Realtors keep pestering me. They say their software knows who I really am

There's something a little painful when a business believes software over its own basic judgment.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Snowing in New York

If the software says it's true, it must be.

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Technology and annoyance have formed a sometimes unreasonable partnership.

If you know someone's phone number, email address, or social media, you can start tossing messages at them. At will.

Please forgive me, but there came a point when I'd had enough.

For years, various New York realtors have been calling me and leaving voicemails. Each one asked me if I wanted to sell my property in Greenpoint.

Each voicemail would begin with something along the lines of: "I see you own the property at...."

Each time, I would look at the helpful Apple transcription of the voicemail and then trash it.

You see, I don't own a property in Greenpoint. Or anywhere in New York, for that matter. I've never owned a property in Greenpoint. Or anywhere in New York, for that matter.

Yet somehow these people believe I do. Even though I don't have a New York area code phone number. I last lived in New York 14 years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I confess I cracked a little.

You see, one of these fine New York realtors texted me. It began like this: "Hello, Mr. Matyszczyk. My name is Johnny Flimflam with Dunderhead Realty. I am a broker here in NYC." (Yes, I'm not naming him or his realty's real name.)

Flimflam continued: "I am reaching out to you because I see you own the property 2021 Realtorssmell Avenue." (Again, not the real address.)

Naturally, Flimflam wanted to know if I was interested in selling it, as he had two or three clients who would surely want to buy it.

It's The Software, Stupid. Or The Stupid Software.

For the first time, I responded to a New York realtor.

"Where did you get this number?" I asked, expecting some sort of thoughtful response. Goodness, did I get one.

"My team and I have access to software that allows us to get information of NYC property owners," explained Flimflam. "We use this only for the sole purpose of providing the best for our client's commercial real estate needs. No information is given out or shared."

I suspect one or two of you may want to parse this Flimflammery. So Dunderhead Realty has some sort of (legal? illegal?) access to software that instantly tells its fine brokers who owns what. This information is never, ever shared. Except, perhaps, with its own staff and clients.

Please forgive me, but I was now beyond perplexed, heading toward verbal headbuttery.

I replied: "The best for your clients, eh? Your software is clearly not very good." Well, I may have used a stronger term than "not very good." (I hope you can forgive me.)

I imagined that Flimflam would pause for thought, perhaps even offer some sort of confusion or even apology.

Instead, he texted this: "So, I'm assuming this is Caroline."

I was tempted to reply: "So, I'm assuming Dunderhead Realty is aptly named, Flimflam." But I responded: "Caroline? Caroline Who?"

Instantly came his explanation: "Caroline Weatherhaven."

Yes, I've changed the name he actually gave too, because he named someone I dated. Fourteen years ago.

The Software Always Knows Best.

What kind of secret software was this? What kind of software salesperson had offered clearly more than one New York realtor access to this misbegotten bilge? The software knew whom I'd dated fourteen years ago, but hadn't got a clue that I didn't own any property in New York.

"So, first you refer to me as Mr. Matyszczyk and now your excellent software has decided I'm Caroline Weatherhaven?" I replied.

Even here, there might have been a chance for a decorous exit on his part. Instead, he didn't reply.

I have a belief that those who pester by text or phone may not know what it feels like. So I waited a couple of hours and sent him another text: "So, who am I now? Pope Francis? Manu Ginobili? The makeup artist for Law And Order SVU?"

Finally, there came a supremely elegant response from Johnny Flimflam: "You're a loser who has no life apparently lmao."

Ah, New York, it's as if I never left you.

So, I used some sophisticated software -- it's called Google -- to see that Flimflam is, indeed, a broker with an allegedly fancy New York realty firm. He's praised on its website for his professionalism and, oh, his attention to detail.

But I end up wondering just how much people have ceded to software, without bothering to question it.

Flimflam didn't even stop to think his software may have been mistaken. He didn't wonder why he was calling someone in California. My tone surely told him he was unlikely to make a sale, even if I had been the owner of this property.

Instead, he trusted his software so much that, on learning I wasn't who he thought I was, immediately convinced himself I must be my ex-girlfriend from more than a decade ago. Because, presumably, his software told him that was the only option.

Clearly, Dunderhead Realty isn't alone in "having access to" such very clever software. Clearly, I can't be alone in getting such moving pesterings.

Yet we're now in a world where the software defines us, regardless of any human thought-process that might wonder whether that software is actually right.

It's a little dunderheaded, isn't it?

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