I am at a café, and I can't help myself from hearing strangers conversation at the next table.

Two well-dressed persons (A and B) are doing their best to make C (older, unshaved and awkwardly dressed) sign a shady (yet legal) pyramid-like contract. C almost does not get to say a word, is hesitant, yet A/B are much more skilled communicators, and C is reduced into acquiescing that not signing would be stupid.

As a total outsider with zero experience with these kind of schemes except what I have read from them on Wikipedia,

  • Should I mind my own business and not intervene?
  • Should I intervene? If yes how can I help C get an exit option while not infuriating A, B, C?

A, B, C are only customers in the café, presumably they came to have this meeting. None seem physically dangerous.

  • 4
    Looks more like a question of ethics or moral choices.
    – NVZ
    Sep 3, 2017 at 15:12
  • Your question is tagged Japan. Were these people Japanese? Are you Japanese yourself? There is this American guy on youtube (who's married to a Japanese woman) who talks about his interventions when he saw Japanese women being assaulted by their boyfriends. He got some really mixed results. It's in one of his old videos, but I couldn't find it again, he has too many. youtube.com/user/Gimmeaflakeman/videos Now, I'm not saying that you should not intervene. Just note that as the gaijin, if you're too abrupt, even the person you're trying to help may turn against you. Sep 10, 2017 at 9:14
  • @StephanBranczyk: I guess they were, at least they were speaking the Japanese language proficiently. I am not Japanese and only get mistaken for one at Halloween parties.
    – nic
    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:00

3 Answers 3

  • It's none of your business.
  • It could be risky, if the guys are mafia, or otherwise shady.
  • Perhaps you could help, though.

I advise looking at the law. Here, for instance, if a salesman comes into your home and you sign, you have 14 days to walk out of the contract, because there were too many cases of salesmen putting their foot in the door and strong-arming the elderly into what is, basically a con job.

This is not the case if you sign outside of your home, or in a shop, because in this case it would be assumed that you went there of your own free will with an intention to purchase. Thus there is no grace period.

Thus, the usual tactic is to put the foot in the door, then talk people into having a ride to the shop "Let's go into the showroom! You must see all our nice granite countertops!" (note: quote from actual experience).

They will then bring you there using their own car so you can't get out until you sign for a €30000 kitchen (actual price also from experience, this happened to my parents, who didn't sign obviously).

So, know the law. If you know that the "client" is entitled to a 1-2 weeks grace period where he can walk out of the contract scot-free, then you can simply mention this to him after they leave, no need to interact with the con artists, just catch up with him in the street or in the toilet.

And just in case, if they really feel like con artists, write down some information and perhaps talk to the cops. There are also associations of victims of such shady deals which would be willing to help.

Now, I have applied a more direct approach in the past:

Walk to the table, sit down, and say "Hey, this looks like a good deal, I was looking at something like that, mind if I read the brochure?" Try to sound genuinely interested, be a good sucker, enthusiastic at first, then as you read the fine print, casually criticize it, "Hmm... this clause looks like it could be really expensive. Hmm, wow, on second thought this deal doesn't sound that profitable..." (ask the victim what they think) "Of course I read the fine print, I'm a lawyer."

Yes, I've done this before, they were selling Time-Share appartments. Never buy these, it's a really bad deal. The salesmen recruited us in the street, and we went along since we were curious. Obviously I knew what I was getting into. They brought us to visit the premises, offered drinks and toasts, then the "clients" were corraled into an open-space office like cattle and the professionals were let loose on them.

Game on! I made sure the two couples in the cubicles on the left and right overheard as we offered insight on the fine print. After they (promptly) left, the guy in front of me (who was beginning to sweat) left and his boss sat down instead.

Gotta give him credit: he eyed us for like two seconds, then paid for the taxi back home.

Summary: Two couples saved from a con worth north of 30k, plus all the others whom I made sure to whisper to during the visit, "You know timeshare is a mOney sinkhole, right? We're just here for the drinks."

Do not do this if you cannot mentally disassemble a salesmen' argument in real time. But then again I used to have my office next to the same kind of guys, so practice makes perfect...

  • How can you say "None of your Business" when situation sounds pretty grim Sep 8, 2017 at 11:11

It's hard to read the dynamics of the situation from your question. It's a bit unclear what sort of shady deal is going on.

To save yourself, it would be obvious to stay away from it, i.e. mind your own business.

If you're sure that there's something bad going on, you may contact some security or authorities and report that you happened to overhear something suspicious. Then leave the rest to them.

Directly getting yourself involved in it isn't necessary in this case. There's no emergency I believe. It's not a case of someone choking their food, or falling down unconscious.

Besides, who knows what kind of people those two are! Maybe they're Mafia? Who knows!


I would like to quote you an experience of a similar situation. My friend went with a relative to a shop (relative often goes to shops for business deals and supplying goods, etc.), while my friend was sitting at little distance (on guests sofa), they were discussing things on the table and whatever they were talking was not audible to him.

But my friend suspected something wrong by sixth sense and he said to himself, "something looks wrong with these guys!". Secretly he filmed all the activities of signing the papers, etc. (which later on revealed was forced signing as one of the guys from other party had pistol in his hand to force him to sign those legal documents) and facial expressions, etc.

While my friend was at a distance so although he couldn't see/or film the pistol, but facial expressions were telling that something is little bit wrong here.

Once they got out of it, his relative thanked Allah for coming out unscathed and later on, that decisive video came out as one of the evidences in the court to catch their "forced signing of the legal papers".

Since you were at some distance and even could afford to call the police as well, so that could be one option too but again it could put you in a trouble for maybe 1-) they were not what you were reckoning them to be 2-) Even if they were, they would have gone by the time police arrived 3-) Even if they were present, what evidence did you have to prove the police it had happened (This situation could only work had CCTV cameras were panning at this whole activity), so based on my experience, if I were you, I would have used my mobile phone to secretly make a video of whole this process (which could have served that man even now)

  • I really hope this was not the case, but definitely C would not have signed under normal circumstances. I believe that secretly filming specific people for a long time is illegal in many countries, but filming a wrongdoing is probably OK.
    – nic
    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:05

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