Never Trust an Old Lady
Date Added: Dec. 3, 2001
How many jokes on the internet are so bad that we have to be coerced or conned into passing them on to our friends? This chain indicates the answer to that question may be higher than expected.
An old lady walked into a Grocery Store. She wanted to buy the best dog food in the world for her little puppy. She went up to the cash register to buy the food. The sales-lady told her that the store did not allow old ladies to buy animal food unless they show the actual animal because a lot of old ladies like to eat the animal food themselves. So the old lady went home, got her dog and went back to the store to buy her dog food. The next day the old lady went to the Grocery Store again carrying a big container. She went up to the sales lady and said, "Put your hand inside here". The Saleslady shook her head. "NO", she said, "there is probably something in there that will bite me!". "I promise you that there is nothing in here that will bite you.", the old lady said. So the Saleslady stuck her hand inside the container and screamed.
To find out what was inside the container you must send this to at least 10 people, when it says, your mail has been sent...instead of clicking OK, hit ALT-8 and the container will pop up on your screen.
Each day, literally hundreds of thousands of jokes are forwarded via e-mail. Some of them have been around for a long time, some are new. Some are hilarious, most marginally funny and some outright duds. In cases where the joke isn't that funny or clever, it often mutates to become more interesting or compelling (i.e., we're told that it's a true story, or we're promised something special for sending it on).
In this example, we have an old joke that has been abbreviated for the sake of a gimick. Part of the joke's setup has been lost and you're told to jump through hoops to get to the punchline. You can forward this message to 10, or even 100 people, and no magical container will pop-up on your screen. E-mail tracking, as described in this letter, simply does not exist.
Why would someone remove a joke's setup and punch line then make hollow promises to get you forward it? On the surface, it appears to be a hoax geared to make fun of new Internet users for not knowing that e-mail has none of these magical properties. The sentence "when it says, your mail has been sent" indicates that this it may be designed to fool users of popular Internet services (like AOL or MSN). I don't know if ALT-8 has a function in AOL or MSN, but I do know it won't reveal the punchline of this joke.
There could be other, more sinister reason hoaxes like these are created or propagated. An astute reader points out that ALT-F8 in Microsoft Outlook executes macros, which could invite viruses or other malicious code. But, more practically, the real risk is one of privacy. When you forward a message, your address and those of the people you sent it to are automatically added to a part of the message called a "header." Your e-mail program may not display these headers, but they are there. Some spammers (spam is unsolicited commercial e-mail) put themselves on mailing lists or groups so that they can get these oft-forwarded chain letters and search the headers for addresses they can use to send their junk to. I counted nearly 200 e-mail addresses in the latest version of this one I received. If you get a lot of spam and wonder why, maybe this is your answer.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the joke, here is the unabridged (and only slightly funnier) version:
An old lady went to the store to buy some food for her dog. Upon reaching the check-out, the clerk told her "I'm sorry ma'am, but the store manager heard that many old ladies on limited incomes buy dog food and eat it themselves. We now have a policy - if you want to buy dog food, you have to show us your dog."
Annoyed, the lady went home, got her faithful Fido, and returned to the store, where they sold her the dog food without question.
The next day, she returned to the store to buy cat food. Again, she's reproached by the cashier: "I'm sorry ma'am, but the store manager heard that many old ladies on limited incomes buy cat food and eat it themselves. We now have a policy - if you want to buy cat food, you have to show us your cat."
Frustrated, the woman stormed home, retrieved her precious fluffy and returned to the store, where she was sold her cat food without further incident.
The next day, the woman returned to the store and strode right up to the cashier with a box in her hand.
"Put your hand in this box," she told the puzzled clerk.
"What's in it?" the clerk asked.
"Just put your hand in here," the lady said.
"No, there's probably something in there that will bite me"
"Nothing will bite you, I promise."
Reluctantly, the clerk put her hand in the box, felt the contents, pulled them out to examine them and let out a scream. Smiling, the old lady asked "now, may I please buy some toilet paper?"
Break this chain.