News reports last week cited two ex-officials of Kmart who are facing fraud charges for misrepresenting Kmart's quarterly profits. According to these allegations, the two men lumped one contract, which was supposed to span a five year period, into one quarterly report, thus inflating Kmart's accounting report.
The company whose payment was poured into one quarter was American Greetings, the maker of greeting cards. When local greeting card entrepreneur, Ben Bavis, heard this news, it immediately gave him an idea.
We spoke with Bavis at his downtown studio in the Schmutz Business Building. "It was like an epiphany or something," Bavis said. "I put two and two together and came up with a whole new line of greeting cards."
The "two and two" the 40-something Bavis was referring to is greeting cards and corporate fraud. "I mean look at it," he observed with a slight smile. "For the past couple of years we"ve heard about nothing but corporate greed, skyhigh CEO salaries, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Martha Stewart. Every time you turn around there"s some new scandal. So I decided to tackle it." And so he did, working nonstop, along with a small workstaff of three part-time artists.
The result? A brand new line of greeting cards that address business issues. "This was the first one," Bavis said. He held up for us a rendering of a greeting card. On the cover is the familiar icon for Enron, except that the tines of the "E" resemble screws. "When you open the card," Bavis said, "it says, "Sorry you were screwed by accountants."
Another features a Wild West theme with cowboys pointing their guns at a prostrate horse. The homily remarks, "They shoot workhorses, don't they? So quit sucking up to the boss; he's stealing your dern pension anyway."
Bavis has produced over a dozen more cards, including one targeted at business people accused of wrongdoing. "Sorry to hear the SEC is breathing down your neck," says one, accompanied by an image of men in suits blowing great gusts of fiery air. Another, featuring a portrait of Martha Stewart, proclaims, "Stick to your story, honey; no one can tell you what to do with your money."
Bavis said his new line of greeting cards is already at the printer and that his products should be available at local stores by the end of the month. He also remarked that he was considering doing a line of greeting cards marketed to people who have been hurt or damaged by bad or under-tested pharmaceuticals. "Problem is," Bavis said, "one of my main venues for cards is the drug store chains."