Folks, there are no free shoes. Disabuse yourself of that notion right away. What you’re dealing with here is a hoax.The lure of “something for nothing” is a siren call best not heeded. In pursuit of that mirage, ordinary people will con themselves into doing the damndest things. These days that includes mailing off 100 pairs of old shoes a day to Nike in the expectation that old, worn-out Keds will be replaced with brand-new, free merchandise.If you’re pipe dreamer enough to send your old kick-abouts to Nike, you’ll get back a nice letter informing you that though they really do have a
program where old shoes are ground up and used to build tracks and playgrounds, they don’t replace the donated pair with a new one. You’ll be asked if you’d like your old shoes to go to that program or if you’d prefer to have them mailed back to you. And that will be the all of it.
Just as in Aladdin’s day, promises to exchange new for old should be greeted with extreme skepticism for there’s still no such thing as a free lunch. This time the hoax is on Nike in that the ordinary Joes conned into this at least get their shoes back or get to donate them as they’d wanted to all along. It’s Nike that has had to divert staff time and company resources to combating this latest bout of Internet craziness. (Hey, would you want to be stuck with repackaging hundreds of pairs of smelly shoes and then having the task of getting them back to their rightful owners?)
As of the last week of March 1998, there were 523 boxes of old shoes (some containing more than one pair) stored at the Nike warehouse listed on the e-mail, each of them awaiting instructions from their owners to either donate or return. Shoes are now coming in at the rate of 100 to 150 pairs a day. Inquiries have been received from whole companies, including Time-Warner, that had started collecting shoes based on the hoax.
So where did this hoax come from? At this point, it’s unknown. Perhaps it was someone’s idea of a light-hearted prank and he had fun imagining people scrambling for those free shoes in the name of altruism. It could have been a genuine misunderstanding of the existing recycling program (Reuse-A-Shoe). Or it could be part of a deliberate attempt to cause public relations trouble for this particular company.