I met a con man today.
At least, I'm fairly sure he was a con man. A very smartly dressed chap flagged me down on the road holding a (very obviously foreign) map and explained that he was from Germany and had run out of petrol and needed me to buy him some and would I take his gold bracelet as payment...
But he really wasn't a very good con man. I wanted to take him to one side and explain that:
1. If he wanted to persuade me he was from Germany he needed his ethnic accent to be overlaid with tones from Munich, not the East End of London.
2. If he was going to wear such a beautiful pin striped suit he needed to wear it with authority, as comfortably as if he were wearing his jeans, because people who wear suits every day look as if they wear them every day. He looked as if he only wore a suit for weddings, funerals and – oh yes – con jobs. (It was English tailoring too – not German. I know things like that.)
3. Further to that, chaps who wear suits to work every day don't normally wear five or six flashy gold bracelets. And they certainly don't give them away to strangers for the promise of petrol.
4. His whole body language was inauthentic. He wasn't confident in himself; he was obviously acting the part and his character wasn't convincing.
5. He was rushing the whole business. A good con takes a bit of time and you have to let the mark set the pace. You have to let them think it's all their idea.
He was all wrong and nearly all my instincts were rising up in force, bayonets out, telling me to move along smartly because this was absolutely not right. The minority of instincts remaining just wanted to give him some coaching on how to do a better job.
I mean, I'm not a con-merchant myself, but I've read books!
So I drove away, reflecting that, had he been a genuinely stranded motorist who had run out of petrol and discovered he didn't have his credit card on him I would have:
1. Driven to the petrol station a couple of miles up the road to get him a can of petrol and then
2. Followed him to the petrol station and paid for enough petrol so he could get to where he wanted to go.
I wouldn't have wanted him to have taken my details with a promise to pay me back and certainly I wouldn't have wanted a (supposedly) gold bracelet. I would ask him to pay it on in his turn; to help someone else in need when he met them.
And that's why I'm a bit cross. It might have been nice to have done a good deed for somebody really in need. I'd have had a nice warm glow all day.
But mostly I'm frustrated because I hate to see anything done badly, even a roadside con like that.
A Moodscope member.