Store employees fall for crank call: Practical skepticism sorely needed

There was this skit on a kids show from a few years back where the teacher, Mr. Gullible, would simply believe and do whatever the students said, no matter out outrageous it was. It seems like these workers could really use some critical thinking skills. Even a little would have prevented them from doing some serious damage.

Prank call leads to heavy destruction of Circle K store fox10phoenix.com.

Windows broken, merchandise destroyed; a Circle K store was left so damaged it was forced to close.

It wasn’t the work of vandals; it was done by store employees.

Police say the employees thought they were following instructions from a security company, but it was a prank call.

The employees were told that there was a silent fire alarm going off in the store and they did as they were told, discharging fire extinguishers, throwing them through windows and then nearly destroying the computers. As the police spokesman said, this was finally when the light bulb went on that they were being taken for ride. The news reporter notes that this prank is NOT new but, obviously, most people don’t fall for it. No word on if the employees kept their jobs. There is NO ONE who is without the need to apply some everyday practical skepticism.

FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

  11 comments for “Store employees fall for crank call: Practical skepticism sorely needed

  1. Angela
    February 22, 2015 at 11:53 AM

    Reminded also of the Law and Order SVU episode where Robin Williams did a guest spot as someone who pulled these pranks. I agree, something like this shows that it’s more than just fodder for a television show–it really does happen and people need to always use critical thinking in every-day situations.

  2. GrahamH
    February 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM

    Many managers are micro-managers and expect their staff to follow their every little rule/instruction without question.
    If the rules are subject to change without apparent reason or communication AND the employees get remonstrated with for infraction then the employee can become conditioned to obedience without fore thought.
    Perhaps this is a case of the consequences of such management?
    (Unfortunately I have a boss who operates like this but I question a lot and frequently get into trouble – most other the employees don’t question).

  3. Stamen
    February 22, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    I’m surprised no one else has raised this. It reminds me of the appalling string of hoaxes across the US from the mid nineties to the mid naughties, where a ‘Police Officer’ would phone a fast food joint and convince the manager to make a female employee perform totally inappropriate sexual acts. It culminated in a McDonald’s Manager forcing a staff member to strip, penetrate herself and eventually perform oral sex on the managers boyfriend. There was a film called Compliance made of the abuse.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy
    February 22, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    It’s not just store employees. Hotels/Motels have also been hit with similar crank calls, calling directly into the rooms themselves and talking the guest into trashing the rooms:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/alabama-hotel-damaged-phone-prank
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/internet/elderly-man-falls-victim-motel-6-prank
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/hotel-prank-causes-115000-damages

    There was even an “online gang” called Pranknet that specialized in this sort of thing. Ringleader was some young guy in Canada literally living in his Mommy’s back bedroom:
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/tags/pranknet
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/internet/telephone-terrorist
    Their “high point” was tricking a hotel guest into drinking another guest’s pee (“Pwned j00! ROFLMAO! ROFLMAO! ROFLMAO!”) using a coordinated series of calls reminiscent of one of Asimov’s “I, Robot” shorts; first call talked one guest into “giving a urine sample” and placing it on the front desk, where a second call talked another guest into taste-testing “sample of apple cider”.
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/prankster-apologizes-for-urine-call-342517
    Guy behind that one got between six months to five years in Huntsville Prison. Then some other ROFLMAO topped that with this one:
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/internet/vile-phone-prank-pulled-iraq-vet

  5. Bill D'Arcy
    February 22, 2015 at 10:15 PM

    Good on you Graham; keep your brain switched on! (Your boss might one day realize your value.)

  6. Angela
    February 23, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    I will have to check that film out. I’m pretty sure the L&O episode I saw was based on that, and I always prefer the real story rather than a TV narrative.

  7. busterggi
    February 23, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    All that damage & yet Prince Albert is still in a can. Prolly suffocated by now.

  8. February 23, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    My refrigerator is still running too!

  9. Race Bannon
    February 23, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    I know one! The movie Compliance. It’s on Netflix.
    Also Milgram’s experiments on the psychological effects of authority.

  10. Haldurson
    February 23, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    People are naturally trusting. And that part of what makes a con man’s job so easy, and a skeptic’s job so hard.

    Trust is part of ones survival instinct. People look to authority, or those they perceive to be authorities — anyone with an air of confidence will do as an authority figure in a pinch. Unless you’ve been burned before, no one is expecting to be fooled, or to be taken advantage of. The more sheltered of a life you’ve had, probably the more apt you are to be taken in by such scams. Grow up in a big city, and sooner rather than later, your going to see a 3-card monte game, or someone is going to try to sell you a $10 Rolex watch or a $15 Gucci handbag, or a DVD of a movie that hasn’t been released yet in theaters. In places where that happens, one learns that trust is not always a good thing.

  11. Bill T.
    February 25, 2015 at 1:43 AM

    Con men are very personable and have likable personalities. Not arguing, just hoping to expand a bit on your comment.

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