HOW TO BRIBE SOMEBODY: FOR DUMMIES
Maybe you are reading this for amusement rather than practical use. You might be thinking that bribery is immoral, which it is. However, there are many corners of the world where it is non-optional, even somewhat cultural to bribe someone, particularly people in a position of power or authority. Unpalatable as this may seem, you can try to have right on your side but some authorities just want your cash. Without the use of bribery you are at least going to be inconvenienced while on the other end of the spectrum, you could be facing detainment or jail time in a third world country, for a crime you didn't commit.
Here are the steps you should take to commit bribery:
0) Can It Be Avoided?
Is a bribe really necessary? Sometimes you can avoid the necessity of bribing a military or police officer by just being very straightforward and friendly. Very often, foreigners are loved and they are tickled to have the opportunity to say some of the few English phrases they know. You also have the option of playing stupid. I've avoided paying the requested bribe by pretending I didn't speak the native language (even though I did) and pretending to misunderstand the English that was spoken, all while being friendly. I can’t stress the “being friendly” part enough. Even if soldiers come out of the jungle with guns, try to keep your cool and be friendly.
1) Talk the Talk
Never be direct about your intentions of bribing somebody. For example, if a police officer is threatening to take you to the police station for a real or imagined (it’s often just made up) “law” that you broke then you wouldn't say, “Sir, would you accept a bribe?” Instead, you would say something like, “Can I pay for my ticket now?” You can say this even if there isn't going to be a ticket.
2) Don’t Name the Amount First
Don’t say an amount before they do. Let them name their price first. This follows the idea that you don’t want to be so overt that you are willing to bribe them. It’s supposed to be “cool” and casual. By naming your price first, you are very openly saying that you want to bribe them. What if there was a misunderstanding and they wanted you to just pay an actual fine? Also, by allowing them to name their price first, you can avoid overshooting the amount they intend on getting and you can avoid giving them too much. In some countries and in certain circumstances, you can get by with a bribe as small as $3.
3) Negotiation (optional)
Negotiation is sometimes optional, after they have named their price. In some instances, like dealing with the police or military, you can negotiate your bribe, especially if they have initiated the bribe by asking for a certain amount of money. Very often they think that you are a wealthy foreigner who lives in a mansion and so you can dish out a lot of money. They will ask for more money than they actually want. You can often give them a counter offer for a lower amount.
Note: this isn't like negotiating the price for shoes or something. Don’t push it too much. You can offer a lower amount but if they don’t seem happy about it, then drop it. It also helps to be friendly and perhaps a tad bit flippant, even though you’re essentially being robbed.
4) Petty Cash Trick
As a rule of thumb, when traveling through poorer countries always carry a separate amount of money other than your main wad of cash. You can do this by keeping petty cash in one pocket and your main stash of money in a different pocket or in your bag. Sometimes you don’t have the option of having a small amount of money on you and keeping the rest in the bank. The reasons for this can be that your bank can charge you a good sum of money for each withdrawal when using an ATM in a foreign country. Another reason can be that you are visiting a very remote area where you don’t have ATM access and so you must carry all the cash you need for your trip, plus emergency money.
Having a petty cash pocket has two advantages when it comes to bribing the officials:
A) If you pulled out a big chunk of money and started thumbing through it for a certain amount of money, the chances are the officer will ask for a lot more or possibly all of it.
B) If an officer is asking for a bribe of, say, $100 then you have the option of paying less. Just give him everything in your petty cash pocket, every last dollar bill and coin. This could add up to $15 instead of $100. Make sure that you offer him every scrap of change in your petty cash pocket, even if he doesn't want the smaller coins. This way he feels that he has cleaned you out and can feel satisfied.
Once, I happened to have a thousand dollars cash on me in addition to my petty cash which was a little less than $10. The police officer was asking for a bribe of $15. I gave him everything in my petty cash pocket and he was threatening to take me to the police station for, “Driving in the first lane, instead of the second lane.” I gave him all the little coins and everything from my petty cash pocket and shrugged. I wasn't about to whip out a thousand dollars and start thumbing through it for the correct amount. In the end, he accepted about $9 and let me go.
This system of having a petty cash pocket comes in handy in other ways as well. For example, if you are in an area where you might get robbed, having two different cash pockets gives you the option of only being robbed a few bucks rather than being cleaned out of all your money. I even have old credit cards that are attached to banks that I closed my account with. If needed, I could use these as decoys. I have never been robbed but I apply the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” Obviously this is just to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
Additionally, it helps to use your petty cash pocket when buying things at local markets, then you will not be showing people that you do have a lot of money. You never know if there is somebody watching.
4) Be Discreet
When you do give him the money, try to make it as discreet as possible. The authority knows that he’s doing something unethical and you don’t want to make him feel apprehensive as he’s still the one in the uniform. You can do this in many ways. For example, a police officer might have a clipboard and he will casually hold the clipboard in your general direction and grab the money with the hand that’s under the clipboard. Sometimes, border patrols or border control will want you to put the money inside your passport. This way, when they check the validity of your passport, they get the money. It’s quite interesting to see how some of them do it. It can be as casual as opening the passport, at their border control desk, letting the money fall into an open drawer, closing the drawer and stamping the passport.
Note: Do not put money in the passport unless it is specifically requested by the officer or if it is known as a regular custom.
5) Get a Receipt
Sometimes you can get a receipt of the “ticket” you paid. It’s usually just a piece of paper with some scribbled writing on it but if, for example, there is another police barricade down the road, you can avoid paying a second bribe by showing your receipt and pointing to the area you just came from. I've also heard from fellow travelers that there are some places where you can even get a receipt after getting robbed on the street. That way, the next set of criminals will know that you've already been cleaned out. Running into multiple police or military people who will want a bribe is not unusual but if you find yourself in a place where the criminals give you a receipt after robbing you, then you may want to reconsider your vacation destination. Sometimes, however, giving multiple bribes is unavoidable, so just roll with the punches and dish out the cash.
These rules of bribing only apply to countries where the police, military or authorities are morally corrupt. I wouldn't suggest going to England and trying to bribe your way out of a parking ticket. Use your judgment. If you are in a country that might have some basic human rights issues, it could be a point of survival to bribe a person of authority. Other times, it’s unavoidable as in passing from one border to another. This is different than the legal, written fees for passing through the border as the bribes requested are arbitrary and, frankly, illegal. But you don’t exactly have a choice when crossing a border so it's best to pay the border police and just pretend that it is a regular fee.
Don’t let this put you off from traveling to various exotic and foreign places. Yes, it’s a jungle out there. No, this shouldn't stop you from experiencing all the wonderful things the world has to offer. The amazing things you will see and the memorable things you will do far out trump the few landmines you may need to sidestep (in some countries, you may need to avoid actual landmines!)
I hope you have found this entertaining and maybe even useful.
tre on April 20, 2019:
TylerCapp (author) from Los Angeles, California on November 13, 2012:
Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.
sufia tarannum on November 13, 2012:
Fun to read.
TylerCapp (author) from Los Angeles, California on November 12, 2012:
Pavlo: maybe one day I will visit Ukraine but I think I have all the practical application I need. This was all written from my own experience of trial and error. I like the idea of using chocolate as a form of payment though. I have a friend who once got by with a bottle of water as his gift.
Immartin: I don't think it would work in Florida but perhaps you could sweet talk your way out of a ticket. Fortunately, the police in America are not corrupt like in some of them in third world countries.
lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on November 12, 2012:
A truly useful hub. Do you think this might work in Florida? (Um -- maybe not a good idea.)
Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on November 11, 2012:
Hi, I really enjoyed this! Come to us in Ukraine and I ll arrange you practical classes ! Alas, almost all state employees take bribes , well at least if you want to solve any problem you have fast, you better have at least a bar of chocolate. Road police is much more inventive and you may be asked if you like poetry of Taras Shevchenko (his portrait is on 100 uah banknote, around 12 usd).