Lessons follow agents’ sympathy card to South Surrey widower

Business message shouldn’t have been included in condolences, daughter says

A South Surrey woman said she’s shocked at the “hornets nest” she stirred after posting online a sympathy card local real estate agents sent her grieving father.

“I think it touched a real chord with a lot of people due to our crazy real estate market,” Launi Bowie told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

On Sunday, Bowie posted an image of the card on Facebook. In it, two White Rock agents expressed sympathy to her father, Ted Smith, for the loss of his wife of 51 years, Audrey. They included their business cards.

By Tuesday morning, following coverage on news programs and newspapers in Vancouver, the Facebook page had been shared 2,300 times, while generating numerous angry comments.

“The knee-jerk reaction is it’s become fairly ruthless, unethical and coldhearted,” Bowie said of the red-hot market. “I don’t believe that these women are cold-hearted, horrible people. It was just a really poor judgment on their part.”

Audrey Smith, 72, died July 17 in hospital after a fall at a birthday party the day before.

Soon after, two agents happened to be canvassing the South Surrey neighbourhood of the Smith family and in speaking with Ted Smith, they learned of his wife’s passing, and sent the widower a sympathy card in the mail.

“So sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. Please let us know if we can help in any way with your real estate needs when the time is right,” reads the note.

Bowie said that although her post garnered many comments of support for her family, she’s also “slightly horrified” by the reaction.

“I really don’t want this to turn into a witch-hunt. Everyone is really, really heaping on these two women who I think now realize that was a really big mistake,” she said.

Bowie said she’s heard from others with similar experiences, and hopes this can serve as a reminder to other agents to stop and think before sending a sympathy card that also appears to be an effort to generate business.

“It’s clearly not only my issue. This has happened to other people. I just don’t think it got the attention that mine got,” she said. “If other Realtors saw this and watched the hornets nest that stirred up, I’m assuming they’re not going to make that mistake.”

Homelife Benchmark Realty Corp. agents Linda Shaver and Leanne deSouza said they simply wanted to follow up after speaking with Bowie’s father, adding they regret adding their business cards.

“We are so sorry we upset the family, which is actually the furthest thing from our intention, and we are very grateful the family has accepted our heartfelt apology,” Shaver told PAN Tuesday morning.

Shaver said door-knocking is a common practice for agents, adding it was at the end of their front-door conversation with Ted Smith when they learned of Audrey’s sudden death.

“At that time both Leanne (deSouza) and I expressed sincere sympathy and we abruptly left. As we were leaving, he mentioned that he would look over our flyer while he was away for a week. As a followup to our conversation, we sent him the card.”

Dennis Wilson, manager of professional standards for the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, told CTV News the situation is a “very sad misunderstanding.”

“They meant nothing but goodwill for this gentlemen. They certainly weren’t intending to put any pressure on him,” he said.

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