.

 Up, Up and Away–Almost

A well travelled friend, Mary Joyce Smith–not her real name–has used the same travel agent for decades but the semi-retired expert was out of town when she needed to book a flight to Japan via LA. So instead Smith used a nationally known agency and was dismayed by the lackadaisical, inadequate service.

The tickets and itinerary came back with the name “Mary Smith.” Her middle name was missing. She asked for the addition of Joyce. She wanted her documents to match the name on her passport and official documents, especially important when travelling internationally in an age of hacking and stringent Homeland Security measures.

The agent told her, “I called Japan Airlines and they say it doesn’t matter.” [In the time this took, if she really called the airlines, she could have done what had to be done to add “Joyce.”]

More important: it mattered to Mary Joyce Smith, the kind of customer you want to have because she flies thousands of miles a year. She didn’t want the omission to delay her at airport security but really, she was the customer and the reason should not have mattered to the agent..

After numerous calls through “press one, press two” hell—she reached a supervisor who asked, “Why would they have left off Joyce? Of course it should be on the documents.” Nevertheless she received yet another email from the original agent who clearly has a hearing problem when it comes to customer requests. “The missing middle name doesn’t matter,” she repeated.

I was with Smith when she got this message and knew something was up as her lips tightened, her cheeks became slightly red and she rolled her eyes in irritation.

Open and Shut Case

Another friend is selling his weekend house. On his return after a Sunday showing by a substitute real estate agent, he discovered one of the doors was left wide open to the elements, uninvited wild creatures great and small as well as humans. She also left lights on all over the house. What if he hadn’t returned until Friday?

The usual agent said she’d given strict instructions to the substitute—such as that the owners aren’t there during the week. But did she have to also tell the woman to close doors and turn out the lights? You wouldn’t need to go to real estate school to know this.

Why would someone in a service business fight a customer so hard when a fix is simple? How could an agency put a flake in charge of the security of a person’s home? As for both agents, is their approach due to laziness, stupidity or are they disengaged and in the wrong jobs? Can you share examples of fabulous agents?

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6 Responses to “Service of Disregarding the Obvious: Laziness, Stupidity or What about Disengaged Travel and Real Estate Agents?”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    The first example you cite of a travel agent refusing to correct a name on a travel record is inexcusable no matter what the volume of business the client represents. In today’s world the possible complications could easily be harrowing. The passenger could be accused of travelling on a false document, denied access to her destination, be denied access to her luggage, and so forth. In an emergency it could make identification of the passenger confusing or inaccurate. The individual purchasing a travel document and the company or agent issuing it have to ascertain that any error in processing is rectified. The agent is incompetent, and beyond that if he or she is disinterested or unconcerned about fulfilling the job with accuracy then inappropriate for the choice of employment! Essentially the customer was being rendered a disservice

    The real estate episode sounds, except for the absence of an actual disaster, like the plot of a low-grade horror movie. Again the behavior is inexcusable. It is incomprehensible that any agent would not check that all lights were left as at the time of entry, indicated or with timing devices that were untouched on the occasion of the visit. An all around check of windows and doors has to be routine. I can only shudder at the fear and shock the home owner must have felt upon his return. I would have pulled the open door shut and fled after calling the police. It is absolutely necessary to question the judgment of the agent who designated the assignment and delegated the responsibility of access to the house. It is impossible to imagine that the actual showing agent really has a license!

    At some point in our culture we have to accept responsibility for work that we are willing to do and also understand that we are responsible for what we do and leave undone!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I thought that these two incidents fit as they both illustrated appalling disinterest and misunderstanding of their responsibilities and the important parts of each job. While no excuse, I can only GUESS that the travel agent is angry and overwhelmed and the real estate agent was somebody’s relative or a person who was irritated at having to ruin her Sunday.

    Don’t laugh: I’ve heard of marriages that have split apart because the spouse of an obstetrician is angry that husband or wife is called to deliver a baby at all hours and on weekends. [How could they be surprised?] This may happen less today as some agree to have babies according to a doctor’s schedule and the birth is induced. I once bought an apartment from an agent who would not make herself available on weekends, which was convenient to us. We really wanted the apartment but our lawyer told us to walk away because she was so horrible. I’m glad we didn’t…but still.

  3. EAM Said:

    When I worked as a contractor for AmEx, they had their own team of travel service agents. I worked with them tirelessly and they would expertly find the best travel prices and generally were highly skilled for their employees.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good to know. This was NOT AmEx.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    These are bizarre but not unheard of examples of incompetence. The victims of one travel agent, arrived at the airport to find their tickets did not exist More recently, I am going to have to act because of a genius who has charged the credit card for a trip with no flight numbers, not to speak of no other type of confirmation. There may be a valid explanation, but if not, this agency will be facing the organization which gives out its name.

    Incompetence, laziness and stupidity are all parts of the human condition, so let’s not get mad, but rather get even, by not dealing with such businesses again. One day many will wake up to find insufficient income to pay the employees, let alone the rent.

  6. Lucan Said:

    As progress accelerates, we careen ever forward, ever more desperately, and less well prepared, to cope with a never ending web of the complicated, and often contradictory, vagaries of life in the “information” age. Service providers such as travel and real estate agents as much affected as the rest of us.

    It’s no surprise that some of them, infected by the casualness of our times, don’t take their jobs seriously enough to provide an acceptable level of service. You’d think they would lose their jobs, but they don’t seem to.

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