The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

If you've got an email address, you've run into the Nigerian spam scam. (Actually, even if you've never even heard of email, there's a good chance that you've encountered the scam pitch purportedly from Nigeria, or some other distant land, as it's been around for years.) While I hate spam as much as anyone, I can appreciate the humor found in these clumsy attempts to separate fools and their money.

So when Howard Troxler dedicated a column to his attempt at stringing along one of these alleged "Nigerians", I was ready for a good, fun read.

I have to say I was disappointed, as the column almost seems truncated at the end:

I've traded e-mails with the lawyer, who wants 5,000 pounds from me to handle the deal. Since then, I've also gotten messages from "Mr. Clemtus Peters," "Mr. Creek Banjul" and some guy just known as "Frederick," all three offering new versions of the scam. Being loyal to Mrs. Karen Norman, however, I think I'll give them a pass.

... And that's how it ends. Poof. It feels like a sloppy edit job, making Troxler come off as though he didn't really play this scenario out to the fullest.

I appreciated the historical background behind the scam (I didn't realize it went back to the 1920s) and some of the bizarro storylines pitched, but there wasn't enough touch-and-go with the anonymous spammer to lead him on. I suspect Troxler did the best he could, but it winds up falling flat. In particular, I think the story would have benefitted from having Troxler engaging (or even saying he engaged) the additional spammers, in an attempt to get a bidding war going! It's doubtful the scam artists would have fallen for it, but it'd be worth a shot.

Fortunately, Will Sturgeon at had a much more extended, and therefore funnier, experience with his Nigerian spam story, including a halfhearted attempt at initiating the above-described "bidding war".