February 27, 2020

The Quite Ridiculous Use of QR Codes

Stephen M. FellsContributor: Stephen M. Fells

Last months NAR conference was noticeable for lots of bad reasons. My good friend Matthew Ferrara put together a great video detailing his thoughts on the event, here are some of my low-lights (not in order):

1. Attendance was noticeably lower for the third year. I spoke to many vendors and without exception the feedback from the honest ones was ‘it’s dead’. I know of one company that had such a bad experience they immediately canceled attending TriplePlay. If you want to know one reason (of many) less and less vendors are supporting trades shows see point 2.

2. Once again a significant number of Realtors (described by RISMedia CMO Allan Dalton as ‘trick or treaters’ because they spend all of their time walking from booth to booth, bag open, looking for free goodies) couldn’t help themselves and, like moths to a flame, buzzed around any booth that provided:

Stuffed animals
Silk scarfs
Anything to do with massage (you name the body part, it was serviced)
insert anything not related to real estate here…

3. David Hasselhoff.

4. QR codes. Everywhere! Everyone and their dog seemed to be offering QR codes and so to my main gripe – the complete lack of understanding about what a QR code is and how to use it.

Let’s first review what a QR code is – from Wikipedia:

A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

[]Created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

A QR code looks like this:


But where do you use them? This is were it gets fun – they should be used on anything that isn’t online. A sign rider, a flyer even a business card are great examples – a Website is the worst possible example. A QR code (amongst other things) links a person to Web based content: using an application on your smart phone you can capture the QR image which will get you to a Website.

Why then, would anyone put a QR code on a Website? The blunt answer is ‘because they have absolutely no idea what a QR code is’ but I would never say that. A better answer is ‘You wouldn’t because a QR code on a Website serves no purpose.’ If someone is already looking at your Web based content and you want to link them to other Web based content then link to it with good old fashioned html!

Think about it for a moment; there you sit, looking at a single property Website via your desktop computer and you see a QR code. Now you have to go and get your smart phone, open up the QR app, take a photo and you then get to see…wait for it.. a Website! You are now simultaneously looking at content via your PC and mobile phone. A waste of time? Absolutely!

I recently read a blog post that stated:

“We are in the process of adding QR codes to our listing and agent websites. We do not plan to charge anything additional for this service. We will also offer a sign rider with the QR code for an added fee.”

I’m going to save you some time – adding QR codes to any type of Website:

1. demonstrates what you don’t know about technology
2. is a major inconvenience to anyone visiting your Website
3. will result in next to no activity

You can get QR codes (for physical, non Web based products) for free from Kaywa. Create one and print it multiple times onto some Avery labels. No cost, no sales pitch and no back door vendor pitch for another product.

As Public Enemy sings; “Don’t believe the hype!”


  1. Steve Babbitt says

    I totally agree with you on the seemingly focus of agents going through the expo. I use this time to talk with the vendors that I am using or interested in to find out more about their products and services. We had a great chat during the ReBarcamp in Atlantic City.

  2. You won’t get any disagreement from me. All of a sudden they are everywhere, and 99% of the time they clog the scenery and would be better if replaced by a hyperlink on a web page or simple url that could be typed into a smart phone.

  3. Refreshingly honest & straightforward! 🙂 Thank you. Btw, I use QR codes – I have a specific purpose. I measure. And I use them inexpensively. Too many jump on the bandwagon for every new and “great” technology, mistakenly believing tech will save the world (or at least save or make a real estate business). Sorry, boys and girls, tech should make a business more efficient, but it’s not going to save/make a real estate biz.

  4. You forgot all the booths offering Ipads, I must have thrown my card in all of those.

    • Ipads seem to be the best way of getting business cards thrown in the jar these days.

      • Agreed! Now it seems like everyone is doing it to the point that I heard of no less than 15 giveaways at Triple Play alone. It’s such a good hook……or the new scam – depending on how you look at it.

  5. While I agree completely with your post, I have to say that I disagree somewhat with your thoughts on placing the QR code on your web site.

    Although I do not have QR codes on my web site, I do have my QR code on my business card that automatically creates a contact info card in your smartphone. If someone was browsing my web site, it might be easier for them to scan the contact QR to call me from their phone, rather than write the number down and then dial it in their phone.

    I think the piece that you are missing is that QR codes can produce more than just a web site link. They can produce messages with just text, contact VCF cards for databases, or share pictures. The problem is that people are thinking that they are for web only and they’re using the wrong type of message such as a web site link within their own web site.

  6. Hi Stephen!

    Yeah, QR codes are for offline use – a quick link to your site, listing or landing page of choice. We auto-create them for all our agents listings so they can print them for use offline. They like it.

    For Trulia, Triple Play was really great. We had plenty of engaged and interested agents and brokers wanting to learn more about how to use Trulia. That’s always a good thing. We gave away no ipads or stuffed animals – only our Trulia bags which we do for almost every major show. Those went fast.

    I too am baffled when all agents care about is what were giving away. You can definitely tell who the serious ones are.

    Nice seeing you at our booth in AC….



  7. These codes can be quite powerful when used properly. People need to be taught how to strategically utilize them, otherwise, you end up with junk. I have actually seen and used these codes in some very good places. Recently, I was able to download a free eBook at the airport just before getting on a plane. The QR code was strategically placed and available to me, and getting the book was accomplished in a very short time while boarding the flight. Now that’s the way to do it. Why not use a code on the “For Sale” sign????

  8. Conferences and events for me,are about connecting with people with whom I am interested in doing business.So I tend to take the list of exhibitors,and highlight (yes really) who I want to talk to ,and what about,if my path takes me past others,okay neat-otherwise,I don’t have room to collect tchotchkes.
    I try to use other time,to connect with people who are also in attendance (and catch up on work too!)

    I understand there are some uses for QR codes,but it seems to me that people have (yet again) gone overboard about the newest shiny tool. Know your business,know your market-and you will then know which tools are applicable for such (and knowing why you are NOT implementing something,is also useful to know,if you should encounter someone who asks,well why aren’t you using QR codes…for example).

    Tech is an enhancement,not a cure all.Use it to enhance what you already do well. Research,plan/strategize,implement-critical in ANY business.

  9. Realtors who fail to take the time to understand and properly implement this technology and others are most likely these cleverly named “trick or treaters.” They are eager to talk about the “shiny tool” (thanks Nikki), but not eager to learn what it really is and how to use it properly first. There is no short cut to understanding.