By: Wayne Brown
It was P.T. Barnum who said it best, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” For those who pride themselves in having the ability to fool, con, scheme, bilk, or otherwise manipulate things in a fashion such that a fool and his money are soon separated, this is a heart-warming observations to hear. Americans cannot find enough ways to continually prove ol’ P.T. was a wise old sage when he made that observation.
My brother can spot a sucker while sitting in the stands at the Super Bowl…just pick him right out of the crowd. Better yet, that person will come and find my brother and offer him twice as much money for that old truck that he has back home than it is worth. Nobody even knows how this guy knew that my brother had an old truck back home. But I’ll tell ya this…he does. My brother keeps one around all the time because he knows these suckers who are born every minute are scouring the earth to find him and he just cannot help himself. Besides, he observes, why should a fool be allowed to walk around with all that money? It is a good question.
Americans possess the “sucker gene” in their DNA. It is the only explanation for why the stupidity continues and seemingly is passed from one generation to the next. Just when you think that you have heard of every scheme, every trick, every fool-headed notion that could be perpetrated upon the American public, someone comes along and adds a new twist to it and the fools get in line and fight each other to be the first to fall for the same old con. We see examples of it every day and you just have to laugh.
Many years ago, the con was worked from the back alley. A sucker was walking down the street minding his own business when he hears a hissing sound from the darkness of the nearby alleyway. Then in a low voice he distinctly hears, “Hey, buddy, how’d you like to make a quick 20 bucks?” That’s it…down the alley he goes to the fate of a fool all the time dreaming of what he is going to do with easy twenty dollars that he is already spending in his mind. The technology for contacting the fool has changed greatly over the years and those who work the con now have a much greater selection literally at their finger tips. That said, the technology has changed, the medium of presentation is no longer the dark alley, but the old con is still basically the same, “quickly separate the fool from his money.”
We see the “come-on’s” everyday on our television and think little of it. Think about it. The “Sham-Wow” guy is standing at the kitchen sink showing you how great his handy dandy new vegetable chopper works. There’s nothing new about it as it is the same old pint jar with the spring loaded blades attached to the lid that has been around since the 1950’s. But we seem to miss that analysis. Instead we are wowed by the “Sham-Wow” guy as he tosses the older, inept devices over his shoulder and lands them in the kitchen sink behind him. We find ourselves wondering how he can do that and somehow arrive at the conclusion that it has something to do with the wonderfulness of this new vegetable chopping device which he is hawking. Now we are really interested.
The “Sham-Wow” guy goes on to point out that this delicate yet sturdy device honed from space age plastic and the finest of surgical steel can be yours for only $19.95 if you order today. But, wait, if you do order today, he’s gonna throw in a second chopper for free along with an exotic African Zulu knife used to castrate baby goats at birth…all for the simple price of $19.95…well, kinda. You see, he expects you to pay the additional shipping and handling fees on the second chopper and that miracle knife you will be receiving. Then, he delivers the deal maker as he tosses away yet another device which seemingly cannot hold a candle to his chopper. You have to order right now and I mean right now. He makes it very clear, “We can’t do this all day!” Never mind the fact that this advertisement has been running every ten minutes for the last three months and he says the same thing over and over. Never mind all of that…we have to rush to a phone and get our order placed so that we are assured of getting that goat knife before supplies are exhausted.
We see a similar approach in some of the commercials that would have us believe that the government is repossessing homes all over the country and accumulating all kinds of material possessions through busting illegal drug sellers. All of it is going to be sold at a big auction. You simply call in and place your bid. You can get a car for a dollar, a house for five dollars…the wildest dreams for ten dollars. It is absolutely too good to be true and you cannot believe that you just happen to come into the room when this hot news is airing on the television. Then they deliver the clincher…”Everyone whose last name starts with the letters A thru D, can call in right now. Others must wait until to tomorrow to call. Bullcrap! You think, by tomorrow all the good stuff will be gone. My last name may start with a “Z” but I’m calling right now and demanding that they let me bid. This is how we eventually find out how effective and forceful we are at making others see things our way.
We love things that are just too good to be true. It seems nowadays that you can own almost anything if you order it off television for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling. You not only get one for that price…you get two and some additional useless device to go along with it…all for just the additional charges of shipping and handling. Some of the ads just keep throwing things up there and the price stays the same. Then they say, “Now how much would you pay” and with that you realize that nowhere in America are you going to get a better deal on stuff like this. Do you need it? Who the hell cares, you’ve got to have it. You cannot be the only person on your block without the new “Sham-Wow” vegetable chopper and have folks talking about you behind your back. “Hey Joe, did ya hear…that dumb-ass Ed passed on the Sham-Wow vegetable chopper offer…can you believe that anybody could be that stupid?” No, one does not have to think about this very long to realize that we can never take a chance of being labeled like that…I am ordering right now!
Of course there is always sex…anything to do with sex seems to render us really stupid when it comes to making rational decisions. A recent ad on satellite radio hawks a new “male enhancement” cream which is touted to make you even bigger than you actually are simply by rubbing it on. As one listens to the pitch images emerge of women screaming as if they just met Freddie Krueger in an alley. Terms like “throbbing” and “sensual” seem to float by on mental clouds. Oh yeah…this is sounding so good! Then they deliver the dragon-slayer line that dries the paint. “This is the miracle, all natural and organic, herbal sensation that the drug companies don’t want you to know about.” Those bastards! You find yourself thinking. How could they try to hide such a wonderful product from the American consumer? That does it, I am ordering a case!
Regardless of what we buy, we anxiously await for the mail carrier or the package delivery boys to bring it to our door. When they finally do, so much time has expired that we cannot remember making the purchase. Besides, why would I buy anything that comes in a box that small and has words written on it in “Italian”…..”Fragile”. Then we get it out of the box and suddenly our memory returns. That’s when we discover that these things look a lot bigger on television than they do in person. That’s when we find out that the jar on the Sham-Wow vegetable chopper is smaller than that little cup they give you for the urine sample at the doctor’s office. That’s when we realize that the little tube of male enhancement cream is not going to last very long if you apply it as generously as the instructions indicate. That’s when you realize that maybe instead of ordering cream to rub on that it might have been better just to spend a little time rubbing yourself without the cream. That’s when you make a conscious decision to hide all this stuff and never speak of it in the presence of another person…especially the wife.
It’s no wonder that P.T. Barnum made his observation so many, many years ago. And, it is amazing that it still holds true until this day. No matter how technology changes; no matter how information comes into our hands, we are still willing participants in the con games of stupidity. We are still willing to swallow those lines associated with urgency and restriction of our freedom. We are still willing to part with our money just to show those large drug companies that we can indeed get our hands on forbidden fruit, which brings me back to my brother.
As I pointed out earlier, my brother always has an old truck around to sell to the next sucker. Somehow there is always a story attached to it that goes along the line that my brother has had this truck for all his life and is now forced to part with it because of health issues. The trucks come and go and my brother seems to just make more and more money while the story stays the same. Hundreds of folks around the county back home now own a truck that miraculously quit running shortly after they purchased it. But they don’t complain because it has sentimental value…after all, my brother owned it most of his life. I can see my brother grinning right now.
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