On the first street past the median, 66th Avenue, there is a large sign on the right shoulder – No U-Turns allowed. There’s a similar sign at the next intersection on 66th Drive. If you turn onto 66th Avenue, there are two more signs at Caribbean and Acapulco.
Every day, these signs are ignored. One day, in fact, I watched in amazement as some lady in an SUV was cursing passionately at me because I pulled up to the stop sign at 66th and Greenway, not leaving her enough room to make her illegal U-turn. Think on that one.
I did, and I have a solution.
Beginning this weekend, I’m going to start handing out friendly reminders to anyone making said U-turn that said U-turns are, in fact, illegal. They will be on note cards not featuring the official City of Glendale logo because this activity will not in any way be sanctioned by the city. I’m seeing an inefficiency in the traffic market and I intend to rectify that situation.
About two weeks after beginning this, I will write a press release discussing the immediate drop in ticketable offenses at the intersection. I can’t say there will be a drop in tickets because, in the nine years I’ve lived in this house, I’ve never seen anyone cited for an illegal U-turn, even as children go sprinting across the street to avoid being hit by cars turning illegally. Zero still is zero.
But that’s not really important. What is important is I will have a statistic to tout, albeit one that’s rather vague and somewhat difficult to quantify in any meaningful manner.
After about a month, I will move from friendly reminders to actual citations with a $25 fine payable to the “City of Glendale’s Traffic Safety citizens Committee.” I will keep the word citizens in lower case and make sure the logo only reads “Glendale Traffic Safety Committee” in an effort to dampen the fact this effort has not been sanctioned by the city and, in fact, I have zero real background in traffic control and no real authority to issue citations.
Inevitably, seeing an official P.O. Box as an address, I will receive some fines from people not reading the fine print because they are too dazzled by my fancy logo. I then will issue a press release discussing the increase of revenues to the city (through sales tax I’ll pay for the business, not from the citations that never were authorized) along with the continued decrease in ticketable offenses.
Any claim of revenue to the city, of course, is being invented out of whole cloth but that’s what you want to do if you want to develop an air of authenticity around the venture. And having actual authenticity often is less important than seeing that there’s authenticity.
(Speaking of venture, did I mention I’m seeking venture capital to seed this venture? Send me a check.)
In three months time, I will construct a toll booth at the intersection of 66th Avenue and Greenway and start charging a 25-cent toll on all southbound traffic. True, there are several other roads people can use, but after being dazzled by my press releases extolling the extreme safety of this road since my project began, how could responsible drivers possibly risk life and limb using another road just as safe when there are no press releases to support that utterly provable fact?
There will be grumbling at the beginning, I am sure, just as there would be grumbling at the first two steps as well. People will question why they are paying the toll but I will hand them a brochure extolling the safety of this road in comparison to others even a couple of blocks away. The city won’t stop me because to do so would mean having to counter my slick press releases with real “facts” that won’t be presented in nearly as slick a fashion or with as nice of a website.
And soon I will add advertising to the side of the road, residential neighborhood or not, and charge a premium because of all the eyes who will see these small advertisements when they stop to pay their toll.
How many people see each ad is irrelevant – I only need to promote the total number of eyes who see the ad. And, now that I think of it, I’ll double the number presuming that in 99 percent of the cases each person had two eyes with which to see the ad. Verification is less important than an air of authenticity.
Soon, within the year, people will stop questioning how someone with no background in traffic management and no authority vested from the city had been able to do such a thing. It will seem like my toll booth and this toll road always have been there and are an integral part of the landscape, as opposed to being conceived of and developed by an interloper who was filling a void that never really existed.
This all sounds far-fetched but there are real-life examples to which I can point.
Trulia and Zillow are two “real estate” websites that were developed to fill a void that didn’t really exist. It’s not like it was difficult for real estate consumers to find listings information on true real estate sites provided by agents and brokers, at least not if they could work Google. But Trulia and Zillow entered the fray nevertheless.
Both started issuing press released only vaguely connected to reality.
Trulia would discuss trends in the prices of real estate listings – price reductions and that sort of thing – using utterly incomplete and often incorrect data based on what was on its own site. Not that the details mattered. Reporters with no desire to question the source, including our favorite real estate remora Inman News, simply printed what was provided.
Zillow started publishing press releases about the fluctuations in “Zestimates” – the websites’ valuation estimates created using a proprietary formula that every now and then had some relation to actual trends in the real estate market. While real estate agents spent their time explaining to their clients that, no, that “Zestimate” you see has nothing to do with your home’s value, the media was printing the changes in “Zestimates” as real facts as opposed to fluctuations in Santa Claus’ North Pole workforce.
Both Trulia and Zillow, now entrenched in the real estate space despite having no real authority to be in the space, used the authority of the media and the lack of sophistication of the buying public to create their own aura of necessity. Why ask an agent a question personally when you can survey a group of agents, none of whom are simply trying to win business, on specific questions regarding the contract you wrote? Why use an agent’s site when the public had been conditioned to believe the false listings were the truth?
Soon, both Trulia and Zillow offered advertisements to agents knowing full well that we are a class of alleged “business people” who best prove the maxim that a fool and his money are soon parted. Real estate agents will pay for anything that seems like it will prevent them from having to really work to prospect.
That there might be an end game in mind, such as with my toll booth, never would occur to anyone. But for all three of the people who watched ABC’s “V”, we know how this ends even if they “are of peace, always”. And it ain’t in the public’s favor.
Zillow eventually became so legitimate that it purchased one of the nation’s leading IDX providers, Diverse Solution. And here, ironically, for the first time the real estate establishment took notice.
Santa Barbara’s MLS moved first and Denver’s Metrolist followed suit, cancelling its contract with DS for the evil of being owned by Zillow.
Both of these moves are akin to the City of Glendale closing 66th Avenue to motor traffic a couple of years after my tollbooth opens for business to prevent me from collecting tolls. Or of the presumed President of the United States on “V” nuking the entire country to get rid of Anna and the Visitors.
And maybe that’s the sign of how powerful Zillow has become.
Two MLS boards have decided the only way to strike back at Zillow is to hurt their own agent members by banning use of the same IDX technology many have used for years, long before Zillow acquired Diverse Solutions. Rather than either admit the battle was lost long ago or find a reasonable solution, they have cut off their agents’ noses to spite the boards’ public face and made it more difficult for a public that could easily find the listings on member agents sites to find those same listings.
(Does Sandicor’s own public-facing site have something to do with this? Possibly. Yet somehow no one seems to think there’s an issue with an MLS competing with its own dues-paying members for internet consumers. You’d almost think buyers agents don’t actually exist and that whatever listing agents want goes.)
Hopefully, our own Arizona Regional MLS has more sense than this. (Given the new tax information software integrated into ARMLS replacing iMapp, who knows.)
Not that any of this matters. I figure I’ll be able to collect at least three years of tollbooth revenue and a nice chunk of venture capital before the tide turns against me. Trulia and Zillow showed me the way.
UPDATE: Error on my part – Sandicor is continuing its relationship with Diverse Solutions; is was Santa Barbara’s MLS along with Denver’s Metrolist that severed ties with DS. Many thanks to Ricardo Bueno for the clarification.