Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Power of Powers: Schemes, Scams, and Panties

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Power of Powers: Schemes, Scams, and Panties

Article excerpt

Have you heard of the latest, sexist, women-only twist on the traditional chain letter? It seems that

women from San Francisco to Australia are being urged to

forward new panties to the name at the head of a list and

add their name and size to the bottom. (1)

The Mathsemantic Monitor hasn't received this particular chain letter and won't reply if he does. He doesn't happen to need the "pile of new undies" promised to "those who comply and send on letters to their friends." However, if you, dear reader, happen to get a copy of the letter that you don't need, please send it to the

Mathsemantic Monitor

c/o ETC.

to add to his collection of mathsemantic oddities.

The theory behind chain letters is that you send out letters to, say, 100 people; some of whom (say 10) continue the chain by sending out their own letters, adding 1,000 new recipients; some of whom (say now, 100, at the same 10 percent rate) repeat the process, making 10,000 more recipients; some of whom (say, 1,000) repeat the process, making 100,000 more recipients; some of whom (say, 10,000) repeat the process. Each party continuing the chain through some number of steps (five seems the usual number) is also to send you a small sum. In tabular form, such an example looks like this:

Round   Mailers    Letters   Drop Outs   Continue On
    1         1        100         90            10
    2        10      1,000        900           100
    3       100     10,000      9,000         1,000
    4     1,000    100,000     90,000        10,000
    5    10,000  1,000,000    900,000       100,000

Total    11,111  1,111,100    999,990       111,110

The Mathsemantic Monitor's chain-letter collection (begun in 1993) now includes the following schemes (with some duplicates), each proclaiming that it's a legal multi-level marketing plan, because either actual sales or bona fide charitable gifts are involved. The plans, their essential features, and their claims ("illustrative" payouts, not the highest mentioned) are as follows:

1. Recipes for $2. Buy one recipe from each of the people listed in positions #1 through #5. Remove #1 from the letter, move numbers #2 though #5 up, and add your own name and your recipe name at position #5. From the list suppliers shown, order 100 or more names of new prospects and mail each a copy of the revised letter. Expect to receive about $222,220 (a 10 percent response, 111,110 responses in all at $2 each) in about 60 days. Send each your recipe. (2)

2. Reports for $5. Buy one multi-level sales report from each of the people listed in positions #1 through #4. Remove the #1 person's name from the letter, move numbers #2 though #5 UP, and add your own name at position #5. From the list suppliers shown, order 200 or more names of new prospects and mail each a copy of the revised letter. Expect to receive $55,550 (a 5 percent response, 11,110 responses in all of $5 each). Copy and send each a report. (3)

3. Useless service for $1. Send $1 to each of the people listed in positions #1 through #5 with a note saying, "Please add my name to your mailing list." [This apparently has no further operational effect on anything.] Remove name #1 from the letter, move numbers #2 though #5 UP, and add your own name at position #5. From the list suppliers shown, order 200 or more names of new prospects and mail each a copy of the revised letter. Expect to receive about $54,240 (a 7.5 percent response, 54,240 responses in all of $1 each). Consider yourself to be in the mail order business. (4)

4. Wealth documents for $50. Send a blank $50 money order to get the "Treasury of Wealth Documents" (four in all, A, B, C, and D, each assigned a "security code" representing an earlier participant in the program). You will also receive a "Procedure Guide" and "Camera Ready Masters" typeset with your own "Security Code." Mail out 500 or more of the original solicitation. …

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