BULL STREET - The art of the Con

A Brief History of the Con

Grownup folks are usually extremely cautious in choosing people with whom to do business or whom to trust, simply because they have learned the hard lesson over time that it is human nature to take advantage of one’s fellow men. Whether it be the corner grocer who injects a modest amount water to his meat or fruits in order to make them weigh a tad more, or the merchant who constantly uses bait and switch marketing, (such as just having sold the car we advertised but we have something similar that may appeal to you) there are everyday folks out there that want a piece of you.

Moreover, these con artists can include your friendly waiter at the local restaurant who makes an extra copy of your credit card receipt in the back room and then orders merchandise under your identity, or what about your maid who sucks up your booze and pockets your change and small bills a little at a time. It can even be those people who take advantage of a human catastrophe to separate you from your hard-earned money under such ruses as; they are dedicated to help in feeding the homeless children whose parents were killed when the dam broke.  Or they can be the charities themselves who essentially extort money from you for one celestial purpose and use it for their own agenda’s such as their own salaries and expense accounts. 

There are important criteria that are critical for these folks to succeed in their con jobs but you have to know the territory and the successful ones certainly do. The jails are filled with them. First and most importantly, to be swindled you must first have some degree of trust in the people you are dealing with. Perhaps they came with a letter showing that very important people are involved with them in their project. The easily obtainable seal of the Better Business Bureau is a good start. Letters commentating them on good service, substantive returns or successful opportunities signed by high ranking church officials, familiar government bureaucrats or well known show business folks are always good for a couple of bucks. More often than not, these are forged letters on elegant stationary.

Often the better ones will create new and non-existent government authorities to praise their efforts in one matter or another and letters from Senators and other high ranking politicians are always credible. It is a little like either the game of three-card Monte’ or the old and familiar shell game. Find the small ball amongst the three shells in front of you and when you are asked, it somehow will never be where your eyes tell you it is. That is because you were distracted or more importantly led to believe that it was somewhere it was not. Three card Monte and the shell game are usually reserved for suckers visiting the big city for the first time and they certainly make it look easy when they give you a demonstration. But that is small time and we have bigger fish to fry. 

However, magicians do the same thing as these street-pickpockets, except the only money that they are going to get from you is the price of admission. In this case, what you see is certainly going to be what you get. We all have heard of Ponzi and how he stole millions of dollars by claiming to be paying enormous rates of interest, but all that was happening is that the second guys into the deal were putting up the interest money for the first people in and so on down the line. Eventually the daisy chain becomes so big that it cannot be supported by its own weight.  Remember the story about the snake oil salesmen who would always visit small towns in a horse and wagon which was his store. He always had an accomplice in the audience that had purchased the stuff the previous year and had become miraculously cured of one affliction of the other. It was best if that person  turned out to be a doctor possibly just passing though. It was also good to do some advanced scouting as to what was primarily ailing the townsfolk’s before the cure was announced. This stuff was really good and as long as it could cure anything it was best that the townspeople were afflicted with it. The guy in the crowd was always a plant and without him, the people would be a long time parting with their hard-earned dough in exchange for tonic water. He could even be a local that was well paid for his five minute certification of the product’s cures.

The carnivals are always offering games of chance that appear simple at first glance, but a substantive look would show you that a sucker does not ever get an even break. P.T. Barnum’s entire livelihood was built on fraud and deception. Barnum could always create exactly what he believed that the public wanted to see, presto it would be there. Whether it was freaks, fat men, people that could roll themselves into a ball or bodies that were uncovered after millions of years,  it didn't matter.  He could come up with anything and the most amazing thing about it was the fact that it never took him more than a few days to recreate anything and to do it better. Barnum was a student of human nature and distinctly knew how to appeal to people darker sides. However, even though a charlatan, most people really knew that they were being taken and were willing to be fleeced for a glance at old P.T.’s latest hoax. It is just like the great forgers, many  these folks had eventually became such creative geniuses and talented artists that, after serving substantial time in jail, they came out and sold copied works under their own names, which by this time had become notorious or famous as the case may have been. The forged copies then sold for substantial prices.

The Ponzi’s, the Barnum’s and the snake oil salesmen were great public relations people. They knew what the people wanted better than the people themselves did. The also knew that there are two things that sell better than anything else; these are greed and sex. If you can get something for nothing and have it delivered by a woman wearing nearly no clothing at all, you are close to finding Nirvana. Everyone knows that there is nothing worthwhile that doesn’t have a substantial price tag, but that doesn’t mean that we are not still looking for it and if you can some sex in at the same time you have a winner. There are varying degrees of sex and greed and if you want to offer enough of either of these possibly you can do without the one or the other. Ponzi offered such unbelievable returns that he didn’t need a beautiful woman standing next to him. The reason of course is the fact that if you have enough money you can purchase  your own beautiful woman, you don’t need it supplied by someone that deals in snake oil. 

Moreover having a beautiful woman in itself can be enough provided it is offered in the right vein. The Muslim Fundamentalists, for example, seem to think that by blowing themselves up they can garner seventy-two beautiful woman and ascend to heaven. Of course, this is a story, which is fabricated by people that know how to take advantage of ignorance, but remember you still have to have the most important ingredient. You must have the credibility that what you are offering is not damaged merchandise, therefore the women have to be virgins and secondarily you have to believe that those that are leading you to your early demise are unquestionable really the agents of god. This can only come as a result of early brain and continued brain washing. If I walked up to these same people and said, “if you will walk in front of the car and get yourself killed, you will go to heaven and have 72 vestal virgins forever”, there is little question that at best I would be locked up at the nearest mental institution or hacked to death on the spot. However, if a man of the cloth made the same statement, it could well be believed.

 

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