We are incessantly bombarded by pitches from advertisers, sales people, investment advisers, etc. who are lobbying for our hard earned cash. With increasingly busy schedules, there isn’t always enough time to vet all the information in order to make the best decision.
The Story: Some years ago when I lived in Portland, Oregon, a friend and I took his juvenile, Yellow-naped Amazon parrot downtown to help socialize the bird. I know, strange; but this is why I have so many stories.
A lot of people approached us to ask questions and pet the pretty bird. So when a particular woman came up to us near the Saturday Market, we thought nothing of it. She did not, however, come for the bird. Apparently she was a scout for a modeling agency, and both my friend and I had a certain ‘look’ that advertisers and producers were searching for. Now I know what you must be thinking: I am devilishly handsome; and so, of course, this only makes sense.
And with that, my friend and I were signed up for an open call audition.
After the scout moved on, I explained to my friend this was clearly a scam. Despite my warning, he was interested in seeing how this would all unfold.
The following week, we rendezvoused at the studio for our scheduled auditions. Okay, it wasn’t a studio, but rather an old office building on the outskirts of town.
It was a sight to be seen. There must have been over a hundred hopeful “models” in various lines to register, get measured, and photographed. To our utter dismay, most of these fellow scouted future models were, how do I say this, ugly. The collective hope in the room was thick and overwhelming. My friend and I appeared to be the only two grounded in reality. Many of the hopefuls were parents with their children. The scene was, in a word, laughable.
After working our way through the various queues, small groups of us were ushered into a room to watch an excruciating 20-minute video on the modeling and acting industries. This was followed by a presenter, who explained the various costs involved in getting started in this line of work: “…and for only $495 you too can have a modeling composite card and starter portfolio.”
The Breakdown: The moral of the story seems fairly self-evident. But then again, this appeared to be an obvious scam to me from the get-go. How could so many people be hoodwinked into parting with their hard earned money? The answer: hope, plus a bit of foolhardiness too. It’s the same emotion that drives people to purchase lottery tickets and make other foolish “investments,” like the infamous Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
After sketching out a rough outline of this article, I shared it with a close family member who was unfamiliar with this story. Ironically, it turned out something similar happened to him in Los Angeles. He was approached in a shopping mall by a ‘scout’ who noticed his young children and was cajoled into believing his kids had the look and personalities to be stars in Hollywood. It was a brilliant sales tactic: stroke a parent’s ego who innately believes his children are special.
He and his family also attended the pursuant ‘audition.’ Instead of a $495 portfolio, however, they tried to persuade him to enroll his kids in an acting program with a staggering $1,000/month tuition. While he and his wife initially considered the opportunity, they eventually felt something wasn’t aboveboard and abandoned the path to childhood stardom.
I try and live by the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” While even I have fallen victim to snake oil salesmanship before; I have since grown wiser, more suspicious, and much wealthier as a result.
Sorry ladies, I think I’ll be keeping my shirt on.