Chain letter puts panties in the mail

December 23, 1992|By San Francisco Chronicle

To heck with good-luck chain letters. Who believes in them, anyway? Judy Mendoza breaks them about as often as the moon is full, with no apparent side effects.

"The last time I broke a good-luck chain letter I got engaged and a promotion," says Ms. Mendoza, an assistant vice president for a San Francisco insurance firm. So when the latest one arrived a month ago, she groaned, but she didn't trash it.

"Hello There!" it begins. "This is a pretty panties exchange.

"This is not a chain letter," the chain letter goes on to say. "Send one pair of pretty underwear of your choice to the person listed below, and send a copy of this letter to six friends. . . . If you can't do this in seven days, please notify me because it isn't fair to those who have participated. . . . You will receive 36 pairs of pretty panties!"

Ms. Mendoza thought, "This is really stupid. I am not going to do this."

Then she reconsidered. She went to the Gap, purchased a pair of white bikinis for $4.50, sent it to the first person on the list, mailed six copies to friends and waited.

As of today, she's received seven pairs of panties of every color and description; the small manila envelopes arrive once a week or so. "My husband looks forward to the mail every day," she says.

Ms. Mendoza got the letter from a friend in Honolulu, who got hers from another Hawaiian friend, who got hers from a friend in Washington, who got hers from her sister, who got hers from her pTC husband's aunt in North Dakota.

And it's practical. "Everybody can use pretty new underwear," says Ms. Mendoza, whose lingerie drawer now includes a flowered string bikini, a black lace thong and a pair of pale blue bikinis. "Most of them I never would have bought for myself," she says.

"It's a hoot," says Eugene Emery, a Rhode Island journalist and the founder of Chain Letters Anonymous in Providence, R.I., which he set up to receive unused chain letters. Technically, he says, the underwear chain letter is illegal because it involves the exchange or money or merchandise.

"Basically, its a variation on the old pyramid scheme + it's great for those on top of the pyramid, but eventually the pyramid will collapse."

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