Unfortunate Selling Techniques

In the children’s book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American Daniel Handler), three recently orphaned children are initially placed in the custody of Mr. Poe, the banker who is in charge of the large fortune that they will inherit when Violet, the eldest, comes of age. Mr. Poe soon finds a distant relative who is willing to adopt the orphans, and the children move in with Count Olaf, their third/fourth cousin several times removed.

As it turns out, Count Olaf is not interested in raising the orphans, but only in stealing their parents’ fortune. After his first failed attempt to steal it, he has to go on the run to avoid the police, and the children are sent to live with a different relative.

Undeterred, Count Olaf will attempt to steal the orphans’ fortune multiple times over the course of the next several books, each time masquerading as a respectable member of the local community. In the first book, he is a count, in the second, he pretends to be a herpetological assistant, in the third, a retired captain, and so on.

Every time that the children discover one of Count Olaf’s disguises, they attempt to elicit the help of their legal guardian and/or the banker Mr. Poe. Even though the orphans point out mistakes in the count’s disguises, Count Olaf is so skilled at selling himself that the adults ignore the mistakes and contradictions in his product (his disguises) until they become extremely obvious.