Charm Squares and Chain Letters

Sooner or later this will happen to you.

You get an email message or a letter in the mail asking you to join a "quilt square club" or "charm square chain". The premise is pretty simple, you are provided with a short list of names and addresses to send fabric squares to. In return, you add your name to the list, strike out the top name, and pass the instructions on to five or six friends. The letter tells you that pretty soon hundreds of people will have your name at the top of their list and be mailing _you_ charm squares.

Sound too good to be true? It is. This is called a chain letter or pyramid scheme and is illegal in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and any number of other nations. It does not matter that money is not involved. It does not matter if everyone involved wants to make it work. It could land you in jail for fraud.

The pyramid scheme relies on participants to continue to recruit others into the action, based on the promise of future profits. You send your money --or fabric-- away with no guarantee of any return. You are promised a substantial return on your investment solely on your ability to recruit others to play into the game.

But this is what really happens. Suppose you have to send the letter on to six other people. Each of them, in turn has to recruit six more people. The numbers start to look like this:

     1             6
     2            36
     3           216
     4         1,296
     5         7,776
     6        46,656
     7       279,936
     8     1,679,616
     9    10,077,696 

In order for you to see any charm squares in your mailbox, some 46,656 people have to get involved. In order for the friends you recruited to see a return, 279,936 people have to be involved. Do you know that many quilters? Do you think there are that many who want to join the "charm square club"?

In order for everyone to profit in this scheme, there would have to be an endless number of potential (and willing) participants. Obviously, there isn't, and that's when the pyramid collapses and you loose your investment (along with nearly everyone else).

Sadly, most of the people who perpetuate this kind of thing are merely ignorant and foolish, or are being taken advantage of. If anyone asks you to join such a swap, tell them "No", and tell them why.

If you have already joined such a scheme, consider your fabric squares lost in a "learning opportunity."

Read what the US Postal Service has to say about chain letters.

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