I got skooled by an unhappy renter yesterday.
I was doing that Kansas thing again where I was in a social situation in a coffee shop and there were people around me, so I just assumed they wanted to talk. And boy howdy, one of them did.
"Let me tell you why I hate my apartment," he says. This is a conversation starter that I can't pass up, especially since he doesn't know who I am and what I do completely. I ask him where he lives and he tells me a community in the area that I'm familiar with, but have not personally lived at. I start to see the rage frothing up in him like the steamed milk on my latte. (Poetic licence... it was really building like a Lego skyscraper, but I liked the other metaphor better.) "It came down to us renting there or at this one other community but the price was just a little cheaper, so we went with Community X," says my new friend. "We read the reviews on line, but they didn't suck too badly. All online reviews around here suck."
"So what did they do to tick you off so much?"
My new friend then gives me a list that includes 2 vehicle thefts, 2 more vehicle break ins, no response from the office, work orders that are never completed, windows that have a half inch gap between the bottom of the window and the seal, and, as he called it, "the rudest set of people I've ever met in an office." Of all the problems he mentions, I notice that the ones described with the most passion and irritation are the ones where he feels he was ignored by his office staff, or where he felt they were dismissing him. The times that upset him the most as a resident were those "party line" moments where he felt unheard. And after he mentioned to me that he's "gone to the office to complain more times than [he] cared to count," I wondered just exactly what it was that they had said to him in response to his, apperantly, numerous complaints. When I asked him this question he told me his interpertation of what had been said to him.
And that's when it hit me. It really isn't what we say to our renters - It's what they hear. I can almost garuntee that what he thinks was said to him by this particular property wasn't what they intended to say, but once a resident gets it lodged in their head, we have no chance to battle it and turn around the perception. Because of this, not because of price or location, e will move out of that community at the end of his lease ("only 34 days and counting," according to him).