Alone, hungry, tired, sick … this is an account of one man’s journey to stay alive and return home to his family against all odds. Also, it is about the time Ian tested positive for Covid and got stuck by himself in Mexico with no return date in sight.
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Surviving A Covid Christmas In Mexico
Also: Launching A New Tech Product At CES In Las Vegas
Ian, you tardy son of a bitch.
I am not late. That is not true. I was on here on time. I said, “Let’s go.” You said, “Give me a minute.” I would like to rebuttal your accusation.
I figured you would.
I know it took you a while to get as dressed up as handsomely as you are, and then a nice sweater.
It got multicolors. It’s great.
I don’t care how cold it is in your office. You will be sweating by the end of this episode. There’s no doubt.
If that’s possibly true, it’s winter for us in the Northern Hemisphere. I heat everything off and they are cold there, oozing ends. This is why I’m dressed like a polar bear, for those of you not blessed enough to see us but only reading us.
The program with Frankie is sweat comes very easily to him. No one sweats like that. Frankie, we talked a little bit in the last episode about your fun Christmas, which was eventful and ended in a private plane in a five-hour drive from Dallas to get home. Christmas was just about as special as yours. It’s quite interesting. It was a little different than yours but one of the more eventful holidays of the esteemed holiday career of Ian Mathews.
Back in the old days, for those of you that have been tracking our histories, Ian and his family would go to all these incredible places. He sent me pictures, I’m a half drank, Pacifico, an incredible book next to a hot tub with a plunge tub, overlooking these beautiful scenes in the Pacific. I’m like, “Where do you even find these places to go?” I feel like COVID-19 has gotten away from that this 2021 for you, big guy.
It’s a bit of a tradition in our family. I’ve got to give my wife credit for it. She’s the spearhead of this. I grew up in Michigan. Jenny grew up in Chicago. We grew up with white Christmases, snow, freezing cold, going to church early in the morning. Ever since we’ve got married, we have gone somewhere warm for every holiday.
We have been to Aruba, the Dominican, Mexico. We used to go to Aruba. We went there 6 or 7 years in a row, and then we had kids. We kept doing it. Our kids, for the first few years of their life, we would lie to them and say, “It’s Christmas,” three days before, and Santa came last night because they didn’t know any better. We would get there and there would be another Christmas. They would think this was amazing.
IJ, maybe he’s woken up an actual Christmas twice in his own house. We are always somewhere warm and tropical. We went for it in 2021. Even with all the COVID-19 and everything, we went with Jenny’s whole family. There were seventeen of us. We went to Playa del Carmen, stayed at a cool all-inclusive. It wasn’t that weird. You are walking around with your masks on and did some of that with COVID-19. You had the protocols but for the most part, it still felt like Mexico. You are still drinking beer. You were still in a pool, still eating a lot of beans. I like beans, Frank.
I love beans until they take hold of me.
We are there for a week. On the day left on the trip, I started sniffling and coughing.
Was it the beans?
It wasn’t the beans.
Was it the onions because you are lactose intolerant?
I’m lactose intolerant. Beans can tear me off. It wasn’t the normal bean lactose intolerance that I was going through. I’m like, “I don’t know about this. Maybe I have a cold.” It was lame. It was a cold. I had a tickle in my throat, so it made me cough. To be safe, on the last day, I didn’t see anybody. I stayed in the hotel room all day. Jenny’s parents were like, “That’s silly, come on out and hang out.” I’m like, “I’m going to stay in the hotel room all day.” That’s what I did.
The United States has a rule that if you are anywhere international, you have to prove that you don’t have COVID-19. You have to show a test within 24 hours of departing back to the United States. We spent July 2021 in Greece, the same thing happened. The hotel brought a doctor to your room and get you administered a test. By now, everyone has those little take-home tests you can get and see if it’s 1 or 2 lines.
I’m not sure if that’s true if everyone has those tests. There was news the US government is going to issue 500 million masks. We have all been waiting at home for the US government to give us mask. We could all go about our lives.
It feels a bit late to be getting a mask. I know that’s Joe Biden’s big boom. He’s excited about that. The country responded with a collective yawn when they heard a whole sleepy Joe rollout that great plan several years into this. Anyway, those little COVID-19 tests where you stick a little swab up your nose, we go down there and set up all these tests.
We have already had a couple of family members leave and there was no incident. They just left. Seventeen of us get tested. They come, each family goes in, gets a swab up in both noses. The kids are hating it. Their eyes are watering. They are crying and complaining about having to get a test. Everyone was getting told, “You can go. Here’s the email.” It’s an administrative effort.
The guy pulled me aside and said, “Sir, we need to talk to you.” I’m like, “This sucks.” He pulls me aside and says, “Three members of your family tested negative but one has COVID-19.” I’m like, “Who? What’s going on?” He says, “You.” I have COVID-19. I have tested positive now and I’m in Mexico. I’m like, “What does this mean?”
I’m not losing my shit. I’m like, “You guys are testing hundreds of people a day. I’m not the only person. This is has got to be happening regularly.” He says, “Wait here. We are going to have someone come talk to you.” A young lady comes over to talk to me. She’s so nervous. You could see it. I’m like, “What does all this mean? I don’t understand what is next. I’m checking out tomorrow. Do you have a wing for people like me that have to hang out?”
I ended up doing hours of research on this. What most hotels would do is put you in the COVID-19 wing. Apparently, there are lots of people that are in these COVID-19 wings. They take away your key, quarantine you in your room and bring you whatever food you want, either giving you a discounted rate or a meal package. Some of them don’t charge you anything because it has already been crappy enough for you but they try to at least keep you contained. I said, “What does this mean because I’m leaving tomorrow?”You'll be respected more if you tell the truth while looking right into their eyes. Click To Tweet
She said, “We don’t have any availability.” I was like, “What do you mean you don’t have any availability?” My wife was checking to see if we could stay an extra three days. He gave her six different options of rooms for the next three days. “Are you saying you don’t have availability for people with COVID-19?” She’s like, “Did not.” She mumbled her way around it and was like, “The rooms, room availability, and people.”
I’m like, “I need you to be straight with me. Are you saying that your policy is when someone gets a positive test, you boot them out of the hotel? I need to know that because I need to go how to react after this because if I went and talked to your front desk, they would tell me there are rooms.” She finally fessed up and was like, “That’s our policy.”
You are in Mexico. Is this someone who’s Mexican? Is this an American girl working in a Mexican hotel?
I’m trying not to assault Mexicans by doing my terrible Spanish accent but she was speaking in broken English Spanish.
This is one that is fun to have my wife on these trips because my wife speaks perfect Spanish. The difference between you and me speaking English, you know this, and her speaking Spanish, when she speaks Spanish, it’s almost like you hear someone British. There is this immediate authority exhibit. She interrupts the people. I didn’t expect to see that comment but you, my friend, with your eighth grade Spanish, we are screwed.
I could have used Eli on this trip because I was trying to explain how frustrated I was with their policies. At this point, my symptoms are like a tickle in my throat. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m frustrated and stuck here. Part of it is you are frustrated with yourself like, “What the fuck am I doing in Mexico during a pandemic?” Damn, it has finally caught me because Jenny and I have been playing fast, and lose the whole time traveling wherever we want and this one finally beat me.
I’m the only 1 out of 17 that tests for COVID-19 at this point. I don’t know where I’m going to go and do. Jenny is trying to figure out, “Do you want us to stay with you?” The answer to that is decidedly, “No, you need to get the hell out of here. We can end up being here for weeks because one of us keeps getting sick. You’ve got to go get on the plane and stay away from me. I’ve got to go figure out what to do.”
Frankie, this is a nice hotel. A high-end place. It’s not your typical all-inclusive that’s giving you a cheap beer. This was a nice joint. One, they sent someone to talk to me who didn’t speak the greatest English and was clearly nervous to tell me this. You and I have both been in industries where emotions get raw, especially around the settlement day or when you have to tell someone that they can’t have the options they want or the options they ordered are not going to be available. We are not going to get those cabinets in time.
You are in an industry where you have to go give bad news. I have lived in an industry where I have had to give bad news rather than tell someone, “I’m sorry that you are out of your house. You are not closing for another week because we screwed up. We are going to put you in a hotel with your seven kids.” I have had those conversations.
When you are running a business, if you know those conversations are going to come up, the only thing you can do as a business owner or a manager is to practice those scenarios all the time. We used to role play that discussion all the time. You would have to tell me, the angry customer, that I was not closing on time. You would have to give me the news and get me over the null curve. It was clear that this company was ill-prepared for it.
They weren’t training their folks and preparing them for this discussion. I never lost my voice and my cool but I felt for her. I hated their policies but I felt even matter at their company for sending this young girl to deliver news that she was so uncomfortable delivering and ill-prepared to say what she should say. They hadn’t prepped her.
What I was about to say is she’s ill-prepared. We are business owners. We are long-seasoned managers. When you see somebody like that, the failing is on the organization where they are employed, not on the employee. She’s doing the best she can and what she has been dealt with.
To me, the policy sucked. It was like, “We don’t have rooms.” I know it’s a lie. If your policy is, “We have to protect the other guests. If we know that you have tested positive for COVID-19, we do ask that you go.” Frank, you would probably be the same as me. I will respect you more if you look me right in the eyes and say, “That’s our policy. There are hundreds of people in this hotel and we have to protect all of them from a breakout. We are going to try to make this as comfortable and seamless as possible but our policy is you can’t stay.” They lied about it. They said, “We don’t have any rooms left,” after I had asked about extra rooms. I was very frustrated about that.
I don’t know what it is about society with this but this is God’s honest truth. There was a period of my life where I realized coming out and saying it is so much better than any other alternative. Why isn’t there a well-crafted message around, “Mr. Mathews, you have tested positive for COVID-19. We aren’t built adequately in a way where we can keep you away from guests. We are afraid we are going to spread it. We have reached out to these four hotels who are set up better than us, where you can easily check-in?”
She mumbled like a half-assed, “We have had some other guests, go get Airbnbs. I would think they would have a list. Here are the numbers to call or we have one person dedicated to getting people. You’ve got to leave our property. That’s our side.” Most hotels had a wing. They try to control it. That’s cool. If that’s not your policy, I understand that. That’s a lot of work. It’s hard to contain it.
Not every property is built the same. You might not have the ability to quarantine somebody. Certain places have wings. Some places don’t.
Here’s the way I see it, I’m a big boy. I knew this was a risk when I went and I’m dealing with it. It’s like, “I’m dealing with this.” You are a hotel running in the middle of COVID-19. You know the risks that people are going to get COVID-19 at your hotel. You should have policies that are helpful to the people that it happens to. You can’t have a that-sucks-for-them attitude when it does happen. My family is out hanging out all day while I’m sitting in the room. I’m trying to find out where I’m going to go stay. I’m getting texts all day saying, “I ran into another mom whose husband is in the room because he’s got COVID-19.”
When I was leaving, I’m talking to the bellboy who came over to get me. He’s super nice. He knows that I’ve got COVID-19. They’ve got special handlers for this. he’s like, “It’s probably a dozen every morning that are testing positive that I have to have this discussion with, ‘Where do I go?’” It’s Omicron. This is the biggest surge. You just have a policy. Maybe one person is dedicated to showing you, “Here are the resources, where you can go and what you can do.”
Similar to me, it’s like a termination. If you have to say goodbye to someone for lack of work or whatever reason, you give them some paperwork, “Here is the number to call Cava. Here is what you can do about your unemployment benefits. Here is when your next check is going to come.” The most important when you do a termination is you give me some action to take.
The worst part is being like, “I don’t know what to do.” Give me some tasks to do to break the inertia. I don’t have any of that. I had to go find a hotel on my own. “Do they all share these tasks? Where am I going to stay? I’m in Mexico. I don’t know where I’m going to stay.” I ended up finding a real dump of a hotel to try to get my way through it.
I’m thinking that is sarcastic because you sent me some pictures from this place. It looked like you had your own personal pool.
That was important to me. I didn’t go at the top end but it did have to have its own pool and backyard. It needed to be a villa of some kind.
Talk about connecting to our readers. You are talking about your $1,000 a night quarantine hotel while you are in Mexico.
This isn’t the same time that Frank is paying $6,000 for fuel for a flight to come get him at Westchester.
None of the details are accurate. It was $9,000.
I’ve got COVID-19. I don’t know if I’m going to be stuck in Mexico for a day, a week, two weeks, screw it. I’m stuck here by myself. I’m pissed off. I go find the Viceroy, which has its own private villa. I have a pool and a hammock. I’ve got a nice reading area outside, a big ass room, private butler. It was a very nice accommodation.
It was hilarious. It went from everyone is worried about Ian like, “He has got COVID-19. This sucks. What are we going to do? How’s he going to get home?” to everyone is jealous that Ian is still in Mexico because I’m sending pictures of myself drinking at a pool or quarantining drinking Pacifico. I was there for New Year’s Eve. I’m watching all the ball games from my hammock outside. I read three books over three days. It was one of the most delightful quarantines anyone could possibly imagine.
My wife was so pissed at me when I’ve got COVID-19. It affected me and I didn’t feel good. I ended up going to the hospital for a day. At that point, we had 2 kids under 3. I ended up upstairs in our bedroom and an extra room off the bedroom that has a TV. I’m on the couch, watching TV, reading books, relaxing. She’s downstairs, dealing with two kids, bringing me food up whenever I would text, and leaving it by the door, so I wouldn’t have to come to see anybody. Our wives have gotten the worst part of this.
I want to add one other thing to this, Ian, because it’s interesting. The international travel piece is a real risk. I’m pretty good at navigating the US like airlines and airports. How to do it? I’m great in America. I suck in other parts of the world. Whenever we go to Europe, I get behind my wife and let her take charge because she has European sensibilities. She understands how they reason and logic. The fact that you were trapped there in a country that isn’t America with the thought process, that hours and hours, it’s so frustrating. You are like, “Why don’t you do it this way?” They are fundamentally set up differently, so they run differently. It’s incredible.
Several years ago, I was in Germany with David for CodeGuard. We were there for a conference. It’s a story we need to tell on this show one time because it was amazing four days. We killed it. We were supposed to be there an extra day at the conference and we said, “Screw it. We can only screw up at this point. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go to Berlin.” We went to the train station, speaking of being in Europe. We get there. The Germans are German. They are not there to help you with your English. I took German four years in high school and I don’t speak shit of it.
There’s no one there to help you. The train stations are all automated. You are punching in the different stations you want to go to. It’s all written in German. We missed an entire train and sit for another 45 minutes because we couldn’t understand what the hell it meant. There is no one there to help you. Finally, after the twelfth person, we ask someone nice enough to tell us, “Here’s how to get to Berlin.” It’s the same in Europe. They do not care. Italy is a little easier. I thought Spain was pretty easy to get around. Germany is hard. England is easy. France doesn’t give a shit if you can’t read their train stations.
The countries that are helpful in Europe are the ones that have the worst GDPs. They rely on transportation and tourism but the Northern and Nordic countries could give a rip. I want to say one other thing real quick that is relevant to this, and then we are going to move this into Vegas because you had to get out of there to go to something pretty important.Just coming out and saying the truth is so much better than any other alternative. Click To Tweet
One of the things as an employer now that you are dealing with is The Big Resignation or The Big Quit. It’s called both. What it comes down to is people are tired. I was in a meeting with one of our designers and she had a mask on. I walked into the meeting and I was the last one to walk in. I said, “Are you radioactive or are you afraid of one of his bosses?” She’s like, “I’m going on vacation. I am insanely in need of a vacation. I’m not catching anything before we go on this vacation. I am being very careful about anything.” I’m like, “Do you want me to go put a mask on?” She’s like, “If you are not sick, you don’t need to.”
I like her. She’s a nice person. I was like, “Do you want me to put a mask on?” She’s like, “No, you don’t need to. I want to be cautious because I need a fucking break.” The things we used to do like go to a train station and get on a train to Berlin are now ripe with all these problems. I had an opportunity to go to Mexico. The place was $7,000 a night for this house.
I didn’t have to do a thing. They were going to pay for my airline. They were going to pay for my transportation, everything, just get there. After stranding my wife for 24 days with our kids, when I had COVID-19, I couldn’t go. I’m like, “How could I possibly go on a vacation where she’s home with two kids? Possibly I don’t get to come home and she’s going to be angry.” It’s not a good partnership.
What I’m driving at with this is I think this is why we are where we are now. People are frustrated. Tempers are high. People are quitting. It’s everywhere you read it but it’s real. The little things we used to be able to do that we now take for granted are now so much harder because of where we are at. Thankfully, I can make fun of Ian. We are both in a position where when these things happen. We get to adapt and stay at the Viceroy. A friend of mine travels back and forth to see his family in the Philippines. He has a quarantine for 14 to 15 days to get into the country. It’s incredible.
The first 24 to 48 hours were cute. I was like, “It was pretty cool.” I can’t remember the last time I ate six straight meals without someone crawling, bothering me or being in my ear chirping. I eat six quiet meals.
That’s what it’s like hanging out with Ian. He’s always all over me.
I haven’t had six meals in a row by myself in several years. It feels like forever. It was nice but then that second night, you are going to bed and you are like, “What if I’m like one of these long COVID-19 people? What if I have this shift for a month? What if I don’t get home?” You start panicking yourself. I’m watching TV and it’s like, “Record Omicron case coming every day.” I’m like, “What if Biden puts a lockdown? What if he says no one is getting into the county?” That happened the first time COVID-19 happened.
Now you start panicking. I’ve got these take-home tests. Jenny left me with a bunch. I finally took one. I’m looking at it and I’m like, “There’s no second line.” I haven’t had symptoms in three days. I feel great. I’m going on 5 to 6 mile runs on the beach. I’m feeling great. I’ve got nothing else to do. I’ve got none of the time. I feel great.
Nicole, that’s a shout-out to you, who had COVID-19, who ran 8 miles a day.
No doubt. He did it a lot faster than I did my 6 miles. I guarantee you there is a lot of walking in mine for sure. I want to hear this podcast. I’m going to slow it down a little while to hear the whole conversation. I’m like, “Now I’m getting pissed.” Every day I’m going Downtown Playa del Carmen, and they have these little testing stations. They are everywhere, Frank. They are pop-up stations.
The first day, I probably spent $200. I go into six of them to get a test, and then fifteen minutes later, you get an email. It’s the same thing everywhere. You go on, scan a barcode, go on your iPhone, type in your information, passport, and stuff. They stick a swab up your nose and you get an email 50 minutes later that either says positivo or negativo. All of mine are positivo.
On the first day, I’m like, “Six positive tests. I’m still positive. Screw it.” I’ve got back into a cab and went back to my hotel. I’m scared. I won’t let the hotel test me. They are trying to set up a test. I said, “No. I will do it myself. I’m good.” I don’t want them to boot me out of this place. I’m not saying shit to them. The second day I go, I have tested in my hotel and have no two bars. I’m like, “This will be great. I’m going to get a negative test.” I go three places in a row and get an email me positive.
Now I’m starting to panic. I’m googling how to get a negative test. I bought a bunch of Listerine. I heard that that would help. I was doing shots of Listerine in an alley like an alcoholic. I’m not even gurgling. I’m swallowing it. It’s coming up when I breathe. It’s like burning my nose. I snorted some Listerine. I was so desperate. It was one of the stupidest things I ever did. It didn’t do any help. I tested and still got a positive.
On the third day, I go and I’m so desperate. I’m starting to talk to these people in these places like, “What’s going on? Why are all these coming back? Is this a bracket to keep us in the country? I took two tests in my room. They are both negative. How do I get a negative test?” I’m starting to ask that. I’m pulling the Frank Cava. I’m handing out hands-on this to people to see how to get a negative test.
Let’s set the record straight. I usually do this because I’m trying to get five middle-aged dudes into a club in Vegas. That’s when I’m handing out the hundreds.
It’s effective and it worked. If Hand Handys can get drunky and into a club but he could barely stand, Hand Handys should be able to get me a negative test to get home to America. I’m asking this as one guy is trying to give me a phone number to contact this guy on WhatsApp. I’m like, “This is starting to feel like a drug deal. I can’t do that.”
I finally go in and find a couple of girls. I’m like, “I appreciate what you guys are doing.” I give them both $100 right upfront. I’m like, “I’m excited to get my negative tests. I will be back if it’s negative.” Senior frogs bought a beer, sat outside, waited. I’ve got an email with a negative COVID-19 test. I went back and gave those two girls $200 more dollars. They made $400 that day. I was able to get home.
Do you think, honestly, you bought yourself a negative test?
I don’t know but I was desperate and throwing cash everywhere because I had built in my head this narrative that all these places were corrupt. They are trying to keep people here to keep getting them to keep testing.
Were you just running around screaming, “Cartel?”
I couldn’t understand it because I was shoving that thing up my nose and it was coming back negative two days in a row. I’m like, “Why are these testing places giving me positives? This is bullshit. I have no symptoms.” You are getting pissed because I fly all over in America. No one makes you test in America. If you fly to Vegas, Texas, Florida, no one makes your test there or comes back. This is some international rule and I’m stuck here. I don’t know how I bought it. It could have been my charm. A couple of young ladies put the charm on it pretty good.
I’m sure it was the money.
It was probably the money.
I want to denigrate to a funny story but I will skip it.
I was desperate because we were debuting the night, our car alarm at CES in Las Vegas. I was still in Mexico and in two days, if I wouldn’t have got that test, I wouldn’t have made it to the media night, which was the big night. David and I were going to be there, where all the media comes. You’ve got all the influencers and big media outlets that are looking at new product announcements. I was desperate like, “How do I get my ass to Las Vegas?”
Thankfully, I’ve got that test. I’ve got home. The next day, I took another test. I went and got a test at a lab that came back that I was still negative. I was like, “I’m going to Vegas.” It ended up being an awesome trip for us, Frankie, because of our product, which we have been working on for several years. This was very nerve-wracking for us.
We rented a smart car and put our car alarm inside of it that has multiple sensors. You can imagine at a huge fair like this, there is a lot of interference that could screw up sensors. Lots of people are walking back and forth. There are a lot of ways that this thing could not work. Hundreds of people tested it. They opened the door. The alarm went off. It went off without a hitch. It worked. It was a cool event for everyone on our team. We brought 6 people from Keep, 4 engineers, me and David. Good morale builder that our device worked. We had such a big bang at CES.
We beat the COVID-19 angle. Everybody understands and got their own story about COVID-19. It’s ridiculous but we have dealt with it. Why was CES such a big deal? Why did you put so much stock in it and why was it important to be there?
CES is the Consumer Electronics Show. Every year it’s in Las Vegas. It’s the biggest technology show in the world. You know how Apple does their event every year where Steve Jobs would unveil their new feature.
If he was still coming to be even more impressive but every year they do a product launch. They have been doing that since the ‘80s.
Apple is the only company that anyone follows that does their own thing. You don’t know if someone else is doing that, “The Microsoft product launch is coming or the General Motors.” For most companies, even the big ones, CES is where they debut new products like Microsoft’s debut in their new Xbox games or their new Xbox in general. They are debuting their surface laptop.
Big companies are there but then there’s this whole other conference that’s within CES. The name of it is Eureka Park is where the location is. That’s where all the most disruptive startups where they get a booth. That area is completely packed with people looking for new technology. You’ve got distributors and retailers there that are looking to see new products they could pick up. You’ve got influencers there that have shows and that are talking about the newest technology, high energy, huge show. The people that are there have real credentials in the technology space.
For us, it was a big deal to debut there because we had to bring production devices. Our device looks like an Alexa. It’s a tech product. Up until now, we have been dealing with prototypes. You can use some smoke and mirrors to do your videos and show how it works. Sometimes you are backing it up with a power cord or a plug. You are doing different things where you are hard-wiring it to be able to show some of its capabilities.If you want to succeed on QVC, you need a good pitchman to kind of explain all the features. Click To Tweet
We had the actual device unwired, showing it to people, letting them touch it, handle it, paint it. It looked good and it had to work. We have let people demo this over and over. For our engineers who have been making this thing fail for several years on purpose to try to test it in different ways, this was a stressful moment for them to get ready for it. For it to work for 3 days of 8 hours a day in that booth was phenomenal.
A whole bunch of cool stuff came out of it, Frankie. I’m only talking about a couple of them. A marketing group that launches companies on QVC came by. I have been talking to them about it. Ring, which is probably the perfect analog for us. We are trying to do a Ring did for cars but a little bit different. Ring launched on QVC and they have stayed on QVC for a decade. They do big numbers there. We weren’t thinking about QVC to start. We are going to be all direct to the consumer. It could be a fun avenue for us. I will tell you how it works, just the math because you will be fascinated.
I know what it is but what is QVC?
I don’t even know what QVC stands for, Quality Value Convenience.
It was a channel where they pitched things.
There’s always a pitchman. It’s an entire channel of infomercials. That’s all it is. If you watch Shark Tank, Lori Greiner is the queen of QVC. That’s where lots of little consumer products, tchotchkes, late-night ads are done. They give you a big audience of people that like to see new products, new things, being introduced that watch it. Every time they have a spot, their goal is to go sell as much product as possible.
You can do it yourself. David and I could do an ad or you can hire someone pretty good at moving products on there. Think of the Bob Vila’s of the world that is great at moving a specific product. We would go the route of hiring a pitchman. It doesn’t always look like David and I are the only guys working in the company. QVC wants anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 of product committed to do any spot.
The $150,000 worth of product, that’s cost, not retail.
That’s retail. For us, that would be 700 some units depending on what we do there with the $200 device. You have to ship it to them. You have to give them pre-shipped, labels, all of that, so they can ship it and make it easy. For us, our first production run is going to be 3,000 units for July 2022. We have been selling preorders already. We started that around Black Friday.
For a brand new brand, Frankie, that no one has ever heard of the brand and it’s a brand new device, too. It’s not like, “Someone else is doing a webcam.” Can you hand our device to people and ask them what is it? You get anything from a coffee bean grinder to a cup warmer. People don’t know what the hell it is. It’s one of a kind. It’s an invention.
We will have our correct staff use a couple of the images of Keep and show it while we are putting this out. I’m an investor. I talk to you about it all the time. I have seen it. It’s pretty fascinating what it looks like.
One of our biggest investors, too. We appreciate you, Frank. You are a real big swinger. For that device on QVC, you need a good pitchman to explain all the features. There are a lot of features that it can do to protect your car. They want $150,000 worth of inventory. They want something like 35% to 37%. That’s their take. If you’ve got them on Best Buy shelves, that’s about what you do, and then you pay the agency to move the unit, a commission of 5 to 6 points. On a $200 unit, you start doing the math on that. That’s $82 of costs, not to mention our bill of material is over $100.
You look at that and say, “Why would you sell $150,000 at a loss?” our answer is pretty simple in a couple of ways. One, we sell monitoring for these. If you want to self-monitor, it’s $5 a month or professional monitoring, where we do all the monitoring like a home alarm, is $20 a month. We believe we have done enough surveys.
We believe that 80% of people would purchase the monitoring program. In fact, we are not going to let you even buy it without the self-monitoring. You have to buy one of them. If many people are interested in paying for the monitoring, we can sell our products at a loss. It’s like Tim McEnery and Cooper’s Hawk with the wine club. He makes every restaurant cashflow positive immediately from the wine club.
It’s a business strategy. It’s a loss leader that brings you to a continuity model. Almost everybody who’s reading this has been sold something similar. This incredible shiny object that is too good to be true for the price, and then the real value is that continuity. What continuity means is something that comes in every single month.
I’ve got an uncle who owned eighteen Planet Fitness gyms. He sold almost all of them at the end of 2019. It was perfect timing but they will charge you $9.99 a month for membership, which is low for membership because they know you are not going to use it because you are not willing to cancel it. That, in its simplest form, is what a continuity model is.
Tim McEnery’s wine club, the vast majority of people don’t pick up the wine. The thing that makes these businesses incredibly valuable is that monthly. What also happens is when you sell, what you don’t get into, I’m sure, you sell on a multiple based upon what comes in every single month. It makes the company insanely valuable.
A big number that venture capitalists look at and anyone looking to acquire us, which our aspirations would be a big company like Google, Apple, Amazon or someone like that would want to buy us one day. 1) For our intellectual property but, 2) We want to gobble up so much market share that they say, “Screw it. We are not going to build our own device.” That’s going to buy you like what Apple did with Beats. They went out and bought someone who was already good, that had a great brand name.
Who bought Ring? Didn’t Amazon buy Ring?
Amazon bought Ring. Google bought Nest. All of these big companies get gobbled up by other big companies if you do well enough. These are big dreams that we have.
That’s the reason you go to a QVC and you take a loss.
You are hitting on a great point. Finish that thought. I was about to say this. Let’s say, Frankie, we didn’t have a service model after the fact to make it work, you could still make an argument. It makes sense with a brand new brand to go get this as many customers’ hands as possible early.
I walk around my office. Security is important for women. Ian and I are big dudes. I’m in real estate. This comes up a lot with real estate, with the NAR, the National Association of Realtors. What they always talk about with women is safety. I’m not a dirtbag and I’m not a woman. I don’t think about it but for women, it’s like, “Am I going to be okay? Am I going to be safe? How am I doing this? Is anyone hiding around this corner?”
I didn’t know what Ring was. I didn’t have a Ring alarm several years ago but I had many women who work here. I would walk around the office and constantly heard this dinging sound. Now that I have a Ring device, I have my silence. My wife has hers on. The point of the matter is it’s a distinct sound where you know someone else is monitoring their front door. Someone went by and you hear it. It becomes something you pay. You are paying a premium to be on QVC. It becomes part of the subconscious that people were like, “I must.” It’s something like Kleenex. It becomes the brand. The hope and goal are if you can become the brand.
There are a lot of the same viral qualities of Ring. Ring grew so much because people shared videos like, “Look at this SOB stealing my Amazon box off of my porch.” They didn’t initially think that was going to be what drove it. What drove their popularity was wanting to know what was going on in your neighborhood. It’s like, “My neighbor’s car got broken into. Here, let me rewind the Ring tape and see if I can see what happened because it goes next door and I could see. There it is.” They share it.
There are a lot of the same things with our product. We have an HD camera on it. Every event that happens deters people to get right up on the window. They are getting ready to pull up and it will see them in, chirp at them, warn them and get away but it also records every alarm event. We think people will share some of those, “Lookout for this guy who was in our neighborhood.” Getting back to the point of why would you be on QVC and lose money early, it makes a lot of sense because our goal now is to get these.
We believe it’s a great product. It will do what we are saying it’s going to do, which is deter crime and make your car safer. The more people’s hands we can get it into, the more talking they will do with their neighbors and say, “We bought this Keep.” Those people will buy a full price right off of our website. You get more preorders.
We are in a mode where we believe that the more of these we can get out into people’s hands, the more they are going to share it, social proof. If one person in a neighborhood buys it, next thing you know, ten have it in the neighborhood because the video caught one guy and they shared it with everyone. They said, “how did you get that video?” “I bought this device.” Now everyone buys it. How Jenny and I have got into Ring are other people were sharing videos and talking about it. I didn’t see some commercial that got me excited.
I have never built something that I wanted to go viral. I buy real estate as long as I have good real estate that keeps people safe and provides shelter. It’s a pretty low bar. If you want to have something go viral, you have to think about these things in the strategies. There’s a multitude of them. It starts with having a great product and word of mouth. All these little things build up.
It’s a queue rating. It’s very hard to understand what goes into a queue rating or a Nielsen rating. The point is, the popular stuff gets talked about at the water cooler. You are walking around the office. Your cell phone tells you who is involved with something because it rings and makes a distinct sound. It’s interesting stuff.
You asked about CES. I’m giving you one little example. A whole bunch of distributors talks to us that want to carry our product, and other ways to get things out.
Distributors like what?If you want to have something go viral, it starts with having a great product. Click To Tweet
A car electronics guy that sells different gadgets that go into cars. They sell directly to auto dealers. We had a whole bunch of different people with smaller YouTube channels interviews David or me over the course of three days. Those are starting to get put up there. Our mailing list has been growing a lot since we did this. Exposure was a big piece of it for us.
For people who don’t own a business, part of the business is connective tissue. A lot of businesses are like yard sales. There’s shit everywhere. There are dolls next to VCRs, next to old tools. It isn’t organized. What you start to realize is there’s a connective tissue that holds things together at successful businesses. The Amazons and Apples of the world have a very distinct product.
For those of us that aren’t that big, we have stuff that holds us together and it connects everything. I have property, property management, and construction. Those things have connective tissue called managers who hold them all together. What Ian is talking about now with social media, the connective tissue to that is that show we did about, it was a two-parter for us. We only did 70 episodes at this point. 4 of those 70 are dedicated to meeting Shaq and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Those are pieces that are part of the connective tissue of the story of not only our show but of Keep because those are little things you start to do. You don’t know which ones are going to work and which aren’t going to work. You’ve got to put enough lines out into the water as a business owner to have enough people who connect the dots.
One of the funny things is it may go nowhere but Gary Vee and Shaq know each other. They have talked and it’s made it back to Ian. These little things about getting stuck in Mexico. That’s why getting stuck in Mexico fucking matters because if you are stuck in Mexico, your number one sales guy is at a pool at the Viceroy spending $1,000 a night.
What he isn’t doing is getting in front of people who can help us get this device in front of the right people and make the right choices. David is an engineer. He got a bunch of engineers behind them. He brought Ian in because Ian is a specialist. He’s a business guy who can sell. We have talked about it here over and over again. That’s why the stakes are so high.
Frankie, 2022, do you have access to deals you didn’t have access to in 2012?
I don’t know where you are going with it but it’s because of this. My life drastically changed when I’ve got on television. When I went to TV, people knew who I was. I showed up at the place. They are like, “Hi, Frank.” That’s part of it. My number of signs is all over the place. There are hundreds of our signs all over Richmond at any given time. I also have a guy who follows me around with a camera three days a week.
It’s because of those things, I’m in people’s conscience and their heads. It’s because I spent so much money on marketing and television, we have an incredible track record but also, we are on the offensive with our content and because of that, people will say, “We want to give it to this guy.” There’s a 27-unit deal we are looking at, a 50-unit deal to a 300-unit deal. Those didn’t use to find me. Now they find us.
It’s the same reason that some senators get voted in every 4 years for 50 years because of the name recognition brand. It’s a trusted name, whether someone works with you or not, they see your signs everywhere. You have now closed hundreds of deals in Richmond or you closed a few. I also think this is important. You go out of your way not to screw people. You will lose money on a deal if it means everyone is happy at the end of it because it doesn’t matter in the long run.
Frank has access. It’s easy to do business with Frank now. Several years ago, it was a leap to jump into a commercial real estate deal with me. I have now delivered a lot of money to a bunch of people but for them, it’s no longer a leap. They are asking me, “What’s the next thing you were looking for?” Several years ago, you were out there because I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing.
It’s the same with a tech startup. When someone comes to our website, they have a problem. Someone messed with their car. Maybe it has been broken into. They are aware of car theft and maybe they have seen a social media ad or a post that I have done somewhere. When they get there, one thing they don’t know is, are we a credible company? Who are these guys? Is this a fly-by-night? Am I going to send my credit card information to someone? They never send me a unit. Who are they? One thing David and I are trying hard to do is before we even have products in front of people, which is number one.
The number one way we can build credibility is you come to our website. We have 30 videos of people talking about how the night stopped the thief from getting into their car and how they sleep better at night parking in their parking garage versus before. That’s number one that beats everything. For us, little things like if you come to our website, you see the pictures and features, you’ve got all the copy that I have written on there. You’ve got David doing some of his demos but the number one thing we can do is show that we are credible.
Now, how do you do that? You show your booth at CES. We spent some money. We were highlighted CES. Here’s us interviewing a couple of the lead people that do CES Eureka Park. Here’s us at TechCrunch Disrupt in the pitch competition. We were voted a top twenty finalists. Those things make a difference when someone comes and they are trying to decide, “Do I give $200 to this company, which is a lot of money for a connected car alarm? Are they credible?”
It’s the same reason why you get deals now and you didn’t get in 2012 because you didn’t have a track record. It wasn’t that you weren’t credible. You didn’t have name recognition. Who is it? No one cares you have worked at Ryan Homes for fifteen years. They didn’t. What have you done in Richmond? Several years later, it’s like, “That guy is everywhere. I know that name. I can work with him in a second.”
We’ve got to wrap this up but to wrap it up, I will leave you with a thought, and then you can close us. What I talk about in the course of my business, every Monday, I do a state of the company. It’s Frank’s state of the company. I go over where we are and what we are doing, all of that. What I learned when I was in my low twenties, one of my bosses told me, “You are out in the field building houses.”
I’m somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months ahead of you because I’m in the office. I’m seeing the things that are in the office. The guy who was the vice president running the department was 6 months to 12 months ahead of that production manager who was managing me. That’s what’s happening. That’s what I do inside of my business every day.
I don’t think about where we are. When there’s a problem, I deal with where we are. What I deal with is 90 or 180 days from now, 1, 3, 5 years from now, where we are going? What Ian is talking about is alignment, getting in there, and building credibility. What he isn’t saying, which causes as much strife and as much thought, is we are not to be.
Where do we not want to spend our time? What do we not want to be associated with? What is a waste of our time? Someone like QVC is not a waste of time for the reasons we said but other people are pitching and saying, “That’s not for us. It’s not the right brand. It’s not the right direction.” I deal with this all the time as the owner of the business. What Ian and David are doing is producing a great product, aligning themselves, and saying no to a lot.
It was a great first approach for us at CES to launch. The last thing I will say is it’s humbling, Frankie. You go, “David had a lot of success. I have had lots of different successes. I have been at higher levels.” You go to these trade shows where no one has ever heard of you. You are right back to work in a booth. You are shaking hands and showing the device. I’m a pitchman. My elevator pitch from the first person that walked into our booth to the 400 that I talked to is so much crisper now. I can get it out of my mouth in less than 30 seconds what the hell our device does. The practice was great.
It’s just getting people’s reactions, what features did they react to? Which ones did they have a visceral reaction to? What do they get emotional about, features I used to get jazzed about that they didn’t and ones that I wasn’t as excited about that they would be like, “That’s incredible?” All of those little things are instructive when you are starting a business. Begging people to come to your booth. You are back to being a fraternity guy trying to ask girls to come to sit at your table and play beer pong. That’s where you were.
Those pledge chairman days helped you out. Thank God you had those hand hondos that got you out of Mexico. They’ve got you to Vegas, so you, Ian Mathews, could be a super spreader.
I thought to myself, “I’m in a bad predicament. I’m stuck in Mexico. I need to be in Vegas. What would Frank do? I’m going to pull out the hondos that always get Frank out of trouble. What’s going on? Frankie would be greasing everyone he came across now. His ass would not still be in Mexico. Ian, you are now working hard enough. Frank would have bought his way out of here by now.”
Ian, here are a couple of $100. I’m going to end this episode.
See you, homie.