A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.
Geno Munari
Posts: 630
Joined: January 30th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA


Postby Geno Munari » November 12th, 2003, 6:08 pm

I am sorry that I did not pay attention to the Jam Auctions that where in Las Vegas years ago. Does anyone know the history of them or the script or have a complete overview? I would love your comments..

Geno Munari



Postby Guest » November 12th, 2003, 7:45 pm

Geno, in 1996 in Norfolk,Virginia Ricky Dunn and I had a conversation about this. He told mre of your interest and I gave him ny name and adress.I guess he must have forgot to let you know but...I was a Jam Man for 12 years 1960 to 1972. I worked with the guy who was in Circus-Circus, not Rasmussen, the other guy Wayne Garrison for a couple of years in Asbury Park, Nj.,The New York Worlds Fair 1964-65,Most of the state fairs here on the east coast.I live in Richmond,Virginia, am a widower am 63. Brill, the guy that used to sell carnival ride plans, joint plans, show front plans,illusion plans also had a script for the "J"I have a copy of that I would send you but it's a piece of dreck.I haven't been to Vegas for twenty years and then only once but if you ever come east or I ever come there I would be willing to answer your questions along with two or thre days of the funiest jackpots you ever heard.I'm sorry I'm not going to post this kind of stuff on the forum. I'm sure my email adress is under profiles....Mike Walsh :cool:

User avatar
John Smetana
Posts: 264
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Morganville, NJ


Postby John Smetana » November 12th, 2003, 8:01 pm

Mr.Walsh, please reconsider about posting at least some of the info here on the forum. I can almost guarantee there are many people, beside Geno, who are interested. I've been a fan of jams since I bought my first paper bag as a teenager almost 50 years ago.

Best thoughts,
John Smetana



Postby Guest » November 13th, 2003, 9:52 am

I know a fair bit about the jam auction. However, it is the British version that I know about. It is called the "Run Out"

It is far more vicious than the American equivalent. Evil in fact.

It is too crooked for even ME to work. That should tell you all something.

Incidentally, I am curious about something. I think I am wrong but there is no harm asking Mike a question.

There was a British guy named Mickey Walsh who years ago moved to the US. I don't think he ever worked the run out but he certainly had a pitch business working all the usual stuff such as non stick pans, paint pads etc;

He had a TV infomercial business in the States.
I don't think that Mike is the same Mickey Walsh because Mickey had no interest in magic at the time I knew him.

Still, he would indeed be about 63 now so I can't help wondering.

Enlighten me, Mike.

Mark Lewis



Postby Guest » November 13th, 2003, 10:45 am

There was an English guy doing infromercials a few years, working polish, a short thin man. They called themselves Amazing Discoverys but it was not me. Of course I pitched two or three years before I worked the Jam. I have been reading and enjoying your post and almost replyed because the first thing I ever pitched were Svengallies,then coils,ironing board covers,the saw knife and then pens. In the sixties the pens were worked in the U.S. sort of like a mild jam. You posted the other day about being called a grafter in the U.K..Here in the U.S. we were grifters .I'm surprised you think the j is so evil. You tell no lies and at best it is a case of intended misintereption, it wasn't like a razzle and a pin store. By the way, when I first broke in I worked with a grouo i=of your countrymen. Dennis Stewart, Harry Levy, English Jack Taylor and Harold Collins> Harold had a sit down joint somewhere in the nort of England on the east coast is that Blackpool. As you well know the jam was outlawed in the U,K. by Parliment in the late fiftys. I never heard of the Run Off, English Jack told me it was known in the U.K. as the Ram Skooter, but I think that"s Cockney. Besides Jack was from Manchester.........Mike



Postby Guest » November 13th, 2003, 11:12 am

Ah! You are not the famous Mickey Walsh of England after all!

Come to think of it I think he went to Florida, not Virginia. Short guy and knew a lot about grafting.

Regarding the "run out" it may have been outlawed in Britain but I think it is still going.
It certainly was in the late seventies and the early eighties when I last saw it.

I remember that the Irish Government passed a law overnight to get rid of it. The funny thing is that the law was passed to get rid of one English run out team only. (In the British Isles they have a team of at least 6 people working).
The Irish did not ban it outright. They brought in a clever law that said for every demonstration the team had to pay a ridiculous sum of money as a licence fee. EVERY demonstration.
The team left the country.

At one point the IRA approached the team and told them that they would have to leave the country if they valued their kneecaps. However, the boys soon changed their minds when the Run Out team offered to contribute to the "cause" which they did until the Irish Government brought in the new law.

The British version of the "run out" is much more vicious than the US version. I would have no trouble working the jam auction the US way from what I have seen of it. It seems fairly mild.
The British version is diabolical. I have seen people in tears trying to get their money back.

They are not taken for small amounts of money in Britain. I have seen holidaymakers taken for all they have brought with them for the week.

Yep. Blackpool. You mentioned the place. I used to live there. The police always kept visiting the run out shops under cover.They were never able to close them down because the boys had very clever lawyers who vetted the spiel.

However, one day the run out people went too far. They beat up an undercover policeman when they discovered him. That didn't go over very well and the whole bunch of them ended up in jail.

Including the fellow I shared an apartment with!
That is how I know all about these wicked shenanigans!
Ah! Those were the days!

Mark Lewis

PS. I might post some info about the British Run out here if I can find it. Some time ago I talked about it on another group. I don't think it is there any more though. Come to think of it, neither am I.

Ian Kendall
Posts: 2509
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh


Postby Ian Kendall » November 14th, 2003, 1:50 am

From the other side of the counter...I was in a Jam Auction in London in the late eighties (as a sucker, not a pitcher). I put a write up of it in the EG sometime in 97 but I don't have a copy of it anywhere :(

Does anyone have a contact for Bruce Barnett, and is the EG still going? It might be recoverable from the archives...

Take care, Ian

Jacky Kahan
Posts: 393
Joined: March 16th, 2008, 4:55 pm
Location: Belgium


Postby Jacky Kahan » November 14th, 2003, 5:27 am


sorry, maybe a stupid question... what is a jam auction?


Dave Shepherd
Posts: 424
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: 15 miles w. of Washington, DC


Postby Dave Shepherd » November 14th, 2003, 7:33 am

Jacky wrote:
sorry, maybe a stupid question... what is a jam auction?
Not a stupid question at all. Thank you for asking it.

I was wondering the same thing myself this morning while reading this thread.



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 9:08 am

Never fear. I will tell you all about it. The UK version anyway.
It is called the "ram" or the "run out"
"ram" is a grafter's expression maning "rip off"
If you ram someone you rip them off.
The "run out" is the name used because sooner or later the team get "run out" of town. They always get closed down sooner or later.

Some selected few of my friends are run out workers. Very selected though. Most of the people working it are of a somewhat criminal element and would not fit in well with the higher echelons of polite society in the way that I do.

It really is a vicious con. The US version is very mild in comparison. I think the American version first came from the UK but became much more diluted.

I first saw the North American version at a Canadian flea market. The owner of the market came up to me (I was working svengalis) and said "you think you put on a show? Wait until you see the guy working outside!"
I asked why he was outside instead of inside where everyone else was. He replied "Oh, I can't have him in here. I don't want anyone to think he is part of the market. I don't want to deal with the complaints"

I watched the guy work. He was pretty good but the scam (and it was a scam) wasn't that bad in comparison to the UK workers. It was the same idea but much more diluted.

I can tell you quite a bit about the UK version even though I have never worked it myself. This is because I have been around this stuff and these people for a very long time.

I would never work it because it is just too vicious. I have been tempted though. The showmanship involved is incredible. You whip up the crowd into mass hysteria.

Magicians should go to watch it done in action. They will learn far more about showmanship and manipulating audiences than they ever will at a magic convention. However, in the UK they will only be allowed to watch the first 20-30 minutes or so of 45 minute to an hour pitch. For reasons that I will explain later you will be kicked out of the shop at a certain point so you will not see the boys go in for the kill.

I know a fair bit about this game but because I have never worked it I don't know everything. However I do know plenty. I will reveal it later on. It will take up too much space in one post.

I don't know what it has to do with magic unless you include the fact that the boys throw out loads of free decks of cards. Crap Chinese quality I am afraid -no bicycles!

Of course you will certainly learn the psychology of deception from these awful people.

I will just tell you a couple of things. Later, if anyone is truly interested I will tell a little more.

In the UK the run out workers work what we call "mob handed". Not one person like they seem to do in the US. (from what I have seen anyway)

The British version has a lot of mouths to feed. About 6 people or so. First you have the two demonstrators. They usually come from a regular pitch background. However they get into this game because there seems to be more money in it. They usually live on their nerves. Constant stress which is not surprising when you consider that every customer is a potential complaint. In fact I would estimate that fully 30-50% of their customers complain either to the boys themselves or to the police.

The grafters usually work one hour one and one hour off taking it in turns. Then you have the floormen. They are usually brain dead yobbos (punks) who look like they have just come out of jail. They often have.

Here is the funny bit. ALL the floormen are called "Walter" Not just in the one joint but EVERYWHERE! No matter what part of the country you see the run out in the floormen are all called "Walter"

You could go to Scotland one day and Wales the next. If you saw the run out in both areas the floorman would still be called "Walter"

This is to make identification more difficult.

I have said enough. I would not want to shock the more stuffy members of this forum too much in one post.

Robert Allen
Posts: 616
Joined: March 18th, 2008, 11:53 am


Postby Robert Allen » November 14th, 2003, 9:12 am

I have said enough. I would not want to shock the more stuffy members of this forum too much in one post.
...or bore them to tears so badly that they dehydrate...



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 9:31 am

Allen, my boy.
You have already dehydrated. Go and drink some water.
On second thoughts I rather think you are a bit wet already.
Now please do not try to be a wit. You are only halfway there.

Randy DiMarco
Posts: 178
Joined: March 13th, 2008, 3:45 pm


Postby Randy DiMarco » November 14th, 2003, 9:44 am

I remember watching a Jam Auction that was set up in a grocery store in Florida somewhere. This was back in the 70's. Everyone started out with a free pen and within 10 minutes almost everyone had "invested" $20 in a bag full of crap.



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 9:59 am

A mere $20!!!
A pittance.
In Her Majesty's Realm of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland you would be out several hundred pounds. Even in the seventies.

We don't mess about over there. You even end up buying your own money!

True. The grafters even sell you your own money. You forget it belongs to you in the first place and you buy it back thinking you have got a bargain.

Bob Walder
Posts: 121
Joined: January 28th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Austin, TX


Postby Bob Walder » November 14th, 2003, 10:15 am

After reading Lewis' posts I begin to see why so many Americans think us Brits are idiots.

This is not the first time I have seen you promise to tell us someting of great import about which you claim to know a great deal and then waffle on endlessly, finishing up by telling us absolutely nothing. I am pretty new to this forum and I'm already sick of the sight of your posts.

So, back to an earlier post, can anyone apart from The Great Mr Lewis tell us what a jam auction is please?



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 10:34 am

The Brits ARE idiots. This is why they get rammed by the run out. Most deservedly, I may say.

Still, Walder is correct. I have told you nothing. I shall continue to tell you nothing. I was about to tell you something but I am going to sulk now because of your British impertinence.

Only Mike and I know anything about this stuff. Mike has indicated that he does not want to tell us about the American version on the grounds that he no doubt feels that you all deserve to be conned in the future.This is secret information not to be shared among the unworthy and a lot of people here are most unworthy. Especially if they are Brits who live in Frogland.

I feel it is my duty to expose the workings of the British version because I am a psychic reverend and do not approve of if. It is most unholy and I feel like giving all the secrets away.

I am not going to now. And I can assure you that nobody here knows about the British Jam Auction in the way that I do. I have been behind the scenes and know what exactly goes on. I know what "plunder" is. You don't. I know what "hintern" is. You don't. I know what "nauses" are. You don't.

I know about this stuff. You don't.
And neither is anyone else going to know now. And all because of you.

I have now gone shtoom. You will never know. Serves you right.

Dave Shepherd
Posts: 424
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: 15 miles w. of Washington, DC


Postby Dave Shepherd » November 14th, 2003, 12:09 pm

All right, fine.

Geez, you ARE tedious.

We know from the above that "jam auction" is the American term for what the British call a "run out."

I just did an online search in the Oxford English Dictionary online, and discovered that a "run out" is a type of "mock auction," which is further defined as "a fraudulent auction of worthless articles, in which a brisk pretence of bidding is kept up by confederates in order to elicit genuine bids".

So now we know without having to wait an eternity for the ever-annoying God of the Pitch.

Randy DiMarco
Posts: 178
Joined: March 13th, 2008, 3:45 pm


Postby Randy DiMarco » November 14th, 2003, 12:40 pm

What is described in the dictionary is not a Jam Auction. The closest thing is those infomercials for the knives you see on TV. They sell the knives for $10. Then for just $5 more, they throw in the peeler set and then for another $5 you get the juicer, ect. Before you know it you have given $50 for stuff you never would have bought in the first place.
Re: Mark Lewis - I don't understand why some people get so riled up when he starts posting. He usually has valuable things to say and those that post snide remarks in response to his admittedly pompous posts are only delaying him imparting the information he has. The few times people have not responded to his posts he has posted follow ups with the promised information rather quickly. I would rather read 10 of his "long-winded" posts (that usually contain much wisdom) than 1 anti-Mark Lewis post that normally contributes nothing but an increase in the poster's post count.



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 12:40 pm

Sheppard. Do pay attention and stop being impatient.
You have always been impatient when I have tried to educate you in the past.
You insist upon getting free information and then you complain about the pace it is given to you.
However, I am not giving you the information now.
You will never find out about it because I am in a huff over some British Frenchman speaking out of turn.

I can assure you that the authors of the Oxford English Dictionary have never worked the Jam Auction and therefore know nothing about it whatsoever. A bit like some of the dodos on here of which you and this British Frenchman are one.

There are no "brisk pretence of biddings" and certainly no "confederates"

The run out or the ram is NOT the mock auction. This was what was banned in the Fifties as Mike mentioned.

I rather think that the Oxford English Dictionary was written by some stuffy member of a magic club who is not wise in the ways of the world.

Face it, Sheppard. There are only two people here who know the secrets of the jam auction. Neither of us are going to tell you what they are. I would have done but I am now of the opinion that there are too many of the undeserving here.

I shall sum up what it is though.

Lots of silly people go into a store front. Lots of "plunder" (slum merchandise) is thrown out free (or at silly prices) to the crowd and by clever patter all the silly people become overcome by their own greed and are virtually screaming to allow the grafter to con them.
And he does.
I will not describe the process. I shall simply describe the effect.
The punters end up with a load of dreck for which they pay extortionate sums of money for and for which the actual value is a lot, lot, lot, lot, less.
Now you know. In future when you want to learn please take your time.
No wonder you never became famous with the glass through the table.

Dave Shepherd
Posts: 424
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: 15 miles w. of Washington, DC


Postby Dave Shepherd » November 14th, 2003, 2:25 pm

Okay, Louis. Whatever. I'll have to find a way to go on living without the two of you telling me what you know, I guess.

Randy, I have absolutely no interest in "post counts." I responded with a post that tried to shed some light on the darkness. I do appreciate your own insights, which were the first real contribution to this thread in several iterations.

I do, however, resent Mr. Louis's hijacking just about every thread he gets involved with, by making it all about himself.

And I do wish Mr. Louis would learn to spell...



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 2:39 pm

What you are referring to as a Jam auction I've only heard referred to as a Jam Joint
Simplistically, it's not an auction at all but a high pressure sale where you pay good money for cheap merchandise because you think you'tre getting it for free. I worked a Jam Joint briefly in the late 1950's.
To simplify, it generally starts with items given away for free. And when you make the turn (get watchers to pony up money. They think they're getting it free or at a bargain. Out nailer(iterm where you get audience to show the green stuff was a "genuine Swiss watch, (this was way before digital) with 17 pigeon blood red rubies each sunk and countersunk in it's individual cup of gold
Probl some where Jam Joints still flourish

Geno Munari
Posts: 630
Joined: January 30th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA


Postby Geno Munari » November 14th, 2003, 5:12 pm

I appreciate the response, however no one has given the presentation of how it really appears to the public, that is with a demo.



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 7:25 pm

I was about to but I was rudely interrupted by a British Frenchman and a fellow whose name is Sheppard but has delusions that it is Shepperd.

Actually Ford has given the best description so far. He knows a fair bit about conning people.

Mike did say that if you e-mail him he would give you the details.

I don't think it would go over too well in your shops though.

I will give one little detail of the British version because it amuses me.

They always work in a store front. They bring people in using a microphone. They stand on a podium looking down on the crowd. (one worker I know called it "looking down at the greedy vermin") The floormen are down on the floor (hence the name floormen)

A crowd of approximately 75 to 100 people gather. It is much more elaborate than the US version. Virtually a theatrical production.

Loads of stuff is thrown out and the punters "revved up" to a hysterical frenzy. I have no time or inclination to explain.

After half an hour or so comes my favourite bit. By a certain process almost like a hypnotist selecting his subjects, the people who are going to buy are moved to the front of the crowd. I won't go into why but they are all holding up a small treasury bill. The people who are not holding up the bill are moved to the back.These are deemed not to be good prospects for scamming.

Now comes the hilarious bit. Well, hilarious to me anyway. Out of nowhere all the floormen (usually about 4 of them) come armed with brooms. They literally sweep the non-prospects out of the shop calling out "closed! you have to leave! closed!" The brooms actually touch your feet and you have to leave to avoid getting hit by the brooms! Almost the same as sweeping unwanted dust out of the shop! Of course, non punters are unwanted dust.

Once everyone is out down come the shutters of the shop! The punters cannot get out and unwanted people cannot get in! Talk about a captive crowd.
The ram workers now go to work on the selected people in a very ruthless manner. No mercy whatever is shown.

Afterwards when people realise that they have been "had" they often complain. However the complaints department are the 4 "Walters" who look like gorillas and have tattoos down their arms. They simply tell the people to go forth and multiply. However they do it in a rather shortened version. They use only two words the second of which is "off".

Loud arguments and often fights after every pitch. I have not seen this with the US version. Only mild to moderate complaints.

One lady came in crying to the boss and said that she had spent all her holiday money and could'nt pay the hotel.
The "Guvnor" was very kind. He offered her a box of tissues. I still remember the bastard saying "Walter! Get a box of tissues out of the back and give it to the lady for her tears!" The tissues were plunder items.

She never got her money back though.

Geno Munari
Posts: 630
Joined: January 30th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA


Postby Geno Munari » November 14th, 2003, 9:17 pm

I appreciate your reply, but I remember seeing a couple of jam auctions in Las Vegas.

I would love to see a re-creation for historical purposes. I am not interested in using this idea in my shop, but just interested.




Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 9:24 pm

Thank you for the compliment Mark, about knowing about cons. I'm not sure I'd classify jam joints as a con. The customer gets what they've paid for (or if you prefer over paid for)While the process is designed to confuse the prospective buyers. They voluntarily pony up the bucks. The gimmick is they think they're getting it back. But that's never promised. Deceptive , certainly



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 9:51 pm

I know you don't want to do it in your shop. That was a joke.
I have never worked it but have seen it many, many times.
I wish I could remember some of the patter.I do have some friends in England who know quite a bit about it.
Morris Cohen of Great Yarmouth used to do it all the time but in later years did a more modified and softer version so that he could "reign" a bit longer in the one venue.
My friend Terry Walker of Great Yarmouth has never worked it either but knows a lot about it.

Now that I think of it one of your employees knows
Terry! Sheer coincidence. His name is Ronnie and he comes from Gt. Yarmouth too.

I do believe it is still being worked in Gt.Yarmouth.

If you are that interested I could find out where in England it is still being worked and you can take a trip over there to watch. I have no idea how you can watch the important part of the pitch though without spending money for a pile of junk.
As I mentioned already, people that don't buy are kicked out of the shop and you don't get to see what goes on when they go in for the kill.

I could put you in touch with Terry (who may know the procedure but not know the patter) or Morris who certainly knows the patter and procedure. You will have to count your fingers if you deal with Morris though.

I think your best bet is Mike here who offered to help you with information if you e-mailed him privately.
You will get the US version though which is no doubt the one you saw in Vegas.

Where were they working? That Mexican flea market?
Just curious.

Wait! I do seem to remember a little book about the midway. I do believe it had a jam auction script in it. The book was by Don Boles.

There. Everything comes to him who waits.
Let this be a lesson to that Sheppard fellow who thinks his name is Shepherd.

He said he would have to go on living if I and Mike didn't give him the information.

I can assure him that there really is no need to go on living if he doesn't want to.

We will all try not to miss him.



Postby Guest » November 14th, 2003, 10:05 pm

The US version is not too bad at all. Deceptive but no worse than anything else you see around if you are fairly street wise. Very mild indeed, in fact. I would have no trouble working it with my elastic conscience.

However, the UK version is so vicious that I couldn't stomach working it. It is so bad that they have been trying to make it illegal for years. They keep bringing in laws to try and close it down. Newspapers in Britain from time to time do exposes on it. The police are continually going in undercover to try to find a loophole. Trading Standards officers also.

The floormen often have criminal records. I don't think the grafters are that clean either.

One Blackpool cop I knew said to me "I don't mind the public being conned for a small amount of money.
But CS............... and PM................. and the rest of the bunch deserve to go inside for what they do. And one day we will close them down"

I don't know if they ever did.

Jeff Haas
Posts: 948
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: San Mateo, CA


Postby Jeff Haas » November 15th, 2003, 2:08 am

I have a lot of the old issues of the EG archived. I found the following info...

In issue #1375, from July 30, 1998, there's a posting:

"Ian Kendall's tale in EG 1374 reminded me of the book, The Complete Pitchman, by Don Boles. It contains numerous pitches for products ranging from vegetable slicers to svengali decks and magic paddles. The book's centerpiece is a thirteen page script for a Jam Auction similar to what Mr. Kendall experienced in London.
In my area there is an old grizzled 'road warrior' whom I've seen several times doing a Jam Auction at flea markets and flea bitten carnivals over the years. I enjoy watching it as a theatre piece. It strikes me as very similar to a stage hyp act. I purchased The Complete Pitchman from H & R.

Owen Anderson"

In EG #1376, there's this post:

"There is a book produced in the UK called The Hard Sell by Colin Clark and Trevor Pinch which is sub-titled The Language and Lessons of Street-Wise Marketing. There is a chapter on that which gives a detailed analysis of what they call The Mock Auction (as opposed to the Jam Auction). They split the Auction into 5 stages: Pulling A Pitch (attracting a crowd to the sale), Steaming Up The Edge (getting the crowd excited), The Nailer (the first mass sale, which sorts out the buyers from the others), The Ram (the main sale) and The End Game (where bonus
sales are made on an individual basis).

The chapter ends by stating: "victims tend to rationalise their predicament and in an attempt to maintain or restore their self-esteem, will privatise the event, treating it as something that, although unfortunate, can nevertheless be shrugged off and put down to experience." Or, in other words, as Ian expressed it: "Nowadays I consider my ten pounds as an entrance fee to a lecture; I paid my money and I got to see a classic scam in action."

I've also got Ian Kendall's rather complete description of being victimized in one of these scams, which I've emailed him.


Ian Kendall
Posts: 2509
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh


Postby Ian Kendall » November 15th, 2003, 4:50 am

Hello everyone,

First off, Big Thanx to Jeff Haas for finding and sending me my EG post from five years ago. Since there has been a lot of talk about the Jam Auctions I thought I would repost my description here.

By way of introduction, a couple of days earlier I had posted a tale of watching a three shell game in Seville...now let's take a wee step back in time...

Hello again,

Further to my post from Sunday, some more things about the shell

Elisa got back from Spain today, and in the course of the
conversation I told her about my post (she was still complaining about
the pickpocket...) Aparantly she was not even aware that there had been
a monte game in Napoli, much less that I wanted to watch it. Never

We got talking about various bunco games, and that she had seen a few
of them when she lived in Sevilla. When she told me that her ex
boyfriend had been stung in a three shell game I had a hard time
stopping the laughter (he's a git), until I remembered that I have been
stung as well. What made it worse was that I knew what was happening at
the time...

I was in London about three years ago, riding on a bus along Oxford
Street. I saw a shopfront up ahead with a few people standing around a
table laden with small electronic gadgets (walkmen and the like). I
jumped off the bus at the next stop and stood at the side of the group.
The item that interested me was the pocket TV at five pounds. I had
designed a VR headset and needed two screens to get it working. Now I
could get them for ten quid and bring the headset in for under forty
pounds. This looked promising.

The pitchman (I'm not sure of the correct title) was standing behind
the table giving a running commentry on what was going to happen during
the sale, in only a few minutes. The crowd was getting larger now, and
beginning to spill onto the pavement. Pitchman pulled the table a metre
into the shop, and we all shuffled forward to stay in the 'line' (read
'melee') to get our toys. I had images of playing 3D battlezone before
the end of the week. Deep joy.

The crowd kept getting bigger, and every now and then the table was
advanced a metre. By this time the talking had been taken over by a man
behind a raised counter. Looking around the shop, there were boxes of
expensive electrical goodies (Video cameras, tvs, electronic battleships
etc) and a crowd in front of the counter, which was at least six feet
high. We were trapped. The doors to the front of the shop were closed
and three or four knuckle draggers stood guard. I didn't care. I'll
have two pocket TVs and be on my way, thank you very much.

The lure continued. The Main Man explained the premise; we could all
buy wonderful things at rock bottom prices if we stayed in the game. In
order to stay in the game, we had to buy a bottle of perfume for five
pounds. I was worried, that meant only one screen. But to get one, I
still had to buy the bottle, and hold it up. (Historical note: The
bottles in question were the now ledgendary Ives St Louis fakes that
were all over London in the Mid Eighties. After all the time I spent
watching the pitchmen on the streets mispronounce them to the American
tourists as Yves St Laurant, I actually had one in my hand. And I had
paid for it).

Did I listen to the alarm bells? Did I heck. I wanted that screen.

Owning a bottle of London Criminal History allowed me to be chosen to
buy something very big for not much money. If I was chosen. Of course,
the person chosen was a middleaged German Hausfrau who was overjoyed at
being able to buy the boxes for a top of the range camcorder, a TV, a
phone, a toaster and probably a barbequeue set and cuddly toy, all for
thirty quid. I'm not sure how many people in the room thought she was a
genuine punter, but it can't have been many.

Now we got to bid for stuff. Sixty pounds would buy us either a
tacky briefcase, a couple of his and hers watches, a toaster or any of
three other equally worthless items of drek. I can't remember what they
were, but I was beginning to sense things were not all sweetenss and
light in the emporium of amazing offers that evening. The main man went
through everybody in the room, asking what delightful gift they would
like to buy. As they made their choice, minions spilled forth from the
back room and collected either cash or credit cards. The cards were
taken into the side room, of which I had a good view. Inside there were
four women on the phone to the authourisation service making sure that
noone would do anything as dishonest as passing a duff card.

Everybody got their purchase in a black bin bag. Three of us
couldn't afford the sixty pounds, and were offered a 'surprise gift' for
five pounds, on the understanding that we didn't open it in the shop. I
was handed my package, and get ready to leave.

When everybody had reclaimed their card and got their priceless
artifact of 20th century design, the back doors were opened, and we were
shepherded out into the rain. Further down the road I realised that I
had been burned, but not as badly as the others. I decided to tell
noone about this and threw my bottle of perfume into the nearest bin.
Opening my bag revealed a small plastic camera with a value of about
eleven pence. I left it in my sister's flat.

There must have been close on two hundred people in the shop. That's
a thousand pounds in perfume sales to begin with. Then most of them
paid sixty pounds for someting that could not have been worth more than
ten, which is a (roughly) fifty pound profit. Or close on ten thousand
pounds. That's eleven grand for about an hour of pitch. Nowadays I
consider my ten pounds as an entrance fee to a lecture; I paid my money
and I got to see a classic scam in action.

The best description I have seen in print is in the book A Life Among
Secrets, the biography of Eddie Fields. The kicker is that I was
mortally embarrassed that I had been caught, and told noone. When my
flatmate told a story of a friend of his that had been burned in the
same operation, I kept quiet, lest I become an object of ridicule in the
kitchen. Last year a similar operation started up in Edinburgh, but was
closed down in a day after complaints. I heard they went to Glasgow.

The moral of this? Dunno, but maybe that even if we have some knowledge, we can still lose. Either that, or I was very stupid that day...

So there we have it. I can still remember the show vividly, and I'm a wee bit less embarrassed these days.

Take care, Ian

P.S. A couple of years later I was helping my sister with a Car Boot sale she was having. Someone asked her about a tacky camera on her table. 'Dunno', she said, 'I just found it in my flat'...I kept quiet.

Robert Allen
Posts: 616
Joined: March 18th, 2008, 11:53 am


Postby Robert Allen » November 15th, 2003, 7:35 am

Heh heh heh. Wow, that is amazing. But only one phrase comes to mind, and that is the line from Mordecai Jones in "The Flim Flam Man"; "Son, you can't cheat an honest man."

Most of us have been cheated once in life. In my case it was a relatively trivial loss of 3-4 horror comics from a kid in 5th grade who said "Let me take them home today and I'll pay for them tomorrow." Nowadays when scamsters approach me I can see the hatred in their eyes as I blithely tell them "No!" "But wait I haven't even told you what I.." "NO!".

The last poor SOB was running a true broad tossing scam in front of a liquor store. In Palo Alto, California, one of those "whiteest of white" cities with a high cop count, and this guy was black. Doing an illegal scam. In front of a liquor store. At night. When he wouldn't give it up I finally told him "I KNOW how that game works, I know I can't win." and (to his credit, bless his scandelous little heart) he retorted "Well then you'll have the advantage, so give it a try!". Two nights later I saw him at Tower Records, taking money from all the eventually-to-be-Blaine fans :) .

A couple years ago I saw a 3 shell game being run in Vegas, on the overpass that connects the MGM Grande with, um, New York New York (I think?). I'd have stayed and watched, but I figured it was only a matter of time before Metro showed up and beat/arrested anyone within range of the game. Plus I had quite a wad of bills in my pocket and the situation was ripe for pickpockets or robbery. But the guy running the game did have a really good crowd.



Postby Guest » November 15th, 2003, 11:56 am

Excellent. That is exactly what happens. Ian has described the exact procedure.
There are also certain code words used such as
The ram worker will occasionally (not too often) offer some great piece of merchandise for sale either for free or at a ridiculously low price. This will often be faulty merchandise that is beyond repair.
Sometimes the item is genuine. On these occasions the sale APPEARS to be made but actually isn't. The Ram Worker will say "wrap it up for the lady, Walter!" However he will also say in a lower voice at the end of the sentence "hintern"
This means "pretend to wrap it up in the back but do not bring it out again"
The lady never gets the item. She is simply forgotten about. Nobody in the crowd realises it.

User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Hollyweird


Postby Pete Biro » November 15th, 2003, 1:57 pm

Stay tooned.

Ian Kendall
Posts: 2509
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh


Postby Ian Kendall » November 15th, 2003, 2:23 pm

Hello all,

I've a wee bit more time now, so a few more recollections about that fateful day...

Incidently, the second quote (with the extensice bibliography) in Jeff's post was from Ian Keable (if I remember...)

Since Geno asked about the script I'll try to dig up some of the phrases used (it was ten years ago, so bear with me if I start waffling).

When I first came up to the table the 'outside talker' (to give him a name) was speiling generally, but I paid little attention at that point. I was trying to catch his eye to buy a couple of the mini TVs but he avoided it quite well. The phrase that did stick in my mind was 'Forward a metre' which triggered him pulling the table back and everyone shuffling forward. By the time the 'ram man' (as Mark called him) on the raised dias took over he would give the talk, and periodically call 'forward a metre'. In retrospect I imagine he had a very good view of the street end of the shop and pulled everyone in as the crown was beginning to block the pavement outside.

OK, so now we are all crammed into the shop and RamMan has signalled for the doors to be closed. I remember looking back and seeing this (I'm just under six and a half feet tall, so I get a good view over most people's heads). RamMan told everyone that we would get a chance to buy some quality goods eventually, and that we were going to start now. But we had to show that 'we were buyers' and not 'wasting his time'. Here he pitched the perfume, which he would sell for 'not twenty pounds'. He asked the throngette 'How much did I say it would cost?' and I answered 'not twenty pounds'. For those blissful people who do not know me I have a very deep voice, and although I do not consider my accent to be too harsh, in London I sound like Rob Roy. Add to this my height, and RamMan picked up on this right away - 'That's right, not twenty pounds. I'll sell this gift for five pounds, to show me that you are a buyer'. (At this point we did not know we were buying perfume, or yellow water, just some 'quality gift).

When RamMan came to tighten the lure, as it were, he showed us a top of the range camcorder, a radio and sundry other things that he would sell for 'not sixty pounds' (remember that phrase, fact fans, there's a test in the morning...). The German woman (we'll call here Gretel) was asked if she wanted all this stuff for 'not sixty pounds'. She answered yes, and I'll never forget the phrase 'I'm so happy' which she said ever so slightly too loudly. Once Gretel had her stuff (at thirty pounds, less than the sixty, natch) it was time to tip the big sale. The six items were on display along the top of the counter, adorned with many other, yet not for sale items. For example; I remember that the briefcase was full of power tools, the watched were dripping in jewellery. You get the picture.

RamMan described the goods in terms that would make the most seasoned home shopping network presenter blush. He would sell us these fantastic goods at 'sixty pounds'. He then made eye contact with everyone in the room, saying 'the bid is sixty pounds, which would you like?'. The mark would choose his gift, and then hand over his card or cash. This is when I looked into the side room and watched, in not a small amount of awe, at the slick way in which the women on the phones called in for the authorisation codes. As this was going on, RamMan was working his way around the shop. I was close to the front at the left of the room (to RamMan's right) and he got to me quite soon. He looked at me and said 'Scotland, the bid is sixty pounds, what do you want?'. I told him that it was too rich for my blood and he said 'never mind, I've got something special for you at the end' and moved on.

All the while this was going on the knuckle draggers were moving into the crowd with the card slips to sign, and then handing out the items wrapped in large black bin bags and sealed with about a metre and a half of tape.

By the time he had got round everyone, there were three of us that were empty handed, myself and two young girls. RamMan offered me a gift for five pounds if I promised not to open it in the shop. He said 'Scotland, do you trust me?'

At this point I bought my camera, which was wrapped in a black bin bag and three metres of tape. It took quite an effort to get it open, and there was no way I could have done that in the shop.

I've seen a few of these things over the years, but it wasn't until I got more involved in the magic world that I realised what I was seeing. The first one I recall was in Weymouth on the south coast of England in 1977 on a holiday with my Mum, and the last was in an hotel in Edinbugh in 96. This time, the crew had gone around the residential areas of Edinburgh posting large flyers (A3 size) with large amounts of cheap electronics for sale at the hotel. I went along with my flatmate Max (an inch taller than me) to have a look. As everyone filed into the room all the flyers were taken off us, and we walked towards the far side of the hall. The room filled (we were quite near the front) and things got underway. I didn't pay much attention to what was being said at this sale, because right in front of me was a knuckle dragger whose defining facial characteristic was that he was missing half of his left ear. It had been cut off in a straight line, more, I suspect, as an underword punishment than an avant guard display of body modding.

Realising for certain that we were in less than salubrious company I said to Max 'It's a jam auction, let's go' and the two of us (about a foot above the crowd) walked out of the room. I'm not sure if this put RamMan off his stride, but I had fun explaining what was happening to Max in the car home.

Anyway, that's my knowledge of the Jam Auction, from the other side. As a retort to Robert; I'm not entirely dishonest - I just wanted a bargain (it's a bit of a racial stereotype ;)

Take care, and I hope this helps people _not_ get stung,




Postby Guest » November 15th, 2003, 3:54 pm

The run out boys don't think of the customers as "dishonest".
They justify what they do by saying that the punters are "greedy"
It certainly looks that way when you see it worked. People are literally yelling with their hands up in the air.
Mass hysteria.Almost like a hypnosis show.

I wish I could remember bits of the patter. The only bit I can remember is when they say "we need to sort out the needy from the greedy" when they qualify who they should work to and who they should kick out of the shop.

They are not nice people but if you can show that you are one of them there are sometimes exceptions.

A friend of mine got some strange idea that he would work pens on the streets of Dublin. He bought a whole bunch of them from the run out workers. He couldn't sell any and he was stuck with them.
He didn't dare approach the boys for a refund because he knew exactly what they were like.
I told him that I would get the money back. He scoffed at me and said it would be impossible.

It wasn't. I went in and told them "Look, I'm in the grafting business. The kid that bought these pens is in it too. He is skint (broke) and needs the money. He hasn't been able to sell them on the street. It's very tough for him. You know what it's like dealing with the punters. Give him a break"

The guy took the pens back and said "he works the street, does he? OK. No problem. Tell him he owes me a drink" So saying he gave me the not inconsiderable sum of money back.

Honour among thieves I suppose.



Postby Guest » November 15th, 2003, 4:03 pm

Oh! I have just remembered an awful piece of patter they use. Do not put this on the Magic Cafe or you will be banned.

If people are hanging back in the shop doorway and not coming in they are blocking the doorway and stopping potential punters from coming in the door.

Here is the line used to get them in.

"Can you come in from the door please? Come on mate, don't block up the back passage! I don't block up YOUR back passage, do I?"

There is more of this stuff. Because Ian is here I will quote Robbie Burns.

"Wi mair of horrible and awfu'
which but to name would be unlawfu'

Ian will no doubt translate for you.

Posts: 165
Joined: August 28th, 2008, 5:59 pm
Location: Washington State, U.S.


Postby mark » November 15th, 2003, 4:18 pm

It's funny, this brings to mind one of those embarassing instances that I thought I had forgotten. It was in the seventies, and at some sort of fair. I don't remember if it was a county fair, or state fair, or just one of those carnival type atmospheres, but I do recall the jam. It started just as you folk have described, with my getting one of those incredibly high tech pens, so high tech in fact, that the astronauts used them in space. By the time it was over I had purchased an additional pen, a lifetime supply of refills in assorted shapes, sized and colors, and various and sundry 'gifts.' The gifts ranged from a plastic juicer that you stick into the side of an orange or grapefruit, a little plastic handled knife that one used to create artisitc things out of food for your next festive gathering, well you get the drift. In total, I spent probably twenty or thirty dollars. This was 1970's dollars, and I was a young serviceman whose base pay was just over three hundred dollars a month. I would agree with Ian, I wasn't being dishonest, I was looking for a great deal that in the end did materialize. Not for me, though, for them.

Robert Allen
Posts: 616
Joined: March 18th, 2008, 11:53 am


Postby Robert Allen » November 15th, 2003, 4:36 pm

Ian, I should have chosen my words more carefully, but that quote just popped into my mind. I don't know you and would never imply that you are dishonest.

A more apt phrase would be something my dad never gets tired of telling me, "If a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is."




Postby Guest » November 15th, 2003, 5:01 pm

I am not sure that Mark was a victim of the jam auction although he may have been.
I know all the items he bought. They are all pitch items. It sounds like he was watching a pen demonstration and got the extra things as a bonus.
I have no idea, of course.

I know about the pens though. At one time I had difficulty getting into department stores because the pen people had just been and gone. It seems that after they left the store people came in their droves complaining to the shop about the leaky and bad quality pens they had bought. They used to come and complain to the manager with ink stains all over their clothes and demand their money back.

The stores got a bit soured of grafters for a while after that and I found it hard to get in for a while. Even after I swore to them that the ink on the playing cards would't come off!

The pens were a great con. I think they were passed off as Parker pens simply because the name of the grafter was Parker. Truly.
The best bit was like a magic trick. The grafter would always wear a ring. He would then show the nib which was supposed to be indestructable. He would show this by stabbing it into pieces of wood and other fraudulent shenanigans of which there is no time or desire for me to explain.

The bit I liked though was where he would scrape the nib across a board with an awful screeching sound and then show it was undamaged. Of course the nib never actually touched the surface of the board. It was the ring that made the awful screeching noise!

Ah! Those were the days!

Ian Kendall
Posts: 2509
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh


Postby Ian Kendall » November 16th, 2003, 1:26 pm


Fret ye not; I took no offence at all...

At the risk of creating yet more enemies, I have long found Burns to be unintelligable and boring. With the exception of

Would some gab the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us
(would some god give us the gift to see ourselves as others do)

I have little use for it. It is far too easy to try to pronouce the text correctly, and end up sounding like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, which tends to diminish the effect somewhat.

Having said that, I have a very pleasant memory of my shell shocked Australian house master at school lock everyone in a room at Hallowe'en with just a candleabra and recite Tam o'Shanter off the top of his head. Gripping stuff...

Take care, Ian

Well done Cutty Sark! <beat> Arse...



Postby Guest » November 16th, 2003, 5:01 pm

This is the end of civilisation as we know it.
A Scotsman who does not like Robert Burns.

I used to devour his poetry for hours on end. And I lived in England at the time, not Scotland.

The only poet I have been fascinated with.

At least he didn't do card tricks. Or work the run out.

Return to “Reference Room”