If you say something that is patently ridiculous, you can get a good proportion of people - recent research suggests about 60% - to believe you. Providing you put on a suitably straight face. Or use made-up statistics (see first sentence).
I was reminded of this recently at work. A manager from another department called me. They were doing something in their office to celebrate some business achievement. The great and the good were going to be there, there would be pictures taken. Cake would be consumed. Did I know anyone who could organise some decorations? Banners, posters, helium balloons and the like. It's not something I get asked to do regularly, but I knew some local companies that could help. So I placed some calls and arrangements were made.
On the afternoon of the event itself, I received another call from the original manager. She thanked me for getting all the stuff delivered, but had one minor complaint.
"It's just a pity that these balloons are starting to deflate," she said. "They looked great this morning when everyone came in, and for the pictures, but now they're getting all wrinkly. Some of the girls wanted to take a couple home for their kids."
"Sorry to hear that," I replied, "you see, the supplier told me they're having a bit of a problem with the helium they use. Due to rising costs, they're using this new Chinese helium instead of the traditional European type. By all accounts the helium molecules are that bit smaller and they slip through the latex of the balloon much more readily."
"Really, is that so? I didn't know that, but now you've explained it, it makes perfect sense. You live and learn. Thanks for that." :click:
Who'd have thought the straight face routine would work so well over the phone too?