If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Overused by recess monitors for years, this advice to rise above it all didn't just induce eye-rolling--in a lot of cases, it wasn't that helpful. Now a slew of entrepreneurs are giving the finger to goody-goody social tactics and embracing a more aggressive (but fun) way to unleash steam.
Co-owners of Venice Beach, California, virtual and print card manufacturer The Original Insult Card Company , sisters Ilana, 33, and Sharone Levinsky, 30, turn on their wit where your nerve stops. From dealing with a "wicked mother-in-law and spineless ex-husband," the elder Levinsky has endured experiences rivaling any soap opera, complete with custody battles, a private eye and being thrown in jail. Now card material (like "Last night was not as good as I expected. Good Bye.") comes quite easily.
"It started with this desire to let the world know how much I was suffering," Ilana says, "but I tried to turn a bitter experience into a positive one." After sample cards caused weekend beach-goers to "laugh their heads off," the Levinskys saw green and launched the now-six-figure-strong company, which they run from home, in February 1997.
Good news for the bitter masses: The Levinskys' isn't the only cruel card company out there. Sayreville, New Jersey's Get Even! offers sour sentiments and sarcastic criticisms for loved ones, and C-ya Greeting Card Co. in Klamath Falls, Oregon , lets you say "Later" in ways you never imagined.
For those times when a greeting card isn't enough, some entrepreneurs take retaliation a step further. Harmless revenge tactics and prank tools are what Revengeunlimited.com is made of. Customers can log on to send an ex a dozen dead roses or read up on torment tips ranging from the subtle (put limburger cheese on her car engine) to the supreme (turn him in to the IRS). And software/book publisher Gadgets International Inc. in Jersey City, New Jersey, sells The Ultimate Guide To Getting Revenge software at www.books4you.addr.com .
If you're wondering how much opportunity the mean market presents, Ilana Levinsky (who took her cards on "The Howard Stern Show") puts it in perspective: "People don't want to confront people." Is that why her anonymous e-mail option is so popular?
And don't forget the market for post-confrontation enterprises. Mark's Apology Note Generator has served 9 million users since 1995. We can only imagine what's next.