In the mail

It would seem that the sickening pyramid scheme that started in paper form and wound up on the Internet as some of the earlier spam has found it's way back to the printed form.

On Saturday, January 27, 2001, I received a copy of this sickening display of stupidity on the mail. It would seem you are no longer bound by only sending to people you know, but one clever person has added a new twist by offering to sell you not only a list of names of unsuspecting people in which to mail this offer, but he will provide the list on ready to use mailing labels!

Ye-gads. Ah well, on with the show:

Don't believe this stuff is a scam? Don't see how this could possibly fail? Do the math, it's something any high-school graduate should be able to work out in a couple of minutes.

Round one, you send your $1.00 off to the top 5 people on the list, and put yourself in for #6 after dropping the top person off. Mail off the new list to the list of 100 you ordered (hey, you were cheap/skeptical).

Let's just say, for the fun of it, ALL 100 people you sent the list to were as gullible as you. They do the same, send $1.00 to the top 5 people, bump you up, and add their names to the bottom of the list. You don't get any money this round, but now you're set for the next round. Like you, they're cheap/skeptical and order a 100 person list and send it out.

Now you're in the top 5. Think of it, 500 people out there have your name and address and are sending you $1.00 each. $500 in your pocket, nice, huh? Now all 500 of those people keep up the routine, 100 person list each, now 50,000 people have your name and address! $50,000 $1 bills are in the mail headed for your mailbox. WOW, all 50,000 of these savvy business people run off and order another 100 names, now we're up to 5 million people, and $5 million in $1 bills in the US Postal system with your address on them. Now your name is at the top of the list! On the next run, when all these Get Rich Quick true believers send out their 100 copies, You'll get $500 million!

Oh wait. The entire population of the United States of America is only about 290 million. Guess we're not going to see round 6, the last round your name will be on the list, for a cool $50 billion.

It gets worse faster with the list of 500:

round 1 100 500
round 2 $500 $2,500
round 3 $50,000 $1,250,000
round 4 $5,000,000 $625,000,000
round 5 $500,000,000 $312,500,000,000
round 6 $50,000,000,000 $156,250,000,000,000.00

The population of the whole planet is just 6.4 billion.

Okay, let's run some more reasonable numbers. 5% return on each round with each respondant sending out the 500 person list:

round 1 30
round 2 $750
round 3 $18,750
round 4 $468,750
round 5 $11,718,750
round 6 $17,578,125

Hrm, looks more plausible, but do you you really think that ~6% of the population of the United States is going to do this?

Population numbers taken from the CIA factbook.

Here's a page by a guy that explains this much more elegantly than I do, plus has links to lots of places, including the US Postal Service, which explains how and & this doesn't work and really is, despite claims made in the letter, illegal.

This page is maintained by Michael Parson. Please email with comments and corrections.
page last modified on Tuesday, 09-Aug-2005 15:01:30 CDT