When Launi Bowie thinks of the sympathy card two Metro Vancouver realtors sent her father, who suddenly and unexpectedly lost his beloved wife of 51 years in July, a few choice words come to mind.
“A tremendous lack of judgement,” Bowie said. “Very poor taste.”
Her mother, Audrey, died in hospital just three weeks ago after collapsing at a birthday party and breaking her neck. She was 72 years old.
Bowie said the entire family has struggled with the abrupt loss, but none more so than her father, Ted. That’s why it was so heartbreaking to see his expression after opening the realtors’ card over the weekend.
“It looked like someone had punched him in the gut,” she said. “That really, really upset me. It really bothered me to see that somebody did that to my dad.”
A handwritten note on the card reads: “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. Thanks.”
The realtors, who met the widower and learned of his loss while canvassing his White Rock neighbourhood two weeks ago, also attached their business cards.
Bowie said her father threw the card away, calling it “garbage,” but she felt more should be done. She decided to make an example of it, and posted a picture of the card on Facebook on Sunday. It has since been shared almost 1,000 times.
“They didn’t know my mom and dad. I don’t think it’s appropriate to send a sympathy card to a family you don’t know,” she said. “It’s hard to look at this as anything but a solicitation for business.”
The Real Estate Council of B.C. confirmed it is investigating what happened, but the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, which oversees White Rock, is standing behind the agents.
Dennis Wilson, manager of professional standards for the board, told CTV News he’s spoken with the realtors, Linda Shaver and Leanne deSouza, and he believes the situation is a “very sad misunderstanding.”
The women were unaware Bowie’s mother had died when they approached her father, and quickly apologized and left after they learned what happened.
“They told him how sorry they were, they backed away and went back to their offices, and at some point thereafter decided – right or wrong, but in their view they thought it was a nice gesture – they wrote a note back,” Wilson said.
“They certainly were not intending to put any pressure on him.”
Shaver and deSouza told CTV News they sent the card because when they spoke with the widower, he indicated he was thinking of selling his home, which they took as an invitation to reach out. They still deeply regret causing any additional distress to the family, and said if given another chance they would not have included their business cards with the note.
Bowie doesn’t believe the realtors are bad people and said she doesn’t want them to face any serious repercussions, but she hopes others in the industry will hear her family’s story and think twice about approaching people in their time of grief.
“I get that it’s a frenzied atmosphere in the real estate market but there’s got to be a point where you go, OK, but I’m not going to go that low,” she said.
“I want other realtors out there to think really hard about what you’re doing and when you’re doing it and why you’re doing it.”