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31 August 2015

Remember the chain letters MONEY TREE and MONEY MACHINE ?

They were a variant of those letters encouraging people to forward one dollar in cash to a list of people provided in the text, and to add their own name and address to the bottom of the list after deleting the name and address at the top. Using the theory behind pyramid schemes, the resulting chain of money flowing back and forth would supposedly deliver a reward of thousands of dollars to the ones participating in the chain, as copies of their chain spread and more and more people sent one dollar to their address.

The Bougainville version of this chain letter, sometimes called MONEY TREE and at other times MONEY MACHINE, required the participant to buy his first chain letter from somebody who had previously been sucked into the scheme (and there were plenty of sellers around!).

He was then supposed to send $1 to the name and address appearing at the top of the list, add his own name and address to the bottom of the list, and send it to the promoters in Australia TOGETHER WITH A MONEY ORDER FOR $5. The promoters would in due course send him another five copies which had his name moved up by one spot. He could then sell these five copies for $5 a piece to the next five sucker.

Of course, most people 'forgot' to send $1 to the person at the top of the list and just hurried off their $5 money order to the southern promoters (who presumably drove to the post office in gold-plated Ferraris to collect their mail containing all those $5 money orders and soon afterwards retired to their mansions on the Gold Coast) to get their five copies to sell on so they could get at least their own money back ($5 for the initial purchase and $5 to the promoters) plus, if they were lucky enough to find five suckers, an extra $15.

Every so often there were rumours that somebody had received heaps of money through the mail, no doubt engineered by the promoters to keep the scheme alive, and things got so heated up at one point that the Post-Master General completely banned the sale of $5 postal orders.

If you remember those schemes and can add a few tales, perhaps even still have a copy of one of those name slips, I'd love to hear from you.

email riverbend[AT]