As I crossed the side street in the centre of town a car sounded its horn and turning to look I saw a smiling face waving at me.
It wasn’t somebody I recognised but he was gesticulating for me to come over. To this day I am not sure what made me turn and go over to him – he said he recognised me as being one of his customers in his restaurant in my neighbourhood. That sounded plausible enough. He seemed amazed that I didn’t recognise him, and continued to ask after my partner and how I was getting on. He seemed genuinely excited to see me and was very friendly.
He told me that he was now married and had become father the day before, and was working in the fashion business, and suggested I got in the car for a few moments to continue our conversation more comfortably. As I had a little time in hand I complied and soon we were gently heading off in the direction I need to go. The conversation turned to his new profession and how he was working with a number of top designers who were exhibiting during Fashion Week.
He had a suit, leather jacket and cashmere overcoat which he had been given and did not want. Would I be interested? He pulled over and took a large bag off the back seat to show me the clothes – they were of good quality and apparently the right size.
He suddenly produced a photo of the new born baby and explained he was on the way to the hospital to see his wife and new daughter and wished to buy her a gift. He didn’t have enough money to get her some expensive perfume so if I wanted the clothes he would accept a couple of hundred pounds to help him out. In answer to his question I acknowledged that they were worth a great deal more. We stopped outside an ATM, I gave him the money and took the bag.
I had also taken the bait and been well and truly hooked.
The clothes did not fit particularly well and the quality was ok but what made me fall down that rabbit hole?
Was I helping out a very friendly apparent acquaintance, who wanted to buy a gift for his wife?
Thinking back on the encounter and conversation what he said could have applied to anyone. His friendliness was beautifully tempered – not too much but just enough which with his personal story made me open to connecting with him. And then of course there was the ‘deal’ – clothes of good quality being offered at a ridiculously low price.
Every day we have encounters, perhaps not always as extreme as this example, which cleverly draw us in. With so much of our time spent clicking and swiping online we are used to making snap decisions, wanting to move on to the next item.
We are all used to the obviously bogus emails that drop into our in boxes, but have we ever considered why they get sent? Once in a while someone is caught off guard, perhaps not feeling as alert as they usually are and with a click or two have become ensnared. That’s the patsy the sender has been waiting for. It only takes a minute percentage of recipients to respond to make it a worthwhile endeavour.
Language, presentation, and at least three pivotal key questions which elicit consecutive affirmative answers all build the slippery slide we are about to tumble down. When we feel tired, obliged to help out, and maybe receive a ‘reward’ of some sort what is the harm in saying ‘yes’?
I was fortunate to be left with a bag of clothes I could sell and reclaim some of my outlay, and the sum I had paid whilst significant wasn’t serious. My suggestibility and vulnerability had been exploited, as well as my kindness and empathy.
This incident won’t stop me from helping out in the future, but I will check to see if I’m the only rabbit around.