Archive for the ‘Lies’ Category

Service of “But Everyone Does It”

Monday, July 5th, 2021

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

People cheat on their taxes and some claim everyone does, but best not try. Ask Allen Weisselberg.

Taxes aren’t the only thing people fiddle with.  One friend lied to the anesthesiologist about her weight. She thought that was why she woke up in the middle of the operation. A doctor subsequently told me that wouldn’t happen for that reason. But still, not a good idea to underestimate.

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

What about people with healthy resumes and years of accomplishments under their professional belts who nonetheless cheat on theirs? Some report a degree they don’t have [which is nuts as it’s so easy to confirm]. Others stretch a three month stint into a year. Many companies make the background check the last thing in what can be a month’s long process, sometimes more. What a shame to be beached after all that. From the employer’s point of view, the thought would be that such a candidate could as easily cheat the company or its clients. “You’re only speaking about a seven month difference,” a few might argue. I say keep it to three if that’s the truth.

One friend learned that his mother was older than she’d admitted when he accompanied her to the doctor towards the end or her life. She hadn’t wanted to be older than his father which was the reason for the discrepancy.

Some people exaggerate their wealth [which I’ve never understood].

What other things do people do–that they shouldn’t–with the excuse that everyone also does it? Any repercussions?

Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay

Service of Because I Say So: When is a Hope a Lie?

Thursday, August 6th, 2020


I ordered something on the Internet and tracked its whereabouts a day after receiving an email stating “your order has shipped.” Someone had printed a label. Would you call that “shipped?”


I’ve largely represented consumer products, organizations and events in my  career–no politicians or controversial issues. I’ve counseled clients when I thought they might word a description in a different way–a pattern featuring a green leaf is not “unique”–or suggested they drop an unsuitable element from their special event. Sometimes clients agree, sometimes not. I resigned one account run by a person whose inappropriate behavior and demands would have rubbed off on my reputation.

Nobody can counsel the president. I wonder if any try. He discourages me when he raises false hope and makes inaccurate declarations. The headline on Berkeley Lovelace’s article on, “Trump says U.S. may have coronavirus vaccine ‘far in advance’ of end of the year,” quotes the president from his August 3rd news briefing. He didn’t soften it with “I wish,” or “I hope” –which we all do. He declared it.


We want to believe it. Maybe he knows something we don’t know. But it doesn’t seem that way.

Vaccinologist and physician Gregory Poland, MD, of the Mayo Clinic predicted in an interview on WOR 710 Radio yesterday morning that the soonest we can expect a vaccine approved for emergency use would be early in 2021 though March/April for full use would be more likely. Even then, there wouldn’t be enough vaccine for everybody and essential workers would be inoculated first.

Is false hope a successful strategy if expectations are consistently dashed? Should a leader treat citizens as some adults do children declaring regardless of what it’s about–audience size,  state of the economy, vaccine readiness– “it’s true because I say so”?


Service of Lies II

Thursday, November 10th, 2016


After the results of the presidential election it became clearer than ever that people believe what they want to hear. When you peel everything away, it’s often because they don’t know the facts and/or are uninformed.

There are plenty of people in my business—PR and marketing—who make an exemplary living by promising the world—i.e. lying–and it works: They get the business.

A typical conversation:

  • Potential client–“We want an article in The Wall Street Journal.”
  • PR person’s response—“No problem. Some of my best friends are WSJ reporters/columnists.”Used cars

The potential clients are often the smartest in their industries, but they don’t know mine: Even a PR person’s brother-in-law can’t guarantee a story in The Wall Street Journal. Getting a hearing doesn’t automatically translate into coverage, but that doesn’t stop people from promising the moon to win.

Candidates also grab at anything to get elected. Most recently one pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs–this from a person so concerned about jobs here that the goods he sells are manufactured abroad.

Do people similarly believe him because they are uninformed? Do they think that he won’t short-change them as he does his vendors and suppliers?

short changeWe tend to remember when we’ve been lied to. President George H.W. Bush said “read my lips: no new taxes.” Who knows if he meant it or said it to get elected? In the day some familiar with the realities of the economic situation may have known better. We remember the lips bit but not his often repeated phrase about “a thousand points of light” to encourage the public’s participation in community organizations.

However this time many of us hope that the winner does NOT accomplish what he promised from withdrawing from NATO and the recent international environmental agreement to cancelling, rather than tweaking, Obamacare.

We need to get back to business and hope like the dickens that things don’t work out as badly as some of us fear. President Obama is urging us to give the man a chance: We’re all Americans and on the same team.

If a friend, colleague or relative lies to me, I do what my mother used to advise that I’ve often noted here: “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” We’ll all be walking on lumpy ground from all those buried bones for a while.

My NYC friends and colleagues who tried to calm my anxieties before the election make clear that we’ve all been shortsighted and gullible. Here in this island cocoon we haven’t a clue of America’s mindset. 

Why do you think people believe what they want to hear?

winning is everything

Service of False Advertising

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of Cheating II

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010


I’ve written about cheating-at least six posts-and a range of deceptions [eight] and lies, white and the other kind. But what Carol Gatto, founder and publisher of, sent me recently-The Shadow Scholar, from the Chronicle Review— was both eye-opening and depressing. I suggest you read the whole article, but here are highlights.

The author uses a pseudonym because he writes undergraduate, masters and doctoral program admission essays, theses, papers [on business ethics and a range of other subjects], proposals-you name it-for student clients of his employer, a custom essay company. He says he makes a good living for a writer.

teacherHis clients include future seminarians, nurses, lawyers, school administrators and principals, elementary, special ed and high school teachers. Of all the subjects he found “education is the worst.”

Following are excerpts of his observations:

“They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school.”

“From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services; the English-as-a-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student and the lazy rich kid.”

writing-sampleSome client writing samples:

“sending sorces for ur to use thanx.” And “did u get the sorce I send please where are you now? Desprit to pass spring project”

“but more again please make sure they are a good link between the leticture review and all the chapter and the benfet of my paper. finally do you think the level of this work? How match I can get it?”

“Thanx u so much for the chapter is going very good the porfesser likes it but wants the folloing suggestions please what do you thing?”

“thankx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now.”

Observation about scholastic writing:

In the Chronicle Review article, the author’s style was clear and succinct. But his comment on how he wrote for the eyes of academia was also telling and perhaps the subject of another post. “Over the years, I’ve refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me a phrase of quotable text and I’ll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.”

This article puts in perspective one of the reasons New York Mayor Bloomberg may have selected Cathie Black, former Hearst chairman, to head the New York City School system.

The author notes, “….I understand that in simple terms, I’m the bad guy. I see where I’m vulnerable to ethical scrutiny. But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work? Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason our students cheat.”

Why do you think that none of this writer’s clients are caught? How can teachers not observe that inarticulate students produce good papers? What do you think the reasons are that so many students cheat? To take the words from the headline of a previous post, “Who are they fooling?”


Service of Inflation II

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

blahblahblahThis is the second in an inflation series. The first came closer to the standard meaning of the word, addressing rising prices in light of government assurances that they weren’t. The inflation in today’s post is about overstuffed promises.

Ethan Smith covered a story in The Wall Street Journal, “Live Nation’s Diller Resigns as Chairman Amid Turmoil,” in which early in the article he described a PowerPoint presentation given by Live Nation’s chief executive Michael Rapino at a summer investor conference that Smith described as “disastrous.”

Smith wrote: “One slide in a Powerpoint [sic] presentation implied that with the help of Live Nation it would take a contemporary recording artist just three months to vault from obscurity to selling out concert arenas.” Smith continued, “Most in the music business believe a more realistic timeline to be on the order of two years.”

bloatNo wonder Barry Diller resigned. More people should discourage this kind of fact-bloating behavior.

You may have read posts and comments here that illustrate claims as outrageous as Rapino’s. The reaction of too many is to shrug and think, “Business is business.”

No it isn’t.

On the one had we have specialization to the nth degree in everything from medicine and law [people who help select juries] to sports [the left handed pitcher who shows up to throw to the left handed batter and returns to the bench for the duration].

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who know nothing about a subject and babble on about it with overstated claims. I’m not referring to the face cream marketing and sales types who assure that their glop will remove your wrinkles or the pill pushers who claim theirs will slim a person by 20 lbs in a month. I think they know better.

loudmouthI am referring to the people you’ve worked with and/or observed in action who attract business with Rapino-like outrageous claims and they don’t know what they are talking about. Do they keep the customer or client? Do they sleep at night? Do they care?

Checking out services and claims is so easy today with easy access to online information and linking in with knowledgeable people around the country without having to move from a chair. How come so many of us still appear numb–even mesmerized–by inflated claims?

strawberrygiantIs it because we can’t get over the bigger is–or must be–better syndrome from huge tasteless strawberries, enormous restaurant portions, gargantuan boxes of snack foods and cups of soda, humongous houses and ginormous hedge fund and entertainment [star and sports figure] salaries?

So I repeat: good for Mr. Diller.

Can you share examples of inflated promises that tick you off or of high profile people who put their foot down and refuse to be associated with the verbal inflation approach to business?


Service of Forgiveness

Thursday, June 10th, 2010


I have a hard time forgiving people who lie to me–although I’ve done so.

Public figures are another thing again. With them, it’s not about my forgiveness but about my actions: My vote or support in some other way, holier-than-thou1by buying their book or newspaper, watching their movie or keeping on the channel when they step up to the plate–or not. Those who are holier than thou and turn out to be bigger sinners than anyone else, Eliot Spitzer or John Edwards, for example, get my goat most of all. It’s too soon to tell how the public will treat them in future. Neither is old enough to pack it in.

The Helen Thomas resignation, after she told the Jews to go home, got me thinking of forgiveness. She apologized immediately. Didn’t matter: Out! Maybe her bosses wanted an excuse to get rid of her for years and what she said was unforgivable.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be any consistency with the public’s loyalty or a company’s perception of what public opinion will tolerate and therefore how it will affect their bottom line.

fishinpondA real estate agent told us the name of the person who owned a house we’d always admired. Turned out it was one of the people convicted of securities fraud in the 1990s; a smaller fish than Michael Milken, though nonetheless a swimmer in that pond. Her reaction: “We welcome him to our community because he paid his debt to society.” Good for her; don’t know about me.

Baseball player and manager Pete Rose bet on games he was involved in and it seems will never again be considered for the Hall of Fame nor can he go near the game while George Steinbrenner confessed to committing several felonies and was allowed to keep the Yankees.

Americans have voted for politicians convicted of drug charges while they previously held office-and they won a subsequent election. I can think of one caught red-handed for non payment of taxes yet he won as well.

Why do you think the public forgives some people and not others? Does a public apology matter?


Service of Outside the Box

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010


“Brilliant” I thought the first time I heard the news that moviemaker James Cameron was invited to strategize with scientists at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters about how to stop the BP underwater oil leak, even though all I noticed that morning was collective media knee-slapping and guffaws.

Haven’t any of these people brainstormed with colleagues, clients, or board, committee or PTA members to address a challenge? What about editorial or production meetings? It’s a beautiful thing to watch when one person suggests a far-flung idea that another one picks up, adjusts and turns into something great and perfect. That’s the potential I saw for Mr. Cameron whose point of view as an underwater filmmaker might give him an invaluable and slightly different perspective and experience than the scientists around the table causing a blessed “aha!” moment to occur. Isn’t this a way that thinking outside the box happens?

Didn’t many joining in the hooting and hollering vote for a movie star as President?

bowlofcerealSimultaneously in the news was an impression of a different kind that a major cereal manufacturer tried to foist on parents by claiming that their breakfast product would help their child’s immunity. Along with that assertion they printed the health buzzword “antioxidants” in large letters on the box. The Federal Trade Commission stopped them from making the claim just as it had done previously when the same company touted another brand as improving children’s attentiveness. The Federal Drug Administration slapped another manufacturer’s knuckles last year for asserting that their cereal offered unsubstantiated heart benefits.

When will companies and their agencies get over exaggerating product features to pull in customers? Isn’t it enough that they make a tasty, healthy food in spotless facilities and sell it in an attractive and clean box? “All” they need to tout health benefits is to prove them as pharmaceutical companies must. Otherwise, they don’t have the right to do so, they know it and yet so many keep trying–a little like children testing their parents.

bundleofcashEvery industry has these people, both the ones who want to help and the ones out to dupe for profit. The trick is to learn to distinguish one from the other. It’s hard when you are tempted by a pitch that entices you to make a bundle when you need money or a cream that is supposed to eliminate wrinkles or a fix for a devastating oil leak a mile down under or the desire to feed your family the healthiest food.

Can you share an example of a person who came up with the solution to a crisis or challenge by suggesting a twist down an atypical path? Have you, like me, fallen for exaggerated claims?


Service of Lies

Monday, May 17th, 2010


People lie for obvious reasons. Americans are funny about the penchant. Criminals are often punished by press, public and juries not so much because of what they did wrong, but because they lied about taking drugs, keeping a mistress while married, stealing funds, insider trading or whatever. Scuttlebutt has it that former Governor Spitzer will be OK because he admitted to his wrongdoing.

Within a week, The Wall Street Journal twice covered the subject head-on, which may have been coincidence, or may be an oblique way to nibble at the hanky panky going on not only on Wall Street but everywhere, while explaining the causes.

I’m not talking about the kind of story such as “Ex-Senator Could Face Longer Term in Fraud Case,” in Friday’s New York Times although it illustrates my first point. Benjamin Weiser reported “Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are seeking a significantly longer prison sentence for former State Senator Efrain Gonzalez, Jr., claiming that he lied when he told a judge he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because he was innocent of the charges.”

I am referring to “Survival of the Fibbest: Why We Lie So Well,” by Shirley S. Wang and Eric Felten’s De Gustibus column, “6,300 Dupes Want to Know: Why’d You Lie?

childadult1Wang covers the development of lying from childhood to adulthood. I got the impression from some points made that smarter people lie-“Since telling a lie involves multiple brain processes, the more developed frontal regions of adolescent and adult brains help them keep up their bluffing.” Now lying is considered bluffing? And anyway, I’ve known world-class liars who are intelligent but who eventually forget their lies and lose all credibility with me and goodness knows how developed the frontal regions of my brain are.

Wang proffers a good excuse: “Many adults don’t even notice when they lie because they do it so often for altruistic purposes and may stop making a distinction between that and other motives.” That’s a good one. Because I don’t tell one friend who has gone through hell that she looks as she fears or I do tell another friend that her dinner was tasty when it resembled sawdust, does that give me a pass to lie to my family, clients and friends because I don’t know the difference between the white and black kind?

professorsIn the second Journal article, Eric Felten wrote about researchers Modupe Akinola of Columbia University and Katherine Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania who duped over 6,000 professors into responding to a question for a study by pretending to be a guidance-seeking graduate student. Their excuse was that they would have tainted the results of their study–to learn if professors give up more of their time if asked to help a student immediately or in the future–had they said who they were. Some respondents were livid, but Felten notes that “The American Psychological Association ethics code specifically allows ‘deceptive techniques’ in research where ‘effective nondeceptive alternative procedures are not feasible.'”

Felten also wrote that the author of “Illusions of Reality: A History of Deception in Social Psychology,” James H. Korn, “found that before 1945, fewer than one in ten studies used deception. By the 1970s, half of such research relied on trickery.”

Is deception/spin lying? Waiting for the New York State legislature to pass a budget, Governor Patterson suggested a one-day-a-week furlough for 100,000 state workers to save $200+ million. Meanwhile, to replace several people in his press office, Patterson promoted five from inside and gave them raises totaling $40,000. The representatives for the disgruntled state workers ran to the media and headlines screamed that the Governor was giving raises to his staff while causing others to lose their incomes. The facts: One staff member’s salary catapulted from $35,000 to $40,000. Those who left the press office were making $150,000. To keep the focus on the budget, the Governor told the staff he would take away their raises so as to keep everyone focused on the budget crisis. Then the reps accused him of not knowing what he was doing, of flip-flopping.

policeWhen the police dupe a suspect into confessing by claiming to know for sure that such and such happened or saying that an alleged collaborator in an adjacent room has already spilled the beans about the caper– when neither is true–are these OK lies?

While I don’t cotton to lying, hate being lied to, and have a clear inner compass that steers me away from doing so, there may be extraordinary times when lying is OK, but the liars, in these instances, must be scrupulously honest experts who know the rules and have good reasons for breaking them.

Do you think deception is lying? Do you think that there are exceptions when lying is acceptable?


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