A Real-Life Application of the Bluff

Many years ago, being a new student in a new city, working for students' associations was a fast lane into the student life. I took on many responsibilities, and a frequent problem was that of getting people to work. It's hard to convince people to work for sub-minimum wages when they have exams coming up. Needless to say, after I had ended my responsibilities at the students' associations, I felt for my poor successors trying to call for workers during exam periods. I didn't have much time to work, but I wanted to help. So, when they called me, asking me to work for them, I used to tell them to keep looking for someone else to work for them first, but to call me back if they couldn't find anyone, promising to think about it if they indeed did call me back.

Pretty soon, they learned that I'd never say no, once they called me back. So they started calling me first, and I'd tell them to look for someone else first. Then, they'd just wait for a couple of hours and then call me back, knowing that I'd never say no. My strategy was highly exploitable, so to say. Of course, I could have just quit playing the game, that is, quit working at all. But I wanted to help out. So instead, I introduced the bluff to my strategy.

Sometimes, when they called me and I knew for a fact that I couldn't work that particular day, I'd still tell them to look for someone else and then call me back if they couldn't find anyone else, promising to think about it if they did. When they called me back, I'd say, "no, sorry, I can't". That way, they couldn't rely solely on exploiting me anymore, and they had to actually start calling other people when I told them to.


Post a Comment