Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monthly Grift: Family Bible Grift 2.0

The modern grifter faces an ever-changing landscape of challenges and opportunities. Yesterday's "Spanish Gold-Grab" is today's "Nigerian Prince Flam". The old "Glass Eye Scam" was nothing but a precursor for the "Organ Bank Liver Pig-in-a-Poke". Even as we recognize this fact, nostalgia will often compel the most conservative and successful grifter to prolong the use of a favorite, increasingly out-dated, grift.

For example, take the classic "Family Bible" grift we previously highlighted in Monthly Grift (July, 1978). The grift was summarized as follows:

Grift Synopsis: Scan latest obituary pages for recent deaths, and most importantly, surviving relatives. Pay particular attention to potential marks who have planned religious services. Several days after funeral, dressed in appropriate "delivery man attire", approach mark in the home. Explain to the mark that you are delivering a gold-engraved family bible on which the deceased placed a $100.00 down payment, one week prior to death. Show appropriate sympathy, and explain the total cost to be $250.00 (or $150.00 owed, minus the down payment). Price can range upward or downward, depending on the home and expected resources of the mark (...)

Results: Marks have shown a strong desire to receive the "final gift" from their deceased relatives, given its perceived sentimental value. Many will gladly pay remain "fee".
Elegant in its simplicity, the "Family Bible" grift evokes a simpler, more personal era of grifting, when marks were both God-fearing and unlikely to ask for a sales receipt. A bunko artist needed nothing more than a recent obituary page from the local daily, a box of bulk bibles, a gold marker, and his shining (empathetic) smile.

But, the practice of purchasing family bibles has waned in many parts of the country. Worse yet, secular humanist are seemingly everywhere: university campuses, upscale-residential urban areas, independently owned coffee shops/book stores. Does this mean the "Family Bible" grift is going extinct? Not if you plan carefully and change your mark.

Family Bible Grift 2.0: Grifting the Secular Humanist

Secular Humanist
What You'll Need: A bulk box of Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene.

It goes without saying that grifting a secular humanist with a variation of the "Family Bible" grift will present numerous difficulties. (Remember! If grifting was easy, everyone would be doing it!). The primary difficulty will be a scarcity of obituaries reading, in essence, "No service will be held, as the deceased was a secular humanist who disdained all religious services." While few obituaries will be this explicit, look for codes such as "in lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the ACLU" or "following cremation, his ashes will be spread on his/her favorite bike trail." Keep a keen eye, and in no time you'll be spotting the secular humanist mark.

Once the mark is spotted, feel free to run your "Family Bible" script, with perhaps the following alterations:

(knocking on door)
GRIFTER: Why, hello sir! I'm from Acme delivery. I'm here to make a delivery for a Rose Smith.
MARK: (uncomfortable) That was my Aunt, she died last week.
GRIFTER: Oh... I am so sorry. I couldn't have known. Just doing my job, delivering this lovely, gold-embossed edition of The Blind Watchmaker. The departed Mrs. Smith made a down payment last week of $100.00, the remaining $150.00 being C.O.D. I guess she intended this to be the Family The Blind Watchmaker, I see several family names mentioned in the beautiful engraving on the title page.
MARK: (manifesting an emotion-like reaction) Well, that seems very generous of her.
GRIFTER: Very generous, indeed. This is such a lovely family home, I can't imagine it without it's own Family The Blind Watchmaker.
MARK: Well, I have a copy I bought...
GRIFTER: Yes sir, I never even met your Aunt, but it breaks my heart... thinking that right now she's not looking down from nowhere, completely unconscious of the thought that her last, not-sacred gift to her family won't be delivered for just a few dollars...
MARK: (uncomfortable) O.K., I guess we could just square this up and get you moving along. How much did you say she owed?
GRIFTER: (looking again at large house) Just $200.00! Plus, a $14.00 sales tax. And well worth every penny if you ask me!
MARK: (reaching for wallet) I wasn't particularly close with my...
GRIFTER: Yessiree! Your Aunt would be so happy if she existed in any form right now. She must be up/down in nowhere with a big smile on her face!

As you can see, the grift plays itself out naturally, and little deviation from the Family Bible script is needed.

But, don't limit yourself to grifting the mildly, rationally grieving secular humanist! Graduate students and men in black turtlenecks are also ripe for grifting. Approaching the mark at an independent coffee shop/book store will often play out as follows...

GRIFTER: Aw man, it's so nice to have a coffee/buy a book at a locally owned business like this, and not at Starcrap/Barnes & Nobodies... am I right!?
MARK: You sure are! You know, I can tell by your thick black-rimmed glasses and that copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger under your arm that we have a lot in common!
GRIFTER: What? Oh, this old thing... Yeah, it's pretty special to me. It's a first-edition copy, signed with a written note to Sartre, giving him a list of driving safety tips.
MARK: Wow! That's amazing!
GRIFTER: Yeah, pretty ironic too, I guess. Anyways, my friend Marcel shipped it to me, C.O.D., and I had to spend all my money just to get it from the post office. International shipping fees, and such. Now, I don't have the money to buy tickets for Christopher Hitchens' lecture next week! Oh, if I just had my $200.00, and $14.00 in international sales taxes, I wouldn't be in this predicament!!!

The grift proceeds naturally from here. (NOTE: In this example, make sure your "note" from Camus to Sartre is written in French, as a note written in English will create suspicion in some graduate student/black turtleneck secular humanists.)

The Family Bible grift is not dead. It can still thrive in many parts of the country outside of the deep South. And it even works with secular humanist, as long as you know your mark and stick to your script.

Get griftin'!

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