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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


How to Avoid Being Swindled


Have you ever been taken to the cleaners by a crook? If you’ve moved beyond your business training wheels, the answer is most likely “yes.” Shysters, charlatans, or whatever you might call them that I can’t in this blog, they’re flat-out criminals.

Recently, we acquired a new customer. It was a nice big project and the future looked bright. They passed all the proper credit checks with flying colors and they seemed like good people. But when the client addressed a check to us to cover their postage, we faced a dilemma.

We would have (and in retrospect, should have) stuck to our policy that all postage checks be written directly to the USPS, but the check came just one day before the mail date. We didn’t want to delay the mail drop for this new customer, especially since when we already had the money in our hands. So, we made an exception to our rule.

We deposited their check and wrote another, on our own account, to the USPS to cover the postage. We lived to regret that decision a week later when the client’s check bounced.

That’s when the alarm went off—we had been taken! We learned we had no chance at collecting the postage money, or the money for the print job. These scumbags have apparently played this game time and again on many of us. (We found that out later through our friends at the Great Lakes Graphics Association).

The good criminals are good—they spend their lives honing their skills. They know how to falsify references, make you feel good about working hard to win the business, and they know how to disappear the moment you realize their snake oil. They don’t think like you and I, and they don’t play by the same rules. They enjoy their ill-gotten gains on a daily basis. They enjoy today because they’re not in jail—they’ll deal with their problems of tomorrow when tomorrow turns into today.

The legal system doesn't seem to be set up to help us honest people. Due process will take many years, and it will suck the life from you in time and attorneys' fees. And when you finally reach the courthouse, you probably won’t find a judge who cares about your "little issue" anyway.

So, what are we to do? How do we stop these criminals? The only way to understand them is to study them. If we can identify their patterns, we can avoid succumbing to their plots.

Am I asking you to have ESP? Yes. Do I expect that to always work? No. But, with practice, your intuition can help you avoid being swindled, at least some of the time. So, here are some signals:

  1. They’re smooth, charismatic, unflappable
  2. They won’t answer all of your questions
  3. They don’t like to put things in writing
  4. They make you go to them

Bernie Madoff is a good example of all these things. He was smooth, so smooth that people approached him to manage their investments. Many of his victims took the first proper step: asking the right questions. But if they asked too many questions, Bernie told them that this probably wasn’t the right investment for them. That, of course, only made them want to work with him all the more...a key psychological ploy...which con artists often employ. At that point, most people get that feeling in their belly: their instinct telling them to run. But many don't.

When you get that feeling, respect it. Your instinct is a reflection of all the things you know, but can’t verbally explain why you know them. If you can parse out the logic, you’ll understand why you feel the way you do and you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Bernie Madoff bamboozled $65 billion from thousands and thousands of investors. Most companies have been taken at one time or another and it never feels good. It’s great to get the frustration off my chest, and if you think it will help you, please share your experiences as well.

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