Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ready, S-E-T, Go

From Mary Kuykendall: I admit that when the proposal to move to electronic lockboxes first came up, I, like many others, balked. I flung my weight around and voted against them at every opportunity. None of that stuff for me!

There we were, happily slapping those little bronze boxes on anything with four walls and a doorknob. We didn’t even have to re-configure a new combination for each use. A three-letter code had been good enough for our grandparents, and it was certainly good enough for us.

So what if there were, at least, 6000 current and former agents who knew “The Code”? No matter; so did anyone who had ever seen, listed or sold a property in the state. Not to mention their neighbors, family members, paperboy and meter reader. Come to think of it, why did we even bother?

The fail-safe, back-up three-letter code, was used by some of the more venturesome of us, and the cutting edge policy of using Our Own Initials was the choice of only the most daring.

Then, a little over two years ago when we were still comfortably and blissfully ignorant of the world of technology and security available to us and following a convenient 8-hour tutorial, our lives began to change. Well, eight hours and a few brush-up sessions, e-mails, webinars, conferences, and frantic phone calls originating from freezing front porches.

While Mainers are, historically, a tolerant lot, change is accepted with speed outdistanced only by the pace of the Mendenhall Glacier. Never mind that these new gizmos would increase security, provide data regarding access, keep track of our CE credits, save gas, save time, save money--save your breath, because there wasn’t going to be any convincing of some of us. Myself included.

So. I grudgingly went to the training. I asked obnoxious questions. They were answered politely and patiently. I harrumphed. I turned the clumsy thing over in my hands and sighed. I got up and got myself a cookie. You can’t say I wasn’t going to get something out of the session. I followed the instructions in the little booklet and practiced. I mumbled to my neighbor at the table. I practiced some more. The darn thing seemed to work just like they said. That was discouraging. I went into the next room and picked up my card. Pretty cool. Had my picture on it. Hmm. Got a little retractable clip-on for my belt. Even cooler.

Back I went to the office. I still was far from convinced this was even an acceptable idea, and I certainly wasn’t ready to endorse it as a good one.

I put one of the boxes on my very next listing mainly because I had told my DB that I would give it a try, and because I was supposed to be setting an example for my co-workers. I was the first one in our office to use one. There’s always some cachet in that.

It went on easily and looked pretty nifty there on the front of the nice, new house. Kind of gave it a smart, “now” look. I liked that. The neighbors were curious and seemed impressed.

I was right proud of myself. Then while showing it off to my husband who was putting up my sign in the yard, I discovered I’d forgotten my PIN. What was it? The year my house was built? No, that didn’t seem to be it. Oh, wait a minute, a quick call to the handy number on the back of my keycard, a chat with a personable young man and I was shortly back in business.

A week passed and I got a phone message from the elderly gentleman whose home had the new lockbox. He was visiting from out of state and wanted to have the locks changed. Could I come down and get the new keys for the box? Sure. When I arrived with a client in tow, the owner was gone, but the new lockbox (which, as we all know, would cost me dearly if lost), was, as he had promised, on the back porch--still attached to the old doorknob and lock mechanism and part of the old door. In retrospect, I don’t know who changed his locks, but they surely did a thorough job of it.

I could tell it was going to get tricky from here on.

Removing the shackle from the lockbox (and you will have to admit that, love them as much as you may, they are heavy) while simultaneously keeping my keycard in the slot (I had to thread it through the steering wheel in order to fit the bulk still attached to the house’s lock into my car), reading and remembering the phone number, punching in the numbers, listening to and following the instructions being given over the phone, and swatting blackflies in the front seat with my client resignedly awaiting the outcome and probably wondering why she had ever been interested in this property and most assuredly doubting her choice of REALTOR, required significantly more than the two hands and one brain I had with me.

When the shackle did finally come out, flying across the front seat of my car and narrowly missing my client, her quick reflexes and good humor were all that saved a potentially-disastrous situation.

Given my extreme hesitation at the onset of this change in our lives, I have to say that this has been my only unpleasant encounter with the new contraptions.

I know that the more they are used, the easier it will get. I certainly agree that in some circumstances, they aren’t the best idea. I totally understand and empathize with those who have issues with them.

I wish the renewal was for more than 8 days. I wish they weren’t so heavy. I wish I didn’t have to remember yet one more PIN. I was glad to get the refund. I wish there was no cost involved at all in using them.

I really can’t say enough good things about the technical support that is available. AND, ok, I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind about them. I always hate to admit it when I’m wrong about something that I feel so strongly about.

I guess I’m S-E-T in my ways.

REALTOR Mary Kuykendall is President of the Bangor Board of REALTORS

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