September 8, 2018
“A world made of skulls was no place for roses, and it was time to plant more than bones.” – Linda L. Zern, Following the Strandline
What a difference a few weeks makes, does it not?
When last we met, Ashley and I had just left Phoenix for the literally greener pastures of Silver City, New Mexico. As fas as small towns go, it’s breathtaking- beautiful scenery, nice people, clean water, and air that unlike the city we just left, is actually invisible to the naked eye. Add in a vibrant arts community, replete with a gaggle of writers and talented musicians, alongside a surprisingly strong food scene, and you’ve got yourself a rather idyllic place to live, overall.
But despite all the upfront bucolic loveliness, there ran an undercurrent of unforeseen darkness, much like when you take a bite of what you think is a carne asada burrito, but instead turns out to be one that’s vegan-friendly.
(shaking) I get chills just thinking about it.
First, there was what should have been the non-issue of renting a house. To that end, we made the five hour drive from Phoenix to Silver City, choosing a local management company established in 1964, operating under the moniker of Smith Real Estate, to serve as our guides for our quest. Some advice gained in hindsight: if you’re ever given a choice between having to do business with this company or being forced to watch a remake of Showgirls with Steven Segal playing the titular character of Nomi Malone, I’d say go with the monolithic slab of acting who eventually dry-humps Kyle MacLachlan’s lap- at least that way, the pain you’ll experience was intentional.
To say our experience was substandard at best, would be akin to implying that in August of 1945, the residents of Hiroshima suffered a mild case of widespread sunburn. Our walk down the path of truly professional incompetence started with our agent to be telling us that he had four houses for us to look at, a rather good number for us to muddle through, or so we thought… at first. The agent who at best, had the disposition of a narcoleptic Vogon suffering a past weekend of chasing down pitchers of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, actually wound up showing us only three, feebly claiming the fourth was “being painted”, which as we found out later, was not entirely true, but more regarding that in a bit.
The first house could be charitably described as “cozy”, and would have been perfect, if we had wanted an abode that could double as both a t-shirt and a birdhouse, so we passed almost immediately. House number three (yes, I know I skipped number two) was a confused jumble of rooms, with a so-called kitchen that was bizarrely split in twain, with each section separated by several feet. Not too surprisingly, we passed on that one as well, as for some strange reason, we prefer to cook without having to run a marathon at the same time. So, while this confused warren didn’t make the cut, house number two, well…
It was almost perfect.
Big bedrooms. Good kitchen. A garage. Cool workshop. And an utterly awesome solarium that had the potential to be a totally kickass studio space. Sure, the backyard was a dirt morass with a strangely painted lightpole placed squarely and oddly in the middle of it, but that was just a minor quibble overall. And while the interior carpet was stained, buckling in spots, and tinted a delightful shade of horse-puckey brown, causing the agent to state after I mentioned the issues, that they wouldn’t replace or fix it, that didn’t necessarily mean the deal had to be scotched, now did it?
Of course not. After all, it was a rental, not a purchase. And we could always hide that three foot by three foot crime-scene outline with a carefully sited coffee table. See? Once asked for, a solution usually presents itself, all praise to the Goddess Debbie Harry. After deciding this was the house for us, we headed back to the realty office, filled out the minor financial paperwork, cut a deposit check, and headed back to Phoenix, secure in the knowledge we had adulted like bosses. Once home, we made plans to empty out our storage units, load up a U-Haul, and by doing so, hopefully reduce the size if not the stress, of the “big” move- a simple plan, no?
Two weeks later, and two days before I was supposed to drive said fully loaded truck down to come and take possession of our new domicile, Ashley discovered that not only was the agent attempting to rent us the wrong house, but that he had also already rented out the one we had raved about for close to half an hour in his office. Now you would think after such a display of interest, he would have remembered which house it was, but as it turns out, he apparently never noted that particular detail down, and instead, tried to blame Ashley for, and I quote: “giving the wrong address”.
Yes… because the people who have no idea where anything is yet in our soon to be new city are the ones at fault for his not writing the pertinent information down, am I correct?
When Ashley tells him that it was his responsibility, not ours to know which house he was accountable for renting, he attempts to rectify his mistake by offering up the house we had not seen, apologizing that it wasn’t available for viewing at the time due to the fact it was “still being painted”. When Ashley informs him that was his excuse from two weeks ago, there is a considerable pause before he responds again- at this point, she informs him that she wants our deposit back, and that we will collect it in person.
When we do, it turns out that not only have they not cashed the check which they’ve had for almost two weeks, the agent didn’t even bother to tell his associates that we were coming to retrieve it in the first place. I’m starting to think that attention to detail is not this guy’s niche- it’s subtle, but it’s there. Even better is the fact that they were genuinely shocked that we didn’t want to do any further business with them in the future.
Enter realtor number two, also known as Enchantment Realty, whom when Ashley calls them and explains the situation, are horrified, and immediately schedule a showing for the upcoming Friday, and since our credit had already been pre-approved by Smith, we got bumped to the top of the list, which in the end, proved to be a godsend. The house we were shown was not only in the same neighborhood, it was on the same street as the house we originally wanted, and was actually nicer with a better view- hardwood laminate floors, one car garage, newer kitchen with gas stove, washer and dryer, huge master bath and walk-in closet. and also a storage shed and workshop.
Throw in an awesome back patio, the addition of a new roof, a good sized dining room, and the fact that for the first time in 12 years that I have a dedicated studio space, and you can see why we’re thrilled with this company thus far.
So after we close the deal with Enchantment, we head back to our hotel, and through an odd twist of coincidence, the clerk relays a story about their own experience with Smith, which was even worse than ours. Turns out when they moved into their residence, all of the light fixtures and kitchen cabinets had been ripped out by the previous tenant, and Smith had allegedly neither replaced them, nor informed their incoming tenant about the damage. To add further insult to shoddy vandalism, they purportedly refused to do any repairs, and instead informed their client that they could replace them and take that amount off their rent in its place. If this story and others that I’ve heard since coming here are allegedly true, it does beg the question- how in the flippity frak do these guys stay in business?
Naturally, I was curious. And when I get curious, I break out my claws and go looking for information to eviscerate until I get some answers that make sense. Sometimes I achieve this by talking to people, other times I dive into books and other ephemera, or in this case, I just shook the internet until I found what I was seeking. And boy, am I glad we didn’t get in bed with these people, because judging by some of these Google reviews, if we had. we’d probably wake up the next morning in a cheap motel bathtub, covered in ice, and missing a kidney.
Out of a total of a five star rating system, Smith Real Estate averages 2.8… yeeouch. Here are some of the alleged highlights, from my first cull of the Interweb:
Client Briana Romo: “I wish I would of read the reviews before buying a home with them as our Realtor. Becky Smith was very unprofessional and rude. I can’t believe she runs a business! I wish I could give negative stars. Instead of assisting with the process of buying a house, she made the whole process ten times harder. I wouldn’t recommend Smith Real Estate to anyone!”
Client Ryan G. : “Absolutely THE worst company to work with. The employees are extremely rude, not helpful and only in this market for their commission. I am not sure how a company like this can stay in business! DO NOT BUY OR RENT FROM THESE PEOPLE! I have heard horror stories from people but did not believe them until I experienced it for myself. If you are like me and a skeptic of other peoples reviews, it will only take about 15 min of talking to these people to see their true colors. Buyer BEWARE!
Client Jessica Madrid: “after complaining about sewer smell coming from washer pipe that would stink up the whole house when washing I emailed Darla . She completely ignored my email claiming it would go to spam folder although we never had that issue before. I emailed with another complaint about pellet stove not working, she set up plumber( that never showed up!) and wanted to let owner of home in while we where out of town, I was not comfortable with that and she threw the lease in my face saying owner needed to be with his family for the holidays thus forceing us to let him in so I decided to stay home and loose out time with MY family since his time was more important.
After asking her to let me know what time she never answered! It’s going on 3 weeks that she knew about sewer smell and now Darla is no longer answering her emails BUT will email us and talk to us like we are delinquents for the owner getting an electric bill that was p&m mistake if owner would have taken 2 minutes to call he would have know it was his own fault for not calling P&M after getting permits. Not to mention we could not move in for almost a month because new meter was being put in ( we had to do walk through in the dark!!!) when asked for a reimbursement Darla suggested we not do that since owner did us a favor but that is a lie she did the favor of giving us keys to move things in before lease signed not owner.
I definitely feel like Darla takes care of the owners needs more then us the paying clients, to prove my point she was more concerned about getting payment for a horse we have then fixing a mouse and plumbing problem and make excuses that owner is hard to get ahold of so she can’t go forward but she won’t answer her emails not even to say she’s working on it! It took an angry email from husband to get her to answer. Maybe she is friends with owner but I could give a rats a** you DO NOT only treat one party like they are more important!! We have only been here for a month and already have problems and are BEING IGNORED and I ALREADY want to move!!! ( I stopped unpacking) This company sucks!!! If you like or want headaches go ahead and ask for Darla and rent from this ridiculous company.”
Client Sarah Sheen: “Ouch, I wish I had seen these terrible reviews before paying a $36 rental application fee to Smith Real Estate. These people are total cheapskates, and Cindy is downright nasty. I have an amazing credit score and asked them to simply *ask* the landlord about pulling out a gross carpet covering part of the wood floor in the unit (I have allergies). They acted like there was no way of contacting the landlords EVER.
They also sneakily tried to hike up the price of the rental between the time I applied and the time they approved my application. If the rental company is already acting intimidating, dishonest and passive-agressive after only receiving $36 from me, there is no way I will ever give them more money. My advice? Check the Silver City Daily Press for rental listings instead! Dodged a bullet with Smith Real Estate for sure!!”
Client Grand Momma: “I have lived here in Silver City all my life and have been using Smith to sell my home. My husband is very ill and we needed the money and a smaller home that works well with his medical needs. However, our home has been sitting on the market for over 4 years! I feel Becky did not put forth ALL her effort to try and sell my home.
Recently, our home was finally purchased, but Becky never told me when I have to move out. She is soooo hard to get a hold of and I had to find out when I had to move from a DIFFERENT realtor who does not even work for Smith! I found out a week before I had to move out, and STILL have not been contacted by Becky. I really wish I would have used someone else, like the wagon wheel place or caldwell. Have you ever tried packing up things you accumulated over 15 years within a week?!?! Me either… until now 🙁 Avoid Becky at all costs.”
Client John Flores: “If there was a rating lower than listed; I would give it. This company is bordering on illegal practices. I had a lease agreement contract with them for 1 year and then no further lease signed. I had a problem with my bank while on vacation for 3 weeks; because of heavier than normal use the bank would periodically lock my account.
Unfortunately this happened when the check for my rent was sent to the bank. I had the bank explain their error but Smith refused to accept further checks from me and demands cashier checks or money orders for rental payment…indefinitely. My lease agreement with Smith has expired and at the time of this incident the lease was not in effect; how can they continue this policy legally?”
How indeed? And these claims seem to be the standard, not the aberration, depending on which local you talk to. And here I was, thinking that because of how nice this town and it’s residents are, I’d have nothing to write about- I guess the Lord does provide. And by the Lord, I mean Bob Ross, who would have loved it here… seriously. There’s happy trees everywhere, along with a ton of overly optimistic shrubs.
The grass, however? Totally a full-on dick.
Getting back on track, I decided to also check out their rating with the Silver City BBB, and discovered that despite having a file open since 12/2005, they have no rating whatsoever, which in and of itself isnt that strange, as lots of businesses aren’t affiliated with their local BBB, but considering how long they’ve been established, it does seem odd that they wouldn’t be, since being a member with a good rating is considered a plus where one’s marketing reach is concerned- it’s essentially a win-win that pays off in dividends, if you promote it correctly.
Keep in mind, I’ve been speaking to the locals since we’ve moved here, and i have yet to find anyone with something nice to say about this company, and yet there are glowing testimonials all over the Smith website preaching to the contrary, even though the notated complaints above definitively burst that bubble of manufactured sunshine to it’s core. Sure, one could reasonably argue that a broken clock gets it right twice a day, but I do not think that for even one moment that’s the reality of the case here. I sense it’s an issue of quantity versus public reputation, if I were to be so blunt.
Using ourselves as a litmus test, I’d theorize that most who deal with this company have no idea what they’re in for until it’s too late, finding themselves trapped within a binding legal agreement. Sort of like a smarmy Venus Fly-trap, except when the leaves close, this one eats you with a contract. In our case, we lost roughly a hundred bucks in fees dealing with this consortium of alleged charlatans, but in retrospect, that’s a pittance for dodging the hail of bullets we could have faced if we had dared to interact with this rumored den of thieves.
Fortunately, when it came to finding our eventual lodgings, all’s well that ends well, am I right? Of course I am. In fact, I’m not even going to bring up the other little slice of Hell that we went through regarding the physicality of moving here. After all, I’ve got better things to do, I’m sure. I mean, there’s dishes to be done, laundry to fold, and I really need to organize my sock drawer like nobody’s business. Not to mention I’m also recovering from amputation surgery, which quite possibly, is a much more interesting story than whatever squabble I could possibly have with the troop of heavy-handed capuchins that moved us here.
Damn. It appears the dishes are done, the laundry’s been put away, and since I’m just laying here looking at the remaining 90% of my foot, the very idea of thinking about socks on any level, just makes me really angry. I could always watch Deadpool 2 again… it’s truly surprisingly touching, completely funny, and violent as Hell, which is always a plus, when one may be bedridden for the next few weeks.
What to do, what to do… I’d hang some art in the house, but I can’t really walk right now, and since I have to use a walker to begin with, it’s not like my hands are free anyway. I could always start that Great American Novel I’ve benn thinking about for years, or I could… oh, f**k it- the move here was a freaking nightmare.
The company we used (their name sounds like Two Hens and a Duck) was professional, the crew was nice, but listening wasn’t their forte, and neither was reading, given all of the clearly marked “Heavy-Books” boxes that were stacked on top of clearly marked ones that said “Fragile- do not stack”. Granted, they did have a rough gig ahead of them- we lived on the third floor, we started around 9a.m., it was the end of July (in Phoenix) and we also had two storage units to empty out as well, as I noted earlier.
Did I also mention that everything had to be marked individually as well for their records?
Every. Freaking. Thing.
I may have also forgot to mention that my storage unit alone had close to 200 pieces of art,,, sorry, that should have been a detail to tell the movers, methinks. They wrapped up packing the apartment around 7:00p.m., and under Ashley’s direction started on the storage units right across the street. At this point, I had to leave for Silver City to make sure we’d have the keys for the house the next day, so arriving at 2a.m. in the morning, and after hitting one terrifying dust storm outside Tucson, and two mild rain storms coming in to Silver City. I checked into my hotel and after three attempts trying to get into my hotel room due to a malfunctioning door lock, I grabbed a quick shower, and hit the sack for a few hours.
After waking up, I grabbed a few mini-doughnuts as an ersatz breakfast, bolstered my exhaustion with a frosty Coke, and headed over to the rental office who could have not been nicer, grabbed the keys, and went to go check out our new house, which as I noted earlier, is awesome.
The movers who were supposed to arrive at 11a.m., instead show up at 2p.m. with two 27 foot trucks, loaded to the brim. However, the unloading of the trucks revealed that they had unfortunately damaged some furniture, shattered two pieces of art, and in a complete and totally inept turn of malfeasance, left behind my favorite piece of art in our old apartment back in Phoenix, which I didn’t notice for four days, due to the maddening way they off-loaded our rather voluminous collection.
I’ve seen better stacking at a Jenga Tournament after party, and that’s when everybody’s in the midst of drunken-ass block-grabbing, let me tell you.
So after a massive freak-out on my part, the geniuses ship it here in a manner which could be best described as “are you fucking kiddng me, you goddamn morons?!?”. It arrives in a taped-together assemblage of boxes with the glass shattered, the frame cracked, and the mat and art sliced up ten ways to Sunday. And even better? The delivery guys drop it off, knock on my door once, and before I could get there to open the door, take off for the hills.
The “box” literally “crunched” when I picked it up, and when it was opened, rained glass like some sort of hellish Hieronymus Bosch waterfall. So now, we have to deal with that as well, which as you can imagine, is going slower than my surgical recovery. Speaking of which, it will be addressed in the next blog, since it is so involved and something I still need to wrap my head around, but it has been a massive impediment in regards to the setting up of the house. We have a garage full of art, boxes everywhere, and a range of minor to major messes within the common areas of our domicile.
Argggg… But even given the unfortunate annoyances of my life right now, I really can’t complain. As Ashley stated the other day as we were coming back from my post-op clinic appointment:
“Sometimes when I’m driving home, I get really distracted by how pretty it is.”
And that’s the truth- it really is quite the change from Phoenix. The landscape is gorgeous, the people are nice, and the only jerks I’ve met thus far have been tourists, or happen to be employees of Smith Real Estate- sorry, that was a cheap shot, but I couldn’t resist throwing it out there. Obviously, my attitude will change as the newness of this place wears off, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the opportunity to just breathe the clean air and take in the stars from my back patio. Eventually, when I’m back to being on my one and three-quarters feet, we’ll see what happens when a small, yet obviously focused art scene meets a very hungry, yet equally passionately determined Artbitch.
I’m sure it will go well, how could it not? After all, is there anybody else who’s as well known at making friends within an art scene as me? I for one, cannot possibly think of anyone else who is, but then again, I’m really not getting out much these days. But I’m fairly confident that I’m right.
You know… like always.
Well, I need to go grab a bite, so methinks this is perhaps the best place to take a pause. And when I come back… I open up about the amputation of my metaphorical Tito Jackson, ponder why hospitals always seem to have the best pudding, rave about the amazeballs staff at Gila River Medical Center in lovely Silver City, New Mexico, decry catheters yet again, and discuss what it feels like to be a zombies chew toy.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller