This lesson demonstrates the art of catching people off guard.

 

Dear Disciple,

This is a lesson that must be read while you are indoors. The indoor environment will make sure you’re in the best frame of mind to absorb this lesson’s teaching. You’re not cheating on this are you? Good.

Some scammers prefer outdoor con games, some indoors. To be well rounded at this game you have to fight that tendency. You may have noticed I’m more of an outdoorsman. So, I feel the need to teach by example. Here’s an example of my indoor work.

To be successful at our game you have to catch folks off their guard. To get them off guard you can take folks in their normal routine and give them a twist, or you can catch them at a time in their life when their routine is already altered. Here’s an example of working when they are out of their routine.

Moving. Moving into a new house. Folks who are moving into a new house are running in uncharted territory. They’re learning the rules of daily life all over again. They’ve got so many rules to learn. This makes them easy game.

I’ll tell you about a time a while back.   I picked a nice little neighborhood. Kind of out nowhere but not far from town. I’d been watching this house for about a month. I knew when the new couple would be moving in. Today was the day: moving day.

I waited until the moving truck guys were about half through unloading. At the start of a move-in the owners of a new house are confident they’ve got a full proof plan for moving in that can’t go wrong. About halfway through the move-in most folks have discovered their plan has failed completely. It was time for me to enter the fray.

The basis for my scam? This house had a basement level, with a stairway going from near the front entrance downstairs. I knew from looking in one dark, moonless night. The wall above the stairs was a huge space, almost large enough to hang a billboard. It was that wall that caught my imagination.

I parked my standard looking work van behind the moving truck, where it could easily be seen from the front door. It was a young couple who were moving in. This was their first dream house. The husband stood in the living room just beyond the staircase. He frantically dug through a box, like he knew something should be in the box, but it wasn’t. The wife sat on a box near the entrance to the kitchen, just a few feet over from the top of the stairs. She had that tired look of frustration. I tapped a pen on my metal clipboard.

“Good afternoon, folks. Nice house you got here.”

The wife stood up.

“Are you the cable guy or the phone guy?”

“No, ma’m. I’m Davvd.” I stuck out my hand in a friendly way.

“I’m Molly.”

“Nice to meet you, Molly. You folks sure look like you know what you’re doing. I’ve never seen such an organized move-in.”

Okay, it was a lie, but it doesn’t hurt to flatter folks to make them even more off guard.

The husband wandered over near me through piles of packing paper.

“Nice to meet you, sir.”

I stuck out my hand again.

“Hi, Davvd. I’m Henry.”

“We’re almost halfway through getting stuff out of the truck. I didn’t realize how long it would take, though, to get everything put away.”

“You’ll know better next time.”

Molly had reached that level of frustration where she was trying to control the chaos with minute micro-management of every little detail.

“Are you the electric guy or the sliding door repairman?”

“No, folks. That there blank wall is why I’m here. It’s that time of the month again.”

Molly stepped into the kitchen, rifled through a stack of invoices.

“The wall? I don’t see anything here about the wall.”

“Oh, the old owners would have told you about my company. We own the billboard rights to that wall.”

Henry didn’t realize how shocked he looked.

“Billboard rights?”

I put on my best look of sincere concern.

“He did tell you?”

“Tell us what?” Molly stood half in the kitchen.

“My company bought the advertising rights to that wall. Each month we come in and put up a new ad.”

“A billboard?”

“Sure, you happen to know what the old folks did with last months one?”

“I don’t think I understand what’s going on here?” said Molly.

“That jerk, he must have taken it with him”, I said.

I walked over to the wall. I touched some wallboard mounting corners. Last week I had snuck into the house at night and nailed four mounting corners and edges to the wall, forming the outline of a 15-foot long by 8-foot high frame.

The husband quickly walked over to me and touched the same mounting corner.

“I never noticed that before,” he said.

“Great just great. I suppose the jerk told you that you could make a contract with a house billboard company, so he could jack up the sales price.”

Molly was in a daze.

“No, actually he never mentioned anything about any bill board.”

“Oh, folks. I’m so sorry. I know the last thing you need on moving in day is an unexpected detail.”

Young Molly looked disheartened.

“This can’t be nearly as bad as what the cable company put us through this morning,” she said.

“Definitely not. This is very straightforward. I can explain real quickly. It’s like this. You folks own the house and land, but there’s more rights than that. For instance there’s the mineral, water and oil rights.”

“Henry is that true?”

“I don’t know.”

“Trust me on this one, folks, it’s true. Your lawyer didn’t tell you?”

“I don’t know,” said Henry. Henry used the words “I don’t know” as though he had just discovered a favorite new mantra. He sounded as though eternal understanding could be found in the words, if he just said them the right way.

“Don’t worry, I never buy mineral, water or oil rights. All I do is billboards.”

“But, we’re the new owners, “ said Molly.

A brief look of happiness came over her tired face as she said “new owners”.

“And lucky folks you are. Trouble is that you bought the house and land. Your contract never discussed the billboard rights.”

“I think you’re right,” said Henry.

“Let me explain. I pay the owners of this house $50 a month. In exchange I get to hang a new billboard each month.”

“What kind of ad?” said Molly.

I flipped open my clipboard.

“Like this.”

It’s amazing what you can do with computer software and a good color printer. I had created an ad for motor oil. There was a race car, with wheels that turned. Neon lights dominated the mock billboard. All the lights on the car were bright neon. A neon light outline edged the billboard. A smoke machine pushed smoke out the tail pipes.

“The whole contraption runs once an hour, for 10 minutes. It’s got it’s own built in stereo system, so you can hear real race sounds. The crowd screams, tires shriek, and cars crash. Towards the end a victory song plays, then culminates with the pop of a champagne cork. Man, this thing sells motor oil like you wouldn’t believe. Your friends will love it.”

Molly looked at my board, not saying a thing. Henry got real disoriented. He started to step back to get away from the clipboard, not realizing he would fall down the stairs. I grabbed him without making a big deal about it.

“For 10 minutes every hour?” moaned Molly.

“But I don’t approve of car racing. It encourages false consumption,” said Henry.

“Folks, you’re helping to sell motor oil, not racing. You folks use motor oil.”

Molly couldn’t take her eyes off the ad.

“I might not use it ever again,” she said.

“And we get $50 a month?” asked Henry.

“What a deal! You’ll never want to rent another video ever again, once you get my billboards up.”

Molly looked at Henry.

“You idiot, you didn’t know this? No wonder the house sold so cheap!”

“Davvd, I don’t know if we are up to all this. Can’t we just cancel?” asked Henry.

“Oh, folks, wait a few months, don’t be so quick to see the down side to this.”

“What would the next months ad be?” asked Molly.

I flipped another page.

“Look at this beauty. It’s our Spring Break tanning lotion special. See, that’s real sand glued on. The girls’ bikinis change six colors. These nozzles spray water on the girls, making the bikini tops see-through. You get to hear the sound of the waves, excited 20 year olds screaming, and the absolute most current hit songs. And of course, at the end, the tanning lotion theme song.”

Molly looked as though she had just finally and completely realized that Hell really did exist. She stared at me in horror, then backed away and stared at the blank wall.

“Ten minutes every hour, 24 hours a day?”

I kept up my enthusiasm.

“You bet, the fun never stops.”

Molly turned and leapt onto Henry, hugging him.

“No, no, no!” Molly had learned a new favorite mantra.

“And how much do you make a month for this?” asked Henry.

“Oh, not that much. You know $3500 doesn’t go as far as it used to.”

Henry hugged Molly, keeping her from falling to the floor.

“How long is the contract?” Molly asked.

“Only 8 more years.”

Henry did some quick figuring.

“That means you’ll be making $336,000 off of us.”

“Give or take. Rates do increase every 2 years.”

Molly grabbed Henry by the shoulders.

“Eight years! No, no, I can’t take it. How much money do we still have?”

“Not $336,000.” said Henry.

It was time for me to close this deal.

“Oh, folks, I’m so sorry to see you grieved.”

“We just aren’t that much into commercials,” said Henry.

“This is terrible. I’m so surprised you weren’t told.”

“Can we buy out the contract,” said Molly through tears.

“Folks, don’t be hasty. Why don’t you sleep on this.”

“No, by tomorrow I’ll want to kill myself, “ said Molly.

“Look, I’d like to help, but I’ve got a family to feed. How much do you folks have in your checking accounts?”

“Around $80,000, “ said Henry.

“Okay, look, I want to help, so I’ll take a loss. $80,000 will do just fine.”

Molly ran into the kitchen. She grabbed a handful of checkbooks, started writing checks. She had the job done quickly.

“Here, take them, please.”

“No problem folks. Say, I don’t want to cause any more problems, so I’ll just be going along out of here.”

They didn’t even say goodbye. They just turned and hugged each other.

I was in my van as quickly as I could do respectably. Inside I had electronic, wireless gizmos for making extremely rapid check deposits in off-shore banks. This money would be out of their accounts and into mine before they had a chance to realize what hit them.

Was what I did really that wrong? As I drove off Molly and Henry were experiencing a most profound sense of relief. Many folks will go through their entire lives without such a profound sense of relief. No, in years to come they will be very thankful to have been able to pay such a small amount of money for such joy. I had done a good days work for all three of us.

 

Yours in the faith,

David

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