As an agent, I cringe when I read stories like this. Having experienced some of the things you experienced when I was looking to rent, I can't argue that there are some really bad agents out there. However, there are also agents that have integrity, listen to their clients, are responsive and care. I promise you that is true.
I agree with many of Nataliya's comments. At TOWN we are trained to treat every client, regardless of transaction price with the best service possible and to be upfront with each client. We also are trained to ensure our listings are accurate and they are checked and also required to be updated at least weekly to ensure accuracy. REBNY has very strict requirements about this.
I won't repeat all of Natalyia's points, but I agree with many of them. Being a REBNY broker is important and I also agree that any agent in it for the long haul does not benefit from giving poor or misleading service. Why would we? We want a life long customer and want you to recommend and use us in the future for your next rental or sale.
However, I also want to clear up some misunderstandings about "the fee" and that we do nothing for it. It's more than "a day's work". I know this will be unpopular, but a good agent works hard for that fee.
We make sure the apartments are real listings and active. We search through ads based on your criteria, make sure the listings are available, we set up appointments and alerts, sift through listings (many of which may only deal with brokers and not renters), ensure that you are qualified based on the landlord's requirements, become knowledgeable about the buildings/neighborhood/units, show up at appointments based on your schedule, help you with the documents and forms and any moving help, negotiate on your behalf, follow-up after the rental to ensure you are happy, etc.
A lot of the work we do is done out of your sight and often it is our connections, knowledge, technology and the ads that we create (and often pay for) that helped find that apartment for you. And, at the end of the day, if you change your mind and do not rent, we did that work simply as a free service. That's fine and fair and we then just hope you might use us or recommend us in the future.
The agents do not keep the whole fee and are not getting rich off the fee and you don't even pay it unless you do rent an apartment that the agent finds that you like.
When you use a good agent, you should feel like the fee was well-deserved and they saved you time, money and the frustration of doing it yourself. I hope you use an agent in the future that proves me right and I, too, am sorry so many have had such bad experiences. I agree, it should not happen.