About Nice Enterprises
I launched Nice Enterprises in 1983 when I was 19, promoting it as The world’s first mail-order flattery business.
The idea was that anyone could mail me a $5 bill, along with a picture of them or someone else, and I’d write to the person in the photo in my best calligraphy, showering them with custom compliments. They’d also receive an official Certificate of Niceness and a sticker and button saying I’m Nice.
I rented a PO box, placed classifieds, and faxed out a press release about Mr Niceguy, the company’s mysterious founder-slash-mascot, and his goal of “Making the world a nicer place” – also the company’s motto.
I used to don my Mr Niceguy outfit – a sparkly jacket, bow tie, and smiling mask – then turn up unannounced at a magazine’s offices, flattering the receptionist’s tie or dress and asking to see a journalist. Newsweek’s security escorted me out when I wouldn’t remove the mask, but more often than not, I’d end up being interviewed by a writer in need of a puff piece.
After a while though, flattering strangers began to feel sad and poignant. The request that did me in was from a woman who sent $5 with a photo of her friend, writing: My friend’s boyfriend beat her up. Now she feels alone and scared. Please cheer her up.
I gave that letter everything I had, then lay down my nib pen and removed the mask, which sits today in a box at my mother’s house.