Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Con Man's Word Games--Don't be Fooled by a Carnival Barker Pitch

--For defensive purposes, what everybody ought to know: the con man's vocabulary and how to interpret it

Seemingly eons ago, the word, "mark," was born. It was in the 19th century era of the carnival barker that the practice of labeling "marks" originated. Once a victim proved his suckerhood, a shell games operator would slap him on the back with a chalk-filled hand, thus making him identifiable to the other crooked operators on the midway. The carnival con man of the day usually got away with these small-time scams because local authorities wrote such thievery off, "because they'll be gone in 3 days."

This practice has evolved. No longer must you worry about such messy tracking methods. The skilled con man, now a polished orator, resorts, largely, to spellbinding prose, a strictly verbal assault on your common sense. So, how do you keep the chalk off your back? How do you now detect when you are about to be ripped off?

Listen closely to the language. Hear each and every word penetrating your ears, on into your head, circulating about your cerebrum seeking analytical judgment. When the con man thinks he has got you in his cross-hairs, certain words will spill forth from his lips. Like the intellectual who uses more words than necessary, he will try to overwhelm you with his charm, wit, and charisma, along with his verbosity. Measure him, and what he says, carefully. Examples of the words:

> Anyone can make a killing. Anyone? C'mon. Obvious, even though the con man thinks, a good slogan will stop researh for 10 years. It's still tried, over and over again.

> Sure-fire. Automatic. Easy money. Airtight. Painless. Foolproof.. Safe. Sure, these words reassure alright. Don't they? Anyone who falls for this claptrap probably also believes in the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, and truthful politicians.

> Confidential. Secret. Then, you must ask yourself, why in the world is he about to spill all of this to a neophyte stranger like me?

> Removes risk. Risk-free. What? Come again. You're thinking, every morning when I leave the house I must drive carefully to avoid hitting somebody. When I get to work I must avoid second hand smoke. I must be careful not to cut myself when using a knife to peel an orange at coffee break. At lunch time I must be sure the potato salad hasn't been standing out too long, to avoid food poisoning. And, on my way home I risk what my husband might think when he sees the fishnet stockings and miniskirt I just bought and am wearing--will he think I was wearing these before I got to work, with a specific purpose in mind?. And, now this guy wants me to invest $10,000 with him and tells me there is no risk?

> Lazy way. Easy money. Painless. Automatic. Huh? As in the Geico commercials on TV, so easy a cave man can do it?

> This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. When you hear this you can be sure it is just that: a get-rich-quick scheme. Whom to acquire this elusive wealth? Why, the con man, naturally.

> Insider. Magic. No-brainer. You would have to be living vicariously through the eyes of a gypsy tea leaf reader to believe these words.

> Win / win. When you hear this think, lose / lose.

> Money machine. Offshore. Cookie-cutter. Dead cat bounce. Components of a legal thriller? Sounds more like language uttered by Tony Soprano and his gang of thugs.

In essence, it's best to be certain the con man's words fall only into an echo chamber as you turn and walk away. Be sure to avoid taking a friendly pat on the back on your way out.


david said...

When someone dresses things up with pretty and nice words I'm already on my guard.

Jack Payne said...

Yes, David, the initial tip-off is not difficult at all.

Dolcett said...

It is all a charade, only word games to hook you. That's right, if you watch the tv pitchmen and pay close attention to what telemarkerters are saying, you get a good hint at what is coming.

aksn1p3r said...

I sometimes wonder whether people are just stupid or if they are so insecure that they fall for emotional talks and catch-phrases.

Thanks for all the heads-up you have been providing. I have added you to my megafeed list! Thanks for the visit also!

Jack Payne said...

"Emotional talk and catch phrases." That's a good way to put it. And, yes, TV pitchmen and telemarketers are proponents of this sort of selling. You can learn a lot by closely observing these people in action.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,
There is a genuine laziness about certain folks who fall for these schemes. If the ad says make a fortune in your spare time, that means they aren't willing to work full time, and that is just plain lazy. There are TV commercials that say you can buy a mansion with a website that you do not design yourself, have no inventory, never touch whatever it is you will be selling, and have no clear idea of how to dive traffic to your website, yet people become convinced that they can earn $$$$$ by sitting around in their bathrobes and having checks mailed to them by simply paying someone else to put up a website for them. It has me baffled, yet others make millions selling lazy people this concept. Thanks for the useful insight once again, Jack.

Jack Payne said...

That's precisely why these weasel words work, Mike. It's because there are so many gullible people out there who so easily fall for these brazen attempts to suckerize them.


Jamie said...

Great info yet again! If things sound too good to be true, they usually are...

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,
I wanted to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for your useful and valuable advice to protect us against fraud and greed.
Enjoy the holiday, be well. -Mike

RockStories said...

Who peels an orange with knife?

Lee Woods said...

Hi Jack,
Thanks for you comments re my blog, "Smart People Write." There are times when I wish I were no longer a member of the "snake oil" crowd, but whatchagonna do. I never should have taken that first ad agency job, huh? Keep up the good work, and thanks again.
Lee Woods

Lee Woods said...

Hi Jack,
Thanks for your comments re my blog, "Smart People Write." There are times when I wish I were no longer a member of the "snake oil" crowd, but whatchagonna do. I never should have taken that first ad agency job, huh? Keep up the good work, and thanks again.
Lee Woods

dogboy said...

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Warren M said...

I had wondered where the word, mark, came from.

Thanks for the explanation.

kab625 said...

Hi Jack,
I was tagged today then told to tag others, so you're it my friend. Visit my blog for the rules. Thanks,

Lisa McGlaun said...

This is good. The vocabulary you lay out for us is straight out of a late night infomercial..get rich quick, painlessly...lose weight, effortlessly.

Boy can we be gulible.


Gene Kranik said...

In culling your archives I find this word games article a valuable one. It' worth saving, to refer back to.

kathleen said...

Hi Jack,

Then, if you don't fall for the pitch, they offer you something that you might be able to afford, "understanding" that you may not have the capital needed to buy their fine fine product.

Of course, none of us should miss out on what's being sold because we may not measure up financially to the con man's regular customers.

Oh, by the way - I have a deal on some peanut butter crackers.