You've got an important document you need signed, but the mark will refuse if you tell him what it is. What to do?
If they are vain, the answer's simple: Ask him for his autograph on this piece of paper you happen to have with you.
Or there is the Bait and Switch, where you pretend it is a different document, or even hand the paper to someone who is too distracted to read what he is signing.
Compare Read the Fine Print
, where the person knows they are signing a contract and do not or cannot read all of the contract.
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Can I Have Your Autograph?
- There was an old series of advertisements for a mobile phone service where an American filmstar is tricked into signing a document that basically agrees to make him a skanky woman's slave. "Get more minutes without signing your life away."
- In one Jo, Zette and Jocko story, the two children are signing autographs after a heroic feat, when unbeknownst to them a prewritten confession saying they didn't do anything is given their signature.
- In Charlie Chaplin's satire A King in New York, King Shahdov is tricked this way into attending his hearing at the HUAC tribunal.
- In the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is how they tricked the President of the Galaxy (the vain Zaphod Beeblebrox) into authorizing the destruction of Earth.
- This trick is used to get Eddie Cantor to sign a contract in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943).
- In Big Time Rush, James got conned this way by his self-proclaimed "biggest fan". Then Katie did it to him again at the end of the episode
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: Every year Rob is coerced and/or corraled into directing & starring in the local PTA's annual fundraising show. After the show one year, which he stated would be absolutely the last time he'd do it, the president of the PTA asks for his autograph on her program to commemorate the show. He gives her the autograph, after which she announces that he'd just signed a contract to direct the next year's show.
Rob: She got me again!
- Jonathan Creek: In "Gorgons Wood", Carla is signing copies of of her new work-out video and a woman with a small child asks if she could take a picture of her with her nephew on Carla’s knee. Turns out that the "nephew" is a grown man. The whole thing is distraction so she wouldn't notice that she is signing a contract allowing them to license "all forms of sexual erotica, however explicit, bearing my name, face or likeness"..
- In the Marisa Berenson episode of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy plots to marry Kermit by casting him in a wedding skit and hiring a real priest. Her accomplice Scooter gets Kermit's signature on the marriage licence by telling him a sob story about a dear little old lady in the audience who wants his autograph for her sick grandson.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" inverts this: When travelling back in time and posing as a member of the original Enterprise's crew, Sisko obtains the legendary Captain Kirk's autograph by having him sign a duty roster.
- In The Goon Show episode "The Policy", Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty ask Neddie to give them his autograph on a piece of paper that's actually a will leaving them all his money. When he asks why the piece of paper has "Will" written at the top, Grytpype-Thynne explains that that's its name.
- In the original radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is how the Frogstar Prisoner Relations Officer tricks Zaphod into signing a release form agreeing to be shoved into the Total Perspective Vortex.
- There was a demotivational poster to this effect: The picture was Ronaldo giving autographs while the caption said: "During an autograph session with Polish fans, Ronaldo unexpectedly signed a life contract with Arka Gdynia."
- In the Rocky and Bullwinkle story line "Painting Theft", Boris uses this trick to get Bullwinkle to sign a will making Boris the moose's sole heir.
- Inverted in The Simpsons episode "Bart the Fink", Bart connives to get Krusty's autograph by sending him a check and waiting to get his autograph when the cancelled check comes through. It doesn't work out quite as planned, since Krusty signs his checks with the name of his Cayman Islands holding corporation.
Bait and Switch
- In an Archie Comic, Reggie decides to write up a petition protesting litter on the beach. Archie is eager to be the first to sign it, so Reggie has him sign it with a nice and large signature before he's even drawn up the petition content. Evilhearted Reggie then writes up a love note to an anonymous girl. With Archie's signature below it, the note is sure to unleash Betty and Veronica's wrath.
- Used in The Spanish Prisoner as part of a Frame-Up. The hero is rushed to sign a club membership in order to enter a restaurant. He should have read it first. He's been duped to appear to be ready to skip the country with a fortune. And the police fall for it.
- The "Development Arrested" episode of Arrested Development had Maeby trying to get the family to sign away their life-rights for a movie she needed to make. Lucille needed them to sign a paper promising them money if they didn't sell their shares, so Maeby just puts those papers under hers and starts offering the family money to sign.
- One time on Hogan's Heroes Kinch had pulled the "put a blank piece of paper in a big pile of papers to sign" trick on Col. Klink, so he just happens to have a blank paper with Klink's signature for the plot du jour.
- In the first three seasons, Henry Blake was often tricked into signing some kind of requisition, or pass, or anything for whatever Zany Scheme Hawkeye and Trapper had cooked up.
- Radar apparently made a habit of having Col. Potter sign blank pieces of paper, which he could then use to submit routine letters or requests without bothering Potter about them. Unusually, Potter apparently knew what he was doing and didn't mind.
- The Office (US) "Stress Relief": Dwight resorts to increasingly desperate tactics to get people to sign a letter of recognition that he paid due apologies for pretending there was a fire in the office, such as pretending they need to sign the paper for a delivery or need to sign in to a party.
- Reaper: In "My Brother's Reaper", Sam had to get a guy to sign the contract for his soul, so he slipped it in with a delivery receipt. Unfortunately for Sam, the guy knew what he was up to and signed it with an alias.
- In one Droopy cartoon, a competitor in a sports contest set up a fake psychic reading tent and asked for Droopy's signature to get a reading off it. Turns out he tricked him into signing a document confessing to cheating and forfeiting.
- Gravity Falls: In "Little Dipper", Lil' Gideon tries to trick Stan into signing away the deed to the Mystery Shack by hiding it in a giant novelty sweepstakes check. Stan was onto him and signed it "Go suck a lemon, little man." In the credits scene, another person arrives at the door, genuinely telling Stan he's won $10 million. Stan simply closes the door in disgust