One of the most common forms of crime currently in the Netherlands is the so-called babbeltruc. This is a typical confidence trick whereby criminals con their way into peoples homes either asking if their child can use the toilet, or they call ahead and pretend to be from the thuiszorg. While their victims are distracted, they seize the opportunity to steal as much as they can. What these people do is to rely on the humanity, naivety and kindness of strangers and abuse their trust, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.
The Shallow Man following a nice meal and some superb Portuguese red wine, found himself falling asleep on the sofa and waking up at one am. Going to bed, I found that I couldn’t sleep, so decided to do something I normally try not to do, which was watch TV in bed. Dutch TV at that time of night is a fascinating lesson in the gullibility and naivety of many, which I’ll illustrate below.
Anyone that has read my first book, the Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man, knows that the Shallow Man has nothing against pornography. What I do object to, however, is at 1.30am seeing huge letters across the screen promising HOLLANDSE MEIDEN, while two rather dim looking ladies pose topless and run their hands slowly over their bodies with all of the passion of choosing bloemkool from a supermarket shelf.
Read the small print!
The rather bored looking ladies are there to entice gullible men into calling a premium rate telephone number for a “sexy” chat. The ladies I saw appeared to have difficulty stringing a few words together for selling their “services.” I can’t imagine what a full-blown conversation would be like. The most exciting thing about the show is the incredibly small print that remains barely visible across the bottom of the screen.
Calling the chat line costs an eye-watering 90cents per minute. But the good news is that this rises to a maximum of three euros per chat. Now if anyone is paying attention at this time of night, they’ll also see that in the small print it states quite clearly “fictive profilen” yes the bored looking topless ladies won’t be answering your call. Instead, some Grandma suffering from insomnia will take your call and try and keep you on the line for three euros worth of erotica.
Flicking through the channels I also came across another nacht lounge premium rate programme that showed older and heavier ladies in underwear muttering what I assume were supposed to be tempting phrases into the camera, asking for men who like that sort of thing to also call a premium line of 90cents per minute for sexy calls with older ladies. While the profiles were also false, no doubt the ladies answering the phone were the real thing.
How low will people go for money?
The false profile sex line shenanigans are nothing compared to the lowest form of lifting money from stupid peoples wallets, yes I’m talking about AstroTV.
On SBS6 late at night, you can call your very own astrologists, mediums and tarotists, and from only your voice on the phone and a couple of rudimentary questions, these people will tell you all about your future. Or they’ll talk to a dead friend, relative or pet for you. Here (In Dutch) is how they describe themselves.
“AstroTV is een interactief spiritueel programma dat iedere dag te zien is op televisie via Net 5 en ‘s nachts op SBS6. AstroTV werkt met een vast presentatie team en ontvangen regelmatig leuke gasten.”
Yes people, if you want spirituality, just turn on Net5 during the day or SBS6 at night.
What I found particularly entertaining was a presenter, called Sonia Pereira. This woman can talk and talk and talk. If there was an Olympic event for bullshit, this woman would win Gold, Silver and Bronze, every time. She’d be world famous. Indeed she could even wake up in the middle of the night and fire a gun through a toilet door, kill her partner and claim that she thought it was an intruder, and everyone would believe her. Yes, she’s that good.
Interestingly though, when she’s giving “advice” to people on the phone, she does blink a hell of a lot……..
I watched her advise many stupid people about things she couldn’t possibly know. Kudos to her, as she managed to keep a straight face throughout when in reality, she and AstroTV are laughing all the way to the bank. The “spiritueel” folks at Astro TV are even kind enough to provide SMS voorspellings/predictions for only four euros a chat. Yes, people, they are so gifted that you can send them a text and they’ll come back with an accurate prediction. I might try this on Saturday before the lottery and see if they can predict me the winning numbers, that would be four euros well spent.
I’m not often shocked, but according to their website, the witchdoctors of AstroTV have answered over two million, six hundred thousand calls, which at a minimum of 90 cents for each is serious money. The Shallow Man is not particularly spiritual, but I predict a bright financial future for Astro TV.
As George Michael once said “you’ve gotta have faith” and an alarming number of people genuinely believe that a bunch of what some people might describe as charlatans, can provide meaningful and accurate advice on the future.
No con artists were hurt during the writing of this post.