Edinburgh Jon Black of the Edinburgh Private Tenant Action Group (EPTAG) had done a nifty bit of research to figure out where the giant cooperative ScotMid owned apartments that they were renting. He figured that the 100-year old coop had regularly owned the flats above where they had their small grocery stores, so he systematically did the research on where the tax records showed their property and then searched for the apartments above ScotMid and eventually had a list of almost 100 units worth trying to doorknock.
EPTAG also had a great issue and Keir, another EPTAG stalwart, had already proven it would work because he was also a ScotMid tenant. Renting his flat, the leasing agency for ScotMid charged him 120 pounds for various administrative and cleaning fees. All of which are illegal. Keir had demanded his money back on that basis, and Retti, the letting outfit, had meekly returned his money. In short, EPTAG had a great handle to begin the conversation with Scotmid tenants.
After another hour of going through doorknocking fundamentals, the volunteers broke into three teams and a little after 6pm with the far northern sun still high in the sky and the rain breaking, we all started bushing the bells on the doors near Stockbridge to see if we could talk our way into the entry hall and knock from the fourth floor down. Our brand new ACORNistas were excited and nervous, each for different reasons, as they tried to remember their points and prepared to ask for dues for the first time on the doors.
Keir told me after the first half-dozen doors that his heart was still pounding and his feet were already hurting, but he still felt great about the reception we were getting that was so much better than he had expected. One person was a clear “yes” for the meeting in two weeks. Another would have been ready to join on the spot and had heard of EPTAG’s work, but was following his wife to London in 2 weeks where she had a better job. People talked freely. There were issues. No one liked the leasing group.
Before 8pm after all of the doors were hit, the numbers were good. Almost 45% were “at homes” and we had close to 35 visits with more than 20 positive responses and a clear dozen “yesses” for the meeting in two weeks. The reception to all of the teams had been excellent. Our crew was excited about coming out again on Sunday to mop up the list.
And, importantly, Jon Black and his team had signed up the first member. Just as promised, she was so excited she tried to give them the dues in cash first before they got her on a “standing order,” which is something like a bankdraft in the US and Canadian banking system. Jon and Liz had then tried to jokingly compete on their team for who led the raps and got the next members, which is also what the organization wants and needs.
There was celebration at the pub later with great good spirits as we summed up the work over the week. They proved they could get on the doors and make it happen and had their first member “in the open field.” For my part, I walked away with a bottle of great local scotch available nowhere else. We all had great memories and high expectations for the future of ACORN Scotland!