2020 has become the year of the Sucker! It’s the year social media opened up our eyes to how utterly persuadable we can be. The line between fact and fiction so easily blurred, through propaganda, opinions and misinformation. Being duped on social media is one thing, but when it happens to you in the real world face to face… Somehow it becomes more personal. Nobody likes to be played for a fool. But it does happen! And happens all the time! In fact, one might go as far to say — There’s a Sucker born every minute!
I’m guessing we’ve all been there. Caught off guard by someone down on their luck asking for spare change. Hurriedly dropping a few coins in their eager hands before quickly walking away. The person behind the hands, falling from memory as you stride with purpose getting on with your busy day.
Sometimes, the act of giving makes us feel good, helping someone in need. Sometimes, not so much! You leave wondering if maybe your beggar actually makes more than you do, pity-scamming dollars for a living. Oh well you think, it was just a couple of dollars at the most. No big deal right?
But what if you knew for a fact later on, that indeed you had just been scammed? Played for a fool! Intentionally duped by this imposter who was preying on your emotions! I’m guessing, oh well it was only a few dollars doesn’t cut it anymore? Perhaps Anger, instead of pity, now flushing your face?
And why not! After all, nobody likes to get played for a fool!
One day not long ago, I was out for my daily walk and ended up at one of those strip malls that seem to be on every other corner these days. I was walking across their one-for-all, all-for-one, parking facilities, when a car pulled up behind me and the driver beckoned me over.
“Excuse me” he said. ” I need help, can you come over?”
I assumed he was looking for directions, so I ambled on over. ” Hey there” I said, “what can I help you with?”
“Look here” he said, pointing to his gas gauge where the needle sat directly on the E for empty. “We’re from Montreal” he offered, “We’re trying to get home but we have no money for gas.” A middle aged woman of nondescript sat in the shadows of the passenger side. ” We could really use some help” she said meekly.
At this point, my gaze fell back on the driver who I really hadn’t consciously registered yet. He was a broad shouldered middle-aged man, well-dressed, clean cut and well-groomed. He was wearing, what looked like to me, a new calfskin short leather coat and a not inexpensive Polo shirt, opened at the neck.
He also had a gold necklace around his neck to go with his sheepish pleading grin now on his face.
Hmmm? What’s this I thought?
His vehicle was a relatively new all black Ford Explorer, with leather bucket seats on the inside from what I could make out. This man didn’t look, like he needed money. On the contrary, it looked, like he had plenty!
“You don’t look like a guy that is in desperate need of a handout” I said quite frankly, my eyes roaming over his Explorer so he’d get my drift. “No, no” he says, “I have money but the bank has put a hold on it and I’ve run out of what I had with me.” Hmmm I thought? Possible or not?
Now If he would of stopped there, sad tale of woe and all, and with me not taking time to ponder over his circumstances he might have had me. I might of slipped him $20 for gas and wished him luck.
But he didn’t stop there….
Instead, he pulls from the inside of his leather jacket, a gold chain and matching men’s gold ring. “Take this he says” if you can help me. “Its worth a lot of money!”
Okay, that did it! Now the warning bells were ringing in my head! This guy, driving a new expensive car, offering me, what he claims is expensive gold jewelry — in exchange for gas money that he doesn’t have?
I don’t bloody think so!
“Sorry buddy” I say, “I thought you wanted directions. I’m just out for a walk and didn’t bring any money with me.” Then I quickly turned and walked away.
He left, and after a few more steps, I turned and surveyed the huge strip mall’s parking lot to see where he’d go next. Sure enough about six rows over, he’s stopped again ready to tell his sob-story to someone else who was on his way over.
Did I almost get suckered-in there? Yes, I think I almost did! But How?
Embarrassed and angry, I headed home, silently chastising myself for what had almost happened. My mind racing, with things I should of said, questions I should of asked, observations I should of made and reasoning I should of applied. Yeah the ‘should of’s’ are easy, now that its over, my mind criticizing itself.
But what about — at the time?
But it all happened so quick I thought? No, that’s not right! It happened so quick, because YOU LET IT happen so quick! And that’s — the problem!
Most likely well-rehearsed and fine-tuned over time for best results, their ploy targeted human emotion. Preying on one’s good nature, empathy, pity and compassion. Their little sob story delivered quickly, looking for an impulsive spontaneous reaction based on emotion rather than reasoning.
They would target lone individuals only, so that they only had to convince one brain, instead of two, or more.
Yet, they were well dressed, well groomed and driving a fairly new and expensive car? You’d think the opposite would be better cover when trying to pry sympathy-money away from strangers? Even still, it almost worked!
If it wasn’t for the mistake of the phony gold jewelry, they might have had me! It could be that the fake gold was just my own personal eye-opener. Maybe it really did work well, on some of the others?
I wonder, how many times their little scam proves successful? Most likely many times considering they almost got me. Speaking about me, why was I targeted? Just some random guy or — scary thought here — maybe I fit the targeted type? YIKES!
That said, I better be more aware, of and during these situations in the future. Have a plan ready and make sure my bullshit detector is always on and in good working condition. And, slow down my encounter, giving myself plenty of time to think!
Yet, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this encounter. So I played the scene over again in my mind looking for the things I missed.
And in my haste, I’d missed plenty!
Perhaps you can think of some… before reading on?
WHAT I MISSED
If he really desperately needed cash for gas so badly…. Why didn’t he just walk the strip Mall and take what he could get for his calfskin coat? His gold neck chain? Whatever else he had in the car of value? If he couldn’t sell them on the street a pond shop would give him at least some cash for them. And he never offered sale of any of theses items to me?
He could Phone a friend for a loan? Parent, sibling or relative? One can wire money today from almost anywhere, to anywhere! Hell, he could just wait for night and siphon what he needed from a parked car if it came down to that!
And, if his claim that the jewelry he tried to gift me was valuable — why hadn’t he walked the streets and sold them already? Why instead, would he be willing to take what little I’d give him, if they really were worth so much more?
How obvious this all seemed now. Now that I had time to think about it that is. Now that I had, ‘made time’, to think about it!
Even, if in the end, I did somehow, someway decide to give him money for gas, I shouldn’t just hand it to him trusting that he would use it for fuel. I learned this during my interactions with pleading panhandlers in the past. I would offer to buy them a meal at the nearest eatery instead of handing them cash. If they declined with an excuse, then hunger was not their issue.
That said, there was a gas station not a block away! I should of offered to meet them there and pay the attendant myself the 20 bucks or so for fuel. Again, if he declined with a story? Then go-go juice was not what he was after.
I didn’t even think to look at his license plate, to see if he really was from Montreal. Or if, just the act of doing so unnerved him, maybe even had him speeding away? Missed that too! Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!
I was lucky this time. The next time I’ll make sure I’m more prepared. I will make sure to slow things down, even pausing, just to give myself plenty of time to think. It wasn’t that it was a lot of money. It was how easily I’d almost been taken. And that how obvious it should have been if I was paying proper attention.
Hey, nobody likes to get played for a sucker! And almost getting played isn’t much better. It leaves us feeling vulnerable, stupid and indignant. On social media is one thing, but when it happens face to face, somehow the action is more repulsive, more personal.
There are people looking for hand outs in every city. Carrying homemade signs, huddled on city corners or traffic mediums with dirty hands out extended. I’m not immune, not without empathy, and often times toss a couple of coins their way in hopes of their legitimacy.
Sometimes, people really do need a helping hand!
Then again, you read about some beggared woman whose been seen climbing into her new Mercedes. This after what turns out to be her daily-shift of scamming others out of their hard earned money. Like with everything these days, the truth is getting harder and harder to detect.
Yet many of us are open caring people who’s first instinct is to lend a helping hand. Should one or two negative experiences cause us to change this? What would the world look like, without those willing to take a chance and care? What of those really in need? Must they now suffer because of the bad deeds of the few?
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Have you ever regretted giving a hand-out later? Ever feel taken? Do you give regularly to those who ask? Sometimes? Never? Is your Bullshit Detector always on? Or do you have a story, similar to mine?
Because there really is a Sucker born every minute.
Just this time…
It was almost me!