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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 08:19 GMT
Enron memorabilia market booms
T-shirts mocking Enron
An opportunity to vent anger, or to make money?
By BBC News Online's Jorn Madslien

The spectacular collapse of Enron has brought it home to us all that, whatever this giant energy trading conglomerate was making, it certainly wasn't money.

Enron baseball cap
Enron: Making slogans, logos and gadgets
Instead, it seems, Enron spent its time producing slogans.

Which it would then print on baseball caps and T-shirts, frisbees and golf balls, paperweights and pens.

If nothing else, Enron was a remarkably successful marketing machine.

And whereas the company itself has gone under, there is still plenty of life left in the market for Enron memorabilia.

'Crooked E'

"When the frisbees come out, it's time to duck," an American executive once told me, soon after the firm he worked for went bust.

So perhaps the Enron marketing frisbee, now trading at $3 on the online auction site Ebay.com, should have set the alarm bells ringing.

But by then, Enron's customers, business associates and staff had been numbed by repeated avalanches of marketing tat.

Relax

Take the Enron "Will You Change The World Today" T-shirts, now for sale at auction for less than $20.

Or the brand new Enron stress ball - going for $11.

Click to bid, and you'll be met with the following sales pitch:

"You are bidding on an Enron Corp light bulb stress ball. This yellow light bulb-shaped stress ball was custom ordered by Enron Corp.

"The now well known 'Crooked E' Enron Corp logo appears on the front in black, the bulb is yellow and the phrase 'Ask Why' appears on the back."

Going, going, gone, and it is time to "squeeze out your frustrations on this unusual and rare item".

At least, that is the seller's advice.

And why not?

Moral maze

For those with an even greater sense of irony, there are plenty of Enron "Code of Ethics" manuals for sale, some of them accompanied by a memo from the former chairman and chief executive, Kenneth Lay.

Enron art Shredder
Enron: Not a Shred of Evidence
The ethics guides are priced at between $20 and $100 a piece, and many of them are advertised as in "pristine condition", or "still in the original wrapping".

A cheaper way to learn more about Enron's business philosophy would be to buy its "Visions and Values" VHS movie, a snip at just $2.

Or consider the temptation of the Enron equivalent of a crystal ball? An acrylic cube also carrying the "Visions and Values" slogan. Pick it up for $100.

Buying the Enron Retirement Mug, on offer for $102.50, and could bring temporary relief to one of the many workers whose pension plans were largely invested in the now worthless Enron shares.

Which would, one might think, render the Enron Stock Certificate Tombstone worthless.

But in fact, this too is for sale, though hardly a bargain at $54.

Bold criticism

Retail therapy seems popular in America where thousands of people have been hurt by the Enron scandal.

The traditional bootleggers more commonly seen outside rock concerts selling T-shirts picturing the stars have been quick to react.

Printed T-shirts have been branded with humourous twists of the Enron logo from the 'Evildoers' quote from President George W Bush, to T-shirts showing an Enron logo-daubed president, along with the words 'Chew before you swallow'.

While on the web, shrewd opportunists have registered a variety of domain names which encompass the Enron name.

These are being auctioned too, at prices up to $5,000.

Facts or fiction?

At a coffee bar inside one of Enron's buildings in Houston, Texas, authentic Enron memorabilia have been elevated well above the world of commerce.

Enron art toombstone
Enron: Rest In Peace
Here, some of the most obscure Enron gadgets have ended up on display at an exhibition called Enron: A Term of Art.

The Enron yo-yo which reads 'Check your pulse' seems to offer good advice for the faint hearted.

For there is also the sinister "Rest In Peace", or "R. I. P." graphite and plastic tombstone which bears the Enron logo, originally designed in 1999 to mark the end of a document tracking system.

A Lucite dome containing shredded paper is also on display, carrying the title Not a Shred of Evidence.

The paradox is clear, given the way Enron collapsed amid allegations that crucial documents were shredded.

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Drew Crispin, owns coffee bar facing an Enron office
On his display of Enron memorabilia
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