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Opinion: Bill Walton, The Art of the Flimflam

Everyone has his or her hands out for your money
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If you have not yet read ‘The Art of the Deal’ you should probably wait until you have read the prerequisite ‘Art of the Flimflam’.

Before you make any deal, you must be able to recognize a flimflam. This applies to buying a house, a used car, property in Florida, or one of those computerized vacuum cleaners that takes over your life by sending you emails when it runs into a chair leg or thinks it is going to fall over a cliff at the edge of your area rug.

The thing with a Flimflam is that anyone can run one, not just slick salespeople with a gimmicky device or an idea whose time had not yet arrived. The ultimate Hollywood Flimflam man was The Music Man who talks a whole town into believing something wonderful was coming to town. He was only bilking people out of a few dollars for musical instruments, marching costumes, and music lessons in which you could actually visualize your ability to play any instrument.  

To guard against a flimflam you hire a Home Inspector before buying a house. You get a mechanic to check out the used car that was only driven by a Grandmother to and from Sunday church and Bridge Club on Tuesdays. You should talk to a friend who has  one of  those robotic vacuum cleaners that gives you email reports, recharges itself  and learns and tells where every dust bunny hides in your home. (All you need is a good electric broom vac but  everybody has an electronic device of one kind or another connected to his or her cell phone, don’t they?)

You should also be wary of politicians who have studied and now practice the art of the flimflam. Fill in the blank:  _____.

If you are an elected official, you have a double duty to guard against a flimflam: you must protect your electors and your sterling reputation. A Flimflam person or company is likely after your money or money that you hold in trust - like tax dollars. Some people think consultants are flimflam artists who only reaffirm to you what you think you need, something on a Santa Claus wish list. However, if you do not have access to professionals like engineers, planners, accountants, lawyers, and architects, you must pay someone to give good advice.

Special interest groups can flimflam you with false hopes - a type of  ‘Field of Dreams’ build-it-and-they-will-come promises. Perhaps someone has flimflammed your staff with spurious demographic reports, colourful drawings, and promises of re-election by the public for a job well done. Convinced, they pass along the flimflam to you.

Voters elect people because they claim to have professional skills and experience or at least they  profess to be able to spot a flimflam. Yet many us of have pet peeves that we lay at the feet of politicians - as if they have flimflammed us. But maybe the flimflamming happened at another level and the politicians just passed it on in the belief that they were doing their best. I still haven’t figured out the Espanola Hydro thing. Surely it wasn’t a flimflam with the details forever withheld from pubic scrutiny.

And the double /triple/ quadruple NHL-sized ice pads edifice? Please don’t let it be a flimflam. Please reassure us that our shrinking demographic of young skaters requires the ice surfaces. After all, we are closing schools because of declining numbers. Reassure us that your studies show that the next generation of young parents still want their children  involved in this rough contact sport. And finally, please tell us that this need for ice is not based on Sports Tourism.

I’m not saying that Sports Tourism is a flimflam. The recreation department professionals and the accountants must believe that magical multiplier factor on the dollars an event brings to the City. At the end of the year they likely net that mythical income against the real money lost as many of our citizens take money out of our community to attend Sports Tourism  and other events elsewhere. Do not worry about the ROI - ice rinks are not about making money as we all know. And now we have council putting  $50,000 on the table hoping for that 7 times factor. Why not get in Casino mode and lay down  $100,000, doubling our income?

Oh, and if we are dreaming about bringing another World curling championship to the new rinks we ought to be thinking of seating, feeding, and washrooms for more than 300 people. Maybe  we should plan on small music concerts in summer, and indoor pickle ball leagues, and roller derbies, and maybe Summer in the Rinks  . . . naw . . . I’m starting to sound like a flimflam man.


Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

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