Gareth Dylan Smith
Our Flat
Coppetts Road
London N10

6th February, 2008


Dear Faye,

Re: An issue with my tenancy at the afore-mentioned property (let by Bates’s)

I am writing to you out of sheer frustration at the (mis)conduct of your employee, Stephanie Franz. I am not usually one to complain about other people; we are all human, we all err from time to time, and I am just as flawed and fallible as anyone else. However, when it comes to apathy, laziness and sheer unrepentant ineptitude, Stephanie’s achievements are pretty unparalleled. I am self-employed, and if I operated according to a work ethic such as hers appears to be, I am certain that I would retain no clients at all, and would be as unlikely to attract new ones as Northern Rock is to attract investors.

While the above may be strongly worded, I assure you that it is not in the least disproportionate to the woes my wife and I continue to suffer at the hands and, more harshly, the tongue of Stephanie. I have not the time, the inclination, nor the space to expound fully on the occasions I have had to take offence at Stephanie’s (un)professional conduct. Instead, I will confine this letter to dealing with the incident when she has most recently crossed me. You may, however, be assured that this is entirely typical of my experience of Stephanie’s behaviour.

A little over two weeks ago I came home from work to find a note tacked to the door of the flat that I share with my wife. It had been written by one of the tenants downstairs. In the note, the tenant informed me that my wife and I had been asked by Bates’s not to shower for the present, since when either of us showered, so did oiur neighbours downstairs – in their kitchen. The note did not bother me especially, except that I would so much rather have heard first from someone (perhaps Stephanie) at Bates’s that those to whom I pay rent for, amongst other things, a functioning shower, would rather I did not for the time being avail myself of that particularly useful sanitary facility. I called Stephanie that afternoon, and she mumbled something incoherent and unapologetic about meaning to call me later… I quickly lost interest in her excuses as to why I had heard about this from the downstairs tenants and not from her. Stephanie, in a voice smacking strongly of irritation, eventually agreed that something needed to be done, and that she would attend to this. I thanked her – after all, such things do come under the job title of agent for the estate of our landlord, no?

After three days had passed and we were still unable to shower upstairs without also washing our non-consenting downstairs neighbours, I called to find out what progress had been made. Stephanie seemed again distinctly annoyed that I had disturbed her frenzied labours – after all it had only been three days that my wife and I had been renting an un-use-able shower. What possible cause could I have for calling her at work, of all places?! She said that she needed to get an estimate from a man qualified to obtain such things. Such a man visited our flat the following day (an eerie coincidence, no doubt, that I had enquired about just such a visit only the previous afternoon). Somewhat naively, I had assumed that this visit would lead unstoppably and even swiftly to our bathroom justifying its (recently substantially increased!) rent. Instead, what happened was (brace yourself)… nothing at all.

This was a Thursday. I called Bates’s twice the following Monday and Stephanie must have been very busy as she was ‘not at her desk’ (neither was I at mine, but I had thought ahead and was using a cordless telephone). In order to catch Stephanie strolling busily around the office, I called in at Bates’s offices later that day to enquire as to how soon I or my wife might reasonably expect to shower. Stephanie said that she needed to get “some estimates”. I asked just how many she needed, and she then accused me of being “picky”. “Not really”, I said, since last week I had been led to believe that one estimate alone would suffice, and indeed we had been visited by only one man whose business was the provision of such things.

Stephanie conceded that, yes, one estimate was indeed enough, but such things take a very long time to organise – the man simply could not be expected to examine the shower, guess what it would cost to repair, and then call Stephanie (who may or may not be at her desk) with a quote for a price. The man needed a whole weekend to type up this quote; in fact, she said, it would be silly to expect him to produce our quote as a one-off – of course he would need to wait until he had a pile of them to complete; that would make his time spent on paperwork all the more worthwhile. The entire situation began to feel utterly surreal.

I left Bates’s feeling conspicuously unwashed, un-showered and more than a little disappointed at the glacial slowness with which the wheels of communication appear under Stephanie’s cautious supervision to move. Indeed, the next time I heard from Stephanie was this morning (nine days pursuant to my visit) in response to a telephone call I had made the previous evening – I had left a voicemail message for her attention. Stephanie told me that she had got some estimates in, had contacted the landlord, and that he had agreed to have the bathroom mended. Hardly surprising, is it? I mean, it’s his house, and Stephanie is or represents, I can’t help reminding myself, the agent of his estate. I would have been pretty surprised to hear that the landlord had said it would be best left as it is.

When I enquired of Stephanie, it transpired (again) that actually only one estimate had been sought. Stephanie told me by way of another weird excuse that the landlord is terribly difficult to get hold of. Not in my experience – he usually answers his mobile right away, or calls back straight away. When I asked Stephanie what had become of her projection (made last Monday when I visited her at work) that the shower would no longer be off-limits by before last weekend, she said “well, that’s how long these things take”, which cleared the matter up nicely. She then had the audacity to “advise” me crossly that, “it’s not hard, Gareth, you can just take a bath”. Despite its epiphanic wisdom, the inconceivably patronising zeal with which this last comment was delivered caused me to raise my voice to Stephanie, at which point she told me that there was no need to shout at her. I am afraid that on this point that I could not disagree more. I have had more cause to raise my voice at Stephanie in the three years that she has been our attentive estate agent than at most other people I have met. She should have been more impressed that I was able to lower it so soon. She did not even apologise.

Please respond.

Gareth Dylan Smith (from the bath).






2 Responses to “Needing a Shower”

  1. Kate said

    You need to move to Switzerland!

  2. Jane said

    Wow. Did I see this before you sent it? No wonder I got all her calls from this point forward… Funny stuff though.

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