Tuesday, March 22, 2005

E-Mail Hoaxes 

These things are just making me nuts. But at least the ones that try to separate the readers from their money are getting publicized, so hopefully fewer idiots unwary recipients will fall for them. The ones of this type that I've been receiving lately (at all my various e-mail addresses) involve the assistant/son/conspirator of some deposed minister of some African nation currently (or not really) undergoing vague political turmoil and possibly actual tragedy. The author requests your assistance in laundering huge sums of cash ($30 million or so, usually) out of the country, in return for which you get to keep some specified large portion. Snopes has further details on the Nigerian variant.

Here now is my post of outrage, warning and general fed-uppedness at another type: the "forward this to everyone you know" e-mail. The motivations behind these vary, and include a desire to clog up large e-mail systems or a (perhaps misguided, perhaps not) desire to "get" some corporate or political target.

One of these came my way within the last hour, from The Girl. Whenever she receives one of these things, she immediately forwards it to me because she knows I'll get all ranty, geeky and high-horsed, and will do the tiny bit of research that's needed to (usually) completely discredit the statements. And if it turns out to be true (not usually the case, but it happens - although then it's often distorted at least somewhat), I'll let her know that as well.

Today it was the "Starbucks the Loser" e-mail, which is a heartfelt plea from a Marine sergeant for all American patriots to boycott Starbucks due to the corporation's supposed flat-out refusal to donate any coffee to caffeine-deprived soldiers on the grounds (yes, pun intended) that Starbucks "does not support the war, nor anyone in it." He then requests that anyone who agrees with him forward the e-mail to other like-minded people.

So yeah, I had my usual response:
This sounds like a load of crap created by some faux patriot who is motivated by a high school football team mentality and a strong desire to turn everyone who doesn't think the same way into an enemy. Starbucks is a thriving, successful business, and the people who manage the corporation realize what corporate suicide entails. Let me check for further information...

Oh, here we go:

Correction and an apology by the original writer of the e-mail, on TruthOrFiction.

More details from BoycottWatch, including the Starbucks letter to the misinformed Sergeant.

TruthMiners' analysis, including some helpful questions you should be asking when you receive e-mails like these.

It would be great if this additional information were to be sent back to each person who received the e-mail below.

Bottom line: the Marine who sent this originally was responding to something he heard from someone else (who probably heard it from someone else, etc.), and sent out the e-mail without doing even a minimal amount of research. He had no details such as the supposed original letter from Starbucks, any sort of follow up with Starbucks corporate, not even a name of someone involved in the original alleged denial of coffee. He just knee-jerk responded by calling for everyone to boycott Starbucks.

Once Starbucks contacted him themselves and explained that this interchange simply never happened, and that while they as a corporation donate only to 501(c)(3) nonprofits, public schools and libraries, many of their employees indeed do send out hundreds of pounds of coffee to soldiers oversees (Starbucks employees get a pound of coffee every week as a perk), the sergeant sent out an apology and correction e-mail to his original recipients. Yet nearly a year after this started, the follow-up gets no circulation - only the continued call to boycott Starbucks.
When you get some irate e-mail calling on you to do this or that, remember one word: google. Just do a simple online search (for this one, I searched on the following words: starbucks war), and you may have a quick answer to whether this is something on which you wish to act, or which you should simply highlight and click Delete.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:24 AM