On Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:22:38 -0400
wor...@alum.mit.edu (Dale R. Worley) wrote:

> I don't know the official specification (and it's not likely to have
> been written down anywhere), but it is possible that the directory for
> remote operations *must* be a *bare* repository.

To my knowledge, the only restriction Git has on "remote" (in the sense
we're considering there) repositories, is that it's not possible to
update a branch in them which is currently checked out (to not make
HEAD different from the index and the work tree in a drastic way).
And Git produces a meaningful and lengthy error message when this
condition is hit by the sending side.

Moreover, the OP had proved the "different environments"
hypothesis by getting expected results when running each call to Git in
their hook wrapped in a call to `env -i`.

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