Secret Agent: ‘Finally I realised that our manager was asking us to spy on our rivals over the road’

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The Independent Online

There's a deadly virus gripping the world of estate agents – and it's caused by the current slowdown in the market. The name of this disease is Chronic Denial, and there doesn't seem to be any cure.

The most recent casualties are our rivals across the road – afflicted with the not totally preposterous notion that their staff are to blame for flagging sales, they've sacked the walking quiff that was their manager and hired a woman with a gigantic bottom.

"Uh-oh Gav, your girlfriend's about to crush your motor," Justin said, watching as the woman performed a kind of ungainly belly dance around the parked cars.

Gavin looked confused. "She's not my girlfriend," he squeaked, as if there was any doubt that an aggressive gin-pickled 45-year-old divorcée might actually be his romantic interest.

I should have realised when my manager passed up the opportunity to contribute his own derogatory comments about the woman that something was wrong. But he rather threw us off course with his latest half-baked scheme. "To know one's enemy is to win the fight," he announced. We all joined Gavin in the gormless staring. "If you want to keep the edge, you need to start digging."

Thankfully, Kelly stopped him before we were subjected to a full recitation of what was evidently a self-help book of boardroom clichés for the unimaginative. But it took a while to establish that he was asking us to spy on the new woman in the name of "market research".

"Will we have to dress up in disguise?" Gavin asked, excitedly.

Justin chortled. "You're already dressed up, mate, disguised as a grown-up."

"And it fools no one," Kelly cackled.

"This is not a game," my manager shouted, "it's serious business." Yet, as he issued us all with instructions to follow the woman at every opportunity we had, it smacked more of stalking.

"What are we hoping to find, boss?" Justin asked, embarrassingly carried away with the idea that he was in The Bill.

My manager looked incredulous. "Her sales tactics, of course!"

Of course, this was rubbish, as I was to discover a couple of days later, when I overheard my manager quizzing Gavin.

"So did she kiss this man?"

"I think so," Gavin replied.

"She either did or she didn't," my manager snapped. "You do know what a kiss is, Gavin?"

It didn't fully dawn on me that the point of our "market research" had been to research whether this woman was on the market, until she strode into our office and my manager turned puce.

"Hi, I'm Jackie," she said, waddling over to his desk. "I gather we're sharing the keys for 92 Hills Road."

It was clear from her perfunctory handshake that this was all she was prepared to share, but my manager's pathetic grin suggested he'd already convinced himself to the contrary. Looks like this denial bug is contagious.

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