The BlackBerry and Vancouver RE – “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.”

“Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative.
“I’m ashamed of it,” said Rachel Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.
The BlackBerry was once proudly carried by the high-powered and the elite, but those who still hold one today say the device has become a magnet for mockery and derision from those with iPhones and the latest Android phones. Research in Motion may still be successful selling BlackBerrys in countries like India and Indonesia, but in the United States the company is clinging to less than 5 percent of the smartphone market — down from a dominating 50 percent just three years ago. The company’s future all depends on a much-delayed new phone coming next year; meanwhile RIM recorded a net loss of $753 million in the first half of the year compared with a profit of more than $1 billion a year earlier.

As the list shrinks of friends who once regularly communicated using BlackBerry’s private messaging service, called BBM, many a BlackBerry owner will not mince words about how they feel about their phone.
“I want to take a bat to it,” Ms. Crosby said, after waiting for her phone’s browser to load for the third minute, only to watch the battery die. “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.”
The cultural divide between BlackBerry loyalists and everyone else has only grown more extreme over the last year as companies that previously issued employees BlackBerrys — and only BlackBerrys — have started surrendering to employee demands for iPhones and Android-powered smartphones.

Out in the world, the insults continue. Victoria Gossage, a 28-year-old hedge fund marketer, said she recently attended a work retreat at Piping Rock Club, an upscale country club in Locust Valley, N.Y., and asked the concierge for a phone charger. “First he said, ‘Sure.’ Then he saw my phone and — in this disgusted tone — said, ‘Oh no, no, not for that.’ ”
“You get used to that kind of rejection,” she said.
“BlackBerry users are like Myspace users,” sneers Craig Robert Smith, a Los Angeles musician. “They probably still chat on AOL Instant Messenger.”
BlackBerry outcasts say that, increasingly, they suffer from shame and public humiliation as they watch their counterparts mingle on social networking apps that are not available to them, take higher-resolution photos, and effortlessly navigate streets — and the Internet — with better GPS and faster browsing. More indignity comes in having to outsource tasks like getting directions, booking travel, making restaurant reservations and looking up sports scores to their exasperated iPhone and Android-carting partners, friends and colleagues.
“I feel absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Gossage. “You’re constantly watching people do all these things on their phones and all I have going for me is my family’s group BBM chats.”
Ryan Hutto, a director at a San Francisco health information company, said he frequently depended on others, often his wife, for music playlists, navigation and sports scores. “After two or three questions, people start to get irritated,” Mr. Hutto said.
His wife, Shannon Hutto, says with a sigh: “Anytime we go anywhere, I always have to pull up the map. If we’re searching for a restaurant, I pull up the Yelp app. If we need a reservation, I pull up OpenTable. I kind of feel like his personal assistant.”

RIM’s most recent efforts to hold on to loyal customers, as well as software developers building apps for its next generation of phones scheduled to be available next year, have elicited universal cringes. In a recent promotional video, Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president for developer relations, is shown belting out a rock song titled “Devs, BlackBerry Is Going to Keep on Loving You,” a riff on the 1981 power ballad by REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You.”
“This is the sign of a desperate company,” said Nick Mindel, a 26-year-old investment analyst. “Come on, BlackBerry, I always had some faith, but you just lost a customer. Frankly, I don’t think they can afford to lose many more.”
After eight years with a BlackBerry, Mr. Mindel said he just joined the wait list for the iPhone 5. When it arrives, he said, “I’m considering removing my BlackBerry battery, pouring in cement, and using the BlackBerry as an actual paperweight.”

– from ‘The BlackBerry Stigma, J. Emilio Flores, The New York Times, 15 Oct 2012

Hero to Zero, in 60 months.
Sentiment changes, and products that seem bullet-proof fairly rapidly can become objects of derision.
Five years ago, who would possibly have believed that the ubiquitous and proudly paraded BB would be giving up death rattles? How many believe that Vancouver RE prices can drop over 50%?
“But what function will Vancouver RE be struggling with?”, some may ask.
The function of being a powerful financial instrument, is the answer.
“Damn, this 7%-10%-per-annum-price-appreciation key is broken!”.
You’re supposed to be able to sell it, anytime you like, at a steady and ever increasing profit, but you can’t.
“It’s all a big lie.”
– vreaa


56 responses to “The BlackBerry and Vancouver RE – “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.”

  1. RIM went and fucked themselves by buying the QNX os, then underestimating the time and effort required to rewrite the product to fit in with its current stable of products. How does this fit in with the Vancouver real estate market analogy? Not to sperg out to hard but this is an awful analogy vreaa.

    • Obviously an analogy between a phone and real estate is inherently imperfect. vreaa’s point is that certain highly desired objects can quickly become undesired, or at least less romanticized. As housing prices fall, and people lose money, the whole RE frenzy will be seen as very uncool.

    • Yeah, I think we can safely say that we all know a home is not a phone.
      The analogy is tenuous and poetic, and I’m taking license.
      As El Ninja says, it’s about sentiment.
      A certain amount of modest sentiment about a home or a phone is understandable; but when people get infatuated with these objects, expect a roller coaster ride.

    • I told my uncles two years ago to short RIM and go long AAPL (a pairs trade).

      Did any of us do it?


  2. Stupid sheep are embarrassed because of their phones. Mentally, they never made it past high school.

  3. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    I thought this was a great example of how “you can’t go wrong with a ‘______’ ” can turn completely around when a ” ________” fails to deliver the goodies that gave it its desirable status. Blackberries fail to deliver the abilities that made them hugely popular, ergo, they fail. Vancouver real estate fails to turn in its 7% per annum returns. Ergo, it fails. The popularity of both plunges. Not to sperg out hard, Matt, but, maybe you could try to rethink which aspects of the phenomena this analogy works for.

    On a separate topic: this piece looks a little like it was commissioned by Apple and Google… the bashing is intense, and then there’s the name-dropping of apps and too-detailed description of what they do… Seems aimed at converting that last 5% of the market.

  4. An entertaining story that we all know by now. But, a good analogy between Vancouver housing and Blackberries – I think not.

    One of the main reasons for the Blackberries decline was more and better competition.

    vreaa you can do better.

    • One of the reasons for Vancouver’s RE decline will also be competition. Competition between sellers to sell. Competition between the option of owning and the (financially more-sensible) option of renting. Competition between “investing” in a house, and investing in any number of more-attractive asset classes.

  5. its okay to have a little fun once in a while…….lighten up everyone and laugh a little before the bottom falls out.

  6. ….”one watch and one… ‘mobile’ phone.”…

    [NoteToEd: Remember?… best of all, unlike today’s flimsy articles, if you really had to – one of those could be quickly converted into a lethal projectile. You could also jump start your car in the event of a drained battery.]

    • Unlike poor GordonGekko – clearly, for our own, NonFictionFraudsters -‘Christmas’ has come early. What the Heck… they’re just in time to trade their CrackShackBerries in for a Spankin’New”5″ [NoteToEd: and best of all, if they miss a probation meeting, they can always blame the new MapApp. NoteToRalph: you probably don’t want to read this one.]…

      [CBC] – B.C. fraudsters getting early exits from prison

      “Some of B.C.’s most notorious fraudsters are being released from jail as a result of a court decision that says their rights were violated by a change in legislation aimed at keeping white collar criminals behind bars.

      The Parole Board of Canada says it started expediting accelerated parole review hearings for about 50 first-time non-violent federal inmates last week after a stay was lifted on a B.C. Supreme Court ruling last summer.”

  7. It’s amazing how fast things can turn. Blackberry is a great example and further back Blockbuster Video is as well. I remember financial news stories with how Hollywood was upset with Blockbuster because the company had such a large amount of the DVD market it could dictate pricing and now it’s absolutely nothing but empty strip mall stores with for lease signs. On the upside, remember when Apple was nothing and essentially DOA. Always respect that when the market turns, it can turn with force up or down.


  8. This article seems like it was written by someone who had their childhood pet killed by a Blackberry CEO or something.

    “…asked the concierge for a phone charger. “First he said, ‘Sure.’ Then he saw my phone and — in this disgusted tone — said, ‘Oh no, no, not for that.’ ”

    Umm… Basically every phone except for iphones all use the same charger. Blackberries and most Androids all use the micro USB connector.

    Anyone who is embarassed to own a Blackberry (for the record I have a work one, and it works great for work things like email and as an actual phone) is probably the same type of person who will buy a house just so they can say that they aren’t renters anymore.

    • Agreed, I still use a Blackberry because email and phone calls are what I need most on my smart phone. My other main use is to login to servers and routers and type in commands, for which a physical keyboard trumps any touchscreen. As someone who’s highly technical, I couldn’t care less what other people think, especially when their understanding of how their phone works typically barely goes beyond it being a magic box that does stuff.

      Likewise, being a mathematically minded person who also took my fair share of finance and accounting courses in undergrad, I really don’t care what other people think about whether I own or rent. I just do the math and go by what’s in my best financial interests. From 2010-2011, a friend and I were renting a penthouse unit at the Sheraton Wall Centre. After the maintenance fees, property management fees, and taxes, little more than half the rent could have gone towards the landlord’s mortgage. Since the landlord had not owned the unit for that long, if one were to assume 20% down, 3% interest rate, and 30 yr amortization, I’d estimate only about 1/3rd of their mortgage payments would have been covered by the rent and the other 2/3rds would’ve come out of their pocket. I had no issue at all being a ‘lowly renter’ when looking out the 48th floor view down over the city, especially when the lavish living arrangements were highly subsidized by the speculating owner.

      When the owner put the unit on the market, one realtor that came by with her clients to look at the place asked why I wasn’t looking at purchasing the unit myself. I told her I thought the market was in a bubble, and I noted how much we were paying in rent vs the list price of the unit as a case in point. She instantly understood, and noted what a great deal we were getting. The owner eventually had us move out based on the false pretense that he was moving in himself, probably thinking it would be easier to sell the unit when it wasn’t being rented out for such a low price. The unit has sat empty ever since. After more than a year since moving out, and 2 years since being put on the market, the place still hasn’t sold and is unlikely to anytime soon without the owner taking a major haircut along with the rent that they’ve already missed out on. I was annoyed at having to move at the time, but I’m pretty sure I got the last laugh as the renter on this one.

  9. rimm a fab analogy – least of all for the sentiment … but for hubris … rimm failed to acknowledge, especially in tech of all places, they’d be commoditized … believe you’re king and you are chump … lance pre-comeback, tiger woods (pornstar) post-08 open, aapl investors @700 (pffft!), ulysses taunts polyphemus … regent to reject in-sta-ma-tic … what’d marsellus have to say about pride

  10. “If all the people were running one way, I’d run the other way. It’s safer to go somewhere and be by yourself. You can take care of yourself. If you go where everybody else is going, that’s the worst place to go. Because you’re there you have to do what they do, and they’re just stupid. You have to do things on your own.”

    The lesson that Harold Rhenisch’s father learned as a child in wartime Germany when he expressly didn’t go into the bomb ‘shelter’ in the basement beneath the town’s train station.

    “… we saw the whole town blow up down below us. When we got back down to the train station we went to see what happened, they were just pouring the lye on all our schoolchums, they were all dead, all those guys we went to school with. Kids. The British had been aiming at the train station, and they all suffocated in the shelter.”

    From Out of the Interior: The Lost Country, by Harold Rhenisch.

    Thanks for the Friday morning laugh, vreaa.

    • Wow, quite the ‘contrarian’ story there, Froogle, thanks.

      Here’s another:

      “Traveling at high speed through an iceberg field without searchlights, the Titanic brushed past an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14. An underwater extension of the iceberg sliced through the ship’s thin metal skin so smoothly that the passengers noticed no impact. The ship was designed to stay afloat with four of its forward sections flooded, but could not survive the compromise of six. It sank at 2:20 the next morning.

      The captain ordered the lifeboats to be readied shortly after midnight. Presumably he knew that there were not enough to save everyone but did not advertise this information. Many passengers were at first unwilling to leave the vast ship, believing it unsinkable, and the first lifeboats left half filled.

      My grandfather was standing on the top starboard deck of the boat with a large group of men when a rumor went around that the men were to be taken off on the port side. Almost everyone moved across the ship. Only he and two others stayed where they were.

      Shortly after, he heard a cry of “Any more ladies?” from a lifeboat swinging level with the deck below. Leaning over the edge of his deck, he looked down at the boat.

      “Any ladies on your deck?” a crew member asked him.

      “No,” my grandfather replied.

      “Then you had better jump.”

      My grandfather put his feet over the side of the deck, threw his dressing gown ahead of him, and dropped onto the stern of the lifeboat.

      Why did he decide not to follow the rest of the men over to the port side? Though he owed his life to that decision, the explanation he gives in his book is not entirely satisfying. “I can personally think of no decision arising from reasoned thought that induced me to remain rather than to cross over,” he says.

      As if in recognition that some more positive evidence for his non-decision would be helpful, he adds, “I am convinced that what was my salvation was a recognition of the necessity of being quiet and waiting in patience for some opportunity of safety to present itself.”

      from ‘As Hundreds of Men Perished, One Ignored a Rumor to Survive’
      NYT 9 Apr 2012

    • “If all the people were running one way, I’d run the other way”

      that doesn’t work in a zombie apocalypse though… sometimes its good to follow the crowd.

    • A more recent – and equally tragic – example was when the authorities at the WTC told eveyone who had come down from the second tower after the first one was hit to go back up to their offices because it was safer there. Very few thought to defy those orders. But those who did, lived.

      Following a herd makes sense for grazing animals only because they’re not smart enough to do anything else. It really isn’t that great a strategy for those of us who ought to know better.

      And the musician making fun of MySpace users probably bought Facebook stock at $38. His herd only looks smarter right now.

  11. At the risk of being flamed, it appears that some real estate in Vancouver is still selling, without that much of a discount:
    ASKING PRICE $900,000 SELLING PRICE $880,000
    PREVIOUS SELLING PRICES $642,000 (2007); $342,000 (2003); $293,000 (2002); $60,750 (1976)
    TAXES $3,870 (2011) DAYS ON THE MARKET 14

    Only when you see a property like this, that has changed hands realtively frequently ove rthe last decade, do you see how far prices would have to fall to get back to normalcy. Frankly, I can’t see it retreating to 2003 levels, can you?

    • Yeah, I can. Why not?

      • Well, given that somebody paid close to asking for it as a home, as oppsoed to a teardown, indicates there are buyers who still see value at that price point. Short of an economic cataclysm, what would cause them to reduce that perception by 70%?

      • PT Barnum is aprocryphally attributed with a few choice words on that very subject, Angleterre… That said, I am sure we could all agree that value [at whatever price point] is frequently a highly subjective and occasionally emotive calculation… For example… for M Ousmane Ndiaye of Senegal, proximal, sanitary and commodious lodgings for his beloved ram, Billal are infinitely superior to the associated opportunity cost of rental income forgone… In that spirit, DearReaders… Here’s your Friday Quote ‘O TheDay!:

        “I could rent this place out for 250,000 francs ($500) a month, but I prefer to keep Billal and my sheep here.” – M. Ousmane Ndiaye, 60, sporting a royal blue boubou as he strokes the head of the sheep he hopes will become a reality television star….

        [ABC/AP] – Senegal reality TV show features prettiest sheep

        …”In a nation where sheep are given names and kept inside homes as companion animals, the most popular television show is “Khar Bii,” or literally, “This Sheep,” in the local Wolof language. It’s an American Idol-style nationwide search for Senegal’s most perfect specimen. Now in its fourth season, the show airs several times a week in the months leading up to Eid al-Adha, or Tabaski, as it’s known here….

        …”The Senegalese are really into their sheep,” says Fadilou Keita, 28, who lives with six of them by night at his Dakar home. The financial analyst carries his iPad in one hand and sticks his other in the mouth of Aziz to drag him toward the weigh-in scale. “This is my passion.”….

        [NoteToEd: At last! A fitting avocation for Dr. J when not otherwise preoccupied with more mundane leisure pursuits… NoteToRachelle: you wish to query prospective Senegalese tenants as to whether their ‘extended family’ includes livestock.]

      • “what would cause them to reduce that perception by 70%”

        No hope of selling for more than it’s worth. Highest and best is likely more than $300K. Assume a catastrophe, build SFH 2 suites, rent out for $3K total (1.5 up, 750 x2 down. At a catastrophic 100 price-rent that’s $300K. That would likely require real rates to be heavily positive. By the time that’s likely to occur, I expect rents to have gone up a bit from there.

        So in real terms $300K isn’t too far off. That would be $400K in nominal dollars in 2016 at 2% inflation. Now we’re only talking 50%.

      • Oops but of course there are construction costs. That place looks overpriced. Builders would probably need to sell it north of $1.2MM to make a profit.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        The question is, how is it considered more reasonable for a property to go up by 8 or 9 % more than inflation, annually, for a decade than for it to go down by the same amount, less inflation, for a similar period? It’s not like they discovered gold in Stanley Park.

        I don’t know that your typical buyer sees ‘value’ in that house at that price. The typical buyer has no friggin’ clue as to value. He gets two pieces of information: What the bank will front him for a monthly of $x, and what other buyers, who possess similar valuation skills to his own, have recently been paying for similar properties. The real estate agent knows nothing of value, only what other similarly informed people have been paying lately. The bank’s appraiser likewise. Value only comes into it when prices are low enough that an investor can buy, finance, pay for professional property management and upkeep and still make a reasonable return on capital using conservative long term assumptions.

      • Angleterre: There were still buyers of Nortel stock at $180 — the greatest of the greater fools, like today’s buyers of Vancouver RE. Doesn’t mean the price is going to hold.

      • Yes. Good point about prices rising well above the rate of inflation, Ralph. The real estate bulls always seem to overlook that bit of logic when assessing the prospects of buying. Somehow even double digit price growth is OK and normal but a correction equal in magnitude is impossible to fathom. These guys would have us believe if you chuck a ball in the air it will never fall back to earth.

    • Explains some of it:
      “In the past few years, this 65-year-old residence was updated by the sellers, who replaced the windows and refinished the oak and fir floors in two bedrooms, the fireside living and dining areas, as well as rem odeled the main bathroom and kitchen, which features new butcher block counters, cabinetry and backsplashes.”

    • According to a comment on the article:

      “Globe, this coverage is deceptive and manipulative at best. The “journalists” forgot to mention that this place sold back in early June, according to MLS. ”

      June sales prices and current sales prices are likely quite different.

      • @ davers – it’s a good catch, really. Past June and current October are two VERY different tunes. So it’s the last fool call again…

      • Agreed. If the sale is from June it has no relevance now, surely the Globe can find something more current. Or maybe the problem is they can’t…

    • Not much of a name...

      Isn’t the selling agent (Keith Roy) the agent that was proclaiming a few months ago that it was time to sell and get out of the market. I guess the buyer didn’t get that memo.

    • UBCghettodweller

      Wow, only $293,000 a decade ago. By national standards, that’s still expensive, but not insane.

      Either it really is different here or Vancouver has a long way to slide.

  12. The question for me is if customers are not hiring Realtors because they don’t have an iPhone5. If that’s the case I propose Realtors aren’t really the problem, or at least I would put the type of cell phone they drive at about priority -1000 on my list.

  13. someone’s having the last laugh. I wouldn’t be surprised that secret service (govt military drug) industry uses blackberries keyed to a military bandwidth. A day doesn’t go by when the Main Stream media mocks the 99% of us that don’t have privilege of Dark Economy profits.

  14. onion now plagiarizing my research … … must now misallocate capital – ciao … pfffft! …

  15. Here’s another from the Globe: “Canucks max out their mortgage to buy in Brooklyn” Too many gems to quote here.

    • Jack -> Great find, thanks.
      As you say, too many gems.
      Will headline.

    • I just read the entirety of the Globe article and was literally biting my finger the whole way through, like when I watch something like Aliens. Yikes!

    • Wow! So Bed-Stuy is “up and coming” now, hmm? Other than that I loved the idea until I got to the bit where they didn’t sell in Vancouver. Paying a Canadian mortgage with US income, I hope the dollar doesn’t move against them. OHOH, I am of the opinion that it’s always a good time to buy real estate *somewhere*.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        That’d be ‘on the other hand,’ not my impression of a dyslexic Santa Claus.

      • Had they decided to sell the house in Vancouver, I think it would have been a brilliant move. Much rather be holding RE in New York than Vancouver.

        Leveraging a Vancouver SFH right now? Not sure that they fully thought that one through.

  16. Blackberrys are business tools, for people who are mature and self composed about their self image.

    I-phones are faux toys, for those who are just the exact opposite.

    “Nuff said.

    I walked into a crowded Apple store with my wife who just had to have an I-phone a few months back. Asked the sales rep if I could do something with one of their phones to test it ,and if I could and it passed, I would also buy one on the spot. He said “what do you want to do ?” I pulled out my BB, slipped the tiny rubber skin off the body, held it up to shoulder height and let it drop on their polished concrete floor. With a “bang” it exploded into 3 parts and went flying in 3 directions.

    Everyone looked at me and froze.

    I went and picked the parts up, put it back together and said “Gee look, no cracked screen and it works fine.”……..”give me that I-phone”……….

    Needless to say I still have my trusty BB that doesn’t break, drop calls or kill it’s battery because I am playing games or surfing “Faceplant”……….

  17. If you want your data to remain your data, your people use Blackberry’s.

    If you are looking for neat-o apps then you use an iPhone or Android.

    Until the iPhone and Android can ensure that their data is as secure as Blackberry’s, Blackberry will still have a market in the corporate world.

  18. Thanks for the buy cofirmation – I mean RIM, not YVR. Maybe a good pair trade?

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