Let Rip!™

Sent to mailing list subscribers on 23rd March 2015.

The first mailing consisted of a letter and three pieces of coloured, perforated paper. The conceit was that these were samples of an abandoned product created by the 3M Corporation, which allowed people to swear without actually having to say obscenities out loud.

Text of the letter:

Enclosed are three samples of a rare, discontinued produced made by the 3M Company in the early 1980s. Let Rip(TM) allows people to vent their frustrations in situations when swearing out loud would be impossible or inappropriate.

3M had achieved massive success with their Post-It range, but management felt that the company was in danger of becoming stagnant and sought to shake up their image with something more in keeping with the “funky-junky 80s”. After an accelerated period of research and development, they settled on Let Rip(TM) as a crossover product between consumer and business sectors that would transform them into a stationery powerhouse.

In truth, Let Rip(TM) was nothing more than a perforated sheet of paper with swearwords printed on it, but focus groups responded favourably to the sensation of “tearing one off” and the product was soft-launched in test markets such as New Mexico, Oregon and Tasmania.

The product was sold in several different varieties, with different colours used to indicate the saltiness of the language. Green contained very mild exclamations, suitable for children and church- goers, yellow was the middle tier and displayed the sort of mild profanities one might find in a PG movie or late-night network television, while the blue edition used strong swearing suitable only for adults. (Rumours persist of an ultra-profane purple edition, but there is no reliable evidence that it ever really existed. Many suspect it may have been an office joke within 3M which has since transformed into urban legend.)

Ultimately, it was this attempt to appeal to all bases that proved to be Let Rip(TM)’s downfall. Although it was never intended for sale to children, the blue edition provoked the ire of parents’ groups and rather than create controversy, 3M dropped the entire product line overnight. To this day there is no mention of Let Rip(TM) in any of 3M’s corporate history.

Packs of Let Rip(TM) still exist here and there, however, and it remains a cult favourite amongst stationery buffs. The included samples are believed to be some of the rare first-run originals, before the manufacturing process was perfected. Hopefully, the occasional rough edge or incomplete perforation will not prevent you from putting them to good use.

I sent these out to people I knew. They were my first (unwitting) subscribers and reaction was mixed. I hadn’t told many people about what I was doing and had I done so, it might have eased their confusion.

But I stayed silent.


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