PT Barnum Wants to Punch You

The wonderful musical “Barnum” begins with Phineas Taylor himself warning the audience via the opening number that “There is a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute!” It’s good advice and especially needed nowadays. Perhaps we should all apply the old axiom: Look around the room…and if you don’t see the sucker, it’s probably YOU.

This post was inspired by the many fake posts people share on Facebook. Just this morning, I’ve seen two. One was the perennial favorite, “If you don’t post this, Facebook owns your information forever and will kill your children” or something to that effect. The other was a fake business page that promises the visitor a free gift in exchange for a simple like or comment.

Now I can excuse those who re-post the “legal” warning about Facebook stealing your info. Although anyone who has been on the social media site for more than 8 seconds should have seen this scam debunked more than once, at least this one makes sense to some degree. I certainly want to be protective of my personal info and the things I post, so I can at least somewhat relate to the logic behind sharing this falsehood. Of course, all it would take is a simple Google search to find out this is false. But still, this one is marginally forgivable.

On the other hand, there are the fake business pages that turn a large part of the population into creatures so stupid that they would be an embarrassment to village idiots everywhere.

Here’s the scenario: Gullible McStupidstein visits a page titled “Walt Disney World Park” and is excited to find that they are giving away a substantial gift and all you have to do to qualify is comment or share the page. Now let’s examine the MANY reasons why this makes no sense:

1) The name of the company. In this instance, there is not an official place called “Walt Disney World Park.” The possible REAL names would be “Walt Disney World Resort,” “Magic Kingdom Park,” etc. They don’t even use the word “park” in the “official” names of the other three venues at the Walt Disney World Resort. I saw another fake page a few weeks ago called “Disney Cruise Ships” and another that said “Carnival Cruise Lines,” all of which are incorrect names for those companies. Don’t you think that a company setting up its own Facebook page would get its name right?

2) For legal reasons (if nothing else) any major company will probably not do a giveaway unless there are official rules and an entry form. If you don’t see those, it’s probably not real.

3) In the Disney example above, the only photo was one of a bunch of “RunDisney” gift boxes from their annual 5Ks & Marathons. Those boxes are given to runners and CLEARLY say “RunDisney” on them and are clearly legible in the photo. Yet the page claims these are the gifts being given away by “Walt Disney World Park” and the boxes contain items unrelated to “RunDisney.” This should be a major red flag. Why would a company with Disney’s budget use the wrong boxes for this giveaway?

4) Read the replies. Had Gullible McStupidstein bothered to read even a few comments on the post, he/she/it would have seen that there was a “this is a fake” post every so often. My dear Gully (May I call you Gully?), the more intelligent of society have tried to warn you, old chap, that your attempt at an easy prize is just an exercise in futility, yet you continue your folly unabated.

5) Look at the number of LIKES. The REAL Disney has around 15 million fans. This page promising you a lovely gift has about 500 to 1000. Another MAJOR red flag.

6) Look at the history of the page. There are only posts for about three to four days. Disney would have a huge history of photos, posts, videos, etc. Sadly, people flock to this page like the zombies of “The Walking Dead” flock to a living human, devoid of reason and essentially brain-dead.

You may ask why I care…or you may ask why you’re still reading this. I don’t know. But I do know why it bothers me. One reason is I hate to see people suckered and not using their brains. Now I know that common sense is an aftermarket product that some people don’t add on to the original unit and is now about as prevalent as those who signal a turn or lane change, but surely some of us still have it, no?

Also, as a small business owner who struggles to market his company, it drives me nuts to see these fake pages go viral on the promise of a small prize that is likely unattainable. I’d love for more people to know my name, my company’s name and what we do, but I won’t resort to deceptive practices to achieve that goal. Sure, we’ll try some fun and different promotions, videos, etc. but there is a line we’ll never cross. I’m very proud of that and I think it makes a difference to our clients as well. But it still makes me mad. And it makes Disney look bad because many of those people think that’s the real Disney and when they don’t win, they’ll be upset. They’ll blame Disney. Some will never go there again. And that indirectly (or maybe even directly) affects my business.

One last thought: In this divisive election season, I believe this plea for sanity and common sense is even more timely. No matter which candidate you choose, think before you post or share. Do you know FOR CERTAIN that the “facts” you are touting are indeed legitimate? Just because someone has a website and a news feed it does not make them a trusted news source. I have enough internet experience to create a credible-looking “news” website in just a couple of hours if I chose to do so. Then, I could post anything I want and someone might mistake it for fact. And even with known news sources, keep in mind that the writer might have an agenda or bias.

Bottom line: If your common sense isn’t yet activated, please return to the dealership or check your app store for an update.

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