Sometimes I do it just for fun. Sometimes I do it to promote business or to make important points. But even when I do it for serious reasons, it's always fun and mostly harmless. Some people grumble or groan if they've wasted time. More people laugh.
I probably inherited my playfulness from my father, Bud Marcus. He was a master hoaxer.
When I was a kid and there was a bad snow storm, he'd sometimes call a radio station to have them announce a cancellation of the Fafnir Society meeting. There was no such organization. Fafnir was the name of his partner's dog.
Another time my father was in a department store in Manhattan and convinced some employees to move pocketbooks from one counter to another. It wasn't his store. He wasn't their boss. People just naturlly accept authority.
Years later as an experiment, I approached a cashier at a Bradlees store in Hamden, Connecticut. I told her that Mr. Williams wanted to see her in the stock room in the back of the store, and I'd take over her cash register, and she should give me her Bradlees apron.
She quickly complied. I could have gone home with the apron, and all of the money in the cash drawer.
The chain went out of business in 2001. I did not help it, but was not surprised.
Important lessons for hoaxing and life in general: If you act like you have authority, you do have authority. And most people would rather accept than challenge. That's why Bush, not Gore, became president in 2000.
Is hoaxing dishonest? Is it immoral? Is it illegal? Of course it's dishonest. If it was honest, it wouldn't be a hoax. If it's done for fun, and it usually is, it's certainly not immoral. It's usually not illegal, but ask an attorney before you hoax.
Society is filled with dishonest activities that are not considered wrong by most people.
♦ If a woman wears makeup or fingernail extenders or augmented underwear or has plastic surgery, few people think her deception is immoral.
♦ If a short man wears platform shoes, he is understood, not damned.
♦ People of both genders squirt on fluids to make them smell better than they normally would, and to alter their hair color, without condemnation from the pulpit.
♦ People use contact lenses to change brown eyes to blue without being sued for fraud.
♦ No one objects if an un-named editor improves the work of a writer.
♦ Trashy tabloids publish fake "photos" of aliens and fake news of celebrities, and the most common reaction is amusement.
♦ Countless popular books, plays, movies, TV shows and songs are fiction, and tolerated.
On the other hand, there should be no tolerance for politicians who lie, particularly in an effort to get elected. Sadly, at least 99% of politicians lie. We vote for our favorite liars.
There should be not tolerance for dishonest advertising, or phony resumes or autobiographies. Professional speechwriters, and book ghostwriters, are a gray area. So are toupees and comb-overs. But bad ones are definitely a crime.