- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Pity the poor American office worker. Plagued by paper jams, buried under mountains of memos, overwhelmed by staff meetings, it’s a wonder he gets anything done. Then there are his colleagues: the backstabbers, slave drivers and slackers who lurk around the corner of every cubicle.

Help for the worker’s beleaguered soul is here.

Corporate Kingdom, a Salt Lake City novelty company, has introduced a series of 21 whimsical trading cards that identify the personalities commonly found in offices and give tips on dealing with them.

Card No. 4, for example, describes the Slave Driver, also known by her scientific name, the “tyrantius oppressus.”

“Ruling with an iron fist, the Slave Driver pushes her underlings to work ever harder, faster and later. In her book, sick leave and vacations are for wimps,” the card reads.

It depicts the Slave Driver as a whip-carrying dominatrix in fishnet stockings and tall black boots. The card tells us her turn-ons include weekends at the sadist colony and her turn-offs are the Family Leave Act and Mr. Rogers.

“Your co-workers can be annoying, but they can also be a great source of comic relief,” said Steve Hawkins, Corporate Kingdom’s co-founder and chief executive.

Mr. Hawkins and the company’s president, Tim Hall, also own an advertising agency. Both men have had plenty of experiences with “dysfunctional workplaces,” said Mr. Hawkins, who previously reported for a newspaper.

The trading cards are “graphically and satirically akin to Mad Magazine and the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards,” according to Corporate Kingdom’s marketing materials.

A pack of five cards sells for $3.99. Wall calendars, coffee mugs and travel mugs that feature the Corporate Kingdom characters are available.

The company is rolling the products out slowly, beginning with the D.C. area, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. It expects to do roughly $10,000 in sales this year.

The market for products aimed at the frustrated U.S. office worker seems to be growing.

The “Dilbert” comic strip appears in more than 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries and has spawned 22 books, including two — “The Dilbert Principle” and “Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook” — that reached the top of the New York Times’ best-seller list.

“Office Space,” a 1999 film that depicts the misadventures of office drones at a technology company, is the seventh-most-popular DVD among Amazon.com customers who identify themselves as government employees.

Meanwhile, NBC is adapting an American version of the popular British comedy “The Office.” The mockumentary-style series follows the daily lives of a group of paper-supply company employees who are terrorized by their boss.

“There is an audience for this kind of humor,” Mr. Hawkins said.

Collectors can trade their Corporate Kingdom cards via a miniature “interdepartment memorandum” envelope that carries this helpful message:

“Cross out the entire line when received and re-use until all lines are full; or, just throw it away and buy another one. After all, we’ve got sweatshops full of cheap labor, and they don’t mind licking the toxic glue that hold these together.”

The Corporate Kingdom characters include the Gosseptionist (blabus extremicus), whose motto is “You didn’t hear it from me, but … ”

There is also the Martyr (masochistus joanofarcus). “For the Martyr, suffering is just another part of the job. She wouldn’t have it any other way. If only the rest of the staff was as dedicated, she wouldn’t have to carry around all that baggage of resentment,” her card reads.

There is even Big Mug Betty (elephantitus slurpus), a large woman depicted on the card wearing tight purple pants and carrying — what else? — a big mug. “Her ‘Bladder Buster’ mug sits faithfully on her desk like a family pet. Don’t be intimidated by its cement-mixer size. It’s just a little ‘fix’ of soda to get her through the day,” according to her card.

Mr. Hawkins has heard from some office workers who say the cast of characters is not quite complete. Among the omissions: the vanishing computer technician and the secret office couple.

“We also missed the moocher. Everyone knows a moocher.”


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