Above the strains of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and beneath the fragments of light spilling from an enormous crystal chandelier, 244 fortune hunters file into a Toronto hotel ballroom on a cold and dim February morning. They’re here to brighten their financial futures through Donald Trump’s “Way to Wealth” seminar, which, according to materials promoting this event, will reveal the secrets of real estate investing and business management.
Could it possibly be so simple? You bet, says “personal Trump instructor” Rick Brown, upon taking the stage and congratulating attendees on the “tremendous step forward” they’ve taken. It’s not long before Brown is unleashing a flurry of tidy platitudes from the stage, such as “Money’s a game; you know the rules, you win.” He also confides that most people’s biggest mistake in the business world is to fail to give themselves a “consequence,” defined roughly as an investment of time or money in an objective, such that one’s failure to work toward that objective will result in a material loss.
But the speed at which both Brown speaks and the slides come and go on a giant screen is too fast for anybody to take useful notes. All they can do is absorb the wisdom that emanates from Brown and, of course, The Donald himself — although the real-estate mogul’s presence is restricted to occasional appearances on the screen, his prehensile lips insisting that success equal to his is within the audience’s grasp. (No one should expect Trump to appear in the flesh; after all, these seminars are continually delivered, two a day, five days a week, across North America — and he has another empire to run.)
Eventually, Brown outlines a “can’t lose” deal based on Trump’s golden rule — no risk, high reward — involving the purchase and cosmetic makeover of an undervalued property for resale at a $40,000 profit. More examples and a smattering of insider know-how follow (e.g., never tell people you’re on holiday, only on a “business trip”), before we’re given the bottom line: work two to four hours a week in pursuit of motivated sellers, find just one a month and you’ll earn $30,000 a year in residual income. “Would you be willing to do it? Give me abig yes!” Brown implores. The few who respond enthusiastically are immediately invited to speak to the Trump staffers behind desks at the back of the room.
If the remaining attendees are waiting for the business management tips, they’ll be disappointed. Brown sticks to real estate until at least half the audience has moved to the back of the room, where, it turns out, they receive instruction in the weekend-long wealth-building program they can attend for $1,499. “And by the way,” demurs Brown, “that money is not for Donald Trump. He’s got more money than he can ever spend. That money is for you. It’s your consequence.”