Claim:   Sign up with Mr. Smiley and get a free t-shirt.

Status:   Maybe.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2002]

Subject: my friend?

Will you be my friend? :)

Come play with me and I’ll give you a FREE T-Shirt!

Thanks! :)


Origins:   Many of us have received at least one


message similar to the item quoted above. What’s it about? It means someone of your acquaintance has visited the Mr. Smiley web site and signed up in an attempt to get a free T-shirt.

Does it work? When we visited Mr. Smiley’s site on 26 April 2002 we noted its claim that he’d given away 1,107 free T-shirts by that date. Yet every time since that we’ve visited the page, we noted the number of shirts supposedly handed out never changes (it always stays at 1,107) although the date quoted always updates to that day’s date.

Since Mr. Smiley is loath (or too busy) to answer questions about his T-shirt, giveaway, we can only report what we’ve found ourselves.

Mr. Smiley claims he’ll send you “a free smiley face T-shirt after 5 of your friends join,” but he doesn’t explain exactly what your friends have to “join,” or what their “joining” entails. You have to provide him with the e-mail addresses of at least five other people, each of whom receives a message like the one above.

Apparently, your friends’ “joining” consists of each of them signing up five friends with Mr. Smiley as well, which means that Mr. Smiley ends up with at least twenty-five different e-mail addresses before you qualify for a free shirt. What does he do with all these addresses? He doesn’t say. Even worse, Mr. Smiley says that “because mailing thousands of tshirts is expensive,” he needs to ask you “for 34¢ to cover the postage,” which you are directed to provide by supplying him with your credit card number. (How he can mail out a T-shirt using a single first-class stamp we have no idea, and the processing fees charged by the credit card companies would probably exceed 34¢ anyway.)

Maybe this all works out and people really do get free T-shirts in the end, but having to sign up thirty other Internet users to become potential spam recipients and provide credit card information to cover a 34¢ postage charge, all for a free T-shirt, is the kind of bargain we prefer to take a pass on. And besides, it’s now six months after we wrote our original article, and we’ve still yet to hear of anyone who got a free shirt out of this.

Last updated:   12 November 2007