This occurs when a character or group of characters in a narrative are repeatedly able to use their money as "persuasion" for anyone in their way, with little to no resistance from those being bribed. Whether it's getting past the guards at the Supervillain Lair or retrieving vital information from the local townsfolk, these characters always find that money is the universal negotiator. This act of shameless coercion is obviously based on the Stock Phrase and heroes and villains alike, it seems, are never shy about finding out what "every man's" price is.
Since large sums of cash can be required for their bribes, it is common to see a character pull out a Briefcase Full of Money when invoking this trope, but this is certainly not required. It is not required that the bribes involve actual cash either, and they can include anything from delicious candy to gratuitous sexual favors.
Note that this trope does not mean a character simply bribes someone during the plot threads. It is only indicative of characters who frequently use bribes to coerce others with impunity. Particularly horrendous abusers of this trope show characters that can regularly bribe their Mooks or other characters to do damn near anything, even with situations where the payment would certainly not be worth the risk or loss (such as jobs with a near-guarantee of death or dismemberment).
A subtrope of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, although the character doesn't necessarily have to be richer than anybody else.
Compare Buy Them Off, where a character attempts to use a form of bribery to atone for evil actions, and Villain with Good Publicity, for characters who take bribery, coercion, and fraud to a whole different level. Contrast Bribe Backfire, which is what happens when the briber underestimates the price and/or integrity of his/her target and Money Is Not Power, where the situation may be bad enough (or the person is driven enough) that whatever "the price" may be, it is not possible to pay with money (and most certainly will doom a "rich" character).
- Excel Saga: Kapabu's control of Fukuoka City is founded entirely on bribery and blackmail.
- Early in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga, Kaiba was known to use both bribery and blackmail to get what he wanted. (In the manga, he even admitted he got his three Blue-Eyes White Dragons cards this way.) Mokuba intended to do the same thing in the manga (he was far more evil in that version than he was in the anime, at least early on). Kaiba mellowed on this a little as the series progressed (he stopped using methods that were outright illegal, but he still tended to use his wealth to his advantage).
- Of course, as bad as Kaiba was, his adoptive father was much worse. To Gozuburo's thinking, money was the answer to everything, and there was nothing that couldn't be bought. (That was a big factor that led to Kaiba taking him down the first time, come to think of it.)
- This Trope was inverted in the episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX that featured one-shot character Anacis. An incredibly wealthy man (among his possessions were a gold-and-gem-encrusted Duel Disk and a submarine with a private dueling arena) he was also a very shallow and arrogant man who thought anyone could be bought. Unfortunately for him, his attempt to recruit Judai into his new project through bribery (even though the amount he offered was the equivalent of over a million dollars) failed; Judai's loyalty to Duel Academy and his allies was more important than money.
- In the Alternate Universe of Code Geass, Benjamin Franklin was bribed by the British Empire with titles of nobility. He then betrayed the American Revolutionary movement. With the information provided by him, the British army organized an ambush where George Washington was killed, thus bringing the American Revolution to a screeching halt.
- Used constantly in the 3rd chapter of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stardust Crusaders by Joseph Joestar. Like in the example image of the trope, there are many times when Mr. Joestar solves problems by throwing money at them. Including, but not limited to, buying a car to trade for camels, buying an airplane, bribes, a goddamn submarine, and buying a car in the middle of a life or death fight to use as a getaway vehicle. Not to mention all the hospital visits.
- Inverted by the God Hand in Berserk, they believe that anyone can be brought to a point so low that they would give up anything to escape it, and are usually right.
- Magic: The Gathering: In addition to the monger cards, and the new legend rule (wherein playing a second copy is bribing the character to leave), this is the default behavior of black, which uses everything as a resource.
- Perhaps the best proof of this is Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, who is able to buy off anyone (except those with Hexproof, Shroud, an applicable Protection effect, or Tatterkite). Mercenaries, soldiers, spies, bats, vampires, evil robots, dragons, Lovecraftian horrors, anyone, doesn't matter, Gwafa Hazid has enough money to pay them off.
- During Grant Morrison's run on JLA, Lex Luthor recruited mercenary The Flash villain Mirror Master as part of his Injustice League. Mirror Master ultimately quit the team; his loyalties were always to the highest bidder, and Luthor was ultimately outbid... by Bruce Wayne.
- Also a rare usage of this trope as a Pet the Dog moment, Luthor couldn't outbid Wayne because Wayne was giving the money to Mirror Master's favorite charity: an orphanage he grew up in.
- In Violine, the Zongo customs official takes the bribe after being offered enough money.
- X-Men foe the Juggernaut is known and feared for being an unstoppable, invulnerable villain who crushes anything in his path. However, one surefire way to stop him (assuming he's working as a hired gun, and not pursuing a personal vendetta) is to offer him more cash than his current employer is offering.
- Zig-zagged and subverted for laughs in The Powerpuff Girls story "Everything Must Go." Mojo Jojo is having a yard sale of all his weapons and robots. Ms. Keane is eyeing one of his robots but notices its rather steep price tag ($2 million). Mojo vehemently defends his pricing saying it was labor intensive and he's even selling it at a loss. Ms. Keane offers 75 cents for it. Mojo takes it.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Professor Oak suffers severe financial problems, which sometimes force him to do things he doesn't like to keep his lab afloat and continue his research work. This is established as early as the second chapter, when he's forced to give starter Pokémon to a pair of twins when their father (who is an important politician) threatens to cut his funds.
- In Helluva Job, Blitzo tries to bring up professional integrity while denying St. Anger's use of the grimoire to get to Earth, but is shut up when Anger shows him a check worth a lot of money.
- Miss Piggy in The Rainbow Connection paid Shinji's teacher enough money to give up his guardianship of Shinji over to her and lie to Gendo about it, despite the teahcer knowing exactly how Gendo would react.
- Invoked by Percival C. McLeach in The Rescuers. Counts as a subversion, since he speaks of it but never actually does it.
- McLeach: Everyone's got his price. All I gotta do is offer him whatever he wants... and then not give it to him.
- Of course, what Cody wants is for the Eagle and her eggs to be safe and he knows telling McLeach will ensure that will not happen. McLeach realizes that he doesn't care about the eggs, he just wants the Eagle and wants the to kill the eggs to have the last poached eagle of her species. Cody wants both... additionally he wants his own freedom. So McLeach releases Cody, telling him that the Eagle was shot this morning and it was on the radio. Cody, with this knowledge, goes straight to the nest, only to learn that the eggs and the eagle are safe... but true to his word, McLeach didn't give him what he wanted. McLeach followed this trope so well, the audience didn't realize it.
McLeach: I didn't make it all the way to the Third Grade for nothing!
- Most of the James Bond films feature him using both financial and "non-financial" bribery to further his cause, meaning that the cumulative amount of bribes he has performed over the years is staggering.
- Licence to Kill specifically features a villain known for his "million dollar bribes". His Dragon betrays Felix Leiter to help him escape at the beginning of the film for 2 million. Bond is not amused.
- Casino Royale (2006) has a local sheriff whom both MI6 and the Big Bad will want to influence. Bond's contact, Mathis, decides not to start a bidding war and instead forges evidence that they had successfully bribed the sheriff and leaks the evidence to the deputy sheriff, whom Mathis had bribed at a relatively cheap price. It's not always the highest bidder who wins.
- GoldenEye has an example where Bond sets up a bank heist with Valentin Zukovsky in order to pay him off for setting him up with Janus. Considering Bond nearly crippled him years before, it went well.
- This is the reason behind the title The World Is Not Enough and the Bond family motto "Orbus Non Sufficat" (first mentioned in On Her Majesty's Secret Service), i.e. that to bribe Mr. Bond himself, paying him the world would not be enough. Title Dropped near the end of the movie, too.
- The frequency and relative ease with which the protagonist in Les Invasions Barbares bribes the people around him to make his father's last weeks the best he can is both funny and rather depressing.
- Jurassic Park: Dr. Alan Grant is primarily focused on his excavation work, but he can be persuaded to go to the dinosaur islands for the right price. In Jurassic Park, John Hammond offers to fund his team's digs for the next three years if he goes to Isla Nublar, while in Jurassic Park III, Paul Kirby basically offers him a blank check to be his tour guide on a flight over Isla Sorna. While Hammond's offer is apparently sincere, Kirby is actually scamming Grant in a desperate attempt to find his missing son.
- The corporate executive in Small Soldiers solves all problems by throwing money at them. At the end of the film, he passes out cheques to everybody involved to get them to keep quiet about what happened. One of them protests that you can't just buy people's silence like that, then reads the amount of the cheque and decides that actually you can.
- Yuri Orlov in Lord of War says at one point that he has never met a single border guard unwilling to look away for a moment in return for an envelope full of US dollars.
- He does note however, that some people - like the Interpol agent who takes a personal interest in him - can't be bought with money.
They say every man has his price - but not every man gets it. Interpol Agent Jack Valentine couldn't be bought, at least not with money. For Jack, glory was the prize.
- He does note however, that some people - like the Interpol agent who takes a personal interest in him - can't be bought with money.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
"Every man has a price he will willingly accept. Even for what he hoped never to sell."
- Cutler Beckett actually quotes this Trope, after he forces Governor Swann to devote all his influence and political power to support the East India Trading Company.
- This line also feeds into Davey Jones's M.O., which involves finding dying soldiers and offering them a prolonged life if they spend it serving on The Flying Dutchman.
- Even Davey Jones in the second film has a price as Jack manages to negotiate him into an offer of 100 souls in exchange for his own.
Jack: So, we've established my proposal as sound in principle. Now, we're just haggling over price.
- In S.W.A.T. a French drug lord is arrested in Los Angeles and announces on national TV that he is offering a 100 million dollar reward to anyone who can free him from police custody. Chaos erupts as multiple gangs and other lowlifes try to break him out. The titular SWAT team is tasked with delivering the prisoner to a federal prison and he offers them the money to help him escape. One of the SWAT members finds the money to be too much of a temptation and betrays the team.
- The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) shows Monte Cristo's servant driving a wagon up to the manor of a Parisian. He tells the owner that he is there to purchase the man's huge ancestral estate, and is laughed at heartily—until the servant opens the back of the wagon, out of which pour coins, huge gems and other treasure. Cut to the man driving off with the wagon, and the servant with deed in hand.
- Shepard Lambrick in Would You Rather invokes this trope almost verbatim, as he coaxes his guests through a series of challenges benign at first (offering $10,000 to a vegetarian to eat some foie gras, for instance), then becoming more and more sadistic (how much pain will you subject yourself - or a complete stranger - to in order to "win?").
- In The Death of Stalin, a pianist refuses to replay a concerto so it can be recorded for Stalin, because Stalin had her family murdered. Until...
Director: Ten thousand roubles.
- Runaway Jury involves an ample amount of Jury and Witness Tampering by the lawyers defending a firearm manufacturer in a negligence lawsuit, and they're frustrated over the interference in their machinations by one juror and his outside accomplice, who offers each side a guaranteed win for a $15 million payment. The Reveal is that, despite accepting the defense's payment, the jury still voted against them - Nick never had control of the jury to begin with. He just wanted to counter the defense's interference in the measure, and ensure that the lawyer retired from practice due to the sleazy tactics he'd employed when his accomplice (actually his girlfriend)'s mother tried to sue another firearm manufacturer a few years earlier.
- Would You Rather revolves around this, as every person invited to the Fancy Dinner has some urgent need for the money the host is willing to provide - but the Deadly Game can only have a single winner. The host even name-drops the trope at the start of the night, demonstrating by offering a vegetarian guest $10,000 to eat meat for the first time in years, and a recovered alcoholic turns down $10,000 for a glass of wine... but not $50,000 to down an entire decanter of Scotch.
- At a party, a man asks a woman:
"A hypothetical question: Would you sleep with me for one billion dollars?""Wow, that's a lot of money... yes, I guess I would.""Would you sleep with me for five dollars?""Just what sort of a girl do you think I am?!""We've already settled that. Now we're just haggling over price."
- A lobbyist working a state legislature gets wind of a bill that would go against his clients' interests, so he goes around offering campaign funds to willing legislators to drop the bill. A particular official is tricky to get but the lobbyist finally gets him to commit with a $10,000 donation. When the bill comes to a floor vote, the lobbyist is outraged to watch that official vote for the bill. He angrily confronts the man later on to find out the opposition had paid him off with a $50,000 donation. The lobbyist keeps cursing out the legislator, who finally shrugs and answers "you knew I was weak when I took the ten thousand."
- The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: Richard and Gwen bribe their way around Luna, kind of justified since they're "on the lam."
- Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy:
- "The General (Foundation)":
- Privy Secretary Brodrig tells Lathan Devers that he has somehow resisted the General's Mind Probe, but that he has a better one, one which 'can make any man talk'. Brodrig's Probe turns out to be a big wad of cash credits; he bribes Devers to tell him what the General is really trying to do.
- Subverted Trope when Devers and Barr are bribing their way up the chain of Imperial bureaucrats (nobility would have been faster, but their price is beyond the budget). Just a couple of bureaucrats away from the Emperor, the one they're bribing turns out to be a quite incorruptible Imperial Police Lieutenant. The police had noticed their efforts at bribing the lower-ranked officials and arranged a sting operation.
- "The Merchant Princes": Secretary Jorane Sutt comes to Trader Hober Mallow and tries to convince him to switch over to his camp. The trader remarks that his opinions might be for sale, but the politician isn't offering him profit. Sutt is unable to offer a price high enough to satisfy Mallow so he leaves, threatening to ruin the trader.
- "Search By The Foundation": When the police are searching the airport for Arkady, the Palvers secretly offer five hundred credits to let them through without problems. Arkady, however, is convinced that the police wouldn't have done that unless releasing her was intentional. She's right; the police lieutenant was a spy for the Foundation working on Kalgan, and merely wanted to establish that she had successfully escaped the planet. Her father is quickly informed so that he wouldn't worry when war between the Foundation and Kalgan begins.
- "The General (Foundation)":
- Mara, Daughter of the Nile: This is basically Sheftu's life philosophy, and he's proven right time and again, only for him to discover Mara is being tortured because she refused to betray him for a bribe.
- The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Has one chapter, "How to Pass a Bribe," where the entire outline seems to be written for a scenario revolving around the reader getting in trouble with a customs official while attempting to smuggle goods out of a third-world country.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Tej's father questions her about what it would take to coopt Ivan into using his lineage to the Arqua family's benefit. Tej explains that Ivan has no ambition, thinks ambition dangerous and that what he wants is comfort (which of course he already has too much to risk). The same is asked of Simon and Ivan is amazed at the idea that Simon could be purchasable. In fact, Simon was purchasable in a way; Simon didn't think the project would hurt Barrayar, was interested in getting an ally for Barryar's future covert-ops, had a personal interest in keeping the Obnoxious In-Laws from interfering in Ivan's new marriage, and he was just plain bored.
- Memory demonstrates that other bribes besides the normal money, sex, power, revenge, etc, are quite common by telling an ImpSec war story of how an agent was assigned to get an elephant because a foreign diplomat had asked for that as the price of his favor in negotiations. Simon says he could not tell whether or not it was a joke but an elephant was requested and an elephant was given. In the end he decided the diplomat really did want the elephant, as he meticulously cared for it personally and took it home with him when he left.
Simon: It expanded my world view, ever after. Money, power, sex . . . and elephants.
- The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth. British mining tycoon Sir James Manson ponders this trope, concluding "If they cannot be bought, they can be broken." Unfortunately for his plans, the mercenary he's hired to overthrow an African dictatorship for his own puppet ruler proves otherwise as he's Secretly Dying.
- The entire point of Terry Southern's satirical novel The Magic Christian, as well as its film adaptation.
- A Song of Ice and Fire. Tyrion Lannister believes this, coming as he does from the richest family in Westeros. Unfortunately he makes an enemy of his own sister the Queen Regent who is able to outbid him in power and wealth.
- In the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization The Dagger Affair, the Affably Evil THRUSH leader Ward Baldwin that Waverly, Solo and Kuryakin are temporarily allied with makes the point that not all prices are in money. For example, Waverley's price is furthering certain moral ideals and one that can never be met by THRUSH. He notes that even in THRUSH, money is the lowest price; the elite get paid in power. He goes on to say that men who truly have no price are inherently unpredictable and dangerous in the extreme—like the potential threat to all life on earth that they have allied to defeat.
- In The Codex Alera this idea is acknowledged with regards to the Grey Tower, a reportedly impenetrable prison meant to hold powerful magic users. The men assigned there are some of the most reputable and hard to bribe men in the service. Add to that, anyone who tries, the guard can turn, report the attempted bribe and be paid double it by the government. So, while every man has a price, the government just makes sure they are the highest bidder.
- Played for laughs in Charlie Wilson's War when a Swiss Arms Dealer offers Gust Avrakotos a lucrative job at his company when he leaves the CIA. Gust bluntly tells him to stick it up his ass. Not put out in the slightest, the Swiss then asks if Gust likes blondes. "Well, that's different."
- Ender's Game: In Speaker for the Dead, Ender needs to get out to a remote colony world to which no flights are scheduled for a few decades. So, he (through his AI Jane) simply buys a local freight ship and all its cargo for $90 billion. His wealth is such that he can do things like that without even noticing.
- In the Heralds of Valdemar series, it's repeatedly noted that even the incorruptible Heralds can be bribed. It's just that the sort of person who would bribe a Herald wouldn't be the sort of person who could think of a bribe that would work.
- Comes up from time to time in the Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption novella from Different Seasons. In a prison setting, inmates can be convinced to do anything for the right (even meager) reward.
- The contraband smuggler Red is reluctant to try sneaking a rock hammer to Andy, but agrees when promised ten dollars (eight for the hammer and two more as interest).
- When the rapist Bogs Diamond is found beaten half to death in his cell, Red reasons that it was probably Andy, his victim, who had enough hidden cash to bribe a guard for the key and a couple more guys for the beating.
- Tommy agrees to cover up evidence of Andy's innocence in exchange for being sent to a more comfortable prison. The film adaptation instead has him trying to help Andy, only to get shot for his trouble.
- This is the standard MO of The Count of Monte Cristo. It almost fails when he struggles to persuade an unambitious and scrupulously honest telegraph operator to accept a bribe.
- In the Nero Wolfe story Immune to Murder, Wolfe says that everyone has their price, but his is well beyond anyone who might want to bribe him.
- Averted Trope in The Bourne Identity when Jason Bourne is caught by men Carlos has paid to kill him.
"Suppose I paid you. You were at the bank; you know I've got funds."
"Probably millions, but I wouldn't touch a franc note."
"Why? Are you afraid?"
"Most assuredly. Wealth is relative to the amount of time one has to enjoy it. I wouldn't have five minutes."
- Game of Thrones: A matter-of-fact principle of the Lannisters that occasionally gets subverted.
- In "Walk Of Punishment", Jaime plays it well with a seemingly agreeable Locke only for Locke to cut off his hand; this sadistic act on one of the arrogant highborn he despises giving Locke more satisfaction than any amount of gold.
- It is totally subverted in Season 4 when the Lannisters find themselves in debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos. When Queen Cersei tells her father Tywin Lannister to find someone at the bank to bribe or bully, he replies that the Iron Bank won't respond or bend to such tactics.
- Mission: Impossible:
- "The Play": When escaping from the People's Republic of Tyranny Vitol Enzor bribes the border guard checkpoint commander and tells Jim that bribe money solves any problem in an Eastern Europe nation-state. See recaps here, here, here, and here.
- "The Pawn": Phelps offers an indirect bribe to the KGB officer who is guarding the nuclear scientist Phelps has been assigned to extract. He is threatened with deportation by the KGB officer who sees through his Obfuscating Stupidity and orders more surveillance. However, Phelps knew the KGB officer could not be bribed and used the conversation to manipulate the officers emotions.
- Later Phelps uses fake evidence to convince the commissar that the KGB officer is about to defect. This evidence includes United States currency. The commissar believes this evidence since the KGB officer resembled Patton in their behavior and personality. In addition, at the beginning of the episode, Phelps says that if they are successful the KGB officer will be sent to a prison camp for failure. Therefore, it can be assumed that the officer was already under suspicion, the fake evidence simply proved the disloyalty.
- Cop Rock: the mayor accepts a bribe in exchange for awarding a building contract Cop Rock - You Know You're The One
- This was subverted by Diane in one episode, but she came very close to succumbing. When it was clear than an employer offering her a new job likely wanted sexual favors from her (he asked Sam, who was acting as a reference, whether he had seen her naked) she grabbed the phone and yelled at him:
- In another early episode, this is combined with An Offer You Can't Refuse. Norm's boss offered him the position of their company's "corporate killer". (The guy in charge of firing people, not exactly a much sought-after position.) He told Norm that there was a large raise involved, and that he'd be fired if he didn't accept it. Norm's stern response:
Norm: Sir, I cannot be threatened... And I cannot be bought... But... Put the two together and you've got a deal.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- There is a very well done moment in the episode "In the Pale Moonlight" where Sisko has to bribe Quark to cover up the crimes of someone involved in a covert mission. Quark accepts, smugly pointing out that this trope cuts both ways: Quark is openly willing to let criminals go free for money, but Sisko is willing to do the same if the cause is important enough. The only difference is where they set their price. Sisko looks really uncomfortable through the entire scene.
- Specifically, this trope (verbatim) is the 98th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition, a motto to live by.
- Conversely, there is an old Ferengi proverb that Quark quotes in the episode "Armageddon Game" when he (and everyone else) believes that O'Brien and Bashir are dead: "Good customers are as rare as latinum; cherish them."
- The Expanded Universe eventually revealed that the Ferengi language has a number of different words for "no", each one indicating how much latinum it would take to make it into a "yes".
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: London Tipton exhibits this and also appears in spin-off The Suite Life on Deck.
- Burn Notice:
- Michael explains that is possible to bribe even the most upstanding officials. To do so, convince them you think the bribe is a standard fee and make yourself as thoroughly unlikeable as possible so that they don't feel bad for ripping you off and making themselves a few bucks richer.
- In one memorable episode, Michael tries to bribe a foreign official, who responds by pulling a gun on Michael and immediately tries to have Michael arrested. After Michael gets away, they then have Fiona approach the official by pretending to be a CIA agent trying to catch Michael, and offers to "cover expenses" if he plays along with their sting. Michael comments that convincing someone that they can make money by doing the right thing even works on the incorruptible.
- Married... with Children: Mr. Shimokawa (Marcy's boss) collects American classic "junk" and wants to add Al's car into the collection. Marcy will gain her so desired promotion if she persuades Al to sell it. (They can't get another car of that kind because half had been recalled and the other dissolved in rain) When Al finally agreed, Mr. Shimokawa commented he knew every man had his price. Al said every woman had it as well. Marcy had to make a sensual dance and Mr. Shimokawa offered the promotion because of how sexy she was. She then subverted the trope by beating her boss and calling it her resignation.
- Rhodes (1996). Cecil Rhodes discusses this trope with an idealistic underling. As with the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. example, he also points out that not every price is in money; for instance the missionary groups he's working with to advance British colonialism are dedicated to the spread of Christianity.
- In Servant of the People, the oligarchs are firm believers in this and do their best to corrupt the new government.
- Person of Interest. Harold Finch discovers a politician they are protecting is in the pocket of Decima Technologies, who want him to pass legislation favourable to them. Finch offers to match their price from his Arbitrarily Large Bank Account, but the politician refuses. He believes the legislation is the best thing for the country, and if he's making money on the side, well that's just a fringe benefit.
- Kingdom Adventure: Pitts makes this assumption when he tries to purchase Keena's watering can. Keena doesn't trust him and doesn't accept his offer, even when he offers 50 silver coins!
- In the second season of Luke Cage (2016), Luke tells an Italian mob boss that he can't be bought. She points out that he can't say that conclusively, all he can say for a fact is that nobody has found his price yet. In a very roundabout way it turns out Luke does have his price: peace for Harlem, free of the outside mobs.
Luke: I can't be bought.
Rosalie Carbone: You can't answer that truthfully yet, sweetheart. You don't know your price yet.
- Daredevil (2015). In "Shadows In The Glass", Wilson Fisk wants Detective Hoffman to kill his partner Blake, which he's reluctant to do because they've been friends for 35 years. Fisk implies that Hoffman will be killed if he refuses and someone else will then kill his friend anyway, so the only question is how much money will be needed to ease Hoffman's conscience.
Fisk: How much are each of those years worth to you? In round figures.
- Used by Roger Waters in "Three Wishes", following Record Producer Bob Ezrin's decision to return to producing the now Waters-less Pink Floyd.
Each man has his price, BobAnd yours was pretty low.
- Waters (during the peak of his feud with his ex-bandmates) claimed the line was a lighthearted in-joke referencing Bob Dylan and his singing style, sung similarly to Dylan, but he didn't mind if anyone took it as a jab at Ezrin.
- Ezrin was asked by Waters in 1986 to produce Radio KAOS, but Bob refused to as Roger left Ezrin no time for his family. Ezrin later took the Floyd gig as David Gilmour catered more to Ezrin's needs. Roger felt very betrayed by the decision, especially as Waters was in litigation with Gilmour over the rights to the Pink Floyd brand name.
- Calvin and Hobbes: Discussed by the duo in one strip during their wagon ride. Calvin claims his price is: "Two bucks cold cash up front"
Hobbes: I don't know which is worse: that everyone has their price, or that the price is always so low.Calvin: I'd make mine higher, but it's hard enough to find buyers as it is.
- Ted DiBiase's character in WWE bribed quite a few people during his time as a wrestling Heel, to the point that it actually became his routine. His Catchphrase, also the first line in his entrance theme, was "Everybody's got a price".
- The Godfather bribed opponents as well, though with "hos" instead of money.
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Edinburgh", Martin refuses to humiliate himself groveling to Mr. Birling for £500. £6000, however, is another matter entirely. Unfortunately, Martin's terrible luck holds out.
- Traveller campaign supplement The Traveller Adventure. The section "Zilan Wine" says that PCs can bribe every single government official on the planet Zila, no exceptions.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In the Planescape campaign setting, it's possible to get almost anything you want in Sigil through bribery - information, special treatment from a service, entrance into a place you couldn't otherwise get into, even getting the town watch to look the other way (depending on how honest he is). Probably nowhere in the universe is the expression "money talks" more true than there.
- White Dwarf magazine #42 article "Irilian". Almost everyone in the town of Irilian can be bribed. The article lists each Non-Player Character's "bribe level" (the minimum amount necessary to bribe that character). If the Player Character pays more money, the chance of successfully bribing the NPC increases: each additional payment equal to the bribe level increases the success chance by 20%.
- Warhammer Fantasy
- Greasus Goldtooth is apparently rich enough to bribe any enemy into incompetence thanks to controlling and extracting a considerable tax on anyone using the Warhammer equivalent of the Silk Road, which runs through his territory. This includes most royal guards and is actually one of his special abilities.
- There's also the Lore of Slaanesh spell from the End Times update. Song of Seduction allows a Slaaneshi sorcerer to tempt any enemy unit into switching sides using this trope, even using the Trope Name in its description. "Every man has his price, even if he knows it not, and Slaanesh's wizards can divine such things whilst magic flows strong."
- Exalted's Solar charm Knowing the Soul's Price allows you to do exactly that by revealing the one thing for which its target will do anything. The charm description, however, states that although every man has his price, this price is not necessarily money, and that it is more likely both to be really high and not to be money for persons with high moral standards.
- This is the hat of the Syndicate from Mage: The Ascension. Their Enlightened science focuses on manipulating economies and individuals through the flow of money and valuable resources; the more powerful ones can literally break reality by throwing money at it. "Hey, fire hydrant! I'll give you two hundred dollars if you'll become a flamethrower!"
- In Knickerbocker Holiday, the Councilmen distribute hush-money to people who ask troublesome questions, including each other.
- In The Mikado, Pooh-Bah would be insulted if you offered him a bribe, and mortified at the prospect of working for a salary. However, as a man of high moral principles, he is grateful for every such opportunity to practice self-abasement.
- The player in Beyond Castle Wolfenstein can bribe any of the elite troops guarding Hitler's bunker with a few Marks if you don't have a legitimate pass.
- Any machine in the first BioShock can be bought out with a cash payment — vending machines, health stations, and even security drones.
- The Diplomat unit in the original Civilization could buy off enemy units. When the government type is Democracy, it is a quite efficient way to weaken the enemies' resistance.
- Similarly, the Probe Team unit in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri can take over enemy units by spending a certain amount of money, although it seems that this involves a bit of mind control as well. Probe Teams can also do this to whole bases (cities), as well.
- The allied Spy unit in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 can buy the loyalty of enemy units, who switch sides permanently.
- Getting approval from the demon assembly in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is far easier with bribes (and helpfully tells you when a senator wants or doesn't want an item for a bribe). Of course, considering you're in the Netherworld, this has nothing to do with corruption: if a senator doesn't want to support you and you don't want to bribe them, you can beat the crap out of them too. It's just a normal way of doing business.
- Unfortunately, the system was completely broken. Even if you bribed a senator fully onto your side, it was still totally random if they would vote for you when the election happened - the percentage just went up a negligible amount for every rank in your favor you moved them. It also made other senators jealous, lowering their favor between the current vote and the next. And beating them up shot their approval of you down. The Dark Assembly was a massive Scrappy Mechanic.
- By Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness the senators have stopped beating around the bush; you can simply pay out a large amount of cash for a win. Since by the postgame you'll have vast amounts of money, there's little reason not to.
- Humorously played by Renegade!Shepard in a sidequest in Mass Effect 2.
Shepard: I just went all the way up to the Presidium for this. Why should I give it to a random Krogan?Krogan: I'll pay you a lot for it!Shepard: Oh, well, that's different.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the player can bypass the "conversation" mini-game (to make someone like you with the speech skill) by paying them off (this seems to literally buy you their friendship). Not that they need it after you've created a 100 charm spell.
- Several Final Fantasy games, most notably Final Fantasy X, make it possible for the party to bribe MONSTERS to make them leave you alone. FFX even lets you bribe a Bonus Boss. In particular, FFX makes bribery an extremely useful ability, as a number of enemies hand over useful items if successfully bribed (the aforementioned Bonus Boss coughs up ninety-nine of an extremely rare and valuable crafting material).
- FFX also included the optional Yojimbo summon. Unlike other summons, you must negotiate a cash payment for his services before he agrees to work for you, and then even after that must pay him for each attack when he's in battle. The more you pay, the more damage he will do. Truly obscene amounts of payment will get him to One-Hit Kill anything - yes, anything - in the game.
- Mad Gear in Final Fight had the last mayor of Metro City in their back pocket this way. When Mike Haggar took office, he turned down their "little bonus to [his] paycheck", which is why they kidnapped his daughter.
- Subverted in The Witcher. Geralt needs to get past an unfriendly guard and pulls out a bag of gold, stating that "money can open every door". When the guard contradicts him, Geralt proves his statement by using the bag to knock him unconscious.
- Boiling Point: Road to Hell allows the protagonist t bribe any enemy before they turn hostile. It always works, but it's quite expensive, especially for a large group of enemies.
- Shin Megami Tensei games sometimes have this. You can converse with demons and successfully sweet-talk them into essentially selling themselves and join your forces, whether by literally bribing them with Macca or with an item exchange. Mechanics may vary, even reaching Auction of Evil territory on Devil Survivor.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, demons will even raise their prices if you clash with them on the Order Versus Chaos scale, or cut their price if you match. (Be warned - some demons will accept your bribes, then change their minds at the last second. Fricking Angels.)
- In Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE, you still talk to demons to convert them into allies, but some are much pickier. You have 3 types of conversation, talk, joke, and threaten, but certain demons, mainly the higher leveled or the rarest, won't even talk to you unless you use one of the bribing talks, starting with macca and going up, ending in gems, to befriend you. Fortunately, the amount needed is set, and once you get to higher levels, when you start needing it, you can easily get the amount needed to bribe 'em.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, you will be taken to Charon The Ferryman should you suffer a Total Party Kill. The man himself is massively overworked, and is quite willing to look the other way to send you back with a lit-okay, a boatload of Macca, or 3DS Play Coins, if you regularly take 10-minute walks with your 3DS. He's still kind enough to offer a tab should you lack the money he demands, but be sure to pay him before you fall in battle again, or risk being Killed Off for Real.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours allows you to pay off gangs or the police in order to lower Heat. Given that, past a certain point on the Heat meters, gangs will attack on sight and cops will react much faster to any misdemeanours, one is likely to use this a lot.
- The Godfather game also uses this. Bribing a Dirty Cop gives you temporary immunity from the law as long as you don't overdo it and bribing their chiefs gives a longer duration for that, while bribing an FBI agent completely empties your Vendetta with other gangs and is the easier way to win a Mob War.
- The Fire Emblem series is pretty famous when it comes to convincing people to turn traitor on their former friends to work for you but there are many characters in the series that specifically only side with you if you can dish out a couple grand to buy their loyalty. In Awakening the mercenary class' description flat out says they only fight for money.
- In Assassin's Creed II, you can bribe Heralds to stop announcing your presence to the populace.
- And then pickpocket them moments later to get all your money back.
- This is discussed in Assassin's Creed III, where after Connor learns this trick from Sam Adams he states that it feels wrong to rely on bribery and dishonesty.
- In Superhero League of Hoboken, all monsters have a "Greed" trait. If it's above 0, you can bribe them, but the higher their greed is, the more you'll need to spend. This still counts as defeating them for experience points. Creatures with 0 Greed, on the other hand, can never be bribed.
- XCOM Apocalypse allows you to "make reparations" to the various organizations that make up Mega-City. You can give them money to change their attitude from openly hostile to neutral, or from neutral to allied (which costs a lot more). Even the Cult of Sirius, who are all but allied with the aliens can be made neutral for a short time (they'll become hostile the second you attack the aliens, which is kind of your job, so...). It's entirely possible and, given your budget, expected, to raid other organizations, steal their valuable stuff, sell whatever you don't need, and then buy your way back into their good graces.
- Many of the Total War games allow you to bribe armies and cities to switch sides. Generals and other factors increase the cost/chance of failure of pulling off the bribe, but it is almost always possible.
- Rise of Nations has the Spy unit, who can bribe most enemy units to your side.
- In Satellite Reign, you can bribe doctors and scientists to join your research team, as well as the occasional corporate soldier stationed outside a facility to take the night offnote . Don't expect it to be an option with those actually inside the facility grounds, though.
- Penny-Punching Princess has this as its main gimmick. Almost any enemy can be tricked into not fighting you if you throw enough money at them. The most recent enemy you bribed can then be used to fight for you as a limited form of Summon Magic.
- Zeus: Master of Olympus:
- Starting in this game, you can (finally) ask other cities for help (such as various goods), although this lowers their opinion of you. You can raise it by giving them goods in return, with the bribes being more effective if you give them items they normally import from you. However, giving them more than four gifts in a year will cause them to refuse further gifts.
- Attacking enemies can be given a "Begone" Bribe so they won't even appear on the city map. Despite often demanding thousands of drachmae, this is more often than not the easiest solution, as it saves you from using the incredibly clunky combat system and do horrible things to your economy as the militia stop producing to go attack the enemies.
- Mutant Football League allows each team to bribe the referee once per game half. A bribed ref will perform three main functions:
- 1. Overlook penalties for pass interference, quarterback kill dirty plays, and cheap hit kills after a play has ended.
- 2: Will call out completely nonsensical penalties on the opposing team.
- 3: Absolutely will call a penalty that completely negates any legitimate forms of scoring points such as a touchdown, field goal, or safety. At this point, the game will call alert you that the ref is bribed, and the only way to fix this is to bribe the ref yourself, or kill the referee and incur a 15 yard penalty from the new ref who replaces him.
- Magick Chicks: At the end of the comic's final volume, Mel makes up with Cerise and lets her off the hook after everything she's done. Faith calls bullshit, demanding that Cerise answer for her crimes... until Tiffany offers her a bribe:
Tiffany: Aw c'mon... can't we turn a blind eye just this once?
Faith: [outraged] No way! It's burning at the stake for her!
Tiffany: [rolls eyes] Sigh... Tell you what: be lenient, and I'll talk to Tiffany Winters about giving you a DVD recording of her morning yoga workout. M.M.A.A's honor.
Faith: [blushing] What would I—
Tiffany: It's nude yoga.
Faith: Grrr, cheater.
- Vampire Cheerleaders: For Leonard, it's sex. All Lori and her squad had to do to buy his silence about them being vampires, was spread 'em for him.
- In Errant Story, Sarine's preferred method of dealing with people with whom she needs something really fast with a minimum of fuss is to bribe them with Lost Technology that, as an elven ranger, is frequently just one of her personal belongings. After one instance, she notes that she's going to quickly run out of bribery material at her current rate.
- Rex from Latchkey Kingdom, as a talking dog and the Royal Guard, feels patronized when Willa tries to bribe him with a Stock Femur Bone. He's willing to overlook her breaking into the Castle when given a Special Scratch-n-Sniff Issue of Maydog Magazine (featuring double entendre and innuendo!), though.
- When Lex Luthor in Justice League assembles an 'Injustice League' of various criminals, they succeed in capturing Batman, who then proceeds to, among other things, bribe Ultra-Humanite with an outrageous sum. It works. Humanite takes the bribe...and donates it to public broadcasting. Batman, meanwhile, brings down the whole league from the inside. So even supervillains have their price...
Ultra-Humanite: What do I need with money?Luthor: Everybody needs money. The only question is: How much?
- The Simpsons:
- Lampshaded in a scene between Mr. Burns and the nuclear inspector:
Inspector: Burns, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to bribe me.
Burns: Is there some confusion about this? [thrusts the money into the inspector's pockets] Take it! Take it! Take it, you poor schmo!
- In another episode, an ancestor of Mr. Burns was looking for a fugitive slave and Hiram Simpson knew where said slave was hidden. At first, Hiram invoked the I Gave My Word trope but Col. Burns said that, as a slave owner, he knows how to evaluate a man's price and calculated Hiram's to be "a pleasant surprise". It worked. The surprise happened to be a pair of shoes. Hiram's ex-wife got one of the shoes at the divorce. Instead of laces, her shoe came with a note from Hiram telling her he'd keep them.
- But sometimes it's not that easy, as when Homer worked at a carnival and Chief Wiggum came for his bribe and, despite Bart trying to help, he just didn't get it.
Chief: The person [wink] that I'm looking for [wink] is Mr. Bribe. [wink, wink, places hand on money box]
Homer: It's a ring-toss game.
- Lampshaded in a scene between Mr. Burns and the nuclear inspector:
- From the pilot of Gargoyles:
David Xanatos: Pay a man enough, and he'll walk barefoot into Hell.
- In an episode of The Critic, Jay finds himself in this situation with his insensitive boss following a public humiliation.
Jay: You think you can put a price on my humiliation? (Duke hands him a check. Jay looks at it) Wow! That's it to the penny!
- In one episode of House of Mouse, this almost spoken word for word by Scrooge McDuck after he buys the titular club, and Mickey Mouse protests that Pete is the owner.
Scrooge: Everyone has their price.
(Pete drives up in a golf cart, dressed like a pimp and hauling around a huge sack of cash with a dollar sign on it)
Pete: And my price is a big fat bag of cash!
- Count Duckula inverts this in the Danger Mouse episode "The Great Bone Idol" as he asks Baron Greenback what's in it for him if he goes out searching for the Idol:
Greenback: How about...Australia?
Duckula: Australia? Bondi Beach...Woolamaloo...kangaroo stew...yes. Done!
- Economics regards this as a near-universal fact—all motivations can be quantified and converted into money.note There are even economic analyses of how people could engage in suicide attacks on the basis of rational self-interest.
- Many defectors have used bribe money to escape North Korea and/or convince North Korean officials to ignore black market deals. Bribery became very common after North Korea's economy started to fail when the Cold War ended. North Korea depended on foreign aid to keep its economy intact. When Russia and China began to charge higher prices for petroleum and other supplies; the infrastructure suffered a breakdown that became worse after the famine. However, the Bribe Backfire can instantly apply if the bribe threatens the North Korean official with public exposure.
- In China, bribes are paid so black market operations will be ignored.
- This is common practice in many countries, especially poorer ones. There are many places around the world where the difference between success and failure is dependent on giving the right corrupt official a small cash payout. Where foreigners from richer countries are involved, such a bribe can easily amount to more than said official's paycheck.
- Often though, it is customary to have a small face-saving device by paying the bribe in something that looks less crass than money. An art object or rare wine bottle might do, for example.
- On the other hand, it is sometimes a custom to send such an object as a gift after a successful or lucrative business deal. While this can actually be perfectly innocent, the recipient can't accept the gift, because of company policy born of this trope.
- In some places where bribery is so ubiquitous, it's necessary in order to get an official to actually do their job at allnote . Companies will often have (suitably discreet) line items in their planning budgets to handle the required bribes. This is often because public servants in these countries are ludicrously underpaid, as the government there has no money. At least, no money for lower-level government employees, because usually the people at the top have been lining their own pockets out of the state treasury.
- Ubiquitous to the point that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the American law that prohibits bribing officials in foreign countries, actually has an exception for bribes that are required for people to do their job.
- Often though, it is customary to have a small face-saving device by paying the bribe in something that looks less crass than money. An art object or rare wine bottle might do, for example.
- This is also why there are so many "bad Russian driving" videos uploaded to YouTube - because of the rampant use of bribes, installing dashboard cameras was the easiest way to combat the corruption. It's a bit hard to convince a judge that you were at fault when there's video evidence proving that the other guy ran a stop sign.
- When Ritchie Blackmore was leaving Deep Purple in 1975, he invited the members of their opening act, Elf, to be part of his new band, Rainbow. The offer did not extend to their guitarist, Steve Edwards, whom Blackmore offered a sizable "Begone" Bribe (rumored to be in the neighborhood of $50,000). He took it.
- Aversion: American officials are LEGENDARILY hard to bribe. In fact, trying to bribe one is a very good way to get yourself in extremely deep shit. Zealous I.R.S inspections are a good deterrent.
- American politicians are another story (mostly for the purposes of getting reelected, through contributions to their political campaigns and/or parties and/or allied Political Action Committees, although a not insignificant number have engaged in straight-up pocket-lining).
- It works the other way, too - campaigning politicians promise all kinds of handouts to the people (which they may or may not follow through with), and ones in office pay subsidies to many industry groups. All to buy loyalty at election time, regardless of what the long-term economic consequences may be.
- Soldiers throughout history have fallen into primarily one of two categories: honor-bound aristocrats and paid ruffians. Considering how bad military pay has been up until just last century, soldiers used to be very easy to bribe. Now, thanks to things like professional militaries, decent wages, and strict accountability, good luck.
- To this day, irregular and poor troops can be bribed, especially if they aren't sitting on anything especially important, are bored, dissatisfied, or a combination. Works quite easily on freelance mercs, considering how the boss often pays peanuts if anything, and they generally don't have to hold up to ethics inquiries.
- There are several instances in history of wars being won by bribing the enemy's soldiers to abandon their cause. A prime example would be the brief, largely-abortive war the (New/2nd) 'Guangxi Clique' waged against the Kuomintang in the mid-1930s. Chiang Kai-Shek's 'Silver Bullets' did far more to ensure the collapse of the Warlords' forces than did the efforts of the Kuomintang's troops. Since they were all nominally under the government of the Republic of China, all the country's troops (regardless of who actually paid them and where their real allegiances lay) technically answered to Generalissimo Chiang, it was actually perfectly legal for him to give large bonuses to 'his' commanders as 'rewards for their service and loyalty' - though all said commanders were actually equipped and supplied by and answered to the Guangxi Clique.
- Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great's father) used to say that even a donkey can enter the strongest fortress there is. Provided the donkey carries enough gold, of course.
- The (possibly apocryphal) story goes that when Abe Lincoln was a lawyer, a man came to his second-floor office and offered him a bribe to throw his client's case. When Lincoln refused the man said "Everyone has his price." and raised the offer. This went on for a few moments as the man kept saying that "Everyone has his price" and making a larger offer. Suddenly, Lincoln grabbed the man and threw him down the stairs. When a stunned man asked why Lincoln didn't just refuse the latest offer, Lincoln said, "He was getting too close to my price."
- A mechanic was asked to do an emergency repair that would require him to work through his lunch break. The customer's bribe was a pizza so that the mechanic could eat while he worked.
- Stuff like this is actually good business practice. You still have to pay your employees overtime (which is expensive). Minor benefits (such as free meals) make employees much more agreeable to working extra from time-to-time.
- Arab-American stand-up comedian Ahmed Ahmed relates a story wherein he - at the insistence of his agent - auditioned for the part of "Terrorist #4" in a movie. He proceeded to the audition and played the part as over-the-top as he could, hoping to troll the casting director. The next day his agent informed him that he got the part. He at first refused, believing it would only contribute to negative stereotypes. He was then informed that he would be paid $30,000 for a week's worth of work, at which point he promptly signed on.