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The Mystery of the Folding Chair
April 14, 2012 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Email mystery: I run a theatre company called Folding Chair Classical Theatre. The company's email address is the first two words of its name, an at sign, and gmail dot com. For the last several years, I've been getting emails (maybe four a year) from people trying to order folding chairs. The wording of these emails is all very similar to each other, which makes me wonder if this is some kind of scam. But if so, what's the angle?

I'm not worried about being scammed. It's just a puzzle that has been nagging at me for a long time.

Here's some more info: every email is from some person with a very American sounding name: Jack Smith, Bob White, etc. And every single one includes a variation of the same sentence about credit cards.

I do realize that if someone wants to order chairs, payment is a pretty natural thing to bring up. But the similarity of these emails is still kind of odd.

I've replied to some of these folks, asking where they got my email address, and inevitably I get a one-word reply "google.com." The fact that they all reply EXACTLY that way is also odd. (When I ask for more information, like "What search terms did you use?" I don't hear back. I have tried being upfront -- "We're a theatre company. We don't sell chairs." -- and less informative. In either case, I don't hear back.)

Despite the company name, my googlings have produced nothing that suggests we sell chairs. I have googled both the company and the email address. The links are all either to the company site, which is full of theatre stuff or to reviews of our shows. The one exception is a link to some kind of reverse-lookup service (you can see it if you look up the email address).

The emails are all from normal looking addresses, like bobwhite at yahoo and edsmith2010 at gmail (I made those two up, but they're typical of the pattern).

Here are some examples, each unique enough to seem like just random people and alike enough to puzzle me that maybe they're not random:

4/5/12

Hello Good Day,

This is Martin XXXXX With regards to your Company i am sending this email Regards to order some (Folding Chairs) I will like to know the type and sizes you have in stock and get me the sales price of one so that i will tell you the quantity i will be ordering, and if you accept credit card as a form of payment.

hope to read from you soon about my order request......
With Kind Regards.
Martin XXXX

----

10/24/11

My name is John XXXXX ..and this order is an individual order. and i like to make a purchase of a (Folding Chair) and i will be more happy if you can email me with the types and Prices that you have for sale as well........Please let me know if you do accept credit card as a form of payment, and that will be pick up at your location ....Hope to read back from you soon..
Kind Regards
John XXXX

----

8/24/11

Hello,
How are you doing? Am Nick XXXX, I will like to Place an order for Folding tables and Chairs, Please Advise the types and cost you carry, Also advise the types of credit cards you accept for payment.

Thank you,
Nick.

----
4/5/11

Customer Service

My name is Phil XXXX And I would like to order some folding chairs so email me with the price Per chair and also advice whether you accept credit card as a method of payment
Hope to hear from you.
Thanks

---

11/15/10

Hello Sir/Madam, Greetings to you,well am Thomas XXXX and I am sending this order note in regards to purchase some Folding Chair, from your company. I will need your assistance of the models, sizes and price lists of the Folding Chair that you do have for sell. Actually I would like to know whether you accept credit card for payment.Hope to hear back from you soon.

Thank You,
Thomas XXXX.

---

1/11/10

Dear Sir/Madam
My name is Terry XXXX and i will like to know wether u have Lightweight Black Folding Chair and also the brandstht u carry as well as the most cheapest instock.and if u do have this brand let me know the price Travel Chair 20.5in W x 21.0in D x 31.0in H .
And also do u take credit card as payment as welll.
I will be expecting a email from you.
Thank you

---

1/22/09

Hello am Rendy I want to buy Triple Brace Steel Folding Chair which feartures are:
High quality blow molded resin plastic folding chair
Contoured seat and back for comfort
Light weight for easy handling
Stain resistant and perfect for easy setup and tear down
So kindly tell me the quote of 100 pcs and I will make payment with my credit card information.
Thank you.
Rendy.

---

11/09/08

Hello Good Day
This is Walker , With regards to your Company i am sending this
email Regards to order some (folding chair) ,i will like to know the type and sizes you have in stock and get me the sales price of one so that i will tell you the quantity i will be ordering, and also if you accept credit card as a form of payment .
God Bless .
Walker.

Walker XXXX,(Owner)
XXXX And XXXX Ltd
P.o. Box XXXX
XXXX PA XXXX.

---

10/20/07

DEAR SIR / MADAM
GOOD DAY...................AND HOW ARE YOU DOING? MY NAME IS STEVE XXXX AND I WILL LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU DO CARRY FOLDING CHAIR IN STOCK FOR SALE IF SO PLEASE EMAIL ME BACK WITH THE TYPE OF FOLDING CHAIRS YOU HAVE AND THE TOTAL COST OF EACH SO THAT I CAN ORDER SOME ALSO I WILL LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU DO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AS A FORM OF PAYMENT BECAUSE I WILL LIKE TO USE MY CREDIT CARD FOR THESE ORDER LOOKING FORWARD TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON WITH THE TYPE OF FOLDING CHAIRS YOU HAVE AND THE COST SO THAT WE CAN PROCEED WITH THE ORDER

KIND REGARDS
JACK XXXX

---
posted by grumblebee to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
I used to get these when I sold books, usually from people asking for 200 calculus books or something like that. The bookseller forums always said it was a scam to try to get as many books as possible using a stolen credit card. Folding chairs and textbooks are equally heavy so maybe the scammers have expanded??
posted by fiercekitten at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2012


These all strike me as spam. I would guess that there is an algorithm or phrase generator that hits all the email addresses with product names. I would guess whoever has ladders@gmail.com, cakes@gmail.com, etc gets the same exact emails.

If you actually responded, they would then start the oh I'll just send this 5000 dollar check and you wire the extra back to me here in Nigeria.
posted by rockindata at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The e-mails are coming from Nigeria or Ghana, trying to rope you in to an advance-fee fraud. If you (actually sold folding chairs and) fell for it, they would place a huge order and send you a phony check. I've seen a million of these.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just looking, I'm going to say that many/most of these are the initiating message in some sort of overpayment scam or a version of the Nigeria scam where they need some details so that they can transfer the million dollars to your account their accounting people can put together a purchasing order.

For example, look at the 1/22/09 message - the person that wrote that is probably barely speaks English and just pasted in someone's ad copy into a message.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:59 PM on April 14, 2012


I get the same type of emails from people who claim to want to buy garden supplies from my opera website.
posted by La Cieca at 2:46 PM on April 14, 2012


Back before the Internet, I used to get people using the telephone relay service (usually used by deaf people to communicate by phone, with an intermediary reading typed messages to you out loud, then typing your reply- I guess it was a convenient means of ambiguities the point of origin of the call) doing pretty much this same thing several times a year at my t-shirt shop. They'd want to buy usually 5000 blank shirts, to be shipped overseas, usually by credit card. Old grift, new transmission medium.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


*ambiguating*
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 PM on April 14, 2012


Devils Rancher, I used to work as a relay operator. It's entirely possible that I enabled one of those calls. We knew exactly what was going on, but by law we weren't allowed to interfere. You have my most sincere apologies.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


They mostly absorbed a few minutes of my time until I caught on - never got took. We printed shirts for the state deaf school, so I always had to take the calls, because 3 or 4 times a year, it was actually a client.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:13 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a scam, and you need to stop responding to them!
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:47 AM on April 15, 2012


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