Byline: Jessica Kerwin

“Free clothes from GAP!” promises a chain e-mail hoax, offering a pair of the company’s ever-popular cargo pants to the gullible netizen willing to pass along the letter to friends. The message additionally promises a Hawaiian print T-shirt for every person the addressee sends the letter to and a fisherman’s hat for each connection made after that. Math and logic would surely make for mountains and mountains of floppy hats, no?
It’s all part of a “new e-mail tracking system,” the letter explains, and was designed to determine which company has a bigger following, Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch.
“I started this a month ago because I was naked and couldn’t get a date,” one variation of the letter declares. “A week ago I got a call from the Gap asking me for my address and yesterday I got a boxload of merchandise in the mail from the Gap!!!! It really works!”
The e-mail has made its way into mailboxes from Cartier to Esprit and Vogue in Japan to WWD’s own in New York and has kept the Gap’s customer service operators busy since its first appearance last May.
“People just want to know if it’s real,” says Gap spokesperson Debbie Gardner. Which it’s not.
Several sites on the web, including, — a group seeking to expose nefarious cyberspace plots — have published warnings on their web pages.
“There are literally hundreds of scams like this out there,” says top scambuster Audri Lamford. “People just like to create havoc and see what happens.”
The giveaway gimmick mirrors a similar chain e-mail that made its way down the information highway six months ago, announcing a bogus recycling program by Nike. For the donation of each pair of old sneakers, which would “help make fields and playgrounds for the underprivileged from old tennis shoes,” Nike would supposedly send out a brand new pair of shoes to the generous donor. “Please send in your shoes,” the message pleaded. “Otherwise you are just going to throw them away and they go to waste.” Not surprisingly, Nike was bombarded with sneaker shipments from sympathetic souls. It just goes to show that if it sounds too weird to be true, it probably is.