A mother who was tricked by Neiman-Marcus into buying their cookie recipe for $250 is getting her revenge by giving away the pricey culinary instructions on the Internet.
Sounds tasty, but this story is an urban legend, and has been circulated in the off-line world for decades. Here’s the original e-mail:
This version was collected on January 19, 2001:
FOR COOKIE LOVERS EVERYWHERE:
A little background: Neiman-Marcus, if you don’t know already is a very
expensive store i.e. they sell your typical $8.00 T-shirt for $50.00.
My daughter and I had just finished a salad at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in
Dallas and 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
Well, I asked how much, and she responded, “Only two fifty, it’s a great
deal!” I agreed with approval, just add it to my tab I told her. Thirty
days later, I received my VISA statement and it 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 Dept. and told them the waitress said it
was “two-fifty,” which clearly does not mean “two hundred and fifty
dollars” by any *POSSIBLE* interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus
to budge. They would not refund my money, because according to them, “What
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
her the criminal statutes which govern fraud in Texas. I threatened to
refer them to the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General
Office for engaging in fraud. I was basically told, “Do what you want,
it doesn’t matter, we’re not refunding your money.”
I waited, thinking of how I could get even, or even try and get any of
my money back. I just said, “Okay, you folks got my $250, and now I’m
going to have $250.00 worth of fun.” I told her that I was going to see to
that every Cookie lover in the United States with an e-mail account has
a $250.00 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus…for free. She replied, “I
wish you wouldn’t do this.” I said, “Well, you should have thought of that
before you ripped me off,” and slammed down the phone on her.
So here it is!!! Please, please, please pass it on to everyone you can
possibly think of. I paid $250 for this…I don’t want Neiman-Marcus to
*ever* get another penny off of this recipe….
- NEIMAN MARCUS COOKIES (Recipe may be halved)
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal
24 oz. chocolate chips
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)
* Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.
* Cream the butter and both sugars.
* Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking
powder, and soda.
* Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place
two inches apart on a cookie sheet.* Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Makes 112 cookies.
PLEASE READ IT AND SEND TO EVERY PERSON YOU KNOW WHO HAS AN E-MAIL
THIS IS REALLY TERRIFIC.
This is not a joke-this is a true story. Ride free, citizens!
Most of the urban legends I’ve heard of have reached me via e-mail as part of my debunking duties, but I got to experience this one in the real world. When not working on Nuketown, I’m the webmaster at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. A while back the school’s alumni magazine did a profile of me as part of an ongoing feature looking at staff and their jobs. Part of the article talked about my interest in urban legends, and my debunking adventures, both at Drew and at home. The story led off with — you guessed it — the Neiman Marcus debunking.
A few days after the issue ran we got an e-mail from an irate alum who informed us that this very event had happened — indeed, it had happened to a friend of her’s. She slammed the author — and myself — for not doing our research on this issue. Well, research she wanted, and research she got — the magazine’s editor and I responded in the next quarter’s edition with a short message pointing to numerous debunkings of this urban legend on the net. We also asked that we’d be more than happy to correct the story … if her friend came forward with the receipt.
Oddly enough, she never did. 🙂 The Neiman Marcus cookie recipe is the very definition of an urban legend, giving us a straight-laced set-up, followed by a jaw-dropping twist, finished off with a touch of revenge. This particular urban legend didn’t start with the internet age. Indeed, it didn’t even start with Neiman Marcus. In his 1999 book Too Good to Be True, folklore expert Jan Harold Brunvand may have begun as early as the 1930s and 1940s, when earlier versions (he calls them prototypes) appeared for outlandishly priced fudge, ice cream and cake recipes.
The urban legend’s initial widespread form featured a “red velvet cake” recipe purchased from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Based on my research (you can check yourself at the sources below) the story mutated to involve Mrs. Fields’ cookies in the 1970s, and into its current form in the 1980s.
One final note — I use the term “mother” in the lede of this story, although it doesn’t specifically state that the person “speaking” is a woman. Other versions of the story refer to a woman speaker, so I went with that gender for my opener.
As for the formal debunking:
- Neiman-Marcus debunks it: The store has a standing link on its web site debunking the urban legend. It says it never charged anyone for the recipe, and never will. It then backs up this debunking with its actual recipe for the cookies. The recipe is nothing like the one circulated. Go to the Neiman Marcus debunking. (it’s the 4th link on the page; a direct link isn’t available).
You can find more coverage of this hoax here:
- The AFU and Urban Legend Archive: Not much of a debunking, but it is part of the AFU’s archive.
- About.com’s Urban Legends Guide: A simple debunking that’s part of a much larger collection of e-mail tracking hoaxes.
- Snopes.com: A very thorough debunking of the entire life-history of this legend..