Forget the Net, says Green Lake entrepreneurs- guilt trips are where it’s at.

Walking through downtown Green Lake I sometimes wonder how anything gets accomplished- where there were once shoe stores, dentists and pubs inhabited by evil alcoholic clowns, there are more and more “exotic” shops, designed to make the town look “hip” in the eyes of tourists who aren’t ever going to come here anyway. The shoe stores have all attached .com to the end of their names and taken their dignity, their accessibility and their cheap foreign-made deck shoes with them. Still, somebody’s got to supply the fake blood, “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts and paycheck advances, and thus downtown has been reborn.

In that spirit, Green Lake’s Chamber of Commerce announced last week that the town’s fastest growing business of 1999 was Gibson and Davis, Inc., which grew by an astonishing 8000% in assets since this time last year. What’s their secret? The as-of-yet untouched market for guilt trip services.

“Everybody wants somebody to feel bad sometimes,” says co-owner Jan Gibson. “We just help them do it right.” Guilt trippers like Gibson and Davis are hired by people who feel wronged by another and hope to get what they want by inducing feelings of shame, doubt and, eventually, contrition.

Gibson and Wendy Davis met as callers for collection agencies, bullying, cajoling and threatening their way to collecting long-overdue payments. “We figured, why just make people feel bad because of debt? There’s so much more besides money that you can collect from people using a good guilt trip.”

Their most frequent customers aren’t creditors trying to get overdue payments, but college-age guys trying to trick their girlfriends into taking them back. “Those are surprisingly easy to do,” says Gibson. “All we do is tell Jane how much her little Pooky misses her, how he can’t sleep, and so on. It only takes maybe twenty minutes on average.” The toughest case they’ve worked on? “People try to hire Wendy to work on me, so that I feel bad for profiting off of people’s guilt. I put on a good show while the buyer’s in the office, but once they leave those tears turn to cheers!”

Despite long-standing rumors to the contrary, Gibson and Davis swear their work does not include government guilt tripping. “We got a $10 million offer from the Justice Department to go to Bill Gates and make him cry until he wet himself,” says Gibson. “The money was right, but we’re not in it for the dollar. We’re in it for the guilt.” Nor do they lobby: “A poverty group asked us to convince Regis Philbin to change the name of his show to ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire When There Are Starving Kids in China?’ but again, we’re not about politics.”

Before I finished my interview, they mentioned that someone from my rival, the Green Lake Flagbearer, had hired them to work on me. I admit two things: first, Gibson and Davis are amazingly effective, and second, to Amanda Jenkins, who I insulted in fifth grade, it wasn’t your butt that was big, it was my mouth, and I’m sorry.

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