Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chain mail

A couple of days ago, I actually received an old-fashioned chain letter! Like, in the actual postal mail, and stuff. It consisted of some absurd multi-page proposition--photocopied! (so cute!)--that would garner me hundreds of thousands of dollars if only I, too, would make some photocopies, buy some stamps, send some people some money, and buy a mailing list from whatever company sold them my address.

The return address was in Louisiana...and I felt a tinge of sadness for whichever desperate soul must have paid the $87 for the mailing list, bought stamps, diligently made copies, and presumably sent off money to strangers. The total investment was over $200 for people properly fulfilling their ignominious duty to the chain.

I felt so sorry for the sender that I almost sent him or her money...but a) that's illegal and b) I can't really know this person's circumstance. Also, I didn't want to encourage him or her--and also didn't want them to have any contact with me, personally.

So, instead, I did what I think you should do as well, should you find a relic of pre-Internet pre-spam chicanery in your mailbox: I delivered it to my local postmaster with a note that said, "I received this in the mail and believe it may be illegal."

For more on chain letters, why they're illegal, and why they don't work, read this. If you Google "chain letter" you can also find some more detailed explanations of the flawed math, the history of the chain letter, etc.

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