Virtual Vermont Masthead

Before you hit the "Forward" button...
(A Public Service Message)

Before you forward to all of your friends and acquaintances that EMail message that sounds so outlandish that it must be true, please read:

1. Both Sally Jessie Raphael and Phil Donohue deny that any officer of Proctor & Gamble ever appeared on their show. 'Nuff said?

2. The writer claims to be a Market Researcher for M&M Candies based in Hershey, Pennsylvania. If we each forward his message to 5 people, their EMail tracking device will keep a count and they'll send a case of M&Ms to every participant when the count reaches 2000 (in Roman Numerals, MM is 2000, which is why M&Ms started calling themselves "The Official Candy of the New Millenium", a specific company slogan not mentioned in the message). The problem: there's enough room in Hershey, Pennsylvania for just one chocolate company, and M&Ms are not one of their products. Leave us not forget that such EMail tracking is not possible, at least not in any overt fashion (though I wouldn't put it past Miscrosoft to be working on it). Besides which, there's no way anybody is going to send a case of anything to your EMail address.

3. Big companies like Microsoft, M&M/Mars and Disney don't do business via chain letter. Bill Gates is not going to give you $1,000, Michael Eisner not going to give you a vacation in Orlando, and there is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. There is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true." Because someone said four generations back in the message that "we checked it out and it's legit," doesn't mean squat. If you don't personally know who "we" is and exactly what they did to "check it out", please just trash it.

4. Neither the US Postal Service nor Canada Post are making any effort to introduce an "Alternate Mail" surcharge or tax on EMail. There is no such person as Representative Tony Schnell, Republican or otherwise. The US House or Representatives identifies its bills as, for instance, H.R. 602, not 602P. The same applies to stories about the FCC charging for Internet usage.

4a. In a newer version, the writer claims to be an assistant to a Washington area attorney dilligently working on defeating this legislation for the benefit of all. The law firm of Berger, Stepp and Gorman may very well exist, but none of the major on-line mapping services can find a Concorde Street in Vienna, Virginia, given as the firm's address. The non-existent Congressman Schnell is still there, as is the inaccurately numbered Bill.

5. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice minus body parts, even if a friend of a friend of a friend swears it happened to his cousin. If you insist on believing it, click here. The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for victims to come forward and tell their stories. To date, none have. That's "none" as in ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. Not even your friend's friend's friend's cousin.

6. Neiman-Marcus doesn't sell cookies, thus there was no recipe for the storyteller to request. Even if it was true, we all have it. If you really, truly, don't know what we're talking about, click here. Make the cookies, and if they're really that good, feel free to pass the recipe on to your Baking Newsgroup buddies (as if they haven't gotten tired of it themselves). Just leave out the story. On second thought, don't forward it to anyone. Keep it to yourself, make it for your kids, and in a couple of generations or so it will have become a secret family recipe.

7. Even if the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an AOL chain-letter?

8. Craig Shergold, that little boy in England, is not dying of cancer or anything else and would like everyone to stop sending him business cards. He is also no longer a little boy.

9. There is no "Good Times" virus. There is no "Pen Pal" virus. Never, ever, ever forward a virus warning unless you first confirm it at an actual website of an actual company that actually deals with this stuff, like Symantec. Even then, don't forward it. If it's real, we're guaranteed to hear about it on CNN the day before it's due to disable everything. See also this.

11. We all know all 500 ways to irritate roommates or co-workers, gross-out bathroom stall neighbors and worry fellow elevator passengers. We also know exactly how many engineers, college students, Usenet posters, Windows users, Microsoft employees and people from each and every ethnic group it takes to change a light bulb. We've heard all the interchangeable blonde-Marine-Texas Aggie jokes.

11a. Republicans should just accept that Dan Quayle and only Dan Quayle said those things; trying to divert attention by attributing them to Al Gore is not only pretty lame, it's potentially libelous.

11b. Democrats should just accept that, while Al Gore Senior significantly participated in the shaping of America by supporting the creation of the Eisenhower Interstate System, Junior had little, if anything to do with the "Information Superhighway."

12. If your CC: list is longer than the message content, you're probably going to be punished eternally. Ever heard of BCC:?

13. Send plain text EMail. If you're using Outlook, IE, or Netscape, PLEASE turn off "HTML encoding." and PLEASE never forward a message that contains styled text. Those of us on Unix shells and many others can't read it. Since you're probably forwarding us a copy of the Neiman-Marcus Cookie Recipe anyway, we're not going to save an attachment to view it with later with a web browser.

14. If you absolutely MUST forward that tenth-generation message, have the decency to trim off the eight miles of headers identifing everyone else who's seen it in the last 6 months (how do you think the junk mail spammers get addresses?). It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all those angle brackets (>) that begin each line, either. Besides, if it has gone around that many times, we've probably already seen it.

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May 19, 1999