- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covers international finance. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
A federal judge has made public some 400 documents related to a 2013 lawsuit against Trump University, a defunct series of seminars once billed by Republican front-runner Donald Trump as a way to get rich. Plaintiffs allege they were a sham. The papers contain aggressive and predatory practices that Trump U. salespeople were encouraged to use on potential students, many of which seem straight from a Hollywood script.
Well, a number of the practices are straight out of Hollywood scripts for films about the dangers of underhanded sales techniques, and the excesses of those who employ them.
A so-called sales “playbook” contains scripts for salespeople to read to potential students reluctant to sign up.
“If someone is hesitant to invest a few thousand dollars into their education, what are we supposed to expect from them when their real-estate coach is talking about investing tens of thousand or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in a piece of property?” according to one script to sell the for-profit school.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Jordan Belfort, the so-called “wolf of Wall Street,” used similar techniques to get reluctant buyers to invest in stocks he and his brokers were pushing. Here’s a clip from The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, showing his brokers reciting scripts to potential buyers (warning: NSFW).
The playbook also contains instructions on how to guide customers who have expressed interest but were on “the roller coaster of emotions.”
“The motivation that they experienced can die quickly as the realities of their daily lives take over. It is our job to rekindle that motivation … to make them once again see the potential of achieving their dream,” a playbook reads.
Emotional manipulation was one technique used by the fictional stock hustlers in Boiler Room, a film released in 2000. Check out the scene below. See how the seller — a character played by Vin Diesel — manipulates his potential client into buying stock based using emotion. In this case, envy (language NSFW).
In another section of the playbook, Trump team members were advised to “close the deal” after having one-on-one sessions with potential students. They were also instructed to steer students to the most expensive package — Gold Elite for $34,995 — if possible. “If they can afford the gold elite, don’t allow them to think about doing anything besides the gold elite,” the playbook reads.
This is reminiscent of a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, a 1992 film about real estate salesmen in New York. In the movie’s most famous scene, Alec Baldwin orders his charges to always be closing (NSFW language).
Trump’s policy on coffee consumption is not yet clear.
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