f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 18, 2004

Another Silly One-Day Gas Boycott

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 6:28 pm

About an hour ago, I received a much-forwarded email from a very good friend of mine.  It irked me.  Here’s my Reply email to her, which I hope is self-explanatory (and persuasive):


Dear [Old Friend],


I hate to sound like a grump, but I must ask you not to send me any email message that asks to be forwarded “to everyone you know,” or any similar kind of chain letter.   There are lots of reasons, but the most important to me are

(1) they are a spammer’s or pervert’s dream — the email address of every single person in the entire chain becomes available to everyone who receives the email message.  I bet you care about that for yourself, and I definitely do for me.


(2) almost every single one of these chain letters is either false, futile or f-ing-stupid.

I just checked out the May 19th Gas Out email message at Urban Legends.com and pasted their information below.  (It contains their usual, useful analysis.)  If you plan to send this material to someone else, please don’t just hit Forward; instead, paste it into a new message, so that my email address and name aren’t distributed further. 


Thanks for your patience with me. Email and internet hygiene (along with common sense) are important!


stop sign Don’t Buy Gas on May 19th   [from UrbanLegends.About.com]
Yet another variant of the ‘Gas Out’ chain letter, this one urging consumers to boycott gas stations on May 19th to ‘send a message’ to the oil companies 

Description:  Email chain letter
Circulating since:  May 2004
Status Ill conceived
Analysis:  See below   

Comments:  With U.S. gasoline prices at a 13-year high, it’s understandable that consumers are fed up and hankering for relief, but it’s fair to ask whether mass-forwarding yet another “boycott gas” chain letter will achieve the desired result. Based on past experience, the answer is: not likely.

There are two glaring flaws in the approach:

  1. A successful boycott requires a sustained, organized effort by a large number of participants; randomly circulating a chain letter amounts to no organization at all. And we know from past attempts that no matter how many people jump on the bandwagon, actual participation in email-driven boycotts is spotty and ultimately negligible.

  2. It’s illogical. Refusing to buy gasoline on one particular day of the month won’t affect the oil companies’ overall sales or profits. Why not? Because everyone who skips buying gasoline on May 19 will be filling their tanks on the 20th. An effective boycott would require consuming less fuel, not just buying it on one day instead of another.

The claim that a one-day boycott would result in an industry loss of over $4.6 billion is a pure fabrication, by the way. According to Euromonitor International, the total sales of petroleum products for all U.S. gas stations in 2002 was $205 billion, which works out to just over a half-billion dollars a day.

Update:  1-Day Gas Boycott Is Just a Lot of Hot Air – “A one-day boycott may make you feel like you’re standing up to Big Oil, but in reality, it won’t do much, despite what the email promises.” (Detroit Free Press, 18 May 2004)

I know my readers are too knowledgeable to fall for Chain Letters and meaningless boycotts.  Don’t forget to go to hoax protection sites like Urban Legends and Purportal.com, when you aren’t sure whether you’ve been sent a lot of cyber b.s. 

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