The store survey prank... now with fake prizes!

I just wanted to go shopping.

Here's an interesting case of deceptive persuasion.

Sharlene Denham went shopping with her husband and two kids at a Farmfoods grocery store in the UK. At the door, an employee asked if she'd like to participate in a survey, and possibly win £3,000 (about 4,800 U.S. dollars.) While her family went shopping, she went to the manager's office and got on the phone.

At first the questions seemed normal, if a bit unusual. The caller asked her to pick a number between one and three. He asked if she had heard of a certain brand. He wanted to know how many people would she tell if she won the contest.

Then the caller told her to have the manager kneel down, call him a slave, pig or dog and put her feet on him like a footstool. Mrs. Denham said: “I said to the manager, ‘This is really bizarre’. He said he had checked it with the finance department and knew the person on the phone and it was all genuine.”

Even after her family finished shopping, she stayed while they went home. Two and a half hours later, the call ended, and the store paid for her to take a taxi home. “I left there thinking I had won £1,500 and other things like a television, kitchen grille and an iron," said Mrs. Denham.

Yet the call had been a hoax. (The store eventually offered her a £100 cheque and £100 worth of store vouchers for her trouble, and they warned other stores, since two more calls had taken place.) Mrs Denham said “He was an older man, probably in his 40s, and he sounded very genuine. It sounded like a genuine competition or I would never have gone through with it.” She said she didn't know what the caller got out of it.

This is a milder version of hoax calls that have gotten the person answering to do all sorts of odd, and sometimes criminal, things. This call was strange, but stopped before it got to that level. What would a transcript of this call be like? How would someone slightly escalate the weirdness? It's likely the caller was able to fool everyone because he had authority since he used the name of someone from the "main office" to fool the store manager. And the victim trusted the Farmfoods store and was hoping she would win a prize, so she was willing to comply.

This type of hoax or prank is very common - taking someone in a normal setting and slowly ratcheting up the strange.

Shopper hit by bizarre hoax, Lynn News, UK>>

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