Monday, January 19, 2009

(Don’t) Spread the Word

Much like the rumor that grows and changes as it gets whispered ear-to-ear, the Internet has the same power to tarnish the truth and make believers out of make-believe.

I received one of those “pass the word” kinds of chain e-mails. While it didn’t promise a pot of gold at the end of three days if I forwarded it to just 20 of my friends and colleagues, it did request that I do the right thing and send it to everyone I know.

The subject of the e-mail was Target. And why I, and everyone I know, shouldn’t shop at Target. The reasons were because Target had recently denied a Vietnam veteran’s fund-raising request to have Target sponsor the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall during a spring recognition event.

The message’s sender claims to be a Vietnam veteran and he is hopping mad at Target. So he decided to dig up some dirt. And what did he find? That Target is a French-owned corporation.

Am I missing something? Last time I checked, Target was American born and raised, with not even a store on French soil.

But this vet feels strongly, and I quote, that “if Target cannot support American Veterans, then why should my family and I support their stores by spending our hard earned American dollars! And have their profits sent to France!”

What is most scary is that the person who sent it to me, with a personal note that read “Wow, I didn’t know this!”, is uber-educated, well-to-do and shopping-savvy. If she believed the message, that tells me many others may as well.

Of course, I doubt it will do much harm. Target is big enough to brush off such nonsense. But, then again, those spending dollars are getting harder and harder to come by, and no one, not even Target, can afford to have an embittered chain e-mailer urge even one consumer to shop elsewhere.

(One final note: I did hit “reply all” and let everyone on that one e-mail list know that much of the sender’s rantings were, in fact, baseless. It was the least I could do.)

—Katherine Field

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