The Definition: For all of our adult lives, The Fairground Scam is one that most of us have secretly suspected existed. We have all tried our luck at these games in order to win “valuable” prizes – but in reality, we have probably never seen anybody walk away with that giant stuffed toy on the top shelf, have we? There is a good reason for that – they are often almost impossible to win.
The Mark: Any guy or girl out for a good time at the fair. Usually it is a young gentleman who wants to show off his prowess in games of skill and chance, and along the way win a prize for his fair beauty. We hope our mark has come prepared to lose his money – because the best bet on the midway is that he’s going to.
The Scam: The ways that scammers dupe marks at the fairground are as many and varied as the games of chance themselves. Today, we shall take a quick look at the “pop the balloon” game.
In this version, prizes are awarded to those eagle-eyed players who can pop twp balloons out of three chances with the darts he has just paid to use. Many young men are avid dart players – and many quite good – so this looks like a perfect opportunity for our mark to put his skills to the test, and reward his date with a memento of the evening.
The colorful balloons are arrayed in a grid on a board about five meters away. It seems as if there is a reasonable chance at a prize, doesn’t it? All other things being equal? But “all other things” are NOT equal.
A quick examination of the darts themselves will reveal that the tips are quite dull. So dull, in fact, that even a direct hit on a balloon may not pop it. Unless the dart is thrown with great force – not something young men are taught to do – it is all a bloke can do to even get the dart to stick in the board.
Then let’s take a look at the pretty balloons, shall we? They are far from filled to bursting, that’s evident. In fact, they are barely half inflated, rendering the balloon not hard and taut, as you would like, but soft and soggy. Perhaps, if you poked it with a needle or pin, you could get it to burst – but with these dull-tipped darts it would take the luckiest of throws, with a great deal of force, to pop these limp balloons.
It’s just a question of how much money our dupe is willing to fork over; how much embarrassment our mark is able to take before quitting. The more headstrong among us never do seem to get the idea, you can make book on it – and the fairground, the scammers often do.
The Lesson: The lesson we take from this scam is quite simple – be prepared to lose. Don’t play over your head, don’t allow frustration to ruin your evening, and take it all with good humor. You could always stay away from the fair, but what fun would that be?