How do you manipulate the system?
May 26, 2008 3:44 PM   Subscribe

What sorts of code words, specific language or techniques are used in your industry, profession, or area of expertise that can be used to manipulate the system? Or, what sorts of tricks have you found that work in similar ways?

Recent events got me wondering about professional secrets, codewords, specific language and passwords. My mother was recently in the hospital with a broken leg. Her friend (whose father was Chief of Staff at a major hospital) explained that when asked how much pain she was in to say "7" because seven was the supposed threshold for the admissions doctor to consider administering drugs.

My good friend called into work saying he was sick with "explosive diarrhea" and was told to under no circumstances should he come to work.

My uncle put added the fact that he is a Reverend of the Universal Life Church to the front of his drivers license and now gets treated differently every time someone asks for ID. These can't be the only time or place that specific language can help in navigating the endless bureaucratic systems of life. I'm interested in the tricks that you've learned in your life to help game the system.
posted by JimmyJames to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
When I worked in a restaurant kitchen, any mention of any transmissible illness involving bodily fluids was generally enough to secure a day in bed.
posted by djgh at 4:06 PM on May 26, 2008

From a friend: "if somebody purposefully cuts all the lingo out of what s/he's saying, then throws a few lingo words back in, it gives the impression that s/he is trying really hard to explain something simply but is soooo intelligent that it's just impossible to remember what 'normal folks' know. i see that happen a lot."
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:20 PM on May 26, 2008

Tricks of the Trade
posted by mkultra at 4:25 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not exactly what you're looking for maybe, but my friend told me that appliance stores include the "real" price of things like fridges and washing machines in what looks like a meaningless serial number.

Say there's a fridge marked at $1,000.

The salesman talks to you about maybe offering a discount and takes a look at the "serial number" which is something like 000454-850-000054. The middle digits, 850, are the true price of the fridge. He offers it to you for $900 and still makes $50 commission.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2008 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: AmbroseChapel: This sort of thing is exactly what I'm interested in.
posted by JimmyJames at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2008

I've gotta admit, I'm curious about how to add my ULC credentials to my license.
posted by daboo at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I worked ona credit card hotline several years ago and the first eight digits of credit card number could tell you a lot about the credit card.
Visa cards generally started with 4564, mastercards with 5163, the next four digits usually told you whether it was a gold card, silver card, had frequent flyer points.

Of course there was no real benefit for anyone outside of the workplace to know this stuff, it just made you that extra 1% more efficient if you could identify the type of credit card the cardholder had without having to ask them or look it up.

Probably only really useful if you were trying to generate fake credit card numbers, which is a pretty stupid thing to do, and of course, illegal.
posted by robotot at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of places have codes that tell employees the wholesale cost of the item in question. Where I used to work we used the acronym BLACKHORSE. So something that said KSB would cost 4.80 for the company to purchase. Looking at enough products it's easy enough to deduce the cost of item.
posted by bmalicoat at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2008

I used to work at a big box store in high school and there was a trick with the clearance items. Normally all prices ended in .99. When something went on clearance it was marked down and the last digit was knocked down one. Each time the price dropped the last digit was knocked down one more. So seeing something that cost 999.97 has gone through two price reductions. As a shopper you'd want to look for things ending in 5 or 6 because thats was pretty much as low as it was ever going to get.
posted by magikker at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

About ten years I ago I saw a friend say "I'm sorry, I can't help you out" to a panhandler, which sent them away immediately. Since then, I've used on anyone unwelcome--panhandler, crazy person, etc.--who approaches me on the street. It is BULLETPROOF. A 100% success rate, while I see other passersby continue to be nagged. I suppose it lets the person know that 1) You notice them, 2) You are sympathetic, and yet 3) You have absolutely nothing to offer them.
posted by Mapes at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

The expiration dates on cartons of eggs do not have to be very precise, so there's a little bit of leeway in what's actually printed. But the cartons also have the Julian date on which they were packaged stamped on them, which is a more reliable way to determine how fresh the eggs are.

In my experience, telling missionaries that I am atheist or agnostic does not make them give up. Telling them that I am Jewish almost always does. The exception is with Mormon missionaries, who haven't been very pushy to me regardless of how I identify myself, and who almost always ask some sort of non-loaded question ("what's that thingy on the doorpost" in reference to the mezuzah). They do seem less likely to try and leave pamphlets when I identify myself as Jewish as opposed to anything else.

When I worked for the credit card division of a large national bank, I learned that it's fairly easy to get the bank to waive a fee once, as long as you don't insist on the bank admitting wrong-doing. It's more cost effective for the bank to refund your fee and keep you as a customer. It won't work a second time, however.
posted by ErWenn at 8:02 PM on May 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

>In my experience, telling missionaries that I am atheist or agnostic does not make them give up. Telling them that I am Jewish almost always does

'Being' Catholic works for that where I live. Even keeps the Mormons on... and they're usually Mormons.
posted by pompomtom at 8:32 PM on May 26, 2008

Walgreens also has a letter code for store cost like bmalicoat mentioned, except their code is "BRUSHCLEAN" (B=1, R=2, N=0, etc). You'll see it on the price tags on the shelf, and sometimes in small type near the price on prepriced items.
posted by neckro23 at 11:27 PM on May 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

Not really beating any systems, but anyway:
When you go to vote in an Australian election, feel free to graffitti up your ballot. Art on ballot papers is not only perfectly legal, but appreciated by tired electorate commission staff and the exhausted volunteers from the Parties.
As long as you:
a) legibly and correctly number all the boxes in compulsory-preferential election (ie. Federal elections),
b) make some kind of clear legible preference in optional-preferential elections (ie. NSW)
c) do not make any identifying marks such as your name, address or signature,
Your vote will count in the election. Please, if you're an Australian-citizen artist reading this, come the next election, bring pencils, crayons, watercolours, whatever, and graffitti up your vote. Every election all number of cranks scrawl all kinds of bizarre and filthy things on ballot papers; I know you can do better than that.
When it comes to counting, your art ballot will be pounced on with glee by bored counters. The Returning Officer will pass your ballot around the counting table, and call it to the attention of everyone else in the room, and we will think you are incredibly awesome, and tell everyone we see that night about the superb art ballot.
I speak from experience.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:15 AM on May 27, 2008 [8 favorites]

Note that Fiasco da Gama's example depends entirely on which polling booth you vote at. Some returning officers are not so forgiving. I also speak from experience, working as a polling official and also as a scrutineer on the night and at a recount.
posted by robcorr at 3:57 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I worked at IKEA, we'd send packages that were ripped open and generally unfixable to the As-Is department. Because the As-Is department is required to record down items costing $10 and more, but not $9 and under, all fabrics were automatically marked to $9 unless their original price was cheaper, and some of our curtains and duvet cover sets could go up to $80. You could pick up a down comforter (I remember those being closer to maybe $15-$20), but no matter what, the textiles are almost always a steal.
posted by reebear at 8:36 AM on May 27, 2008 [6 favorites]

As far as Mormon missionaries go:

Being Catholic probably won't work, unless the missionary is being really lazy. They have a whole book called something like "How to convert Catholics". A friend of mine said a large part of their missionary training in Provo was based on converting Catholics. But, he was going into South America so perhaps they spent more time on Catholicism then they would have if they were going into somewhere like China.

But, for my friend, the magic words were "Wahhabi Muslim". Anybody they converted from this sect of Islam were supposed to be killed by members of their church. So, in order to not put people in danger, the missionaries wouldn't attempt to convert these people.
posted by sideshow at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

When I worked at a large rental car agency, I learned that there was no set price for any car, only a "target" average price for all cars you sent out that day (I put 'target' in quotes, because in reality it was a pretty firm quota, whereupon if your average rate for the day was less than $34.76 you would be called in and asked what was wrong with you).

Therefore, despite what they are telling you you can almost ALWAYS negotiate the price of a rental car. Threatening to go to the place across the street, depending on the salesperson's mood and the manager's mood, can also help in securing a very low rate on a vehicle. If you are a nice person, you are much more likely to get a better rate. For this rental agency in particular, there were "weekend specials" which were coupons that could be printed out online so you could get a car for as low as $9.99/day. Almost no one knew about this special, but we had to honor it if someone brought it in.

Also, take a look around on the car lot. If there are lots of cars on the lot (ESPECIALLY if it's late in the day) your bargaining power just went waaaay up. We'd rather get a car on the road for $15/day rather than have it sit on the lot for $0/day. Also, the longer your rental, the harder it's going to be to negotiate, because they don't want their average rate being sapped by some two week rental at $25/day.

The bottom line is, the price sheet they show you is complete B.S., and they can give you any price they feel like... so push hard and save some money.
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:31 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

How do you manipulate the system?

The internet is your friend, man. Here's the basic idea:

1) Navigate to the page with your relevant info (a receipt for a camera, your frequent flier status page, etc.).

2) Save the page as a local file to your desktop.

3) Open the page in Notepad or a similar lite application.

4) Ctrl-F your way to the relevant information (the dates on the receipts, the status level and your number of miles, etc.).

5) Adjust accordingly.

6) Print the new page and use as needed.

In example A - an airline had lost my bags and I couldn't get receipts to them for reimbursement in a timely fashion due to extended travels in remote countries. Some of the replacement stuff I had bought didn't fall within the time period they had specified that replacement purchases had to be made in (I was trying to buy as few replacements as possible). Solution? Adjust the dates on my receipts and submit accordingly.

Example B was with what I'll call Airline ABC. Like many airlines, they have a frequent flier status-match program. Unfortunately I found out about it a little after I lost my status with Airline XYZ. Solution? Log onto XYZ's site, adjust my info to make it look like I still have status, submit that and a request for a status match to ABC's freq. flier department.

Hopefully you can start to see the massive implications of this hack...try and avoid situations that might get you in trouble ;)
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:39 PM on May 27, 2008 [9 favorites]

I should add two mini-steps between 5 & 6:

5a) Save the doc back to your desktop.

5b) Open it back up in your internet browser and proof it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:41 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

>"About ten years I ago I saw a friend say "I'm sorry, I can't help you out" to a panhandler, which sent them away immediately"

2nding Mapes on this - I too once saw a friend do exactly that, saw how incredibly effective it was (look them in the eye, shake your head, "sorry, cant help you out", keep walking; done. They really just go away). I used to get really uncomfortable with panhandlers (coming from the countryside into the big city) but once I saw that I've done it ever since and it works perfectly every single time, has never not worked. Its also decent, actually - most people avoid eye contact and scurry away.
posted by jak68 at 12:37 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

An older, wiser friend once told me that if I'm ever pulled over by a cop for a traffic violation, when the cop comes up to the car door, to immediately refer to him as "Officer". "Whats the problem, Officer"? (Apparently this sets a certain tone and they generally like it). Look at him and be friendly while saying it. Get that in before they ask you for license and registration. The second rule was: As he collected your license and was about to head back to his car to run the check on your license, to make sure before he leaves to say "I'm usually a good driver, sorry about that".

Well, in the four times I was pulled over (speeding, U-turn, red light, speeding) every single time I was let off with a warning, so far I've never gotten a ticket. Coincidence? Was this the reason why? I dont know -- but I've got the script down to a science now and Ima gonna keep doing it ;)
posted by jak68 at 12:51 AM on May 30, 2008 [5 favorites]

When you're ordering something from a website where you've never ordered before...

1. Put the item in your cart.
2. View the cart.
3. Proceed to checkout.
4. See the box for a coupon code?
5. Google sitename and coupon or promotion or special or whatever
6. You'll usually find there's a deal site or two out there with several possible coupon codes.
7. Try the codes until one sticks.
8. Finish checkout.

Example: If you buy a premium account for one year, it's $40. If you Google for a code, it magically turns into $20.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:55 AM on June 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Another place with a letter code indicating store price is Cash America Pawn. They use the term "MARYLOUISE" where M=1 so MAEEE=$120. Works well for negotiations.
posted by Kupo? at 10:07 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a journalist, so when I get calls from political organizations I tell them so and that donating money would be unethical and I could get fired. It gets them off the phone pretty quickly, generally.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2008

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