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...if you tell somebody to do something, nine times out of ten he will do it.
Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

A favorite Social Engineering tactic of High School Hustlers and MacGyver-like characters is to get what you need done (or just confuse the hell out of people) by shouting that it's an emergency and enlisting them in your Stone Soup or Fence Painting project. In some series, all you need to do is look like you're in charge and know what you're doing.

Commonly used to criticize modern culture as overly sheeplike, and/or show the main character as cool, intelligent, and rebellious. The idea is, if you push the Authority Button on the drones, they'll do whatever you tell them to, no matter how absurd. Of course, it is also possible that random strangers might be going along with something because it is absurd and they are so bored with their daily routine they will seek any kind of diversion from it; think back to fire drills breaking up your most boring elementary class for an example of this.

It's for a Book is often a subtrope of this. May involve deploying the Clipboard of Authority. The Trope Namer is The Illuminatus Trilogy, in which the ploy is used as a metaphor for how the Bavarian Illuminati maintain their power.

Related tropes include Trojan Prisoner, where the emphasis is on the disguise rather than the bluff; The Guards Must Be Crazy, which is often how people fall for this; and Refuge in Audacity, which is often how it's pulled off.

Often Truth in Television.

Examples of Bavarian Fire Drill include:


Anime & Manga

  • At one point in Arakawa Under the Bridge, Shiro, wearing his Salaryman suit, uses the magic words taught by Ric to get rid of contractors inspecting the land, "Great work, that's enough for today." The contractors promptly pack up and leave, satisfied at their great work and their boss's understanding attitude.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! GXP, Mitoto Kuramitsu (mother of Mihoshi Kuramitsu - yes that Mihoshi) wanders around pretty much everywhere cleaning, in one episode dragging Seina Yamada along through all sorts of odd locations, including pirate ship command decks and other dangerous locations, and doing the same thing with Seiryo Tennan in another. But then she's nearly classifiable as Too Dumb to Live, which is probably why nobody really seems to bother her.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya in the fourth novel and the movie uses this to capture Mikuru Asahina.

 Haruhi: Which one of you is Mikuru Asahina? Hi, I'm Haruhi Suzumiya, from the Student Council Information Division. Please come with me!

  • This is a favored tactic of Lupin III.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia - Germany does this in the world conference episode. America, France, and England are arguing, Switzerland is threatening to beat up Japan, China has brought food, Russia is trying to intimidate the Baltics, and Greece has fallen asleep.

  Germany: Everyone shut up! We've called this conference to solve the world's problems, not to fight about the problems of our past, and since I'm the only one who seems to know how to run a meeting, we'll follow my rules from here on out! Eight minutes each for speeches, no chit-chat about side deals, and absolutely no going over the time limit. Now, if you want to go, make sure you're prepared and raise your hand, but do so in a way that does not mock anything from my country's past!

  • Akira of Eden of the East is as good at pulling these as he is with more complicated schemes. One notable example is in the first movie, wherein he gets an unhelpful cab driver to look for/return Saki's bag. Akira claims he is an officer and that Saki is a dangerous terrorist who he has taken into custody, and he suggests that there may be a bomb in her bag. He pulls this off by briefly flashing his wallet and having Saki stand with a jacket draped over her hands to suggest she was handcuffed.


Comic Books

  • John Constantine of Hellblazer is fond of doing this from time to time.
  • In Alan Moore's Top Ten series, a character who legitimately is a high and feared official uses these tactics in pursuit of a decidedly unofficial personal agenda.
    • All due respect sir...Permission to use extreme force.
  • Spider Jerusalem uses one of these to see the president, busting into the men's room brandishing a crucifix and claiming to be an accredited exorcist.
    • This is one of Spider's favorite tools and one of the reasons he hates fame is that he can't pull this off because people recognize him.
      • He sometimes uses his fame to work to this end with the principle "follow the famous crazy person."
  • Tommy Monaghan, from Hitman, pulled this off in order to gather intel and save his friend Natt the Hat. He simply went up to the last man in line on the string of Mafia goons leading Natt's apartment and pretended to be another guy sent by the boss. Upon learning 'they' were going to get Tommy next, gunfire ensued.
  • In The Robot Hunter (a short Judge Dredd spinoff) Sam the protagonist is trapped on a planet populated by robots that imprisoned all the colonists they were supposed to prepare the planet for. It turns out that the first robot who built everything else had a very glorified view of humans, and when the first colonists showed up they weren't the walking gods the robots expected. So they decided these were Simulated humans or "Sims" that they didn't have to obey. Sam manages to get around a while by claiming to be a "Simulated Sim", complete with fake blood and all. Later he tricks the robots in a factory into thinking he's a higher-ranking robot by wearing encoded plating from some higher-ranking robots. Which he managed to destroy by convincing them to put their heads to his gun. Three guesses how he managed that...
  • In Gotham Central, Jack Dunning appears in the middle of the Major Crimes Unit squadroom right at the height of an intense investigation revolving around multiple murders of young men dressed in Robin costumes. When Stacy, the receptionist, asks how he even got into the building, he explains that he just walked past the desk sergeant like he knew what he was doing and nobody said anything.
  • Tintin impersonates a Japanese officer like this in The Blue Lotus. He got around not speaking with the right accent by simply not saying anything and just communicating with hand gestures and glares.


Fan Works

  • Haruhi pulls this off in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, after Kyon is shot. Not only does she convince everyone a movie is being filmed, she manages to pass off the attackers as insubordinate actors.


Film

  • A favoured tactic of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop: his usual tactic is to flash his police badge around too quickly for anyone to look at closely and claim to be one of a variety of other authority figures.
  • A recurring gag in Buster Keaton films is for Keaton's character to start acting like a traffic cop.
  • The protagonist and his Girl Friday in Big Fat Liar seem to do this every five minutes or so throughout the movie.
  • Rusty Ryan pulls this in the remake of Ocean's Eleven, rescuing another character from arrest by barging onto the scene and acting like a detective, taking charge of the arrest and getting rid of the officer by ordering him to go find someone who didn't exist.
    • Also, a number of team members posed as the SWAT team sent to secure Benedict's vault, faked an assault on the intruders, then trooped out of the casino in plain view, concealing the money in their equipment & ammo bags.
    • Also in Ocean's series; the Malloy twins frequently showed up as waiters, hotel security, casino patrons (it makes sense when you think about it); Dell as an electrician (also as a 911 operator); Tess, as Julia Roberts; Saul as a high roller in the first film, and a hotel reviewer in the third.
    • Linus's father also has the ultimate cover, as he somehow managed to land a position in the FBI.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled this in Jingle All the Way, showing a fake badge and ordering cops around during the raid on Santas' counterfeit toy factory.
  • A tactic used by pretty much every character ever played by Eddie Murphy; Axel Foley being the best known.
    • The Axel Foley examples are even more amusing as he actually is a cop but just doesn't have the time and/or authority to get a warrant, so he simply waltzes in and pretends like he belongs.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever James Bond donned a lab coat, grabbed a clipboard and masqueraded as "Klaus Hergesheimer, G Section" (whom he had met earlier) to explore the secret installation where the Kill Sat was being created.
    • In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond attempts (and succeeds) to masquerade as the villain, Scaramanga, to a Thai entrepreneur -- by actually pasting a third nipple on himself and hanging out proudly by the pool. He's gambling on the idea that that the entrepreneur and Scaramanga have never actually met in person, and that the entrepreneur would only know Scaramanga by his identifying physical oddity. The plan actually works but then Bond gets found out and used for practice by a Thai krabi krabong school. Turns out, Scaramanga was RIGHT THERE!
    • Also used and then subverted in The World Is Not Enough. The bad guys have kidnapped and killed an elderly official from Russia's Atomic Energy Authority, planning to replace him to aid their theft of plutonium. Bond kills and replaces their replacement (fooling the bad guys into getting him transport), and apparently successfully bluffing his way into the nuclear disarmament site that is going to be robbed. The subversion comes from the fact that Dr Christmas Jones, the film's Girl of the Week, apparently saw straight through it, and let Bond through while she grabbed security. She arrives just as Bond is trying to foil The Dragon's actual theft.
      • Actually, when she confronted Bond, she was brandishing a stack of papers at him, indicating she was suspicious of Bond and did a little fact-checking after they parted.
  • In the 1987 film The Secret Of My Success, twenty-something Brantley Foster -- a whiz kid business school graduate given a charity mailroom job by his uncle when the company he was supposed to go to work for went under the day he started -- becomes a new executive in his uncle's company simply by taking over an unoccupied office, requisitioning supplies, and getting a secretary from the company pool.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, Jack and Wang bluff their way through the front office of the Wing Kong Exchange by pretending to be telephone repairmen, walking right past the guards without being stopped by talking about various telephone-related problems they'd supposedly been called in to fix.
  • A version of this is pulled in the movie Hackers, where the male lead talks a guard on night watch at the local tv station into handing over the number to the modem by claiming to work in accounting.
  • Mildly in Heat, where McCauley merely needs to look and sound like he belongs in order not to be challenged by the hotel staff.
    • And also done right at the beginning of the film to steal an ambulance.
  • Done effectively in Midnight Run.
  • Near the beginning of the movie Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale pretends to be the substitute teacher for the French class at his new high school. It took a week for the faculty to catch on, during which time he already held a parent-teacher conference and was planning a field trip.
    • Truth in Movies, the actual man the film is based on filled the spots of several highly skilled positions (doctor, lawyer, priest, teacher, pilot, etc) over the course of his life.
    • In the movie, he also talked his way out of an arrest by Tom Hanks' character by posing as a member of the Secret Service.
  • In The Paper, Michael Keaton claims (and demonstrates!) that all you need to get into any building in the world is a clipboard and a confident wave.
  • The Yes Men is a documentary of a group of activists who went around the world pulling off stunts like these, getting to hold speeches at all sorts of institutes, universities, and getting on news broadcasts. Selection of topics their Straw Man alter ego's supported are recycling "human waste" into food in the third world, and reinstating slavery for the benefit of the clothing industry.
  • In Race to Witch Mountain, Dr. Friedman pulls one of these on the people studying the spaceship to get them to leave.
  • In The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, the titular character managed to successfully become part of an advertising agency by going in with a clipboard, looking like he knew what he was doing and saying he was with "efficiency", and everyone perfectly buys it!
  • In The Devils Rejects, Captain Spaulding commandeers a car by giving the driver the line "I've got to borrow your car, ma'am. Official clown business."
    • This actually backfires, so he has to headbutt her and steal the car. Also scares the shit out of her son.
  • In Pitch Black, Riddick's captor lets the other crash survivors believe he's the equivalent of a federal marshal, but is actually a drug-addicted mercenary, out to collect the price on Riddick's head.
  • In Taken, Bryan Mills blusters his way into the office of an Armenian white slavery ring by claiming to be a policeman -- and once inside, demanding bribe money from them to keep the police off their backs.
  • In Fletch, Fletch often pulls off bluffs like this.
  • In Accepted, Bartelbee is able to sneak into a college frat party by wearing a suit and pretending to know the fraternity’s members.
    • Possibly Truth in Television: pretty much anyone can walk in to most frat parties provided they're about the right age. (And your chances go up exponentially if you have booze.)
  • Dewey Finn conducts a Bavarian Fire Drill for most of School of Rock.
  • In The Last Samurai, the guards stationed around Katsumoto's house have this routine pulled on them by interpreter Simon Graham, who convinces them Tom Cruise is the President of the United States.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty and McCoy, who are trying to build a giant tank, barge into a Plexiglas manufacturer on an "invited tour" which the manager knows nothing about, prompting Scotty to go on a tirade, demanding to see the owners until the manager offers to conduct their tour personally.
    • They pull another one later in the film, using a fake medical emergency to get past two guards at a hospital.
  • Accidently invoked and taken to its ultimate extreme in Israeli comedy film Te'alat Blaumilch (translation: The Blaumilch Canal; English title: The Big Dig) in which a lunatic escapes from an asylum and starts digging up a major road. When it comes to official notice, he is given every assistance possible, despite numerous complaints. Hilarity Ensues, especially when they reach the sea...
  • The 1941 film They Met in Bombay, starring Clark Gable, had his character, dressed as a British officer, ordering soldiers he finds on the street to follow him. Eventually he is sent by the British army into battle against the Japanese. His performance is such that he is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, at which point they find out that not only is he not in the army at all, he's a notorious jewel thief who disguised himself as an officer as part of a scam.
  • In the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off, this trope is attempted by Ferris' best friend on the phone to the headmaster, claiming to be the father of Ferris' girlfriend and that her grandmother has died. The headmaster assumes it's Ferris and abuses him over the phone, just as Ferris calls in on another line to talk to the headmaster. They also use this as a trio with the girlfriend at an upmarket club to have lunch pretending to be a preexisting booking, with Ferris using a phone from another room to trick the head waiter.
    • Many movies use the "existing booking" stunt at a hotel, wedding, funeral, etc. It helps to pick a common surname like Smith or Jones.
    • Then there's the famous "Twist and Shout" scene. How he got onto a parade float with a group of Bavarian girls is left unexplained, but by that point in the movie he'd previously demonstrated his aptitude with Bavarian Fire Drills.
  • Subverted in Titan A.E. when Preed tries to bully the guard to the slave pens by pretending to be a slave trader. The guard shows he's Genre Savvy and not just Dumb Muscle by pointing out all the flaws in the masquerade, forcing Preed's companion to knock him out. Preed hangs a final lampshade on the subversion with the comment, "A smart guard. Didn't see that coming."
  • On Shrek 2, Shrek gets into the Fairy Godmother's factory by claiming to be from "the Union".
  • In The Beastmaster 2, an atom bomb big enough to destroy the world is stolen by the main villain. He steals a general's uniform, security papers and memories, then walks right in to the secure military base, being allowed past the gate and all the way up to the bomb itself before being so much as questioned despite the fact that he has a leather patch fixed over half his face.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy manages to get away with hurling a Gestapo officer out of a zeppelin by wearing a ticket taker's outfit and flatly telling all of the passengers, "No ticket." Everyone immediately pulls out their tickets and frantically wave them at him.
  • A favorite tactic of K in Men in Black; it's even lampshaded in the novel: Act like you're in charge and everybody will act like you are.

  K: Damn, what a gullible breed.


Literature

  • The title character from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency cons his way onto the site of a murder investigation simply by acting confident and official, and orders the cops to do several strange and useless things in order to get them out of the way. A detective who knew Dirk recognised he'd been present upon finding one cop disassembling a wastepaper basket and another defending a sofa immovably stuck halfway up the stairs with a handsaw.
    • In the sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Dirk employs another technique: Falling into step with a policeman entering the crime scene and offhandedly saying "It's okay, he's with me" to the officer stationed at the entrance.
  • In the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, Ford Prefect helps Arthur and Fenchurch board a flying saucer through a crowd of curious onlookers by wearing a lab coat and "randomly" choosing the couple to help him carry his "scientific equipment".
    • In Mostly Harmless, Ford gets himself and Arthur into an exclusive club with his usual method: he walks right past the bouncer, points at Arthur, and says "He's with me."
  • The Trope Namer comes from the Illuminatus! trilogy, where Simon Moon used it to illustrate how most people will follow even nonsensical orders if given in a tone of authority; he stops several cars in the middle of traffic, shouting, "Bavarian Fire Drill! Everyone out! Stay in line!", getting the perplexed drivers to follow him in marching in a circle around their cars before then getting back in as if nothing had happened. The name itself is a reference to the old prank of a "Chinese fire drill", where the passengers in a car stopped at a sign or light all get out at once and get back in different seats.
    • And that name in turn comes from a messed up fire drill by Chinese sailors under British officers, where a miscommunication caused the bucket brigade to fill up buckets on one side of the ship and toss them out on the other side.
    • "Bavarian" is used because that was where the The Illuminati got their start, at least in Real Life.
  • Several characters in the Discworld novels have gotten their way simply by acting like they're in charge or that they belong where they're not supposed to be. Victor Tugelbend does it to get into a "clicks" studio in Moving Pictures, where the narration states "No-one with their sleeves rolled up who walks purposefully with a piece of paper held conspicuously in their hand is ever challenged." Moist von Lipwig is rather fond of this in Going Postal and Making Money. And Granny Weatherwax has passed for nobility in both Witches Abroad and Maskerade by simply dressing the part and being her usual bossy know-it-all self, since many folks on the Disc "confuse bad manners with good breeding". Nanny Ogg, on the other hand, gets through crowds by acting like a servant. Even Corporal "Nobby" Nobbs, who has to carry around papers proving his species, manages to pull this off with ease in Men At Arms. Given, Nobby has spent time in the army (well, several armies, depending on who was winning) so he had probably had a lot of practice with this.
    • It's also been noted on at least one occasion that tenure at Unseen University is a matter of finding an empty office, turning up for dinner on time, and hoping you don't attract students. I believe the most explicit example was in The Last Continent.
    • Lu-Tze could be considered an inversion of this trope: he actually has considerable authority as the History Monks' top field operative, but slips by everyone unchallenged because he dresses simply and carries a broom. This makes him a servant and therefore invisible, even to novice History Monks.
      • Lu-Tze actually is the sweeper he appeared to be. He became the best of the best because no one noticed him attending every single lesson and going anywhere he wanted in the temple.
      • The fact that Lu-Tze is the Almighty Janitor is worth a mention.
    • When Sam Vimes finds himself faced with a situation where everyone is waiting for orders, he takes advantage by giving orders. It usually takes the rest of the universe a few seconds to catch up, and they don't always fully realize the situation.
    • Rincewind does this in Interesting Times. He runs into a school while being chased, dons a pair of glasses, and then tells his would be captors to get out of the class he's teaching. They abide.
    • Nanny Ogg (mentioned above) puts this trope to such effective use that she's an entire intelligence network to herself. Where Granny practices stealth by remaining unseen, Nanny prefers to go unnoticed. She blends in and convinces everyone she's just a harmless, drunken, and above all common old biddy, and before anyone realizes what they've said, she knows more than Granny would have found out with an hour of bullying.
  • In the Jack Ryan novel The Sum of All Fears, a group of German marxist/Arab sympathizers armed only with about ten purchased Russian colonel's uniforms manage to convince the entire Russian East Berlin garrison to launch an attack on their American counterparts. Though to be fair, disobedience in Soviet Russia was hardly the most healthy pastime.
  • Miles Vorkosigan pulls these off with remarkable skill. In The Warrior's Apprentice, he parleys an old freighter, a bodyguard, a friend and a couple of losers into a mercenary fleet -- with him as its Admiral, a persona/disguise he would use on occasion for over ten years -- in a matter of weeks, mostly by force of personality. Not only was he seventeen at the time, but the entire thing was a series of scrambling improvisations started by his impulsive effort to keep the pilot of said freighter (then docked at his mother's homeworld) from doing something stupid because it was about to be scrapped.
    • And then keeps said mercenary fleet (mostly) fooled until he was thirty. Miles Vorkosigan: Galactic Champion of Making Shit Up.
      • He called it "Forward Momentum."
        • Other characters often called Miles "that hyperactive little shit" for it, however. When he could not hear.
    • Miles very much gets this from his mother. The Vorkosigan Saga actually starts off before Miles is born, with Shards of Honor, featuring Miles' mom-to-be Cordelia Naismith, who in the course of that novel escapes from some government goons, then flim-flams her way past a couple of tabloid journalists and a spaceport ticket clerk, culminating in fast-talking[1] a young space freighter pilot into giving her an entirely unauthorized ride offplanet...all while wearing (presumably fuzzy) slippers.
    • Fridge Brilliance bonus: Cordelia's "young space freighter pilot" and Miles's freighter pilot are the same person - Arde Mayhew. This is only hinted at in the books [2], but Word of God supports this.
  • Inverted in Nikolai Gogol's The Inspector General via Mistaken for Special Guest when the townspeople were expecting an authority figure in disguise.
  • This is the way Victor Cachat's Indy Ploys usually work. During that memorable snafu in Crown of Slaves he managed to enlist a Manticoran agent (two, actually), a group of neutral Solarian officers (with their squadron), a bunch of local nobles/dignitaries (who he was actually courting all that time, trying to pry them from Manticoran Alliance) and Royal Manticoran Navy Captain -- all willingly and with their full support. They all knew who he was, but followed him anyway. His feat in Fanatic was no less impressive, but there he had some real authority, just subverted it to his needs.
  • Subverted in 1635: The Cannon Law. Ruy Sanchez tells several Spanish soldiers that he is a captain in the Spanish army, and gets valuable information from them. The Americans think he's pulled a Bavarian Fire Drill, until Sharon informs them that Ruy is a captain in the Spanish army. He left out the part where he's working for the Americans, though.
  • When he wasn't being a One-Man Army, Mack Bolan (from The Executioner series by Don Pendleton) would often pull this stunt on both the local police and the Mafia, usually by posing as an outside Fed or elite hitman sent from New York to kill Bolan.
  • So, we are approaching the climax of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Hot on the trail of the Big Bad, Holmes is in need of transportation. He employs a fairly illegal technique to do so ( i.e. hijacks a train at gunpoint), while a police sergeant is standing right behind him. The sergeant starts to protest, whereupon Holmes turns around, gives the man orders in his masterful way -- and the sergeant runs off to execute them just on the strength of Holmes' delivery. It wasn't even a British policeman.
  • In his book, My Life in the Mafia, mobster-turned-informant Vincent Theresa tells of how he stole a load of blank driver's licenses. He walked into the factory, asked someone where they kept the blank licenses, picked up a box of them and walked out. Everyone he encountered just assumed he worked there.
  • A couple of Tom Holt's characters try this. Case in point: resurrected mercenary Kurt Lundqvist manages to hijack a plane by pretending to turn up to stop a hijacking, complete with using a library card to prove his identity.
  • Used in Redwall, when the young mouse Brome manages to strip a body of a foebiest off it's clothes, disguise himself, help a wounded foebiest (while in disguise) back to his encampment, infiltrating it, knocking out the wounded foebiest once inside, free all captives, recruiting one of them to pretend to be a second guard, leading the group of detainees to a secret exit, getting noticed by a real guard, then another "real" guard, managing to bluff themselves out of the conversation, twice, and finally escape the foe's encampment, nearly killing themselves in the consequential chase.
  • In Dragonlance, the kender have a saying: "Don't change color to match the walls. Act like you belong there and the walls will change color to match you!"
    • Used most famously when Tasslehoff Burrfoot, with a grin and a wave, was completely ignored by the guards inside one of the most secure government buildings in a city where anyone of his species is supposed to be arrested on sight.
  • In Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the narrator and his guide Benito Mussolini blag their way into the Administrative Centre of Hell by looking like badly-dressed officials (who will be assumed to be secret police).
  • In Watership Down, the rabbit hero El-ahrairah (a Trickster god) does this in some of his adventures. Similarly, several protagonist rabbits imprisoned in another warren pull this to distract a guard.
  • Glen Cook's Garrett has done this on occasion, successfully entering and poking around crime scenes by acting like he's supposed to be there. As humans occupy so many positions of authority in Karenta, many nonhumans assume he's authorized to investigate simply because he's a human.
  • Locke Lamora often uses this to great effect in his schemes, pulling bystanders in and ordering them around to get the results he needs; he once notes that "it was strange, how readily authority could be conjured with nothing but a bit of strutting jackassery."
  • In Tim Dorsey's Serge A. Storms books, Serge and his accomplice Coleman pull off a series of ATM thefts simply by walking into a convenience store and wheeling the ATM out on a hand truck. The reason they were allowed to do it? Serge walked in with a clipboard and started making notes to project an air of authority.
  • Richard Marcinko uses this when testing security in various military and civilian installations, to surprising, and sometimes terror-inspiring effect. One instance has him express respect for a chef that did not fall for it, instead brandishing a meat cleaver and telling his character to return with an appointment for a health inspection.
  • In the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series Anita uses it to varying success to (in one case), bring along her Animator in training on a preternatural crime scene, get support from the police while under attack by zombies in her bedroom sent by a Vauduun High Priestess she rubbed the wrong way, and on many other occasions though usually without lying directly, merely manipulating the facts.
  • Near the end of the original book of The Princess Bride, Buttercup gets the Brute Squad out of the heroes' way by riding haughtily up to them and shouting "I - am - the - queeeeeeeeeeeen!!!!!"
  • Scott Adams describes similar techniques in his books The Dilbert Principle and The Joy Of Work to escape meetings and unpleasant conversations. Most of them involve looking like you have more important things to be doing. Incidentally, he also recounts a story in his early days in the workforce when he tried this himself to get information he needed for a project by sounding more important than he was, but was seen through every time.
  • Also from Robert Anton Wilson, who co-wrote The Illuminatus Trilogy, is The Schroedinger's Cat-trilogy, where it's at one point mentioned how Malaclypse the Younger started to drive around in a van with "United Heroin Smugglers Co." written in professional font on the side. At first he got stopped by the police at every turn, the whole thing ended up in the news and the police became laughingstocks. Eventually they gave up, and stopped paying attention to the van. Suddenly there were hundreds of vans around the country with the same logo on their sides.
  • The Bene Gesserit in Dune practice a pseudo-mind control technique called "the Voice" that essentially works like this. It's not as subtle in application - basically, instead of sneaking a push of the authority button and hoping nobody notices you shouldn't be pushing it, the Voice involves ramming that button so hard that the attached brain(s) can't help but respond.
  • In Players of Gor, Tarl Cabot is rescued in a timely manner by Andronicus, the only serious actor in Boots Tarsk-Bit's troop, masquerading as a visiting general from an allied city. He says afterwards that "The Imperious General" is one of his best characterisations.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Juliet pulls one by way of joining a SWAT. Artemis also pulls them frequently.
  • In Book 8 of the Ranger's Apprentice series, Will uses this to infiltrate an Outsider camp. One of Halt's many Ranger lessons is "Always seem to have a purpose. If people think there's a reason you're in a place, odds are they won't bother to challenge you."
  • Near the end of The Way of Kings, Kaladin pulls this when Dalinar's army is betrayed by Sadeas. Not only does he go back to rescue an entire army with only 30 men, but he also starts ordering around the soldiers who completely outrank him (he's a slave). To take it Up to Eleven, he then proceeds to promote soldiers, order around Adolin, the Highprince's son, and then decides to go find Dalinar, the Highprince and commanding general himself, and order him to flee. And it works!
  • In Futuretrack Five it's how Kitson and Keri gain access to the Cambridge Centre. Justified somewhat in that he did actually work there in a position of some authority (technically still does and everyone he encounters recognises him) and knows both his way around and the people he encounters; this knowledge also allows him to teach Keri to look and act like she belongs. He even tells everyone to look out for intruders dressed as Paramils to add to the confusion.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: The Pimpernel often uses this tactic. One example from the first book has a guard leader at a town gate, particularly determined to locate the Pimpernel, rigorously searching the carts and belongings of a group of traders and farmers. Once they're gone, however, a squad of soldiers rides up and announces that the Pimpernel has just smuggled a group of escaped prisoners through disguised as farmers and traders, prompting the alarmed guard to send them right through in pursuit. Only while the Pimpernel and the prisoners were disguised and did pass through that gate, they weren't disguised as farmers and traders...


Live Action TV

  • This is standard operating procedure for both the good and bad guys on 24.
  • In the vein of faking out Nazis, Allo Allo did this a few times.
  • Angel has, at least once, gotten on to crime scenes and pumped the cop on the scene for information by playing the bossy plainclothes detective, no badge needed.
    • Indeed, instead of a badge the only thing Angel was holding was a cup of coffee. Which he had just stolen from another cop. File under Rule of Cool for sheer awesomeness (and the ringing sound of clanging steel spheres one might hear when Angel is walking).
    • He also snuck into the offices of Wolfram & Hart by pretending to be a lawyer by wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Despite the vampire detectors at the doors.
      • Well vampire lawyers should not be that unusual at Wolfram & Hart.
  • ICarly: Spencer pulls this off to get to the vault containing the severed head of a company's founder.
  • One running subplot on Arrested Development involved the character of Maeby (Alia Shawkat) who, despite being only 16 years old, gets a job as a movie producer simply by acting like she already was one. This, in turn, is based on an apocryphal story that Steven Spielberg got his first job at a movie studio by simply occupying an empty office and pretending he was supposed to be there.
    • Her deception was greatly helped by the fact that Tobias had been talking up the name Funke at the watercooler for the whole day, at Maeby's recommendation. And the reason she had done that was because she was skipping school by convincing Tobias that it was "Help Your Dad Achieve His Dream Day", which was another instance of this trope (not to mention that they only got into the film studio in the first place was because Maeby convinced the security guard that they were meant to be there; Maeby is a master of the Bavarian Fire Drill).
    • Runs in the family. In another episode, GOB pretended to be a waiter to mess with his mother. He was already wearing a black suit, so he simply grabbed a tray of drinks and walked over to her table. She had never looked a waiter in the face, so she didn't notice, and everyone else on staff assumed he was a new guy. At the end of the day, he was given all of his tips, and the narrator explained that GOB had just accidentally worked a day in his life.
  • This happens all the time in The A-Team. Pretty much every episode.
    • Almost always twice, usually three times in the early seasons. See, before they hire the A-Team, any prospective employers need to be conned by Hannibal using a Bavarian Fire Drill just to make sure that they aren't really military police trying to capture them. Then Face needs to go and Bavarian Fire Drill a mental institution to get Howling Mad Murdock out for him to join the team again.
  • Done on Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Rupert Giles, ineptly impersonating an agent of Interpol to get information out of a cop. It worked, but only because the cop was under a spell.
  • Used to Michael's advantage in many episodes of Burn Notice.
    • He also mentions that some marks are just too smart to fall for tricks like this, and therefore he has to use much more inventive methods. In one rather impressive example, he uses "reverse interrogation", setting himself up as a snitch to be interrogated by the bad guy, noting that while skilled interrogators are good at asking questions without revealing anything, bad interrogators will always tell you more than you tell them.
    • This also backfired when he needed the security camera tapes of a simple construction company, and a woman there was instantly suspicious of him, asking who he worked for and immediately phoning to check. Mike barely gets out ahead of security. This is one of the show's themes; no matter how good a spy you are, you're just as vulnerable as anyone else.
    • Michael once charged into a kitchen with a clipboard ordering everyone out, with his narration saying how clipboards are like IDs in certain places if you know how to use them.
  • Happens a lot in Doctor Who, partly because of narrative necessity, partly because the Doctor seems commanding and often knows what to do.
    • In "Aliens of London" he gets out of being held at gunpoint by a room full of armed soldiers by using this -- when a scream sounds from another room he yells, "Defense plan Delta! Come on!" and runs out of the room, and they all instinctively follow his orders, even though he's presented no identification at all.
    • In Silver Nemesis, the TARDIS arrives in the present day on the grounds of a castle and the Doctor approaches the little old lady he sees confidently, telling Ace, "Act like we own the place... Always works. We own the place." Ace has to point out that the woman they're approaching really does own the place -- and the place is Windsor Castle.
    • In The Curse of Fenric, the Doctor types out his own letter of authorisation and forges the signatures of the head of the secret service and the Prime Minister (at once, no less) in front of the person he's bluffing, and then hands them to him. They are accepted without question.
    • Assisted in the revival seasons by a new sample of Applied Phlebotinum known as 'Psychic Paper', which the reader sees as whatever form of credentials they think the Doctor needs... unless the viewer happens to be psychic enough to see through the illusion, like everyone working for Torchwood, or intelligent enough, like William Shakespeare. Though lies too big will actually break it, as seen in A Christmas Carol, when it refuses to say he's "widely acknowledged as a mature and responsible adult".

 Rose: This is psychic paper. It says whatever you want it to.

Jack: How'd you know?

Rose: Well, first, I have a friend who uses this all the time. Second, you just handed me a piece of paper that says you're single and work out.

    • Used in The War Games to get into a military prison. One of the most impressive uses in the series - the Doctor has been convicted of espionage in wartime and has escaped from prison. He is not in uniform, or even a proper suit, and he has a gaping HOLE in the knee of his trousers, and yet managed to bluff the prison commander for a solid chunk of time just by knowing what to say and shouting loudly.
  • In an episode of Get Smart, Max managed to order soldiers about to execute him to turn around just before their boss (who was standing right behind them) orders them to fire. The reason? They were Ruritanian soldiers, and Ruritanian soldiers are always more-or-less brainwashed into "obeying orders" without thinking.
  • Heroes: Sylar (technically a wanted Serial Killer) in the Volume 3 episode "One of Us, One of Them". He fakes being an FBI agent, and gets the cops to 1) pull back their barricades, giving him and Bennet room to work, and 2) get him some coffee.
  • Hogan's Heroes ran on this trope.
  • The guys on Hustle do so. Usually Ash.
    • Likewise, spin-off The Real Hustle uses this, most notably to steal someone's car -- as he's getting into it.
    • This is almost becoming a Discredited Trope in the UK: thanks to that show, and the fact that the real police are also perfectly willing to engage in this sort of activity if they find it useful, most younger British people lack much of a sense of social compliance.
    • No longer a Discredited Trope here in the United Kingdom now; documentaries show it being used too, so Hustle no longer seems to hold any influence for this. Probably because of The Mentalist it's now more popular.
  • Ripped from the Headlines for the Law and Order Special Victims Unit episode "Authority."
    • Which ended up being surreal, as the target of the investigation railed against people following orders without question...and then proceeded to order people around without being questioned by those he was ordering. He went from being against the sheep mentality to being the shepherd.
      • Not exactly, the people he was "ordering around like sheep" were all there and taking orders as part of a pre-planned demonstration showing how ridiculous doing so could get. Not just random people doing whatever some guy told them to.
    • An episode dealing with two missing girls leads them to a man who faked being from Social Services just taking the girls from their guardians. Neither one questioned who he really was. The first was a crackhead mother, so it's plausible that she could be fooled by such a ploy, but the second girl was taken from an experienced foster mom who should have known better.
  • Done all the time in Leverage, often by Hardison or Ford.
  • In the old Mission Impossible, the IMF regularly pretended to be part of the organization they were infiltrating.
  • A skit from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Screaming Skull" has Pearl, Bobo, and Observer putting on penguin costumes and using Bavarian Fire Drill tactics to try and trick Mike and the bots into dressing in a similar fashion. After laughing at Mike and the bots' pathetic attempts at costumes, Pearl, Bobo, and Observer come to the sad realization that they themselves are even more pathetic thanks to the massive amount of effort they put into their lame joke.
  • Shawn in Psych has a tendency to do this; partly because his 'psychic' abilities (read: keen observational skills and theatrical nature) tend to throw people off their guard and result in them buying anything he'll tell them, and partly because he's The Charmer who can twist almost anyone around his little finger.
    • The few times it hasn't worked (it's not foolproof), Shawn has literally been struck dumb.
    • One particularly audacious example had Shawn pretending to be a chief resident doctor doing rounds with interns in order to figure out what was wrong with a comatose patient. When he couldn't understand their medical terminology, he told them to dumb it down for the comatose patients, and they did.
    • Or the time he managed to convince multiple people at a comic convention that he was George Takei's personal assistant. Including George Takei himself.
  • Often used by Frank Parker in Seven Days, even when his status as an actual NSA agent could get him whatever he wants.
  • Apparently people don't get any smarter about this in the future: in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a group of Genius Ditzes managed to order their way onto the station to see Bashir simply because one was dressed as an admiral. When questioned, the "admiral" would simply act irritable and the cowed crewmember would back off.
    • The "admiral" answered every question given to him with "That's a stupid question!" It worked perfectly.
    • A bit of Truth in Television. Part of the training is adhering to the rank structure and chain of command. Unless your job specifically deals with "don't confuse your rank with my authority," it'll take quite a bit to arouse suspicion. On the other hand, military members are still taught they can disobey any order that violates personal decency, morals, or laws.
    • In "The Search, Part II" a group of Jem'Hadar soldiers ambushes and tries to arrest Sisko and co. as they attempt to close the wormhole. Garak gets them out of it by pretending to be The Mole and then shooting the Jem'Hadar once they let their guard down.
  • Almost every episode of Supernatural involves the brothers posing as police, FBI, or even priests to gain access to evidence or question witnesses.
    • Inverted in the early episodes, where the brothers are incredibly unsuccessful at this, usually because people question their covers and it completely falls apart.

 Police Officer: Hold it!

Dean: Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys. False alarm. I tripped the system.

Officer: Who are you?

Dean: I'm the boss's kid.

Officer: You're Mr. Yamishiro's kid?

    • Not a strict example, however, as they have fake ID for everything and are more than willing to show it to anyone who asks.
    • Played straight in one episode "Hollywood Babylon", where Dean gets mistaken for a PA on a movie set, and goes with it. He originally does it just so he has unlimited access to check for EMF, but finds himself surprisingly good at it, and enjoying it.
    • And in the episode "Something Wicked", while passing as a CDC agent, Sam is initially worried that they will get caught because his most relevant ID identifies him as a "Bikini Inspector". The hospital receptionist pauses and directs them to their destination, after which point they go to the opposite floor.
    • That's nothing - in one episode, while posing as FBI agents, they run into an actual federal agent who starts questioning the validity of the brothers' identities, and asks to talk to their superiors. Dean reluctantly hands him a number, the real agent calls it, and the audience assumes that their cover's blown... until we see that the number connects to Bobby who poses as their boss, chews out the agent, and then turns around to finish making breakfast in his kitchen. Dean and Sam's skill at this trope is so ridiculous that it verges into Refuge in Audacity and Crazy Prepared at times.
    • That ploy itself fell apart in one episode where they were working on a case in Bobby's home town, were questioned by the sheriff, gave her the number and she called it. And recognized Bobby's voice over the phone. Fortunately the town had a Broken Masquerade anyway.
    • They are shameless. They once convinced a little girl that they were "teddy bear doctors" by showing her one of their many fake badges but waving it around so that she couldn't read it.
    • Sam has fooled patients several times by posing as a hospital orderly/counselor/whatever simply by dressing the part. One of the reasons the writers favor this con is probably related to how Jared Padelecki looks ridiculously excellent in white scrubs.
    • Apparently Dean and John relied more on fake ID's. Sam favors "costumes" more (at least in the first season) - Dean complained about the cost of buying worker coveralls and cheap business suits. In later seasons (when Sam looked less like a kid) they've become better able to convince people that they are government agents.
    • The opening of the season-two episode "The Usual Suspects" contains a hilarious montage of some of their more brazen claims. And that's only in the first two seasons.
  • Very first second episode of Titus.

 Erin: You guys know you're not allowed in the building anymore, how'd you get past security?

Titus: You walk in with confidence, nobody bothers you.

Dave: I wore a hat.

  • In a flashback on The West Wing, it's revealed that this is how Donna started working for the Bartlet campaign: she walked into the campaign office and started answering phones. Josh was pretty quick in catching her, but he liked her spunk and so kept her as his assistant.
  • An episode of The Closer centered around finding a man who had interfered with a murder investigation by pretending to be the lead detective in charge of collecting evidence and interviewing suspects. Notably, he not only fooled the suspects, he initially fooled the other cops, including the assistant chief. It probably helped that he actually believed he was a cop.
    • Especially funny in this case, as the man identified himself as Detective Richard Tracy.
  • In White Collar this is Neal's modus operandi to the point that he uses it to walk right out of prison.
  • In Firefly Simon does this twice: once when he "impersonates" a doctor (he really is a doctor, but not at that hospital) in "Ariel" (he even catches a rookie doctor's mistake and intervenes to save the patient's life), and in the movie when he disguises himself as an imperious Obstructive Bureaucrat to get into the Academy.
    • Subverted in the same episode as the rest of the crew prepares to perform a BFD to gain entrance to a hospital: getting paramedic uniforms, ID cards, learning the terminology, etc... only to be let in without so much as a second glance.
    • In Jaynestown, he's forced into this role by Mal because he looks like a respectable person with a lot of money to spend at the mud farm. He doesn't do very well, but the foreman isn't bright enough to be suspicious.

 Simon: Savings. Excellent, that's-- because as I said before, I'll be needing quite a bit of it... I--I'm a buyer.

...

Wash: What happened to Simon? Who is this diabolical master of disguise?

  • This is one of the favorite manipulation methods of Patrick Jane, title character of The Mentalist. When trespassing, he easily convinced the police that he was the homeowner and that the homeowner was the trespasser, or at least had them seriously confused.
    • Another example was being trapped in a room with a known killer. He holds his cell phone like a gun and talks just like a law enforcement officer holding a gun, confusing the killer enough that he's able to get the door open and let the people actually holding guns enter.
  • Zoey Woodbine (Alicia Witt) on Cybill was good at these. In a similar instance to the above Catch Me If You Can example, she once passed as a teacher at her own school, and even received a paycheck.
  • Subverted Trope and Parodied with Kramer's alter ego, Dr. Von Nostrand.

 Seinfeld: He's not fooling anyone.

    • But another time Kramer ended up with a "job" at Brant/Leland, taking meetings and writing reports, even though he didn't get paid. Eventually they had to "fire" him for incompetence.

 Leland: I'm sorry. There's just no way that we could keep you on.

Kramer: I don't even really work here!

Leland: That's what makes this so difficult.

    • In another episode George wasn't sure whether he was hired at a firm or not, so he just went in while the boss was out of town and pretended to work on the Pensky file in an empty office.
    • Hilariously subverted in at least 2 episodes of Seinfeld, by Kramer. In one episode, he wanders into a law firm's building to use the bathroom and ends up getting swept into a meeting. Everyone assumes he works there, and he ends up doing just that for several days, before being called into a meeting where he gets 'fired' for his shoddy performance. Also happens when he gets a job as a seat filler at the Tony Awards, where he inadvertently ends up getting caught in the crowd heading to the stage to accept an award, resulting in him attending several showbiz parties while brandishing an unearned Tony award. In neither case was he trying to get his own way or manipulate people, he was actually the one just going with the flow, which is exactly the sort of behaviour required by others for the trope to work.
  • In the fourth season of Babylon 5, the rescue of Sheridan from Clark's goons involved Garibaldi donning his old Earth Force uniform and walking into the prison under the pretense of being sent (off the record, of course) to interrogate Sheridan. (This only works because Garibaldi was the one who captured Sheridan in the first place, and the guard recognizes him from the news reports.)
  • Keith Mars got in serious trouble for doing this, since impersonating government officers is actually illegal. His daughter gets away with it on multiple occasions, however.
  • In the season four finale of Thirty Rock, Tina Fey's character begins to fall in love with an airline pilot named Carol, played by Matt Damon, who manages to enter a wedding reception with no trouble.

 Carol: Yeah, if you walk briskly in a pilot uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere. I was once in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House.

  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina turns a classmate invisible to help with his magic act, but then loses track of him. Upon realizing that the first place that an invisible teenage boy would go is the girls' locker room, Sabrina runs into the room and yells to all of the girls to keep their clothes on; there's a gas leak and everyone must evacuate. The girls all leave without question.
  • One Candid Camera Prank involved having a man dressed as a police officer stand with a flimsy white barrier gate. When somebody came up, he would inform them that Delaware was closed today, but that they could go to New Jersey if they wanted. It worked.
    • One dupe, upon being informed that Delaware was closed, replied "Good."
  • In The Office, Pam bluffs her way to getting promoted to office administrator by claiming the paperwork got lost and taking advantage of the fact that most of the office's committees consist of one person each, all of which are good friends with her.
  • In Trigger Happy TV Dom Joly frequently uses this to comic effect, pretending to be a traffic warden, scout, spy and park warden.
    • More than once while standing in front of a ten foot high picture of himself reading 'DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN'.
  • Jeff Winger on Community uses this frequently. The plot of the series is kicked off when he creates a study group by convincing his classmates that he is a "board certified Spanish tutor".
    • That's nothing compared to what he was doing before the series began. Namely, successfully pretending to be a board certified lawyer for years.
  • In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard "borrows" a robot from NASA. When Penny questions him about it, he says that "the trick is to carry it out to your car like you own it".
  • Penne from Life Support advised viewers wanting to avoid lines for concert tickets to wear fake Ticketek shirts and tell everyone the tour was cancelled.
  • Chris Morris plays with this trope a lot. One of his shows, Brass Eye, was largely based around convincing B-List Celebrities and Politicians to star in absurd PSA's by first off preying on their egos and self importance, and then acting like it's a deadly serious campaign and somehow managing to keep a straight face while they read from an increasingly bizarre script he hands them.

 "Genetically, Paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me ... there's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact!"

  • Sherlock is prone to these to get himself into places he isn't supposed to be, but the absolute apex has to be "The Hounds of Baskerville". Sherlock gets himself and John into a top secret military base using Mycroft's government ID, but it's John who pulls rank on the Corporal and uses his military background to deflect the man's suspicion.
  • In The Wire, drug dealer Proposition Joe gets information about the whereabouts of a police officer by calling the police station and asking about him. He changes his name several times during his phone call, all while doing his impersonation of a white person.
  • Boston Legal - A client suspected of murder has had candid photos taken of her and posted online by a teenager. Brad gets into the kid's house by telling his mom that he is not allowed to say he's from the FBI, and holding up his wallet without actually opening it.

  "I’m investigating a potential crime. Now, if I had the authority to reveal I was with the FBI, I would say so. But until certain clearances are satisfied, I’m not officially at liberty to tell you anything. Now as far as you’re concerned you never heard me say that I’m with the FBI, which, for the record, of course I’m not. I need to speak with your son immediately. I think you would like to arrange that before others speak with him. I’m sure you know what I mean."

Opera

  • In Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, Hagen calls the Gibichung vassals to the wedding by bellowing about danger and woe. It ought to be mentioned here that Richard Wagner was a Bavarian (by residence, at least, though a Saxon by birth).


Video Games

  • In 7 Days a Skeptic Dr. "Jonathen Somerset" is actually a completely different person; the main character posed as him to get onto a spaceship.
  • In the Ace Attorney series, specifically in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, you meet a man in a hospital who claims to be the hospital's director. The illusion falls apart very quickly, however, as it rapidly becomes apparent he's just a lecherous mental patient in a lab coat, looking for an excuse to gawk at/fondle female patients/nurses. He's not trying very hard, though; he even admits it to you at one point. Eight years later, though, in Apollo Justice, he's still at it.
  • Team Fortress 2 has this as a game mechanic. Being a Spy consists entirely of pretending you're supposed to be there until you decide to shiv somebody. Consider this: spies carry around a device that shorts out Engineer buildings. When disguised as an Engineer, you can look as if you're carrying a wrench, even if you're ready to stab someone in the back. Most engineers spend the better part of their time loitering around their sentries and dispensers doing absolutely nothing a Spy can't pretend to do whacking them furiously with their wrench, even when nothing is happening. Unfortunately, a spy can't pretend to swing his wrench without losing his disguise. So, the end result is that most engineers are wise enough by now to just spy-check anyone near their stuff.
    • A better example may be when a disguised spy charges up to an enemy medic shouting for healing. Many medics will just start healing (or maybe even ubercharging you). There are even achievements for doing this.
      • An even better example is disguising one's self as a Heavy and grabbing an enemy Medic, a few Soldiers and Demomen or whoever else and lead a charge into your own base...only to have them get mowed down by sentries that they assumed weren't there as they weren't firing on you. Bonus points if the Medic blows his Ubercharge on you in the attempt.
    • Example. Overlaps with Suspiciously Specific Denial.
    • Example of a Spy leading an Ubercharge.
  • Used by Francis in Left 4 Dead at various times, even though he doesn't really need to. "Most people will do anything if a cop tells them to."
    • In the Sacrifice comic, he actually attempts to pass off the looting of a television by pretending to be a cop gathering evidence. To an actual cop.

 Francis: "...and that's why I'm going to prison."

  • In Mass Effect 2, one of the missions requires Shepard to sneak into restricted areas of the Citadel. When s/he gets caught, one of the Renegade interrupts has him/her start yelling about how there is a bomb in the area that's about to explode... and the guy believes him/her. Even Shepard laughs at how easily it worked.
    • The other Renegade interrupt has Shepard knocking the guy out.
    • The Paragon version has Shepard claiming that s/he's a health inspector on a surprise visit. The witness then quickly decides that it's Somebody Else's Problem.
  • In Saints Row 2, you pull this, pretending to be a repairman in order to break into police HQ. It doesn't work out very well, though.
  • This is one way of infiltrating several facilities in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.
  • Hitman, on occasion. Some levels you don't need to get a disguise, because your suit already blends in enough.
  • In Heavy Rain, playable character Scott Shelby really isn't a private detective investigating the killings. He is the killer, getting rid of evidence against him. In one ending, the charade falls apart when the woman he was romancing (the mother of one of his victims) called the other victims' families and realized none of them had hired him, contrary to his claims.
  • In Golden Sun Dark Dawn, you gain entry to Kaocho Palace by telling the guards that you're the Adepts the king was expecting. You are, though you didn't know that at the time.
    • You also convince the Kaocho generals that the king sent you to help sack Ayuthay (he asked you to do so, but you refused); subverted when the people of Ayuthay overhear this discussion and are understandably upset when you get into their sanctuary.
  • Adam can do this a couple times in Deus Ex Human Revolution: first to a pair of non-security workers in the FEMA base, then to the guards in the Tai Young Medical building. Both times you have to pick the right dialogues for it to work, otherwise they just attack you.
  • In Perfect Dark Zero's first mission, you literally trip the fire alarm to clear the nightclub of innocents. Later, to stealthily enter the Big Bad's palace, you use a voice changer to pass yourself off as a male guest or repairman. Don't forget to take out the Insecurity Camera first.


Web Comics

  • One Metroid comic had a sprite shooting a pillar for two or three comics, under the pretense that shooting is like holding a clipboard - everyone just assumes you're doing something productive.
  • Referenced in this Chasing the Sunset strip.
  • In PvP, Brent, after discovering that working at an Apple store won't let him get a free iPhone, walks outside and tells everyone waiting in line on the opening day that they'll need to move a few feet back. After they do, he walks into the open space at the front of the line and quits his job so that he's first in line. This might have worked better if this plan hadn't required he then stand in front of several outraged customers until the store officially opened.
    • WHEE-OOO! WHEE-OOO!
    • A later storyline features a guy managing to successfully convince Brent and Cole that he was the Devil, by telling them things he couldn't (or at least, shouldn't) be able to know about them, before revealing that the whole shenanigan was actually a sales pitch, trying to get Cole to hire not-the-devil to improve their computer security.
  • I'm not sure what the trope vocabulary is for this Penny Arcade strip, but it's funny. Does that count?
    • It's more Fence Painting than anything.
      • It's a combination of both. Why does Gabe need the pig waxed? God knows. It's just that important, right now.
  • Ethan from Shortpacked! pulls this off semi-intentionally.
  • Xkcd: Did you know you can just BUY labcoats?
  • Sticks, a minor character in Goblins, pulled one of these during his backstory. Sticks is an orc who was imprisoned in Brassmoon, but managed to escape the prison with the help of another orc named Hawl and an ogre named Boulder. Coincidentally, their jailbreak coincides with a siege of Brassmoon by Greyblood orcs, and Sticks bluffs a guard into thinking he and his companions have been polymorphed so they can infiltrate the orc army.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Tagon's Toughs tried to do this while evacuating a building they needed to demolish. It didn't work well at first, until they got creative, by either firing plasma weapons at the ceiling or telling people that the coffee guy was taking the day off.
  • Lampshaded in Order of the Stick: Tarquin's genre-savviness is so great that he gives all soldiers a book so that they know how to avoid this.
  • In Drowtales, a light elf tells a group of assassins to stop. He then explains to the people they were attacking that he doesn't have the authority, but they listen to him anyway because they're so used to following orders, while still in earshot of the assassins.
  • In Freefall, when Florence goes missing in Ecosystems Unlimited:

 Sam Starfall: Quick! Where's the nearest concentration of valuables that would easily fit into a pocket?

Varroa Jacobsoni: Pharmaceutical storage on the second floor.

Sam: I'll search there. You go that way!


Web Original

  • Fatebane's favorite tactic in Associated Space.
  • Epic Tales has a story in which Shadow Hawk goes up to a cop, from behind so that the cop doesn't see him, and begins asking what's going on, in his most commanding voice. The cop answers his questions, and only after Shadow Hawk says that he can take care of the villain does the cop turn around to see who he's been giving information to.
  • Attempted by Gaven in The Tale of the Exile, who poses as a cook to avoid a manhunt. It backfires when a customer complains and all the other cooks put the blame on him, since he's the one nobody else knows and thus is an easy scapegoat.
  • The Bastard Operator From Hell has used this numerous times, often with very fatal results for his victims. He refers to it as "putting a (l)user in dummy mode".
  • Tried writ large by General MacArthur's military junta in the Alternate History timeline Reds. It backfires spectacularly.


Western Animation

  • Occurs in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Boiling Rock: Part II" when Sokka, dressed as a rookie prison guard, convinces an actual guard to release all of the prisoners into the yard...during a lockdown. Of course he uses the Warden's "authority" as backup...
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade is really good at this.
  • A particularly weird example on Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos. "I have to take your bike! It's an emergency -- I'm Chuck Norris!"
    • Then again, you'd be hard-pressed to refuse Chuck Norris on the spot like that.
  • In the Storm Hawks episode "A Little Trouble," Finn, disguised as a Cyclonian maintenance tech, evades capture when he accidentally steps on another tech's head by helping him with what he was working on. Then the squad is admonished by a passing supervisor for standing around when they should be working. No one ever notices until the Dark Ace recognizes their faces and points it out.
    • This came as a surprise to the others, because, in a much straighter version of the "don enemy uniforms to infiltrate their base" strategy, they were trying not to be seen, and the uniforms were a flimsy backup in case they were spotted. It had never occurred to them that actually pretending to be maintenance techs might work.
  • The Eds try to scam Johnny with one of these at the beginning of the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Urban Ed", disguising it as a game of Calvin Ball:

 Eddy: That's home plate, and here's the banana!

Johnny: Banana?

    • Used more successfully in an earlier episode where Edd manages to get Johnny out of his spot at the swimming hole simply by blowing a whistle, which makes Johnny leap up and do a swan dive, assuming he's trying out for swim team. Eddy cals it brilliant after the fact.
  • The Mad Hatterbot in Futurama's insane robot asylum episode did this. Other characters do it too, but mostly without success.
    • A more low-key example of this is how the Planet Express crew got into the Central Bureaucracy in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back."
  • In one of the episodes of Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly and Muttley use a fire engine horn and the other racer's respect for authority to pass right by them to the front of the pack. Dastardly even calls it the "Old Phony Fire-Engine Routine".
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Of all the characters to pull off a Bavarian Fire Drill, especially those with Force powers, C3P0 manages to get a pair of Battle Droids to stop guarding a room he was trying to get into by warning about a incoming Jedi and just continuing to walk on past them when they dash off.
    • The same episode features Jar Jar Binks being mistaken for a Jedi because of his robe and he plays the role for all it's worth.
  • An episode of Family Guy combined this with Go Look At the Distraction. Peter and Lois get caught by police at a teenage drinking party ("Aren't you two a little old to be drinking illegally?"). Peter tells Lois to "Look over there!" and the cops to "Run!". The cops actually run away.
    • Peter convinced a hotel desk clerk that he was Mel Gibson and just didn't look like himself because he had gained weight for an upcoming role.
    • Quagmire also pulls this on Jillian, telling her that he was a boob inspector and she let him in the apartment because he had a badge (actually a Snicker's wrapper).
  • An episode of South Park spoofing 24 had various federal agencies busting into Kyle's room, taking over control of the situation, to where the first agency head would claim "I'm in command here!" the other would state "Not anymore you're not!" Towards the end, after becoming a running gag, Kyle arbitrarily says "Not anymore you're not!" to the last guy, prompting him to go "Aw, snap..." and walk away.
  • In the Daffy Duck cartoon "Daffy Dilly", Daffy is a novelty salesman trying to get past the snooty butler of a sickly millionaire so he can cheer the millionaire up. Daffy eventually gets rid of the butler by accusing him of trying to off his boss in order to get his hands on the fortune. Daffy's hard-boiled police detective impression is so convincing, he intimidates the butler into skipping town: "Just to show I'm not all copper, I'll give you a ten-minute head start!"
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Mad Scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz once tried to take over the Tri-State Area by simply...going on the TV and announcing that he had taken over the Tri-State Area. The mayor (his brother) wasn't fooled, but the government agency charged with fighting him went into an absolute panic.
    • Phineas and Ferb's own techniques could be seen as a form of this: the boys don't consider their projects inappropriate for a pair of ten-ish-year-olds to do, and since they act accordingly adults just sort of assume there's nothing wrong with it either. (It probably helps that they also get building permits.)

 "Aren't you a little young to be (insert latest project here)?

"Yes, yes I am."

"...Alright, then."

    • A sort of reverse Bavarian Fire Drill happened in one episode: Candace discovers that the boys have built a truck stop on the roof of the RV the family rented. In the middle of her "you guys are soooo busted" rant, she starts working at the diner without even really thinking about it, and makes it all the way through the song sequence before she realizes what she's doing. She BFD'ed herself!
  • This is a key weapon in Bugs Bunny's arsenal. Notable examples include tricking the Sheriff of Nottingham into buying real estate on the Royal Rose Garden ("Rabbit Hood"), convincing Elmer that he needs a fricasseeing rabbit license to shoot him ("Duck, Rabbit, Duck!"), and restraining Marvin the Martian in a straitjacket by claiming that his spaceship has struck an iceberg and putting him in a "lifejacket" ("Hasty Hare").
  • Another Looney Tunes master of the Bavarian Fire Drill is Foghorn Leghorn, whose tactic is to not let his victims get a word in edgewise.
  • Subverted in G.I. Joe: Renegades, where Scarlet's attempts to use this to get Duke out of a local police station fail miserably.
  • Bill uses this in King of the Hill when, after stealing a tank while drunk then attempting to return it to the base, he is pulled over by the cops. At this point, Bill's arm is in a cast, he's weraing nothing but his boxers, and he smells horrible. Using a full-on drill instructor voice, he commands them to get back in their car and pretend they never saw a thing. He even gets a date out of the female of the duo.
  • On The Simpsons, Bart walked right into a TV studio.

 Guard: Do you work here, little boy?

Bart: Yeah!

Guard: Well then, go right in, Sir!

    • In "The Great Money Caper" Homer and Bart try grifting and are successful for a while until a man who says he is from the FBI arrests them for fraud. He actually has a Colgate Cavity Patrol badge, takes their bag of cash, and drives off.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, a pair of seemingly-legit regulatory officials audit a bank's security. In one of their characteristic adventures, the babies accidentally trip the silent alarm. It's only revealed when the cops show up that the duo are, in fact, notorious bank robbers.


Real Life

  • In CPR and lifesaving classes, students are taught to use this for good, because individuals may be reluctant to assist in an emergency due to the bystander effect. For example, a rescuer should address a specific person (e.g. "you, the lady in the blue dress") when asking for someone to call for an ambulance, instead of a general request ("Would someone call an ambulance?").
    • A related instruction given in self-defense courses is to never yell "Help!" because of the chance that some people will be less likely to respond if there is a threat of danger. Instead, when threatened, you should yell "Fire!", because that will actually attract more people. (Within reason, obviously - if there are police/security guards within hearshot then "Help" is better - more likely to bring professional assistance who aren't impeded by curious on-lookers. And if there are so many people that yelling "Fire" may cause a dangerous panic, then of course you should yell "Help!" instead.)
  • Frank Abagnale, the notorious con artist on whom the book and film Catch Me If You Can are based, used this to pull off many of his cons. In one instance, he purchased a security guard's uniform and stood at a bank's overnight depository, telling patrons who pulled up to make their deposits that the depository was broken, but that he would be more than happy to secure their money. According to IMDb, they planned to include the same scam in the movie, but during filming people came up to Leonardo DiCaprio in costume and tried to give him their money.
  • Germany was united in the 19th Century by the Prussians, whose aristocracy was arguably the most militaristic in Europe. Their obsession with things military spread across the country. At one point, a con artist dressed in the uniform of a German army captain entered a good-sized town claiming to be an "inspector." In less than an hour, he ordered four grenadiers, a sergeant as well as six other soldiers to follow him (of whom no-one questioned his authority), ordered the local police to stop any phone calls to Berlin for the next hour, arrested the mayor and the treasurer for "suspicions of crooked bookkeeping" and confiscated the entire city treasury. The closest thing to "checking his credentials" was him giving a receipt for the confiscated treasury, using a fake name. Then he simply walked away, and was arrested 13 days later only because a former cell mate whom he told about his plans told this to the police. He was later pardoned by Kaiser Wilhelm II. There is at least one play and three movies made about this.
  • A particularly heinous prank involving McDonald's, a master manipulator, and a telephone.
  • In 1948, a Japanese male in uniform entered the Teikoku Imperial Bank and, using this trope, managed to get the entire bank staff to swallow poison. In unison. Detailed in the book Flowering of the Bamboo by William Triplett.
  • The Chaser and their controversial APEC stunt: they rented a limousine, stuck miniature Canadian flags on it and marched clean through a AU$4,000,000 security perimeter. It may be found in all its glory here.
    • To go into more detail: The stunt was approved by The ABC's lawyers because they assumed the fake motorcade would be stopped and turn around at the first checkpoint; none of the team could believe they got as far as they got. They had fake security passes that said "joke", "Insecurity" and "It's pretty obvious this isn't a real pass" and got within metres of the hotel where George W. Bush was staying. They were only caught when, realising they were not going to be stopped by the police, they tried to turn around, and Chas got out of the car dressed as Osama Bin Laden. And even then, they left Chas alone for a while and instead converged to arrest the one not dressed as bin Laden, as lampshaded by The Chaser themselves.
  • The Milgram experiment (granted, run back in the 60s) strongly suggests that yes, in fact, one can bluster and bluff people through faked authority.
    • It's related, but it's more about people obeying authority no matter what than about anyone faking it.
      • Case in point: A French show called Le Jeu de la Mort recreated the experiment and substituted the stuffy scientist with a game-show host. This is the result.
    • Some claim that the fact that the participants weren't told they could opt out of the experiment skewed the results. You can't opt out of real life, people.
      • The "Obedience to Authority" experiment was originally designed to allow but discourage opting out, and one participant did famously refuse to administer even the first shock. This student's name is Ronald Ridenhour, and for decades it was thought that this had been the same man who would go on to blow the whistle on the May Lai massacre, a series of events that would seem to reinforce the conclusion of the Milgram experiments. Nowadays, a quick google search reveals that these were two different people, though identically named.
  • On 2 July 2000, 15 men dressed in senior officers' uniforms, driving civilian jeeps painted up to look like military vehicles, entered a Malaysian army base using this method. They apparently convinced the base armoury personnel to hand over more than 100 assault rifles and grenade launchers to them, and left before anyone realized something was wrong. See BBC News.
  • Convicted cracker Kevin Mitnick used this as his primary criminal method. Among crackers and computer security professionals, this is called social engineering.
  • "I once had a fellow network geek challenge me to try to bring down his newly installed network. He had just installed a powerful and expensive firewall router and was convinced that I couldn't get to a test server he added to his network just for me to try to access. After a few attempts to hack in over the Internet, I saw that I wasn't going to get anywhere that way. So I jumped in my car and drove to his office, having first outfitted myself in a techy-looking jumpsuit and an ancient ID badge I just happened to have in my sock drawer. I smiled sweetly at the receptionist and walked right by my friend's office (I noticed he was smugly monitoring incoming IP traffic using some neato packet-sniffing program) to his new server. I quickly pulled the wires out of the back of his precious server, picked it up, and walked out the door. The receptionist was too busy trying to figure out why her e-mail wasn't working to notice me as I whisked by her carrying the 65-pound server box." -- From the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Michael Meyers.
  • Mexicans may remember this one very well, a person impersonating Sven-Göran Eriksson fooled each and every soccer manager, players and press he crossed and nobody actually knew until they were told. Here have a link
    • Parodied by Ant and Dec in the video to their novelty World Cup tie-in single.
  • Telstar Logistics can park anywhere.
    • That... is awesome.
  • Scott Adams said that he'd tell women he was interested in that he was an expert on handwriting analysis. He'd get them to write their name and ask them to write the things they liked about him. Once they were in the mindset of thinking appreciative things about him, some would include a phone number.
    • Not the only time Adams has taken advantage of this tendency, either. Wearing only a toupee and a fake mustache as a disguise and peddled as a consultant by Logitech's co-founder, he got into a high-level meeting at the company and spouted a wide load of nonsense. Everyone nodded along and he succeeded in getting them to create a completely meaningless mission statement before the hoax was revealed.
    • Once he did this entirely involuntarily; he had to fill out some paperwork at the company he used to work for, and sat at his old desk to do so. Someone rushed in, dropped paperwork on the desk, said they needed it by five, and left.
  • Phishing. By far the biggest reason why any online service tells you that representatives will never ask for your password.
    • Working at a call-in help desk, you have to actively dissuade people from giving you everything from their password to their SSN. Telling them that you don't ask for security reasons only encourages them to offer it.
      • Taxi dispatch works much the same way. One will often have to stop people mid-credit-card-number to tell them that looking up a taxicab doesn't work that way and that even if it did, the dispatcher can't access that information, please do not give it to them!
      • They are more willing to offer it after you tell them you don't want it because obviously only the good guy would say that. Of course, the whole point of a Bavarian Fire Drill is being Genre Savvy.
  • A story of a kid trying to do this with Steam on an online chat client is recounted in this Slashdot article.
  • Dave Barry and a few cartoonists once got into the 2000 Democratic National Convention by dressing up in dark suits with sunglasses, and sticking phone cords in their ears to pretend they were the security detail for Richard Riordan, then-mayor of Los Angeles. (The mayor was in on it, but the convention's security detail and doormen were not.)
  • The story of Pacific Tech's Graphing Calculator, in which a couple of ex-contractors managed to get Apple to release their software by pretending they still worked there. One of the best examples from the article: "[Greg] told his manager that he would start reporting to me. She didn't ask who I was and let him keep his office and badge. In turn, I told people that I was reporting to him. Since that left no managers in the loop, we had no meetings and could be extremely productive."
  • Many of Joey Skaggs' greatest pranks are predicated on the Bavarian Fire Drill. The best of these was The Solomon Project, where Skaggs (as Dr. Joseph Bonuso) actually got on CNN to shill a computer that could replace judges. Even better, though, was the fact that this was the fifth time Skaggs had snowed CNN this way.
  • A somewhat famous theft from the Hudson's Bay Company building in downtown Winnipeg involved two people walking in, taking a canoe, putting it over their heads as though they were simply moving the display, and walking straight out the door with it, never to be seen again.
    • For that matter, a common burglary tactic is to dress up as employees of a moving company or simply have a logo-ed van, and do the job in broad daylight.
    • There was an instance where a group was able to steal the money from an ATM sitting in a fast food location. While it would take hours of work to break open the ATM, they simply walked in wearing unmarked blue coveralls, unplugged the ATM, and wheeled it out on a dolly to open at their leisure later. No one stopped them or were able to give a good description.
  • A German newsmagazine tested this with an actor. He would stop cars while talking into a normal cellphone and claim to be a police officer, needing the car for an ongoing chase, as his partner is already pursuing the criminal with their patrol car. Even more disturbing than the number of people immediately giving their keys were the ones handing over the car after checking the ID. It was a cheap plastic card, the picture badly glued on it, and the word "Police" misspelled.
    • In Germany it is illegal to disobey a police officer, and even though the German government knows that such a law can lead to this sort of abuse, there is no plan to create any system for verifying that someone is in fact a police officer and not an impostor.
  • In the British version of Candid Camera the crew once successfully (pretended to have) closed an entire county, only allowing vehicles in as others came out.
  • Way, way too many cases of people hijacking a helicopter and simply flying into the prison yard to pick up allies. So many guards assume the helicopter is there officially.
  • Zug.com's self-described "Most ambitious prank in history" where the site's owners broke into the Super Bowl, conned security -- including a Federal agent -- into believing they were there on official business from PepsiCo and placed an advertisement for their website into the middle of Prince's halftime show.
    • It gets even better. They conned one whole side of the audience into doing it for them!
  • According to many anecdotes, it was possible before around 1960 to gain a professorship at Harvard, simply by finding an empty office, showing up at faculty meetings, and acting like you know what you're talking about.
  • How about the recent incident where a socialite couple simply walked into President Obama's state dinner? They actually started a conversation with Vice President Biden, and the Secret Service is taking the fall. Apparently, they did it to get noticed and to get their own reality program.
  • Eric Idle has told how he used to "sneak" out of school as a teenager by just putting on his school cap and walking purposefully out the front gate, whereupon he'd go downtown and see a movie. He notes that as long as he looked like he didn't expect to be stopped, everyone assumed he was running an errand or something.
  • Steven Spielberg must like this trope, as he used to spread "highly embellished" stories about how he'd gotten his start in Hollywood by walking onto the Universal Studios lot wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, acting like he was supposed to be there. In some versions he set up shop in an empty office, put his name on the building directory, told the switchboard operator to give out his extension to people, and wasn't discovered for two years.
  • Gatecrashing the Obama White House has become something of a hobby of tourists lately. The Secret Service has admitted the wrong people no less than three times in the past three months.
    • Quite creepy considering that Obama is getting three times more assassination threats than George W. Bush.
  • Not sure if subtle mind tricks count, but this clip is a recording of people's responses to a...slightly baited question that relied on two facts: "Obama" and "Osama" sound a lot alike, and people are idiots. It wouldn't have worked today, of course, since the former is much less obscure.
  • Jack Churchill. Using nothing more than this trope and a bigass sword captured 42 men.
  • Sergeant Bill came to Gerald, MO, to arrest meth dealers. He had made a bunch of arrests over a two month period. The problem was that he was a security guard with no authority to arrest anybody. His claim to be involved with a "Multi-jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force" was lifted from Beverly Hills Cop II.
    • Actually, unless you're in North Carolina, anyone who witnesses a felony can arrest the perpetrator. So, Bill had the authority.
    • In fact, many US states have Citizen's Arrest statutes permitting exactly this sort of thing.
      • It is, however, not remotely legal to impersonate a police officer or conduct a search of a private home without a warrant. This case is not remotely similar to a citizen witnessing a felony and making an arrest as a citizen.
  • A young woman once walked into the White House and asked to see John F Kennedy. Since Kennedy had so many girlfriends, nobody even thought to check her for weapons until she was only a few rooms away from him. She had a knife in her purse.
  • In Japan, 1968, a man dressed as a police officer stopped an armored car transporting money belonging to the Toshiba corporation. With a story about a bomb threat regarding the car, he convinced the employees to allow him to search it for explosives. He set off a road flare under the car, and the employees all ran for cover, believing it was a bomb. The man then boarded the car and drove away. He was never caught, nor was the money (about 300 million yen) ever recovered.
  • An old Urban Legend has a guard at a salt quarry check for mining equipment possibly being smuggled out in salt shipments. One particularly skeezy guy was checked every day for 30 years. The guard and the guy built up a rapport, and on the guard's final day he asked the guy what he was smuggling out, because he knew he had to be. The guy coolly replied, "salt".
    • Another variation involves a man taking out a bunch of product in a wheelbarrow for years, only for the guards to determine that everything he had was surplus junk he was welcome to take. He was, of course, stealing wheelbarrows.
    • Yet another variation describes a little boy carrying bags of sand over the US-Mexico border every day on a bicycle, then walking back every night. The customs officials naturally checked the bags of sand, and the boy made a killing off of the bikes.
    • A (likely apocryphal) version of this story made it into Doonesbury, from Desert Storm. It involved MPs thoroughly searching a tank to make sure the US crew wasn't smuggling loot or mementos out of Iraq. The police gave the tankers the all-clear, certifying there was nothing illegal in the tank - which was actually a Republican Guard T-72.
    • This story may be very old indeed. A variation is also told of the Mullah Nasruddin--the Sufi Muslim trickster, who goes by the name Juha in Arab countries--involving donkeys carrying loads of hay across a border. Every day Nasruddin cheerfully admits to the border guard that he is "smuggling," but refuses to elaborate. The border guard never finds anything hidden in the hay. Years later, when both of them are retired, Nasruddin confesses to the guard that he was, of course, smuggling donkeys.
    • In the beginning of 1941, iron junk was constantly delivered from Germany to the Soviet Union. The customs only paid attention to the metal, while in reality, the Soviets wanted the oiled rag it was wrapped in - formerly used to clean German weapons (they wanted to know whether the Reich is switching to oil that can hold in the Russian winter).
    • Referenced in Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles, when Dundee suspects that the film "Lethal Agent", being filmed at that time, is a cover-up for a smuggling operation. He has the frames of the painting used in the film as props tested for drugs, and when the tests come back negative, mentions this tale. In the end, he's right - the paintings themselves are being smuggled.
    • Another variation has a German man going from East Germany to West Germany every day on his bicycle. The guard dismantled his bike every day for decades, and, of course, found nothing. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the man and the guard met up in a coffee house and decided to have a drink. The guard asked the man what he was smuggling, and the man replied, "Bicycles."
  • Comedian Howie Mandel was expelled from his high school for impersonating a member of the school board, getting a construction company to make some additions at his school.
  • In George Carlin's Class Clown routine, he described how he could mimic the priests of his Catholic school, doing one so well that he always wanted to sneak into the confessional booth before he got there and hear a few confessions, because he knew that "if anyone really thought I was Father Byrne and really wanted to be forgiven...and performed the penance I had prescribed...they would've been forgiven!"
  • In October 2010, a dam in Hungary burst, spilling red toxic sludge across the countryside and laying waste to a village. One man whose house was spared, happened to own a Ford Transit fire truck, which he loaded up with food and water to help the victims. He commented that getting through the check points was easy because the authorities assumed he was with the fire department.
  • According to Banksy, the best way to make illegal street art is to go out in broad daylight wearing a day-glo vest, listening to a small transistor radio, and act like you're supposed to be there. If anyone bothers you, just mutter something about how you aren't paid enough to put up with it.
  • Wonderfully lampshaded by Tom Paxton in his song "I don't want a Bunny Wunny" in which he asks the audience to sing along, then to do it by themselves. With excellent timing he says "Isn't it amazing what people will do if you just ask them to? Now go and invade Poland!"
  • In 1942, Kazimierz Piechowski and 3 others inmates escaped Auschwitz by managing to steal SS uniforms and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss's own staff car and driving towards the main gate. When they reached the gate, they became worried when it didn't open. Piechowski leaned out of the car far enough for the guards to see his rank insignia and began yelling at them to open the gate. The guards complied and the 4 men simply drove away.
  • There is a story about Steve Jobs dropping out of Reed College after one semester. He continued to stay on campus, sleeping on his friend's floor, eating other students' leftovers (an institution at Reed dubbed "The Scrounge"), and auditing classes. However, it's highly likely that everyone knew what he was doing and no one cared.
  • Reed's close cousin Evergreen is well known amongst students and alumni for being lax about non-students being on campus as well. Through the late 1990's at least, a new, unregistered, or just plain bizarre student (chicken suit, real life Strawberry Shortcake, army uniform) could easily walk into many classrooms, sit down and look like they belonged there, and many professors - if they even noticed - didn't bat an eye and went right on teaching. Sometimes for weeks. Whether this was because they thought the student really did belong there, or because they just didn't bother kicking them out or questioning them, is up for debate. Many dorms and other campus institutions had similar policies whereby a non-student could just walk in, give someone a line about forgetting their ID card, and get a free meal by looking like they belonged there. Possibly a campus-level case of Weirdness Censor or even a miniature City of Weirdos.
    • Even at more buttoned-down institutions, most lectures work this way; so long as you're not disruptive, nobody would even notice if you're enrolled or not. You could easily accumulate much of a college education by just showing up to lectures, doing required readings, and asking questions of the professors, many of whom do not know their students' names. You would not, of course, be able to get any feedback on assignments, or more importantly, any credits toward a degree.
      • This is apparently something the singer Kesha made a habit of, simply walking into classrooms, listening (and participating) in lectures, and no one was the wiser.
  • There is an apocryphal story that goes something like this; there was a toll parking booth outside a city zoo, where a nice old man worked tirelessly for years. One day he stopped showing up for work, so the zoo informed the city council that they needed a new operative. The city council replied that they had assumed that he worked for the zoo. It was estimated that the man made off with at least several million.
    • The city in question was Bristol, UK.
  • A reporter used this technique to get into the Bohemian Club. Reports of tight security turned out to be heavily exaggerated as simply by wearing a business suit he was not only able to get in but ignore the only apparent security measure (a rule that everyone has to sign their name at the registry) without ever being questioned.
  • The pacifist Bloomsbury Group including writer-to-be Virginia Woolf famously disguised themselves as Abyssinian princes and "inspected" the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Dreadnought.
  • One man found he could get into any club without standing in line or paying cover charge by claiming he was a DJ. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well on the bus.
  • In 2004, Yale students managed to convince Harvard to spell out "We Suck" with cards during the middle of the Harvard-Yale game.
  • Rearranging the orange cones in a parking lot into maze like structures and watching frustrated drivers reactions is not funny whatsoever.
  • It is possible for common people to pose as certain companies to supply a DMCA takedown for certain videos. This has happened with Nyan Cat (After which the real Prguitarman stated he was not responsible for the takedown) and several videos from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic sufferent takedowns from Habsro Inc. This, and other cases, have been used as examples of the YouTube being too "cowardly" or some other adjective to check the claims for legitimacy. Of course, actually checking the claims one by one would cost a good deal of time and money.
  • In March 1986 eleven students from Harvey Mudd College showed up on Caltech campus and left with a century-old, 1.7 ton cannon. In broad daylight. They posed as construction crew and gave multiple different stories to people who asked, but the real trick was planting people whose job was to look like normal students who didn't think anything was wrong. Twenty years later MIT repeated the trick by posing as Howe & Ser Moving Company.

Notes

  1. "I'm on a secret mission for the President."
  2. "I'm sorry, Pilot Officer Mayhew"
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