This $5 bill scam finds a sucker

"Mr. Blah blah, you musta dropped this
five dollar bill on the ground."
The 1987 film Tin Men is about the conflict between rival aluminum siding salesman (played by Richard Dreyfus and Danny DeVito) in 1960s Baltimore. In this clip, Richard Dreyfus advises a potential salesman on a trick to play on a mark, a trick that eases the sale.

The $5 bill scam identifies the mark

This is from Barry Levinson's shooting draft script for the Tin Men clip above. It doesn’t exactly match what’s on the screen, but it’s close. 


How do you know if you can get the upper hand? How do you know if you're dealing with a guy who's in an inferior position to you, or superior position? How do you know?

Moe puts Stanley on the defensive.

You just have to talk and feel your way.

Quick way... get a book of matches out of your pocket to light your cigarette... you drop the matches on the floor.

(looks puzzled) Yeah.

Guy bends down to pick up the matches for you, you got a mark... you got this guy in your pocket. If he looks to you to pick it up, you've got a long, hard, tough sell on your hands.

BB walks over to the guys, having just poured himself some coffee.

You want to get in good with these people... you want to win their confidence? Good thing to try... get a five dollar bill, take it out when the guy's not looking, drop it on the ground. Guy looks back, pick it up, hand it to him and say, 'Mr. Blah blah, you musta dropped this five dollar bill on the ground.' Two things happen... he says, 'It's not mine,' you say, 'Musta been, 'cos it's certainly not mine,' or the guy takes it. Right away this guy is thinking you must be one hell of a nice guy... you're in. You start chipping away... you start getting inside those people.

Stanley is quite taken by their information. BB puts his cup down and grabs his coat.


I wasn't sure if this "drop the bill sales test" to scam yourself into a prospect's good graces was an actual scam or not. Or maybe it was real, but it had been abandoned years ago. And then I discovered this, from a February 2010 article in The New York Times about bribery in the food industry:
In another conversation, reported by a witness, Mr. Rahal explained the art of ascertaining whether a person would be susceptible to bribery.

According to court papers, Mr. Rahal recounted how he would drop a $100 bill on the floor, then bend to pick it up, saying: “You must have dropped this. Is it yours?” If the person said yes, Mr. Rahal considered him receptive. Mr. Rahal pleaded guilty to racketeering, price fixing and money laundering charges in December 2008 and has been cooperating with investigators.
Bribes Let Tomato Vendor Sell Tainted Food>>

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