By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
As Art Linkletter used to demonstrate on his famous TV show “People are Funny,” people will do almost anything for a buck or on a dare.
For example, in a Seinfeld episode, Jerry bets Elaine $50 that she won’t walk over to a table where three couples are eating in a Chinese restaurant, pick up some food, eat it, and then simply walk away without saying anything. I’ve always wanted to do that – but so far, not enough courage.
As a closet anarchist, I’ve experienced that and a number of similar “whacked out” things. After all, life is short and there is limited time to accomplish one’s “bucket list.”
For example, one day while entering the New York Subway system, I walked up to the token booth (it’s a small enclosed booth – with bullet proof glass where they sell subway tokens –you buy a token and put it into a turnstile to enter the system) and instead of sliding money through the slot to buy a token, I slid a token through the slot to see what the token agent would do (like pulling on a push door). The agent gave me a look like, “WTF are you doing?” Mission accomplished!
Another time I got on a NY City bus (where again, they have a coin slot – and you can only pay with exact change) and produced a $20 bill. The driver a. can’t give you change (a large sign overhead proclaims, “Driver carries no cash.”), and b. can’t refuse you entry onto the bus. So the protocol is to solicit change from passengers entering and already on the bus. If you try this at rush hour, the crowd on the bus is so thick the other passengers really can’t get to you standing at the front of the bus. So by the time enough passengers have “made change with each other,” (“Does anyone have two $5s and a $10 for this $20? Does anyone have five $1s for a $5? Does anyone have four quarters for a $1 bill?”), you have arrived at your destination and you simply “step off the bus.” Free ride, second mission accomplished! (I donated to the NY Transit Authority fund to make up the missed fare.)
Here’s one of my favorites: Next time you’re on a flight that still serves free meals, say this (with lots of humility and a straight face) to the flight attendant after you’ve received your meal, “Ma’am, I haven’t eaten all day and am still hungry. After you’ve served all the other passengers, could I purchase a left-over meal?” If you’re a good actor, 99 times out of 100 the flight attendant will slip you a second meal. I guess one could argue anyone who eats two airline meals deserves them.
More along the lines of outright fraud is the kind of scam con artist Sigourney Weaver used in the film "Heartbreakers." (Note: you have to click on the link to see what I’m talking about) Most savvy restaurant managers are “hip” to this type of maneuver and it is much harder to pull off today than 20 years ago.
When my over 90 year-old mother-in-law was still alive and living with us in Florida, she tried to “exit” a supermarket with an automatic door. Somehow she got caught up in it and wound up on the floor with a cut on her knee. The supermarket’s legal staff was in contact with us the next day offering a $100 certificate (of course we had to sign a legal release). I guess “slip and falls” are a major industry for the elderly and their “ambulance chaser” lawyers in the Sunshine State. Here is another scene with a classic "slip and fall" - again from film "Heartbreakers."
I guess all of this is one form or another of bravado. You can “sell” anything if you’re convincing enough.
One of my all time favorites is Alec Baldwin’s famous scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross." (Again, you need to click on the link to see what I’m talking about).
Then there is the textbook definition of Chutzpah. That is the young man who on trial for killing his parents, and asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan.
That leads to my next column, “You can negotiate anything.” See it started when I was a young boy growing up on the East Coast and I needed to take a bus but didn’t have the exact change…