Back at the Jumeriah Emirates Towers in Dubai again. This time, in a cupboard, I find slippers in a can. Why?
Isn’t this a bit forced “high-design”? Or is it cute?
In what could be called a social experiment, it is proven that a man in a police-like uniform has great power and ordinary citizens are easily bamboozled into idiotic obedience. When the intent is robbery, pseudo-cops usually rely on flashing a fake badge; compliant victims then hand over their wallets.
In the following cases, “pseudo-cops” detain and accuse innocent passersby of theft. Watch the accused squirm under interrogation and threats; remarkably, they never question the legitimacy of the uniformed authority.
Bob Arno, preeminent pickpocket, was asked to help make a commercial for Toshiba and Intel. The idea was to slip the company’s new laptop into the bags of unsuspecting people as they strolled through Culver City, California. The laptop, called “UltraBook,” is so thin and light, the company believed that no one would even notice.
Preposterous! It turned out to be a challenging assignment.
Bob roped in the talented and adorable magician Ben Seidman and together, the two deceivers rehearsed the teamwork and choreography necessary to “put-pocket” the computer.
Now, a computer, no matter how light, is a noticeable weight factor when added to a tote someone is carrying. And it is of a size that is difficult to slip in, between straps, handles, zippers, and buckles. It took some doing to distract the victim and mask the PLUNK! of the extra weight dropping in.
In practice, the two sneaks were more than successful. After brief, seemingly innocent encounters, more than a dozen unsuspecting victims wandered the streets unknowingly toting a Toshiba UltraBook.
Each victim was then questioned by a “security guard” about a laptop which had supposedly been reported stolen. After a polite request to search the victim’s bag, the shocking discovery of the “stolen” laptop, and the victim’s protestations of innocence, the pseudo-cop became rude, belligerent, and provocative.
“For a criminal, you’ve got excellent taste,” the security guard said while admiring the laptop.
“You’re going to jail, missy!” the bad cop threatened one poor victim.
“Your fingerprints are all over it,” the guard told another victim after making him feel the weight of the laptop.
“But you told me to hold it!” the vic protested.
“We have no record of that,” the guard said.
To victim Claudia the guard says “You have great taste in stealing products.”
“Thank you,” Claudia replies, stunned almost speechless.
“What else do you have that’s stolen?” the guard demands.
One victim broke down and cried. Another ran away. One accused the guard of racial profiling. But most stood in compliant disbelief.
The video series is a fantastic study of human behavior. It’s amazing to see how obedient people are when ordered around by an actor in a bad uniform. They’re blinded by authority. Most victims obeyed even his most ridiculous commands.
Watch Claudia’s frightened confusion:
Check out Ryan’s reaction:
See Tiffany’s disbelief:
Here’s a montage of many victims:
And meet the pickpockets who did the job:
The video ads were directed by Michael Addis and Jamie Kennedy. Though the experience was briefly brutal and sometimes frightening to the victims, comic relief was brought into each scene at the last minute, and some of the victims were rewarded with the gift of a laptop.
In the real world, thieves take advantage of our engrained respect for authority when they play pseudo-cop. With nothing more than a fake badge and a flimsy story, they make demands similar to our actor’s: open your bag, let me look inside, give me your wallet, give me your money… etc. We tend not to question them; we are obedient. And only later do we realize our gullibility. The thieves exploit our respect for authority and take advantage of our trust—that’s the CONfidence-building that gives the con artist his title.
I’ve never noticed these height-markers before, but I’m told they’re found everywhere. I saw this one in a bank in Stockholm last summer. Pasted on the inside of the door frame, it helps estimate the height of the fleeing robber caught on video. I still haven’t spotted another one, even though I’ve been on the lookout. Have you seen any?
Press the play button:
Awful sound, isn’t it? Sorry to subject you (if it autoplayed in your browser), but I’m making a point.
This racket was blasting when Bob and I visited the Gare de Lyon police station in Paris. It was created by two young women, one in a cell, the other handcuffed to a wooden bench, where she posed in every ridiculous posture she could contort herself into (not sure why). They both bellowed and sang at the top of their lungs as long as we were there—perhaps half an hour—possibly much longer.
It’s their habit. They make themselves severely unwanted guests, so the police think twice about hauling them in again and again. We never found out what they were arrested for, but their tactic was arresting.
The yelling and wailing in jail is one of the cat-and-mouse games the criminals learn to play to get an advantage, even a momentary tiny one, over the system. You know some of their other strategies: they employ children too young to arrest; they carry an infant, because the mother of an infant won’t be jailed; they cut themselves, because a bleeding arrestee must be taken to the hospital, which takes much paperwork that a tired cop may prefer to avoid, especially one near the end of his shift.
A pickpocket in Lima told us, “If the police catch you, you cut yourself and they release you. They don’t want you if you’re cut and bleeding.”