Thought he had 'caine but it was Gold Medal flour!"
Selling a "beat" bag is a form of the Short Con that involves representing a bogus product as a more valuable, but illegal product, such as oregano for marijuana, baking soda for heroin, or cubic zirconias for stolen diamonds.
The buyer cannot report the scam to the police, because he doesn't dare admit he was trying to buy the illegal item in the first place. The main push on these is often that the deal has to go down fast, for cash, right now.
Very much a case of Truth in Television, since many jurisdictions treat drug supply as a more serious offence than fraud, and since street dealers are unlikely to see their mark again after the con. Note, however, that many jurisdictions make selling fake drugs carry the same penalty (and in some cases, make it the same crime) as selling the real thing in order to prevent Loophole Abuse. In some jurisdictions, for drugs that aren't considered very serious it might even be a WORSE crime to sell fakes, due to adulteration laws.
If the buyer sees the genuine article, but that's not what they get, it's Good for Bad. For cases where the scam is reported to the police, see Stupid Crooks. Often criminals avoid this by doing a Fingertip Drug Analysis.
- In the British Comic Viz, Paul Whicker (The Tall Vicar), responds to his verger's suggestion that the forthcoming youth group disco would give them the chance to 'shift some Es and whiz' with a grin and "Or aspirins and Vim if the ugly truth be known" (Vim being a brand of scouring powder with a (very) superficial resemblance to powdered amphetamine).
- A very silly version of this in The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, when Fat Freddy tried to buy illicit sugar in the middle of a shortage.
Freewheelin' Franklin: You fat fool, you got burned AGAIN! This "sugar" is 90% heroin! It hardly makes the coffee sweet.
- One humor magazine (most likely Mad or Cracked) had a one-shot strip of three guys upset that the pot, cocaine and magic mushrooms they bought turned out to just be oregano, flour, and regular culinary mushrooms. One rhetorically asks "How are we supposed to party with this?!" Then all three of them get the same idea, and decide to use the stuff to make pizzas.
- Pinkie Pie manages to turn this one back on the scammer in Enduriance. It helps that she doesn't know purchasing durian is illegal.
Scammer: But you're going to give it to me. You don't have a choice.Pinkie: Why don't I have a choice?Scammer: Because if you don't pay it, I'm going to tell everypony you wanted to buy durian.Pinkie: So? I'd just tell them you offered to get it for me.
- In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Del Griffith manages to sell people shower curtain rings as something else, such as replicas of first-century-AD Chinese jewelry.
- Dirk and his friends attempt this on Rahad Jackson in Boogie Nights. They might have gotten away with passing off talcum powder as heroin if a coked-up Todd hadn't gotten more demanding, causing the whole scam to go horribly wrong.
- Performed in the movie Go, in which one of the characters sells harmless household products as drugs to inexperienced teens. This includes aspirin, chewable vitamins and anything else vaguely pharmaceutical they could obtain at the supermarket.
- At the beginning of A Few Good Men, Kaffee is defending a client who bought and smoked "a dime bag of oregano."
Dave: Well, your client thought it was marijuana.
Kaffee: My client's a moron, that's not against the law.
- In Back to the Future, Doc Brown passes off a "shoddy bomb casing full of old pinball machine parts" to a gang of Libyan nationalists in place of a nuclear weapon, then scarpers with their plutonium.
- In Meet the Feebles, Cedric has his agent Louie deliver borax to Bletch. Bletch is told it's cocaine, and promptly tests it on Dennis, killing him. After tasting the powder, Bletch discovers he's been double-crossed. He then has his goons force-feed Louie the borax, killing him as well.
- House of Games: The protagonist participate in a large-scale example. The intention is for the cons and a mark to "discover" a briefcase full of drug money. They can't simply divide the cash and leave without properly laundering the money. The banker mark can launder the money, but the cons say they don't trust him to send them their share when he's done, so they persuade him to buy out their share with his own money and keep the whole briefcase. Once he's given them his money, they'll swap the briefcase with an empty one just before leaving. The mark can't complain to the cops about being ripped off while trying to launder money.
- This apparently happens all the time to Mr. Tulip in the novel The Truth. "In a street where furtive people were selling Clang, Slap, Chop, Rhino, Skunk, Triplin, Floats, Honk, Double Honk, Gongers, and Slack, Mr. Tulip had an unerring way of finding the man who was retailing curry powder at what worked out as six hundred dollars a pound." Given he doesn't realize he keeps getting sold bags of household solvents, because snorting them doesn't seem to cause him any ill effects, it helps to show just how tough he is.
- Moist von Lipwig enjoys playing these (usually with fake jewelry) in Going Postal. He doesn't find it too immoral, because upstanding, honest people generally don't fall for his con; the marks who do fall for it are generally people who try to take advantage of his seeming naivety, and just use the fake goods for their own scam in turn.
- In Holes, X-Ray was arrested for selling drugs, but they turned out to be bags of chopped-up aspirin. Then he got arrested for selling aspirin without a pharmaceutical license.
- Played with in Spaced, with the oregano-for-weed variant. They weren't out to con anyone originally — everyone involved thought it was weed. Daisy had just got confused earlier and put their weed in a stew, while Tim was unknowingly carrying a bag of oregano when they were mugged. When a catering student among the muggers interrupts their Fake High to point out what they're really smoking, they confront Tim and Daisy again, convinced that they'd been the victim of this con - despite the fact that, as mentioned, they mugged the pair for it and didn't pay a penny.
- In The Pretender, a series where the No Social Skills protagonist does a Once an Episode thing of discovering something that people with normal childhoods take for granted, the episode "Silence" has him (A) discovering chocolate milk powder and (B) trying to bring down a drug pipeline transporting brown heroin. Near the end of the episode, he brings (A) and (B) together.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl and Randy wanted to take advantage of "special brownie night" at the Crab Shack. They switched the price tags on the brownies, so that those who wanted to buy the pot brownies ended up buying regular ones, and then Earl and Randy could sell the actual pot brownies later. Darnell intended to take the regular brownies to share with his mother, and is stopped by angry would-be stoners, who then proceeded to stone him. It was Biblical.
"Number [whatever] : Got Crabman stoned"
- In the Raising the Bar episode "Is There a Doctor in the House?", Kellerman's client, a middle-aged woman, was arrested because the police found a large quantity of white powder in her car. . . while she was on the way to the laundromat. After lab tests confirmed that the powder was laundry detergent, the police showed their customary regard for the law by charging the defendant with selling a one of these.
- The Wire:
- Bubbles steals a gang's ground stash, only to find the gang was selling baking soda. He feels extremely guilty, having seen the gang beat up some innocent addicts for his theft as he was escaping. At the end of season four when Bubbles prepares a hot shot of cyanide for a fiend who constantly attacks him for money and drugs, expecting the fiend to take it, shoot up and drop dead. The effort fails when the fiend misses Bubbles during the day and Sherrod steals Bubbles's stash that night, shooting up with the vial filled with cyanide.
- Makes a bold appearance at the end of season one when Savino turns himself in and accepts a three-year fraud conviction for trying to sell a few pounds of baking soda to Orlando. Considering that what he was really doing was participating in a conspiracy to kill Orlando which nearly killed Kima in a sting gone wrong, he got off exceptionally light.
- Downton Abbey: During post-war rationing, Thomas tries to get into the black market by buying a stock of smuggled food, but it turns out to be inedible.
- On the American version of The Office, Michael tries to frame Toby for drug dealing by planting marijuana on him. He tries to buy some from the warehouse guys and they sell him a bag of salad at a ridiculous price. For bonus points, it looks nothing like marijuana.
- Hustle: In "Law and Corruption", a Dirty Cop attempts to blackmail the crew into doing his dirty work by planting cocaine in Mickey's briefcase and arresting them. They turn the tables on him by managing to swap the cocaine for confectioners sugar while in jail. As Mickey points out, it is not illegal to be in possession of several kilos of confectioners sugar.
- In the second season of Hemlock Grove, Peter raises money for his mother's legal defense by selling some drug dealers fake hallucinogens and convincing them the drugs were real by turning into a wolf in front of them.
- A rare case of the drug being swapped for something worse occurs in The West Wing. Jean-Paul slips a sedative into Zoe's drink during her graduation party, thinking that it was Ecstasy. His dealer was paid off by terrorists who then kidnapped her.
- Barney Miller had a man arrested for marijuana possession go free because it turned out to be fake... after the man talked to another suspect (who claimed to be Jesus reincarnated) to do one of those miracles, "like when you made all those sandwiches." In this case it was more a reversal of water-to-wine, and the man, who just happens to be named Paul, rushes out to find "Jesus" again when he's freed.
- In one episode of CSI: Miami, Delko's sister/Caine's Love Interest Marisol is arrested buying weed (which she's using to self-medicate after chemo treatments). The quantity she bought pushes it up to a felony, when it just so happens three of the five bags the lab processed contain benign herbs. Of course the authorities figure Delko or Caine swapped out those bags to lessen her sentence, so Caine tracks down the dealer she bought them from and forces him to admit he'd sold her the fake product himself.
- One episode of My Family has the herbs-for-weed version. When Michael brings a joint home (which he didn't actually want, to be fair), Ben and Susan smoke half of it, get high, then prepare a fake using kitchen herbs so they can give him the Drugs Are Bad speech. When Michael, Acting Unnatural, gives it back to the girl who gave it to him, she rips it up and tells him that the guy she got it off had...been sold kitchen herbs instead of weed, making it recursive. Cut to Ben and Susan, lying somewhat stoned, having smoked the other half, wondering if that's oregano Susan can smell.
- An episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has the flour-for-cocaine variant, where Dee and Charlie try to return the cocaine they accidentally got from the mob after having eaten, sold, or otherwise lost a good chunk of it. Initially, their plan is to just cut it with flour, but they dump in a full bag so that the pile is more flour than cocaine. Naturally, this makes things worse for them, because as dumb as they are, even they recognize that the mob is probably going to figure out the switch quickly.
- This comes up in the folk song Quare Bungle Rye. Jack thinks he's getting smuggled whiskey, but the seller slips him a baby in a basket instead and runs off.
- Jim Croce in "Hard Time Losin' Man"
Well he sold me a dime of some super-fineDynamite from MexicoSpent all night tryin' to get rightOn an ounce of oregano
- Also comes up in The Offspring's "Mota"
Give the guy a twenty and wait in the car
He tosses me a baggie then he runs real far
I take a hit but it smells like a clove
Oh fuck I got a baggie of oregano
- In one Mad TV skit, Ms. Swan tries to go through customs with a bag of cannabis. After the officer tries to arrest her, he realizes it's oregano.
- In The Brig Society, Marcus Brigstocke describes smoking oregano as a teenager because he didn't want to admit he'd been conned. "It didn't get me high, but it did give me the munchies." He also described doing this without any intent to con on the part of the other person, like buying the perfume Opium because he thought it contained actual opium.
- An episode of Consider Your Verdict dealt with a trial during Prohibition where two businessmen sued a farmer who sold them two bottles of raspberry vinegar for an exorbitant price by implying it was bootleg booze. They lost because at no time had the farmer ever actually claimed it was anything other than raspberry vinegar. The judge also pointed out that even if he had, the businessmen were not entitled to compensation because they were committing a crime by attempting to buy alcohol.
- One urban legend tells of a man selling to another a machine supposedly printing Counterfeit Cash. In reality, it merely had a number of bills stashed inside. Some variations have the mark reporting the scam... only to get more years than the scammer.
- Franklin, Lamar and Trevor almost buy one of these in a mission in Grand Theft Auto V, when a drug dealer they are meeting with tries to sell them a "brick" that is mostly drywall, with just enough "product" on top for a convincing sample. Lamar (dumb and greedy) and Franklin (just wants to wrap up the deal he wanted no part of as quickly as possible) nearly fall for it, but Trevor, an experienced would-be drug kingpin, sees right through the con and rumbles the dealer.
- Part of Mat's romance path in Dream Daddy. While listening to some classic vinyls at his place, Mat and the player start reminiscing on their "rebellious teenager" days, and, wanting to relive the authentic experience, decide to go out and try to buy pot to smoke. However they're both so out-of-touch with how drugs are sold these days that, even in a state where marijuana is legal, the only "dealer" they can find sells them a bag of oregano instead.
- Octopus Pie alludes to the oregano/weed switch in one story.
- In The Venture Bros., when Doc Venture was in college (with several other characters), Baron Underbeit gave another friend oregano to smoke claiming it was a rare drug from his homeland. Unbeknownst to Underbeit, the poor sap was allergic.
- When Archer is buying medication to treat his breast cancer, he ends up with "basically candy-corn and Zima" instead of chemotherapy drugs. The weed for treating his nausea... was actually weed, surprisingly. He gets on the correct drugs and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the suppliers, severely complicated by the effects of finally getting on the correct drugs.