When we hear the word corruption, we usually think of the publicly scandalized misconduct of large companies, sometimes also political parties and always the officials of world football who are obviously employed specifically for this purpose.
So we think about the behavior of others.
But, of course, corruption is also an everyday behavior in which many engage in such scandals.
Attempts to placate the policeman at the traffic checkpoint or the conductor in the allegedly overcrowded night train with illegal means are not uncommon.
There are now a large number of highly specialized sites on the Internet that only serve to report on such everyday experiences with attempted bribery.
Corruption researchers can also use these testimonies of the willingness to confess as a database for scientific investigations.
Compared to the interview method, they even offer important advantages.
Not only that they relieve you of your own survey work;
the anonymous informants are also not suspected of wanting to make themselves better than they actually are in front of the researcher.
And they tend to spread the successes and failures of their bribery attempts with so much additional information about the respective context that one can hope to isolate the factors critical to success through statistical analysis.
Stealth is not the main thing
One of those websites asks what a Las Vegas hotel guest can do to get an upgraded room without paying the usual premium.
A few years ago, two business economists evaluated almost 900 answers to this question, and the most important result says that it is better to only communicate indirectly about the intended deal.
Instead of saying as soon as you check in that you would be willing to pay the sum of twenty dollars for this purpose at any time, the so-called sandwich technique is recommended: the banknote is then hidden between the pages of a document, which is anyway on this occasion must be submitted and checked.
But why is this technique so popular?
The two business economists are betting on secrecy interests, which betray the guilty conscience of those involved.
And of course it would be embarrassing if one hotel guest loudly offered his bribe for the upgrade as such, while his neighbor at the reception desk was being asked to pay the official surcharge.
But even the isolated police officer who stops a likewise isolated traffic offender in the middle of the night is sometimes offered the bribe in secret, and fear of bystanders would not be a possible motive here.
To assume that the hiding of the banknote was only intended to conceal the prohibited trade would have to imply the trading consensus of the parties involved, but in fact this is where the problem lies.
How do you know how the stranger in front of you will react to the attempted bribery?
Attempted bribes are daring communications because society favors those who decline the immoral offer.
Such a rejection is not only embarrassing for the rejected;
it can also make his situation noticeably worse.
For example, law-abiding police officers do not like it at all when they see themselves as being sold.
They could have learned from Erving Goffman, to whom the authors refer for their secrecy thesis, that it is precisely initiatives with a high degree of uncertainty of success that suggest resorting to indirect communication.
Indirect is a communication that one can deny having meant.
Those who communicate indirectly communicate irresponsibly, and it is precisely this irresponsibility that makes it easier for them to take risks, because if they reject the proposal they can deny having made it in the first place.
The sender of an indirect communication does not have to fear that the recipient will make legitimate accusations.
The sandwich technique offers exactly this advantage, because if the addressee wanted to get outraged, the sender could claim at any time that the banknotes got into the document unnoticed.
And accordingly, the addressee can act at any time as if he had not even noticed the attempted bribery.
This happens, for example, when the hotel employees return the banknote intended for them as if it had accidentally gotten among the papers from the sender.