austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Go on, take the money and run

It's usually difficult to predict whether a company will succeed, particularly in advance. It's easier to wait and see how it turns out, then file a backdated prediction with the Patent, Trademark, Servicemark, General Markness, and Predictions Office within the Department of Commerce (second hallway on the left; ask for Mark).

The Zeggers-Pense Bank optimistically opened on January 26, 1958, and again February 4th, clearing its throat this time to attract attention. It preceded the third opening, on the 11th, with long aggravated sighing, and decided on March 2nd to get to work regardless of who noticed, which it did March 19th, April 20th, and one last time on April 12th. While the company was initially under-capitalized it found a steady revenue stream from passers-by making deposits.

It would be years before the company realized the confusion caused by featuring cofounder Zegger Zegger Bank's name on the signs. ``In retrospect,'' said an accountant, ``we should have guessed. It explained all the people demanding their money back.'' Attorneys-General in seven states agreed and the company escaped prosecution by putting a giant set of Groucho eyeglasses over its headquarters when the sheriff came around.

The initial product line was a low-calorie fruit drink and one of those weird-shaped rubber gasket-ish things that auto parts stores seem to have a lot of. Stores were unhappy trying to stock rubber gaskets that could be drunk, and the high rate of spillage from shop owners who hung juicy gaskets from nails resulted in floors that were noisy and stickier than even auto parts stores of the 60s needed.

The Bank regrouped, splitting the product line into rubber fruit and low-calorie gaskets, and tried again three months later with rubber drinks and low-calorie gaskets. In 1971 they added chocolate to create high-calorie gaskets, letting the company cover its debts under torn-up Hershey wrappers. When the sheriff arrived they removed the Groucho glasses from headquarters, again avoiding prosecution, and pleaded down to second-degree aggravated impersonation of Jack Benny, with extenuating circumstances.

The company hoped to inaugurate its exciting line of Exciting Mark Services with advertisements in the 1975 Super Bowl costing an un-heard $29. ``We should have heard,'' explained a National Football League representative, ``but we were on the phone doing a crossword puzzle while negotiating.'' The NFL got revenge by cancelling that Super Bowl, citing ``bees'' and the ``giggles'' contracted by players for the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons.

Despite the stumble within a year providing the services people named Mark require grew to one-fifth of all corporate revenue, and one-fifth of net profits, although not the same fifth. But despite test-marketing experiences in Akron (Ohio), Akron (Colorado), and Akron (Taiwan) they expanded to Peter Services, Raoul Disservices, and a women's Markeanne Services line. Soon the cash-flow difficulties returned, aggravated by a stiff fine for repeated and malicious imitation of Theda Bara.

Seeking a new corporate identity in 1984 the company changed its name to the Zeggers-Pense Bank, which nobody noticed until they had to order new stationery. That year's shareholder report claimed the name change had been so successful nobody could even remember an earlier name, and that their no-contest plea to first-degree James Arness impersonations worked out great.

By 1986 the company pared its target down to Mark, and had the market saturated within two years. Marks all over North America and the Loire Valley for some reason pleaded for less attention, but their letters were almost illegible from being drenched in low-gasket fruit juice. By February 1994 the Marks' discovery they could hire attorneys not named ``Mark'' saw the collapse of Zeggers-Pense Bank. Even so, many thought it could have been saved had it stuck to celebrity impersonations rather than hiding behind a fortress of strategically placed umbrellas.

In 2007 the company was revived as a free text-based role-playing game in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and closed in 2008 and again in 2009 just to make sure. It left the world much as it had entered, except for getting fewer outraged mobs this time around.

Trivia: The Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, which would become the company with which Malcom McLean inaugurated containerized cargo service in 1956, was incorporated in 1933 with a fleet of four cargo ships designed to the United States Shipping Board's specifications for World War I cargo vessels. Source: Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World, Brian J Cuday.

Currently Reading: Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story, David Hitt, Owen K Garriott, Joseph P Kerwin.


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