I screen via email questions and then move to the telephone conversation all prior to wasting anyones time at a showing. You are doing the right thing as why set yourself and the tenant up to fail. That would be the worse thing is to condemn both of you by not screening.
I hear what you are saying though. I have had some very irate people during the screening process whom are very angry because they were unable to even view the property. I receive about 10 calls a day when advertising my property. I will say the sheer volumn of calls required me to use a letter as a screening tool. The volumn was a blessing as I was not looking at 1 to 4 prospects but realized I must put a process in place.
If they had a parent die that is truely sad. I would not know this story though because they would not get in my door without knowing they were likely qualified to pay for the property.
I must admit that I've been shocked by the "entitlement mentality" that seems to be more and more prevalent. They seem to think that regardless of their ability to pay, I should show and rent to them solely because it is vacant at the time.
1) Many landlords to not check credit, employement and references.
2) 3 years ago and for a long time the rental market was different than now. I think in the past tenants had more power and LL's were in a poor position to demand the criteria required to be sure that the LL's investment was secure.
I think the market is going to stay the same for a long time.