The Old-Fashioned Lobby Suggestion Box Gets a 21st-Century Upgrade Technology Makes It Easier for Residents to Communicate

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Like just about everything else we encounter and use every day, the lines of communication in a co-op or condo building have been scrutinized, analyzed, and updated for the cyber age. The question is whether that new approach has made co-op and condo owners’ favorite pastime of complaining and making suggestions any more convenient or efficient. Here's a look at how communication within the multifamily housing setting has evolved.

A Short History of Gripes

For as long as there has been community living, there have been dissatisfied residents. In the old days, complaints and suggestions often landed in a shoe box with a hole in it inside the building's lobby.  If that didn’t work and the problem was serious enough, there was always the dreaded 'elevator ambush,' or registered mail sent to the managing agent and/or the board president. The former required chutzpah and a captive audience; the latter, a trip to the post office -- a form of torture not generally welcomed by busy people with full schedules.

Complaining was revolutionized with the arrival of email, which meant no more shoe boxes in the lobby, or registered letters -- now, all that was needed was an email address.  In general, everyone has email, and aside from some issues of security and privacy, it has became the accepted means of communication among residents, board members, and management.

In the past 10 years or so, the advent of other means of communications--including blogs, social media platforms, and websites--have gained popularity as communications facilitators.  Mark Schneider, an attorney at the New York City firm of Schneider Buchel, strongly cautions against the use of any of these as an acceptable forum for suggestions or complaints, because they're public; everyone can see what their neighbors have written. “That is one surefire way to exacerbate any complaints, as other members will jump on the bandwagon,” he says.

What’s New and Interesting?

Now there’s an app on the market to facilitate such interaction between residents provided by BuildingLink, according to Julie Schechter, an associate attorney with Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. The Resident App provides both information to residents and an open forum for communication among neighbors. The app can be used by residents to put in service requests with the super, and even sell items, like furniture or concert tickets.  It is also used to alert residents when a package or dry cleaning has been received by the doorman.

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