This message supposedly tells the delicious tale of how one ordinary customer takes revenge on an unscrupulous company by distributing free copies of a cookie recipe for which he or she was charged an exorbitant fee because of a misunderstanding about the price.
This version of the story targets South African retailer Woolworths and claims that the customer was charged 250 rand for the recipe. According to the message, when asked the price of the recipe, the waitress replied “only two fifty” which the customer assumed meant 2.50 rand. The story claims that the customer was outraged to later discover that Woolworths had actually charged 250 rand for the recipe rather than only 2.50 rand, especially when the company adamantly refused to offer a refund.
It’s a great little tale, but in spite of the assurance at the bottom of the message, it is certainly not a true story. In fact, it is simply a recycled version of an earlier hoax that targeted US company Neiman Marcus.
As the following example illustrates, the above “Woolies” version is virtually identical to earlier Neiman Marcus versions:
THIS IS A TRUE STORY!
My daughter and I had just finished a salad at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas, and we decided to have a small dessert. Because both of us are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the “Neiman-Marcus cookie.” It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe, and the waitress said with a small frown, “I’m afraid not, but you can buy the recipe.”
Well, I asked how much, and she responded, “Only two fifty-it’s a great deal!” I agreed to that, and told her to just add it to my tab.
Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement, and the Neiman-Marcus charge was $285.00! I looked again, and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, “Cookie Recipe-$250.00”. That was outrageous!
I called Neiman’s Accounting Department and told them the waitress said it was “two fifty”, which clearly does not mean “two hundred and fifty dollars” by any reasonable interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus refused to budge. They would not refund my money because, according to them, “What the waitress told you is not our problem. You have already seen the recipe. We absolutely will not refund your money at this point.”
I explained to the Accounting Department lady the criminal statutes which govern fraud in the state of Texas. I threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General’s office for engaging in fraud. I was basically told, “Do what you want. Don’t bother thinking of how you can get even, and don’t bother trying to get any of your money back.”
I just said, “Okay, you folks got my $250, and now I’m going to have $250 worth of fun.” I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover in the United States with an e-mail account has a $250 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus…for free. She replied, “I wish you wouldn’t do this.” I said, “Well, perhaps you should have thought of that before you ripped off!” and slammed down the phone.
So here it is!
Please, please, please pass it on to everyone you can possibly think of. I paid $250 for this, and I don’t want Neiman-Marcus to EVER make another penny from this recipe!
Thus, it seems clear that some prankster has created a South African version of the hoax by simply replacing “Neiman Marcus” with “Woolworths” and changing the currency to rands. In reality, the incident described never took place and neither Woolworths nor Neiman Marcus has ever sold the cookie recipe attached to the messages. Moreover, even the Neiman Marcus version is a recycled variant of earlier stories that go back decades. During the 1920’s there was a popular urban legend involving the unintended purchase of an exorbitantly priced Red Velvet Cake recipe from New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Another equally untrue version of the story targeted the Mrs Fields company during the 1980’s.
The cookie recipes used in these hoaxes tend to vary from version to version. To counter the claims in the earlier Neiman Marcus version of the hoax, the company actually published the recipe on its own website and invited visitors to use it freely and pass it on to family and friends as much as they liked. Later Neiman Marcus versions of the hoax have used different recipes including the one shown in the Woolworths example above. Very similar recipes with variations of the same story have been published on many different websites including one that simply identifies the entity supposedly selling the recipe as a “posh cafe in Dallas”. And, one enterprising blogger even took the time to make both the “official” Neiman Marcus cookie recipe included in an earlier version of the hoax with another cookie recipe that came with some later versions of the hoax. Both recipes apparently make great cookies.
Thus, while the recipes that come with these hoax messages may well be worthwhile inclusions for your recipe folder, keep in mind that the stories that they arrive with are simply reworkings of an old urban legend and have no basis in fact.