There is something special to being invited to a posh restaurant by a charming, well dressed man. In a corner, there’s a piano playing some gentle jazz, along with a soft tenor sax adding to the warm, sultry feeling of a top-class restaurant. You’ve been invited by an aquaintance of yours, a friend of a friend, let’s say. This isn’t just girls who like this kind of thing, boys enjoy a decent glass of wine and a nice meal too.
After all, a well tailored suit that hugs a man’s body so neatly means that the gentleman is definitely a gentleman. His friendliness, his manner and his ability to make money mean one thing and one thing only: he’s going to make more. Which means that if you’re in on the deal, you will too.
He’s ordered mussels à la mariniere for us both. Looking up from the menu, he asks, “share a Chateau Briand? Rare?” and turning to the waiter, “with a green salad, I think.”
The waiter makes a note of this, muttering things in French as he stands near to your table.
“Chateau Margeaux with the steak,” your new friend continues, “we’ll have the ’97 if you have it.”
“Oui, monsieur,” says the waiter who is concentrating on noting everything down.
“And a bottle of Jadot Chablis, to go with the mussels, please.”
“We have the ’13, monsieur.”
“That’ll do nicely, fresher the better,” and turning to you, he adds conspiratorially, “don’t you think?”
All you can do is nod, after all, this is a little above your league, even if your usual tip for a bottle is forty quid.
“Now,” he says, and you get down to business.
Well, this is how to do business, isn’t it? It’s about having a nice time and knowing there’s money at the end of it to boot. A smartly dressed gentleman knows this all too well.
What’s more, the snappier the dress, the better the vintage, the more successful that man is. What with him being so congenial and so honestly humane, everything he says is a delight to the ear.
And you think he’s fooling you when he orders a Piper-Heidsieck 2003 to settle the deal?
You discuss a few terms as the bottle arrives in its ice-bucket. Your friend makes a carefully controlled twist of the cork and there’s that hint of froth at the bottle’s mouth. Offering you your glass, and expecting you to enjoy the citrussy aroma first. On the palate, the tingling bubbles against the flatter but more mature apple rounds makes you wonder why you don’t pay more for a decent bubbly.
You know that it’s because he knows his wine that you can enjoy the best too. What’s more, it rounds off the dinner, and your agreement. It’s been a wonderful evening, wonderful company and wonderful business. Not to mention wonderful wines, the cost of which would easily stretch a limousine.
Every time you meet, it’s the same. He invites you to the yacht club for a spot of lunch, an evening at the opera, in his box of course – everywhere you go, it’s the same: he’s treating you to something wonderful. The year turns and the relationship grows stronger: he offers, you enjoy. What’s more, he’s making you money. You see, it’s so easy, so comfortable and congenial. Wonderful memories of a sunset at Cowes Week will never fade with Jan.
Do you remember him
He’s well dressed, knows his wine, albeit not to the extent of buying a Chateaux Margeaux ’97 though. He’s more in your own league, nevertheless, he got guys like you to invest several tens of millions in his business. What’s more, he did it by being nice and saying the right things – and most of all, by being a man amongst men.
But then, guys like Jan don’t even know what they’re doing to their so-called friends; nor did his friends realize what he was up to. Card sharps call them ‘marks’, but card-sharps are out to make money, not lose it. Which Jan did. He lost his friends too, because they lost their money too. Not pennies, not pounds. Millions. So, now poor Jan has to start again, find new friends to give him his income – at least, that’s what he called it. Only he won’t tell you this because he’s a nice man and wants you to invest in his wonderful ideas. And you believe him, because he’s just so convivial and reassuring. What’s more, you know that you’ll do him – and yourself – a big favour by doing so.
Jan genuinely believed he was doing his friends a favour! What was truly insidious was that his friends really thought he was. Jan’s lucky: there are a lot of guys who still believe that a good suit and easy conversation means they’re sound.
You don’t believe me? All I can say is don’t take any chances with guys who are being too congenial. There are well dressed men who know how to entertain, who talk easily and crack jokes. Only the professional knows his psychology inside out and back to front, which means he can spot a dupe like Jan just by the way he walks up to the bar. What’s more, he’s weighed up Jan’s wallet in the time it took him to sit down at the poker table.
The professional knows Jan wants one thing and one thing only: money. Like any man amongst men. Only the pro doesn’t tell his mark – his mug – what’s really going on. At least the pro is clean: he knows what he’s doing to his prey that he’s playing with like a cat with a mouse in its claws.
Be a mark and expect to be wined and dined, where your mates are congenial, more humane. My advice is to get real: accept a few home truths, ones that hurt. Take it from a real friend, one who has the confidence to appear all-knowing, argumentative and unkind. They’ll have the guts to tell you the truth, and won’t lie to you, just to make you feel good.
It might save you the house you hocked on a dead cert.
Technology is one of those areas where price competition is at its toughest, and companies across the planet are producing equipment that is effectively the same – from diggers to supertankers. Oh, and computers of course. The result of producing all but identical equipment means there’s little choice you can make between them all, except of course, if you’re an expert.
I know of a man – can I call him a friend? Certainly a partner in crime… he did play poker. It’s late in the evening. Tom might only be eighteen, but he’s tough. Slim as a pin and lightning fast. You don’t need strength when they’re already on the floor.