The Underpants Chain Letter
One day in the late 1990s a chain letter appeared in my PO Box. Unlike others I’d encountered, the usual pyramid schemes in which one sent an amount of money to the person at the top of a list and then added their name to the end of it, this one promised 36 pairs of knickers. All I needed to do was to post one pair of knickers to the person on the top of the list, and send the letter out to six people.
While I usually wouldn’t participate in such things, this was too weird not to be involved in, and I dutifully sent knickers off to the person who had sent me the letter. I sat back and waited for the knickers to roll in – only two pairs ever arrived, but a number of the six people I’d sent the letter to were freaked out by the request. Hey, it was pretty weird, but as the letter said: “we can all use new knickers”, and I like sending odd things through the post.
The underpants chain letter seems to have been a worldwide phenomenon, at least from the few mentions of it online. A comprehensive history of chain letters documents the “Pretty Panties Exchange“, which is almost identical – had the letter I’d received referred to at as this I might not have participated. There’s something creepy about the word “panties”. A more recent message on the etsy forums reveals attempts to start up another round of the underpants chain letter, but this time promising 3125 pairs of underpants in return. While we can all use new knickers, that’s more than a lifetime’s worth. And a lifetime’s worth of small packages in one’s letterbox.