Saturday, July 29, 2006

Get Out of Hell Free

If you've never heard of or its sister publication,, you should check them out. Written by Randy Cassingham, these weekly (more or less) online/email newsletters have subscribers from every part of the world, and always give me a chuckle.

One of the down sides of writing such a column all the time, of course, is that people are forever telling you that you're going to Hell for speaking against their particular point of view. So many, in fact, told Randy that he was going to Hell that he decided to do something about it - he started printing 'Get Out of Hell Free' cards. And the big news this week is that he's sold over a million of them, and released a special lenticular (ie it appears to move when tilted) version.

"To be sure, there is a message" behind the strong sales of the card, says Randy. "A message and a social phenomenon. It's a story of the rejection of religious intolerance, a statement of 'I can think for myself, thank you'."

The card was created after an online reader told Randy he was going to go to hell for writing an 87-word story about "feng shui" -- the Chinese art of "placement" to create "energy and harmony". The reader condemned him to Hell because, she said, feng shui is "anti-Christian". When Randy told the reader a Methodist minister was OK with the story, she condemned him to Hell too. "I figured that if she had the power to condemn me to hell with the snap of her mind," Randy said, "I should have the power to counteract her." He created the "Get Out of Hell Free" card on his computer, had them printed, and offered them to the readers of his online newsletter for $1 for 10 cards -- the cost of printing, packing and postage. "Dollar bills started streaming in immediately," he said. It was Spring 2000, and he didn't even have an online shopping cart. "The orders came in by mail," Randy says. "The first 2,000 cards lasted three days."

And the orders have never stopped. Randy now has 20,000 cards printed at a time, which last just four to six weeks. The people who buy the cards don't usually use them to counter religious prostilitizers, he says. Mostly, they're given to others to help cheer them up. "The store clerk who just dealt with a screaming customer," he says. "The waitress whose customer is never satisfied. The fellow employee who needs the message, 'I have to deal with our idiot boss too.'" He notes that several customers have stapled a card to their letters of resignation when they quit their jobs.

The cards are even popular with the clergy. "Two priests posted to the Vatican have the cards -- that I know of," Randy said. "One even admits to wearing a GOOHF t-shirt under his cassock." Several ministers have ordered thousands of cards, presumably to pass out to their congregations as a way to spark discussion.

Be sure to check out the fourth link below for a flash-driven look at the lenticular card - it looks great.

This is True
The Stella Awards
Get Out of Hell Free site
A million cards sold - and a special commemorative lenticular version

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