Secret Shoppers – They’re Everywhere!

Y’all, I’ve got some inside scoop…

On tires.

Here’s the thing. I’m sitting in the waiting area (which bites, by the way and has no women’s magazines) of Discount Tire right now on the corner of TC Jester and 18th, and guess what I just overheard. Are you ready?

Discount Tire

Secret shoppers are coming.

Discount Tire Manager (to cashier): Hey, what did Gary want when he called?

Guy at Cashier (trying to speak softly but guys who work at Discount Tire don’t know how to speak softly): He said that the secret shoppers are coming. That means we’ve got to exercise every single avenue, or else someone is losing their job.

Discount Tire Manager: Okay.

So that’s it. That’s why I think if you need tires you should come to this place. These guys are going to be running a tight ship over the next few days. (Come to think of it, I don’t really know what “exercise every single avenue” means, but I guess it could mean that they’re going to try to up sell everyone this week, and in that case maybe you should go to the Firestone down the road.)

Okay, this place is crazy. (I’ve been here an hour at this point.) I just heard one side of a phone call from an angry customer.

Guy at Cashier: Discount Tire.

Caller (saying something I can’t hear): Blah blah BLAH!

Guy at Cashier: Uh, you say they were racist?

Caller (again, I can’t hear): Bleh bloop bloopy!

Guy at Cashier: Okay well I can look that up for you. Got it. But you say he was racist? Because the guy who sold you these was Mexican, so…

(At this point I audibly laughed and had to put my hand over my mouth.)

Caller (obviously bananas): Bleddy blahdy!

Guy at Cashier: I mean, that was just one store. We’ve got (says high number that I forgot) stores across the country. You can’t assume every Discount Tire is like that.

Caller (still thinking the Cashier is racist): Bop bop.

Guy at Cashier: I apologize for this happening to you, but they charged you the correct price. That’s how much those cost. Mm hmm. Okay. Bye.

Y’all, I’m so glad I don’t work at Discount Tire.

I was once offered a job as a secret shopper though. The lady wanted me to walk into banks in creepy parts of Houston and ask about opening a checking account. However, I turned it down since, considering all the driving, I’d be making like three dollars an hour, plus I’m afraid of the ghetto, so…

Okay guys, I’m back in the office, and speaking of secret shoppers…

Online Dater Mortgage Banker Jason just asked me how my weekend was. “Oh, it was good. We did a marriage retreat.”

“Oh yeah?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, we’re kind of in training to begin leading the retreats…” I replied. Then Jason wanted to know all the material we cover.

“Oh, like communication, boundaries, stuff like that.”

“That’s great stuff. Think I could tag along on one of the retreats? ‘Everyone, this is Jason. He hopes to be married in twelve to eighteen months.’ It’ll be like I’m auditing it.”

Jason Listening

“Ha! That’s perfect. ‘Okay couples, Jason will be tagging along on your breakout sessions. He won’t be a distraction at all. Just ignore him while you brainstorm ways to improve your conflict resolution.'”

Okay y’all, I know I’m all over the place today, but being at the tire store totally threw off my day. (‘Tis a sheltered life I live, readers.) With that, you all have a happy Tuesday, and I’m headed home in my new tires.

Shaun is Still Talking…

The rest of my interview with the Hippie… (Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.)

Is Your Refrigerator Running?

The rest of my interview with Envoy Mortgage’s very own Hippie, Shaun Brennan…

Just the Assistant (rubbing arms of chair I’m sitting in): Okay Shaun, we’ve covered a lot here, but now it’s time I ask you, where did you get these chairs?

Hippie Shaun (nodding): I took them from another office.

JTA: These are stolen chairs!

Shaun: Nope. The person didn’t work here anymore. Hey, did I tell you I play basketball?

JTA (turning from looking at the chair to looking at this guy like he’s bananas): What? When? When do you play basketball?

Shaun: Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pickup games.

JTA: Did you just say pickup games? What are we in Chicago in the seventies? Where do you play pickup games?

Shaun: The YMCA.

JTA: Dude, you could not get any odder. It’s official.

Shaun (nodding): Did I tell you I’m also very political?

JTA: NO. Shaun, you have to stop. Listen, let me get back to my questions because I only asked how you’re doing and so far you’ve told me about nineteen different aspects of your life and I have an agenda here. Now, how is business?

Shaun: Busy.

JTA: Since you won’t market yourself to your hippie friends, how do you market?

Shaun: My style is, look, I do a good job, I know what I’m doing, I care about people, and I’ll treat everyone as I would want to be treated. Then I just like to sit down with people and find a connection with them.

JTA: Ha! Like, “Hey do you like tambourine music?”

Shaun (liking me less by the second): I usually just start with asking where people are from and going from there. I know people think I’m the Willy Wonka of mortgages, but I’m being genuine. I’m actually doing some work for a clown right now.

JTA: You are NOT doing work for a clown.

Shaun (reaching into his pocket): I am! Look, here’s his business card. Get a picture!

JTA: Are you having to document clown income?

Shaun: Nah, the clowning is volunteer work. Name’s Bam Bam.

Shaun's Clown

Yep, it’s a clown alright.

JTA: This is amazing. Hey, do you ever get in trouble?

Shaun: Well, I really like to prank call people. I call my mom all the time and pretend I’m the SPCA and going to come euthanize her pets.

JTA (mouth agape in horror): You are horrible! You realize I’m trying to bring you business here, right?

Shaun (head thrown back, laughing): Tell her my name’s Mark Bark. She falls for it every time! Ha ha ha!

JTA (shaking head): Has your mother disowned you yet?

Shaun (still laughing): I’ve been doing it for a year and she still doesn’t know it’s me. My brother does it too.

JTA (hands over face): Who else do you prank?

Shaun (cackling): I got my stepdad THREE times in one day a few weeks ago! He still doesn’t know it was me!

JTA: Hope your stepdad doesn’t read blogs.

Shaun (maniacally laughing): If you make your name rhyme, they get more fixated on that than who it really is. That’s why I’m always Mark…(laughing so hard he’s having trouble finishing the sentence) Mark Bark!

JTA: Okay Mark Bark, because you have been gracious enough to stop doing lame mortgage stuff and prank calls and pickup games in order to chat with me, I’m going to help you out. I am going to help you promote your tambourine player. What’s his name again?

Shaun (straightening up): Craig Kinsey.

JTA: And how do people buy the album?

Shaun: iTunes and music stores.

JTA: Now when you go platinum you better call me, right? To thank me, not prank call me.

Shaun (smiling): Peace.

Okay y’all, I can’t even top this with a clever ending; I’m too flabbergasted. (But, in the event that you would like to prank call Hippie Shawn, please dial 713.403.6637.)


This is Going to Hurt

I took a trip to corporate last week and tracked down The Hippie. I interviewed this guy a couple of months ago and apparently people really took to him. (Here’s the post.) Due to his intense popularity in the mortgage and Woodstock crowd, and due to the fact that the dude is ca-razy, he’ll be a regular from here on out.

This Hurts Me More Than You

An Interview with Envoy Mortgage’s very own Hippie, Shaun Brennan

Just the Assistant: Hey Shaun! Okay, the last time we spoke, you had just landed a gig promoting some tambourine player’s album. Is that still going on? Did you promote the album?

[JTA Note: Yes, Shaun is a mortgage banker (a really good one – seriously). And yes, he has other “side jobs”.]

Hippie Shaun: Yes! That’s going really well.

JTA: Did you ever figure out how to promote his work? What did you do?

Shaun: Well he’s already really popular, so –

JTA (spit flying out of mouth due to intense laughter): Yeah, I listen to him like all the time! (wipes spit off Shaun’s desk)

Shaun (annoyed): He’s popular in the music crowd.

JTA: He probably is. I only listen to NPR, so I wouldn’t know either way.  

Shaun: Well anyway, I have a plan for how to make him go platinum.

JTA: No way! Let’s hear it.  

Shaun: So I’ve got about 150 people who I’d call close friends. I plan to convince each of them to buy 150 copies of this album.

JTA:  Well that makes total sense. I know when I like a band, I’m all the time buying like 150 copies of their album. Same with books. I buy twelve of each book I like.

Shaun: Exactly! Because who wants to listen to the same copy of an album? No, you listen to one copy, and then throw it out and listen to the next one.

JTA: Totally! (Pauses for drama) Let’s hope the tambourine player doesn’t read my blog. Okay Shaun, other than that, how are you?

Shaun: Oh man, I’m good. Going on vacation tomorrow –

JTA: What? Where?

Shaun: Playa De Carmen. It’s The Circle of Excellence Trip.

[JTA Note: The Circle of Excellence is this stupid trip Envoy Mortgage hosts each year for its top mortgage bankers. Envoy Mortgage has, for five years in a row now, denied me access to this trip despite repeated pleas and pitches on my part to attend as the official blogger.]

JTA (squinting): That’s awesome! So awesome that Envoy is letting you go on this trip. This trip that I have tried to attend for five years. Really, it’s so awesome.

Shaun (shifting in chair): Should be fun.

JTA: So listen, when you go on trips like this, do you get trashed and dance on the tables?

Shaun (pausing and looking at a spot on the wall while pondering his reply): I –

JTA: Dude! You paused for way too long. Like, you totally weren’t just saying “no way – not me!”

Shaun (smiling): Let’s put it this way. I like to have fun. And I also really like to dance, but not always on tables. Sometimes on tables though.

JTA: You’re crazy! You know this interview is to make people want to send you business, right?

Shaun (totally not caring if I send him business): It reminds me of this one time –

(Shaun’s phone rings)

JTA: Go ahead.

Shaun: Nah, it’s just a buddy of mine.

JTA:  Oh my gosh then please answer. I’ve got to hear this.

[JTA Note: I’m not kidding, y’all. I wrote down what I heard him say verbatim…]

Shaun: Hey man…You still raising chickens?…You still bringing me some eggs?…Okay we’re doing a slumber party for Black Angels show, right?… I want to hire you pretty soon. I need a couple websites…Could be ten days, could be ten years… I need to know soon and am planning our Galveston trip around that…Alright man…Peace.

JTA: Do you say “peace” when you hang up with clients?

Shaun: Sometimes accidentally.

JTA: Hey, speaking of mixing your hippie friends with clients, I have this great business idea for you. Why don’t  you tell all your hundreds of hippie friends, “Hey! I can get you home loans!” I don’t understand why you don’t mix the two lives.


Shaun: Hippies usually have terrible credit. But I actually have done six or seven loans for musicians, and those guys have no idea about finance.

JTA: Ha! They’re all, “Uh, I made twenty bucks last night playing the drums on the street. Does that count?”

Shaun: But I don’t promote this business in that crowd. I have another business I market to that group.

JTA: Oh no. What is it, Shaun?

Shaun: It’s my record label.

JTA: Of course you’d have a record label. Of course.

Shaun (nodding, like it’s a totally normal thing to have a record label): Called Splice of Life Productions.

JTA: Do you like animals?

Shaun: I have a cat. I don’t like the idea of owning animals though. I watched this PETA documentary and I really got what they were saying, about not domesticating animals. Animals should be free. But I already had the cat before watching the documentary.

JTA (laughing hysterically at the joke I’m about to make. Holds hand in the position of holding and shooting a shotgun): Boom!

Shaun (laughing with me and holding his hand like he’s shooting a pistol sideways like they do in gangs): This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you, Fluffy!

JTA (laughing even more hysterically but not having another joke to top this with): Oh man that’s hilarious. Hey listen, I have something to show  you. You’re going to love this. (proudly handing Shaun my phone)

Baking soda

I’m washing my hair with baking soda now! I’m so hippie!

Shaun (studying picture): Oh yeah! You could have gone organic, but whatever…

JTA: You shut your mouth, Shaun Brennan. I’m saving the world here. Okay, listen, man…we have a lot more to talk about, but I’ve got to wrap this up because there is only so much someone will read of a mortgage blog. So you get back to your loans, and we’ll pick this back up later this week.

Shaun: Peace.

Okay readers, please come back on Thursday because Shaun ended up telling me about this horrible hobby he has that you all really need to hear about. Until then, I’m off to cuddle with my non-PETA cat, Harold, and Shaun’s off to shoot out a few home loans (and possibly his cat).

Bulletin: Harold and Hipster Andie

My fine cat Harold went missing this week…

For forty-five minutes.

In those forty-five minutes, I:

  • Opened and searched every closet in my house.
  • Prayed.
  • Checked all my kitchen cabinets.
  • Looked in the refrigerator (I was desperate).
  • Walked my neighborhood calling “HAAAAROLD!”
  • Walked my neighborhood calling “HAAAAROLD!” while holding a can of Friskies and clinking it with a spoon.
  • Asked my neighbor if he’d seen Harold.
  • Texted my husband and told him that Harold was missing.
  • Sent a Facebook message to my neighborhood Facebook group asking if anyone had seen my big orange cat Harold.
  • Tried to coax my dog into picking up Harold’s scent and leading me to Harold.
  • Got teary-eyed thinking of life without Harold.

And then he came home.

Harold's Return

Which means I am now in a mental state in which I can think about work.

Hipster Andie has a new role at the office. I do not know the title because I’m not important enough to warrant telling a title to, but I know that she is a bigger deal now than she was five months ago. Here are the facts:

  • Andie now has a bigger cube. Bigger cube = Bigger deal.
  • Hipster Andie created a giant paper chain representing all the loans she wants our Boss James to provide this year. You may choose to obtain a home loan at a certain time now to coincide with your favorite color on the paper chain. (That last part was my idea.)
  • Hipster Andie's Paper Chain 2
  • I don’t think the new role called for the paper chain. She just did that on her own.
  • Hipster Andie now takes meeting notes in magic markers.
  • Hipster Andie's Magic
  • I think she uses the markers because her new role is major important, and she needs to keep herself grounded.
  • I have not confirmed the above bullet.
  • But I did take a psychology class in college so I’d say I’m fairly qualified to make these assessments.
  • I made a D in the psychology class.
  • Andie made cake balls for Valentine’s Day and put them in heart boxes.
  • Andie V-Day
  • Andie still sits on a yoga ball while she works.
  • I fear she is going to injure her back.
  • I am not qualified to make this assessment.
  • But don’t you think it might be bad?
  • Everybody at our office loves Andie.
  • Clients crazy-love Andie and send her flowers and candy.
  • I ate some of the candy.

And that, my friends, is the scoop. If you would like to send Andie a valentine, please do so in the form of a mortgage application and subsequent link torn from the paper chain. If you would like to send Harold a valentine, please do so in the form of a leash and electric fence so that he doesn’t scare me and my entire neighborhood Facebook group like that again. Happy Friday, loves!

How the Heck to Buy a House Today, Part II

How do you connect with a home-seller who’s into nudie pics? I found out…

What About the Naked Pictures?

An interview with Envoy Mortgage’s fab mortgage banker/Hollywood insider, Christina Gobe, continued.

Just the Assistant: Okay Gobe. In part one of our interview, you were in the middle of answering my question about how to buy a house in this market. Give us some more scoop.

Gobe: Next, I recommend for buyers to get pre-approved for a loan instead of pre-qualified.

JTA: Now, wait a minute. Why come? I thought getting prequalified is legit.

[JTA Note: Here’s a post where I explain the difference between pre-quals and pre-approvals. Blah Blah Blah.]

Gobe: Let’s say I’m selling my house, and I have three offers that are very similar in price, and I see that two of the people have been pre-qualified for a house, but the third person has actually been pre-approved. I’m going to accept the bid of the person who has the best chance of actually securing the financing to buy my house.

JTA: That makes sense. Okay, what else?

Gobe: Finally, I would tell people to not be afraid of writing a cover letter when they put in an offer.

JTA: I’ve heard of these. It’s like a love letter, but about a house, right?

Gobe: Yeah, kind of. When we put the offer on our house last year, I wrote a letter to the buyer and told her how I was really looking forward to raising my kids there, and how I’d always wanted a white house with black stutters. Then I complimented her decorating, saying “I hope I’ll be able to decorate it as beautifully as you have…”

JTA: You suck-up! So you think that helps in the “multiple offer” situations?

Gobe: Yes. Like I said, if they have two offers that are pretty similar, the seller is going to look at other factors. And most sellers want to sell their house to someone who will love it and take care of it.

JTA: So people shouldn’t write stuff like, “I can’t wait to redo that nasty kitchen of yours.”

Gobe: Exactly. I’ve even heard of people sending a picture of themselves or their family. You should just try to find a connection with the sellers.

JTA: That happened to a friend of mine when he sold his house. Some lady wrote him a letter after spying a guitar in his living room and claimed she was all into music.

But answer me this, Gobe. A couple of years ago when I was house-hunting, we saw this one house where the owners had naked pictures of themselves on the walls of the hallway.  And they’d made one of the shots into a hologram. I’m not making this up.

House Hunting

Censored for sensitive readers

Can you  please give me some advice on writing a cover letter for this family? Like, how do I connect with that?

Gobe: Well, ah…Maybe you could say something like, “I, too, appreciate the human body. Not really my own, but human bodies in general?” (Laughing) Or you could tie in the idea about sending a picture.

JTA: Ha! You’re the best, Gobe. Okay, I know you’re busy, so while you go answer all your phone calls, I’m going to work up a quick draft of a cover letter our reader(s) can use.

Dear (Homeowner’s first name, or a nickname you give him/her but not like a sexy nickname, unless you’re into that sort of thing, and in that case, let me know how it goes),

Is it weird to say I am in love with your (townhome, house, bungalow)? While walking through each room, I couldn’t help but picture my (child(ren), dog, cats, alcoholic uncle) growing up and learning how to (walk, sit and stay, sleep more?, hide his drinking habit from his boss) within these walls. Once I got to your bedroom and saw your (wedding photo, pistol, handcuffs, Bible) on the nightstand, I knew we had a deep connection. I’m (married, afraid of intruders, into that stuff, a Christian) too!

With that, please know that though my offer on your house is (full asking price, a little under full asking price, insultingly lower than asking price, twelve dollars), it is the best I can do, and I hope you accept so that I can turn your home into my home!

Thank you!

(Your first name, Your first name plus your kid(s)’ name(s), Your first name plus your dog’s first name plus a paw print, Your first name plus your cat’s first AND last name, Your first name plus your uncle’s name)