[Applied Psychology] Avoid Being Marked

“We thought he was with you!” The suave, unkempt man had seen through another magician’s tricks and narrated each step of the trick. He traveled the world, going to cool shows, and “usually, you can get cheap tickets the day of the show. I got these two for free.” After realizing what was going on, I asked the scalper: “How do you pick your marks? What traits do you look for?” He left. Here’s why:

Everyone wants something. Whether just chatting innocently or to sell something.

When you’re waiting in line, as we did before seeing Buckethead, there’s ample opportunity to strike up conversation. When the person started chatting, we engaged in seemingly innocent conversation. I enjoy learning about people and their lives so my curiosity led to smooth conversation. I only noticed, later on, a few things that varied from usual conversation and led me to deduce we were being “marked” for being suckers into selling tickets that were probably counterfeit.

The biggest was lack of formalities.

After a while, people generally want to learn your name, especially if they want to become your friend. Polite society also says this is a good thing, even if you’ll never see them again after that evening. I don’t know our scalper acquaintance’s name, and he didn’t ask for ours in our 5 minute conversation.

Next was topic of conversation.

It was strictly business, although subtly so. It’s common to chat about favorite bands, venues, and general living area with people at shows. When the nuance of curiosity isn’t there – when they don’t really care about your favorite bands other than to fill the air – beware.

Third was situational awareness.

The magician’s trick my big tip-off. Since he knew the trick forward and backwards, he must have seen the trick performed on a few others, and since he was narrating each step, he didn’t care about that sense of surprise we could have experienced. He was just looking for marks to sell some tickets.

This might be the mindset:

Pass if they’re not interested or abrasive because they’re too hard to sell. Otherwise, engage if they seem curious, lonely, or interested in trivial matters. If you’re busy, some magician busker trying to make some bucks with a single magic trick isn’t interesting, though if you have time to burn then that means you might also be inefficient with your money.

“Why would you stand in line without a ticket?”

Our scalper acquaintance later said to another scalper: “Why would I buy a ticket from you, when I can just stand in line and buy a ticket from the venue?” He knew the score and said it just subtly enough to avoid our suspicions. It all only clicked later on, and once we knew this was not someone we would become friends with, that’s when I asked my questions.

The gig was up.

He also wasn’t inside the venue. Wonder why? Maybe it was those two counterfeit tickets?

It wasn’t a sold out show.

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.