Conned, Hustled and Scammed! It Happened To Me, It Can Happen To You!
I’ll be speaking this morning for the Club Managers Association of America at a conference in Orlando. The people in my audience run golf courses all across the nation. And this fact has got me thinking about a bad experience with an advertising ‘vendor’ last year that left me wanting to warn the people in this particular audience.
I suppose I should be embarrassed. I suppose I could keep this to myself. But then, my sense of justice calls out and demands that I tell my story and maybe, just maybe, it will spare you from sharing my fate. Because here I am, a speaker, trainer and writer on matters of persuasive communication. I wrote the book on the subject, how to do it and how to protect yourself from others doing it! You would think I’d be somewhat immune to the persuasive communication attempts from others. I sure thought I was. And yet…
Truth to tell, it just wasn’t true. I got hustled, and so could you. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of clicking with people when you ought to be thinking more clearly.
I won’t get into the whole story, but in a nutshell, here’s what happened. 2010 was a very busy year for me. And any time you’re really busy, you’re at risk for getting conned, hustled and scammed, because while your brain is occupied with your business, your feeling state is wide open for the right sales pitch.One day, while working in my office, I got a sales call, was too busy to pay attention, made the mistake of clicking with the sales person, and it nearly cost me a few hundred bucks. All because I wasn’t listening very closely. I kept right on working, chipping away at the pile of projects on my desk.
The sales guy was good at his job. So good in fact that I even commented on it, praised him for it. “You’re really good at this!” He laughed. We bantered just a bit. He seemed to understand everything I told him. He backtracked using my key words. He ‘got’ me. We clicked. And even though I was still working on my projects, I moved from cold to warm and warm to ready over the course of a 20 minute call.
The pitch? Placing an ad for my business on a brand new board on hole one at the gold course. The key to the deal was that they were wrapping up the ads by the next morning, and he could only make this offer today. (That’s the ‘Scarcity’ persuasion signal. The thought I should have had was ‘I don’t do anything because of ‘today only.’) It was moving forward fast! And after he had my agreement, he said, “You will be hearing from someone in the advertising department tomorrow or shortly after.”
For a moment, it occurred to me that this might require more attention, like figuring out what goes into such an advertisement. But he reassured me, “You’re busy, don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything” (That’s the ‘Affinity’ persuasion signal. The question I should have asked, “When you say everything, what specifically will you take care of?”) He told me I was in the capable hands of two award winning artists who really understood how to make an ad that works (That’s the ‘Authority signal again. Wish I would have asked, “What are their names?”) And when he sent me the contract, he said all i had to do was hit reply and add the word ‘start’, and we were good to go.
A few days later, I hopped a plane and it was up, up and away. Never even thought about it again until the day after the 4th of July. Now I had my feet up and was relaxing in the stressless chair in my office, when I remembered something about the ad at the golf course. Something about the fact that the sales guy had the same name as a character in the movie Caddyshack. That got me thinking about con artists and their tricks. I jumped up, looked at my email, found the correspondence, and realized I hadn’t heard anything more from those people and it had been two weeks already!
Suddenly my instincts kicked into overdrive. Something didn’t seem right. I did the obvious thing, the thing I should have done much sooner, and I called around and heard only bad reviews, googled the company and found serious charges, read the many complaints. It looked like I was stuck. They tried to keep the money. They tried to intimidate me from challenging them. But I stood up against them, pursued it with my state A.G., with the B.B.B., and spread the word to people in my community. My credit card company investigated and stood behind me. And I did get my money back. But the way they handled me guaranteed that I would have every reason to talk about them.
I am saddened at the level of corruption in this world, and the degree of skepticism required to keep from getting scammed, but it is what it is. The very skills that I teach to help people do good things can be used for ill just as easily. But like I tell my students, when people create damage, the damage often comes back to haunt them. The business that cheats alienates and infuriates the customer base who leave, thus leaving the company to have to keep cheating just to survive. i
Like I tell my students, the only protection you have (a protection I failed to use!) is to think about what you’re hearing for yourself. Your radar needs to go up if you’re feeling real good about the pitch you’re hearing, unless you know for a fact that you’re dealing with trustworthy people. Oh, and if a company called Bench Craft Company ever calls you and offers you advertising on a golf course, you may want to visit this link. And this one. (I could go on.) And then make an informed decision.
So I’m telling you, and hoping to spare you. Be warned. Because if it could happen to me, it could happen to you.
Indeed, maybe it did! If you’ve got a story to tell about being taken, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.