Dancing Paper Scam
July 27, 2011 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what was going on with a street vendor in Rome selling dancing paper cut-outs.

So we walked buy this guy that had several paper cut outs of Disney characters seemingly dancing on the ground. The paper cut outs had two pieces of string attached at the bottom of each cut out that made them look like legs. At the bottom of each piece of string were two small, flat magnets (the guy said they were magnets... I didn't test them). Anyway, he would take a paper cut out and tap it against his stereo and say something to the effect of 'two magnets! one positive! one negative! use on any stereo, tv, radio!' and then he'd place the cut out next to the other dancing cut out and it would... well... dance. It would hover over the ground. I never saw him start a new batch of dancing cut outs.

We thought they were cool so we bought a few of them. We exchanged money and he gave us our cut outs. Before leaving his presence, however, I wanted to make sure we knew how to make these things dance. So we asked him to show us how to do it again. He kept taking the things out of our hands and doing it himself, adding the cut outs to his already dancing set of 3 or 4. I tried it twice myself before he could take the thing out of my hand and both times the paper cut out just fell to the ground. I insisted that we be able to do it without his help and out of nowhere, he gets our money out of his pocket and gives it to us and takes the cut outs from us.

I thought it was odd that he would give us our money back so quickly (we weren't frustrated or angry or anything... just trying to communicate that we wanted to do it with our own hands). I'm pissed I took no video or photos of his stand or the dancing cut outs!

Help me understand the following:

1) Is there such a thing as a dancing Disney cut out with string, paper and magnets?! Has anyone bought these things and successfully gotten them to work?

2) Is there some trick to the way he made them dance or was there some scam going on?
posted by shew to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. No.

2. Yes. It's a trick. I've seen this before...I'll see if I can Google it again.
posted by limeonaire at 9:08 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-pull-off-dancing-doll-scam-77916/
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Here's at least one result about it. And another (YouTube link).
posted by limeonaire at 9:11 PM on July 27, 2011

Yeah, they're on an invisible fishing line, and won't work anywhere else. It's a well-known scam.
posted by Paragon at 9:25 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could make it work somewhere else with an invisible thread reel.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:24 PM on July 27, 2011

I saw this in Kyoto Japan, it's apparently a common scam among tourist areas. All you end up buying is expensive paper.
posted by Patrick Leo at 11:20 PM on July 27, 2011

Yes, I've seen this a couple of times in the uk. The cutouts are supported by a horizontal piece of invisible thread. The string probably runs from the top of the stereo to the ankle of a guy nearby who's tapping his foot to the music, which makes then bounce.
posted by metaBugs at 12:58 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought it was odd that he would give us our money back so quickly ...
You were not angry or frustrated YET, but he rightly sensed that you were being persistent and either could cause a scene or at the least discourage easier marks from approaching. The more time he spent with you, the less money he was going to make overall.
posted by whatzit at 2:43 AM on July 28, 2011

Best answer: Previously
posted by romakimmy at 4:19 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've seen the same scam in Mexico city, with skeleton-shaped dolls. I was told they use a pantyhose thread.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:42 AM on July 28, 2011

It's not really a scam is it?

It's a street vendor performing...

I've seen this before in Montreal except he sold them in an envelope that had the wire and instructions for performing the 'trick'.

I would imagine that in this case he didn't want to stop the show, explain it all to you in front of everyone and kill the performance and ruin the 'magic' for everyone else.
posted by stealabove at 7:53 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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