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Pack of lies leaves this joker wild

A teacher falls victim to one of the oldest con tricks in the book

There's an old card trick con men use to fleece you of your time and your money: it's called the three-card monte, or find the lady. Three cards are shown, two spot cards and a Queen; the cards are turned over, with the Queen visibly put in the middle of the pack.

Now, where's the Queen? In the middle? No! Top? No! Got to be the bottom then? No! In fact, there never was a Queen; these cards are three spot cards. Where's the Queen then? In his pocket, of course - where it always was. The gullible victim should have known better.

But who is the Queen? Ah, therein lies the trick. The Queen is an internal candidate called "not available to attend".

Last term, two other applicants and myself became spot cards for the day. We attended interviews for a full-time lecturing post at an FE college. The letter said interviews at 10am; in fact, they were at 1pm with three hours of college PR first. Over lunch, and during what was termed "informal chat", we gullible applicants asked about the post. The answers were ambiguous, shrouded in mystery, screened by smoke, of no use to man or beast (and the sandwiches were awful).

Then came the interviews, including presentations, after which we all went our separate ways. The three spot cards returned home to await "the call". None of us gullible victims was successful. None of us became Queen for the day. As I said, the Queen was hidden.

The Queen, in this instance, was an internal candidate who had been interviewed the day before because she was "unable to attend" on the appointed day. Never saw that one coming. But any disappointment I felt quickly turned to anger: the frustration and fury at being duped. The discrepancies of those lunchtime answers now made more sense. For example, Question: "Are we the final three candidates?" Answer (head of personnel):

"I think soI" We were well and truly fleeced of our time and money. I travelled for two hours to attend the interview. One of the others also made a day trip; the third stayed in accommodation overnight.

Like all good con men, colleges have their own spiel ready for the victim, or the law, or inspectors: "Not only did we advertise the position but we also interviewed." Of course you did, but you had the Queen palmed and ready for the classic revelation.

The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, lives in the West Midlands

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