From the Horse's Mouth: A Professional Liar on the Art of Scamming

A Professional Liar on the Art of Scamming

Clancy Martin is a tenured philosophy professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, but in his pre-academia days he sold luxury jewelry. And he was quite good at it. The key to his success? Lying. Below, a quick lesson in the art of deception excerpted from a fascinating piece on Martin.

From the Horse's Mouth: A Professional Liar on the Art of Scamming

"Here's a quick lesson in selling. You never know when it might come in handy. When I went on the market as a Ph.D., I had six interviews and six fly-backs. That unnaturally high ratio existed not because I was smarter or more prepared than my competition. It was because I was outselling most of them.

Pretend you are selling a piece of jewelry: a useless thing, small, easily lost, that is also grossly expensive. I, your customer, wander into the store. Pretend to be polishing the showcases. Watch to see what is catching my eye. Stand back, let me prowl a bit. I will come back to a piece or two; something will draw me. You see the spark of allure. (All great selling is a form of seduction.) Now make your approach. Take a bracelet from the showcase that is near, but not too near, the piece I am interested in. Admire it; polish it with a gold cloth; comment quietly, appraisingly on it. You're still ignoring me. Now, almost as though talking to yourself, take the piece I like from the showcase: 'Now this is a piece of jewelry. I love this piece.' Suddenly you see me there. 'Isn't this a beautiful thing? The average person wouldn't even notice this. But if you're in the business, if you really know what to look for, a piece like this is why people wear fine jewelry. This is what a connoisseur looks for.'

From there it's easy: Use the several kinds of lies Aristotle identified in Nicomachean Ethics: A good mixture of subtle flattery, understatement, humorous boastfulness, playful storytelling, and gentle irony will establish that 'you're one of us, and I'm one of you.' We are alike, we are friends, we can trust each other."

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