“TRUMP TOWER TOPS THE LIST AS THE MOST EXPENSIVE ADDRESS IN THE WORLD!” When Trump built his real estate empire, his goal was to have his name synonymous with the New York City posh lifestyle. At or about the same time, Shark Tank star and real estate millionaire, Barbara Corcoran, was building her own brand and wanted her name to be the go-to real estate broker for luxurious condominiums. She knew that the best way to get herself known was to ride on the coattails of “The Donald.” After reading her very entertaining book, Shark Tales, I was struck by how she devised a plan to use Trump’s newest property, Trump Tower, and his oversized ego to get her name in the public eye. Through shrewd handling of data and wordsmithing, she was able to manipulate public perception, a strategy that is used by many experts, not to mention advertisers, to support a point of view or market a product.
At the time in the early 1980’s, Corcoran was trying to build recognition of her business through what is known today as the Corcoran Report. Among other things, the Corcoran Report published a list of the most expensive properties in the world. Not surprisingly, Trump was promoting HIS new building at the time as the “most expensive address in the world.” However, Trump’s property, according to Corcoran’s numbers, was only the fourth most expensive address, behind Museum Tower, Olympic Tower, and the Galleria. Corcoran knew that this would not please Trump, and when Trump found out he was being relegated to fourth place, he immediately called Corcoran to meet with him. When they met, Corcoran first told Trump that she couldn’t print inaccurate information, but then, as she had planned all along, she hit him with her rehearsed plan. As if it had just popped into her head, she looked at the numbers and said, “What if we were to compute the prices on a cost per foot basis, instead of the total sale price like everyone else does? I wonder what that would do?” She circled the highest priced apartment at Trump Tower, $3,033,500, and divided it by its 2509 square feet, equaling $1,209 a square foot! “That’s it!” Trump remarked, “You’ve got it! And I was just going to suggest it.” This one little “honest” calculation put Trump Tower in first place as the most expensive address in the world. Corcoran finished the meeting by telling Trump that he was a “brilliant man” and how much she appreciated meeting him. Genius!
There is a reason Barbara Corcoran is a shark. She didn’t lie, but she knew how to use numbers to her advantage. She understood that focusing on one aspect of a real estate sale can change a conversation. Corcoran is not alone; there are many sharks who manipulate data and deceive the public by only presenting what they want you to see. This is common when we read interpretations of research study results. The numbers are filtered through a lens that will slant the data and shape our thoughts. When most people quote numbers, it is usually from a secondhand source, not the actual journal article. And when most people read the original report, they don’t read it carefully. They just jump to the numbers and pull out pieces to use to support their argument. Very rarely do they look out how the study was designed. There is a lot of information buried in the jargon that would be important for all to know. Unfortunately, only the soundbites will get attention.
This happens quite a bit in education when huge investments are made to train teachers and buy materials. Nobody wants to take responsibility for bad decision-making, so those in charge of purchases will stick to their flawed theories and back up their choices with data. Sometimes data misinterpretation is pure ignorance, and other times it is downright deceitful. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
By the way, Barbara Corcoran got exactly what she wanted. She got Trump to have the newspapers print, “ACCORDING TO THE CORCORAN REPORT, TRUMP TOWER IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE ADDRESS IN THE WORLD!” Sharky Data, hmmmm.
Faith Borkowsky, Founder and Lead Educational Consultant of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching, is a Certified Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner, is Orton-Gillingham trained, and has extensive training and experience in a number of other research-based, peer-reviewed programs that have produced positive gains for students with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, and a host of learning difficulties. Her book, Reading Intervention Behind School Walls: Why Your Child Continues to Struggle, is available on Amazon. See information on her book and an interview with Ms. Borkowsky: https://highfiveliteracy.com/book/