Sleazy. The word itself just oozes. It’s sordid, corrupt, and immoral, but surprisingly subjective. One man’s sleaze is another man’s dream. And to be completely honest, you’d be able to find sleazy people in respected professions and good people in sleazy jobs. It’s unfair to lump everyone in a particular field or industry into Camp Sleaze. There’s a trashy and respectable to side to almost everything.
But, there are a few jobs that are synonymous with the seedy side of life. Most people would probably list prostitute, pimp, and stripper in that group, although it does go behind just sex. Liars are sleazy. Taking advantage of someone is sleazy. And by that definition, the list would be very, very long.
We think of sleazy individuals in a prototypical way: lots of jewelry, slicked back hair, shirt unbuttoned revealing a too-hairy chest. But sleaze can be present in even the most innocent and admired of places. It would be easy to see it coming a mile away if they all looked like Leisure Suit Larry. They don’t.
Some are stereotypes, of course, if not outright clichés. Others aren’t all that sleazy until you stop and look closely. But sleaze can be found in the most unlikely of places. It’s like sand at the beach: it gets everywhere.
These, then, are widely considered a few of the world’s sleaziest jobs.
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1. Used Car Salesman
This one falls under the “used to be true, but probably not anymore” category. Independent used car lots are disappearing as more and more dealerships are providing used vehicles alongside their newest models. And your local Toyota dealership isn’t going to rip you off. They have a brand and reputation to protect.
Not so for Crazy Al’s Used Car Lot (or your nearest equivalent). In the past, that’s where you’d go for some “previously enjoyed” wheels. And Al was almost certainly sleazy. In fact, used car salesmen were the standard against which all other sleazeballs were measured.
They lied. They stretched the truth. They told you whatever you wanted to hear in order to make the sale. They manipulated and cajoled you into buying something you didn’t want and couldn’t afford. They sold cars that were on their deathbeds and called them classics. You thought you were getting a vintage LeBaron, but it was really LeLemon.
They oozed sleaze, and everyone knew it but didn’t have a choice. If you couldn’t afford a new car, you had to go to Al.
2. TV Evangelist
These guys are some of the worst offenders on this list. TV evangelists, or televangelists, are Christian “ministers” (although that term is applied very loosely here) that preach via a television and/or online networks. Some of them use the word alone while others make lofty claims of being able to heal the sick and the dying, possessing magical powers or having a direct line of communication with God. But it all comes at a steep price.
They prey on the lost, the scared, the ill, the easily led, the elderly, and the not-so-bright among us. They ask for - and receive - millions upon millions of dollars in “donations” from their followers. They sell CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, pills, holy water (yeah, you read that right). And cures and prayers...they sell cures for the diseased and disabled, and prayers for anyone who needs them. Salvation is available to everyone, providing you can afford the door charge. And because so many of them operate outside of official Christian denominations, they don’t have to answer to any church hierarchy. They can, and do, whatever they want. They say whatever they can to capitalize on religion.
So many of them have been caught in scandals - embezzling donations, lavish lifestyles, sex, drugs, infidelity, prostitutes, gambling - that it would take a series of articles to go through them all.
This, my friends, is the very definition of sleazy.
3. Human Trafficker
We’re seeing this one a lot lately with the refugee crisis in Europe. They’ve existed for a long time, but the millions on the move have brought them to the forefront again. Every time there’s a mass migration - on account of war, disease, famine, natural disaster - the abomination that is the human trafficker rears its ugly head. At other times, they operate quietly in the background, but they’re always there.
A human trafficker deals in misery and desperation. They promise to deliver terrified people to a better life...for a hefty fee. They’ll collect thousands of dollars - or more - from families that literally have nothing, cram them into cargo holds of ships that are barely sea-worthy, and smuggle them into a Western European or North American country. Once there, people are unceremoniously dumped on a beach or into leaky liferafts as the traffickers turn around and head back for another load of human cargo. These ships often sink, the conditions are hellish and unsanitary, and many do not survive the trip at the best of times.
But the demand is there, so the traffickers keep fleecing these poor people trying to secure a safe place for their children. Even those lucky enough to survive and make it to their destination frequently find themselves trapped in debt and servitude to their trafficker “saviors”. There is rarely a happy ending for anyone other than those collecting the money, because whether their cargo lives or dies, they still get paid.
What do you call 50 feet of dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.
Admittedly, this one is a cliché, but with good reason. But let’s still state the obvious: not all lawyers are sleazy. Many are honest, hard-working people who want to protect and defend the innocent, and that’s admirable.
But there are just as many crooks and shady ones. The ambulance chasers. They specialize in cases of personal injury, convincing everyone that the only logical thing to do is to sue for damages. You see their ads on daytime and late night television, billboards, the sides of buses, even flyers stuck to your windshield.
These lawyers are not looking out for you. They’re looking out for themselves. A shameless personal injury lawsuit can bring in big bucks, and they get a nice cut of whatever damages you’re awarded. It’s about dollars and cents, not right and wrong. Payouts, not justice. They’d convince you to sue your own mother for making meatloaf.
The same goes for politicians. There are honest politicians doing their best to improve things for their constituents. But for every good one, there’s probably at least two sleazy ones.
They lie during their campaign, promising things they can’t or won’t be able to do. They attack their opponents with false accusations and half-truths. And once elected, they line their pockets with kickbacks and bribes from big corporations and wealthy individuals. They do things with an eye on getting re-elected, not on doing what’s right or necessary. They serve those with the deepest pockets, not those with the biggest need.
And that’s why people have such a low opinion of them. It’s getting so bad in places that an honest, good politician rarely stands a chance of winning. People don’t know what to make of them. They believe it’s an angle. We expect our politicians to lie, cheat, and weasel out of doing anything meaningful. It’s sad.
And, despite how little we expect from them, they still find ways to disappoint us.
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Again, no judgment. There are good, honest people in the sleaziest of jobs, either by choice or circumstance. And no one is 100% sleaze-free 100% of the time. Our transgressions may be small, but they do exist.
Personally, I think it comes down to intention. I don’t take issue with someone working at a strip club, for example, if they are there by choice, and they’re not ripping off the gawkers (beyond the exorbitant drinks prices, anyway) by professing their love to squeeze one more lap dance out of them. It’s not sleazy by default. Moreover, there are those in the noblest and most honored of professions that consistently lie, cheat, and take advantage of others for material gain.
So who’s the real sleaze: the woman stripping to pay her way through college, or the doctor who lies about the effect of his new treatment? The answer is obvious.
Nothing is sleazy unto itself. Professions aren’t sleazy. People are.
Did we miss anything? What’s the sleaziest job in your opinion? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.