Bluff The Listener Our panelists read three stories about a company finding a way to prosper, only one of which is true.

Bluff The Listener

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BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Mo Rocca, Adam Felber and Roxanne Roberts. And here, again, is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. Thanks everybody. Right now it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.



RULLER: My name is Rachel, and I'm calling from Albany, N.Y.

SAGAL: Albany, N.Y., yes.



SAGAL: A wonderful place.

RULLER: Yes, some would say.

SAGAL: Some might say?


SAGAL: What do you do for fun there in Albany? Is there anything to do for fun in Albany?

RULLER: Yeah. Sometimes, I go for a walk.


ADAM FELBER: Oh, one of those famed Albany walks.


SAGAL: Rachel, welcome to the show. You're going to play the game - you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Rachel's topic?

KURTIS: We're going to be rich.

SAGAL: Succeeding in business is hard, which is why all of us here have instead opted to suckle on the government teat in public broadcasting.


SAGAL: This week, we heard about a company finding a way to prosper. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who is telling the truth, and you win our prize, the voice of Carl Kasell on your voicemail. Are you ready to play? I am more than ready.

SAGAL: Well, first, let's hear from Adam Felber.

FELBER: A year ago, it looked like it was over for Mike Sweeney. His Sweeney Diner on Route 27 near Linden, N.J., was slowly bankrupting him, and the end was near. One day, in a grim mood and on a whim, he added a shepherd's pie special to the menu, dubbed it The Sweeney Todd and offered the description, quote, "best if you don't ask what's in it."


FELBER: To his surprise word spread among students from nearby Keene University who'd come in late at night and dare each other to eat the grim dish. Quote, "it helps that I'm kind of a creepy-looking guy," said Sweeny. After tentatively adding a few more macabre items, like a unique take on lady fingers, Sweeney knew he had something. One year later, Sweeney's Diner is utterly transformed with a gothic, slasher-film, roadhouse decor and a menu filled with items like nosy neighbor's stew and something I can only hope are hot dogs called Sweeney's weenies.


FELBER: It even features a vegan menu that touts the slogan, made with real vegans.


FELBER: Despite the surge of hipster wannabe cannibals that make his new clientele, Sweeney said his approach to food hasn't changed much, though, quote, "these days I do use a lot more tomato sauce."


SAGAL: Sweeney's Diner, where you may or may not...


SAGAL: ...Be eating your fellow diners. Your next story of a startup on the way up comes from Roxanne Roberts.

ROXANNE ROBERTS: Last year, LA artist Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer launched Witchsy, an online marketplace for handmade arts and crafts. Kind of like Etsy but funnier, edgier and sexier. The two have sold about $200,000 in t-shirts, pins and prints but have had trouble being taken seriously by male graphic designers and developers who dismiss the business as a cute hobby. They've ignored their emails. Or they address them as, hey, girls. Enter Keith Mann, an entirely fictional co-founder who took over all email correspondence. Quote, "it was like night and day," Dwyer told Fast Company. Keith could not only get a response and status update but also be asked if he wanted anything else. Keith was apparently so effective because he was just another tech bro in an online world dominated by other tech bros. Quote, "this is clearly just part of the world we're in now."


SAGAL: Two women finally are taken seriously in their startup by inventing a man to front for them. Your last secret of someone's success comes from Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA: As the highest-ranking woman in the Chiapan rebel army in Mexico in the 1990s, Maria Elena Ochoa (ph) found an unlikely way to inspire her regiment, the videos of Irish step dancer Michael Flatley. The lord of the dance was our model for discipline, the power, the precision, the focus. There will only ever be one Celtic Tiger. And so when Maria Elena Ochoa agreed to lay down her arms and was granted amnesty in the U.S., it seemed like the luck of the Irish when her family was resettled in South Boston. Within two years, she opened Maria Elena Ochoa's Irish Step Dancing Academy.


ROCCA: Strangely, enrollment lagged. I tried everything - free soda bread, bottles of Guinness, illustrated copies of "Finnegans Wake." She even had her children dress as leprechauns. And then it occurred to her the name of the school, Maria Elena Ochoa's Irish Step Dancing Academy, just seemed off. And so after a visit to a judge, her name and more importantly the name of her school was changed to Mary Eileen O'Choa's Irish Step Dancing Academy. Business boomed, and O'Choa couldn't be happier. You know what they say - when Chiapan eyes are smiling, (speaking Spanish).


SAGAL: All right. So here are your choices. Somebody came up with an interesting idea to make their business thrive. Was it from Adam Felber, a guy who made his diner go from middling to great by implying that they were eating people - Sweeney's Diner, in fact? From Roxanne Roberts, two women who were getting tired of not being taken seriously in their startup invented a fictional male partner who gets his emails returned? Or from Mo Rocca, Maria Ochoa, former Chiapan rebel, now Irish step dance instructor?


SAGAL: Which of these is the real story of a stroke of genius when it comes to business?

RULLER: Oh, gracious. I am going to go with Roxanne.

SAGAL: So are you going to choose Roxanne's story of the two women who needed to invent a fictional male partner in order to succeed...


SAGAL: ...In their business. Well, we actually spoke to this ingenious entrepreneur about their idea.

PENELOPE GAZIN: Kate was replying to all the emails. And so Keith was the closest name to Kate. I just was, like, well, what if his last name is Mann just so they know he's definitely...


SAGAL: That was Penelope Gazin. She and Kate Dwyer are the co-founders of Witchsy. They created the imaginary Keith Mann. And before you think that was a pretty dumb idea, the men fell for it.


SAGAL: You did, in fact, get it right. Roxanne was telling the truth.



SAGAL: You have earned a point for Roxanne. You've won our prize...


SAGAL: ...Carl Kasell's voice pretending to be whoever you want on your voicemail. Thank you so much for playing with us today.

RULLER: Thank you. High five, Roxanne.


SAGAL: Take care.


BONNIE RAITT: (Singing) I want a real man. I said a real man. I want a real man. I been around the world. I'm a woman, not a girl.

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