The end of the road for #vanlife?

April 24, 2020

April 24, 2020
The Hustle

Goodbye, airplane middle seats. We’ll remember you for your shocking inconvenience, total lack of comfort, and incredibly aggravating yet somehow universally observed code of conduct. Actually, why did we ever like you in the first place? Oh yeah, because we could fly from NYC to Tampa for $63… damn.

🎂 Let’s be honest: A Hustle hoodie is going to come in VERY handy in quarantine. Get one by sharing this email with friends (details below). Thanks for helping us celebrate our birthday week!

Life Is a Highway

In the pandemic era, can #vanlife go on? It depends on your rig

How do you shelter in place when your home’s a van? 

The answer might seem simple — just keep it in park? — but widespread stay-at-home orders are complicating #vanlife.

To flee or not to flee, that is the question

Some van dwellers have hightailed it to homes (or driveways) of family and friends, or to properties of willing strangers. 

There’s even a “Space for Roadlifers” Google doc that’s connecting travelers with people willing to lend a spare room or parking spot. 

Others are getting REALLY socially distant

Some van lifers have found places to legally park and stay (for free) on the wide open spaces of federal lands.

While developed recreation sites with campgrounds, toilets, and running water are closed in most places, free, dispersed camping (outside of designated camping spaces) is still fair game on most Bureau of Land Management and National Forest properties. 

Determining whether it’s safer to head on a long journey toward family/friends or to hunker down on an uncrowded piece of public land depends, in part, on your van’s setup.

Take it from some van fans

Grizel Williams and her boyfriend found some quiet BLM land in southeastern Colorado to hunker down, and their situation sounds about as socially distant as it gets. 

Their Extended High Roof Ford Transit van is equipped with running water, a 35-gallon tank, solar panels, and heat.

Williams says they can go 2 to 3 weeks before needing to head to town for a resupply. But if you don’t have a toilet or running water, like Christina Hadly, it’s much tougher to get by in your vehicle.

Don’t judge the van by the ‘gram

While stereotypes of van life involve constant traveling and way-too-staged lifestyle shots, many real-life van lifers say they’re in it for other reasons. 

Williams says living in a van isn’t about traveling, it’s about “finding joy in things beyond consumerism.” 

People in this camp, whose vans are well-equipped, can take the pandemic as an opportunity to slow down and focus on the things that matter most, kinda the point of #vanlife anyway.

But if federal lands close to dispersed camping, as some fear might happen, many more van lifers may need to consider posting up in relatives’ driveways.

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In case of corona overload…

Today we bring you some investigatory muscle, a head-scratcher at Microsoft, and big news for WiFi.

Amazon employees snooped on sellers. Amazon has told Congress that it doesn’t use information from 3rd-party sellers to develop its own private-label products. But The Wall Street Journal found that some Amazon employees did precisely that.

There’s big trouble at Bird. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs at the scooter startup because of the pandemic. An investigation by The Verge found that bizarre layoffs were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Bird’s workplace problems.

Google wants to see some ID. The company is now requiring all advertisers — not just political ones — to verify their identities.

WYD, Bing? Microsoft disabled a “trending articles” feature in its Bing search engine that was showing results with some majorly NSFW titles.

Your WiFi is getting a signal boost. The FCC voted to open up the 6GHz band for unlicensed use, which will eventually mean stronger and faster connections for new devices. Here’s why it’s a big deal.

Elbow Room

A small pandemic bright spot? The end of the airplane middle seat

Attention all passengers. Even in the friendly skies, social distancing is important. But can carriers keep operating while keeping travelers 6 feet apart?

TBH, most of us will love this 

Many airlines are discussing — and some have actually gone through with — axing the middle man … er, seat. Which, great. Unless you’re a weirdo who likes rubbing your sweaty forearms against those of strangers, the middle seat is the absolute worst.

  • Delta has already started blocking middle seats in most cabins and will continue to do so through June 30. 
  • United Airlines also will 86 the middle seat and amend boarding practices to allow passengers more space to get situated before takeoff. 
  • For now, United’s revamped procedures will be in place through May 30.

These efforts are part of a larger effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and — perhaps more importantly for the industry — reassure customers that air travel is safe.

But not everyone is on board

Social distancing measures mean short-haul flights carry loads of 66% capacity or less. To break even financially, most carriers need loads in the 70% range. In other words, playing it safe is costing carriers money.

Ryanair, an Irish carrier known for budget fares, has said it’s prepared to stay grounded if forced to keep middle seats empty — its CEO called the idea “idiotic.” 

And cutting out the middle seat doesn’t even create enough space. According to the BBC, one would need to maintain 4 seats’ distance from others to stay at the recommended 6-foot distance. 

Middle seats aside, the coronavirus has been a kidney punch for airline travel. Passenger loads of 10% or less aren’t uncommon on US flights, and some carriers are planning to slash schedules by as much as 90% in the next few months.

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Savvy brands are using this tool to one-up Amazon with customer experience (for free)

Google searches for “where’s my package?” are at an all time high right now. 

Why? Because online orders have skyrocketed, but for the past 20 years, customers’ post-purchase experience has been the same:

“Thanks for buying our stuff! Here’s a tracking number buried in an email you’ll never find again. Bye! 👋”

FYI: That experience sucks, and you’re missing a valuable opportunity to delight your customers (and keep ‘em coming back).

Post-purchase solutions built for the 21st century

Route is a free ecommerce plugin for merchants, and it gives you total control over the entire delivery journey with features like:

  • Visual Tracking™
  • Real-time shipping updates
  • Coverage for lost, stolen and damaged packages

TL;DR? It increases transparency, drastically reduces package loss, and boosts bottom-line revenue

If you’re tired of answering “where’s my order?” calls, playing phone tag with USPS or paying out of pocket for failed deliveries, it’s time to try Route. Your customers will thank you for it.

Plus, Route will give you $100 cash if you schedule a 10-minute demo and try it on your site. Talk about a win-win.

Snag a demo →
Travel Trouble

Airbnb pledged $250m to help its hosts. Now some hosts ask, where’s the money?

Hundreds of Airbnb hosts are complaining that they haven’t received any money under the $250m coronavirus relief program that the company announced last month, according to CNBC.

Airbnb’s stuck between a rock and a hard pillow

In March, the company said travelers could be eligible for refunds on trips through the end of May that were booked before March 15. 

The policy angered the company’s hosts, who said, hey, whaddabout us?

A handful of hosts who have received money say the amount Airbnb’s offering — 25% of what they would have received under a host’s normal cancellation policy — is chump change.

  • One host told CNBC that he had lost $30k in reservations, but received a relief check for a whopping $106.02.
  • Airbnb’s explanation of the $250m program points out that some hosts could receive multiple payments.

In a statement to CNBC, Airbnb said it had begun sending out a 1st round of payments — totalling $140m+ — this week.

But the payouts have an expiration date: Airbnb told hosts that its $250m program only applies to reservations made through the end of May.

Will rentals rebound?

This week, Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about how Airbnb — which raised $2B in debt this month — hopes to endure.

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How did Hint get a Super Bowl 2 days before the game?

“Never lose your scrappiness.” 

That’s a mantra Kara Goldin, founder & CEO of Hint, lives by.

Back in 2005, Kara was a stay-at-home mom battling a self-proclaimed Diet Coke addiction… but when she realized how much sh*t was in diet soda, she decided to DIY her own drinks. A few months and a lot of fruit infusions later, she was onto something.

Now, her company, Hint, is the largest independent beverage retailer in the nation — and they’re branching out into new products.

It’s all about consumer permission

Turns out, a bunch of out-of-touch VCs’ inability to empathize with a Diet Coke addiction can inspire a $100M company. “We let the consumers tell us where to go,” says Goldin.

On this week’s episode of Exit Strategy, we learn how:

  • Google gave Hint its first big break
  • Why Hint raised money via family office over VC
  • How Coca-Cola’s rejection helped create space for Hint
  • Kara’s coconut allergy led to a CPG expansion

And more, like how Hint snagged a Super Bowl ad spot just days before the big game. 

🎧 Listen to Exit Strategy here: Apple / Spotify / Castro 🎧

Listen here →
Na Zdrowie!

This legendary Polish liquor will leave germs (and you) woozy

Move over, Purell: The hottest hand sanitizer on the New York City market is a Polish liquor called Spirytus Rektyfikowany.

At 96% alcohol by volume, the spirit is one of the strongest liquors on store shelves in the world. 

Some manufacturers package it with a “flammable” warning. One review found by The Wall Street Journal called it “death in a bottle with a hellish burning aftertaste.”

The signature burn will leave you Rekt, and it may kill just about anything: At the end of February, spirytus sold out in Japan as fears about COVID-19 mounted. 

Now shops in Greenpoint — a historically Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn — are selling 1.2k bottles every 2 weeks. 

A Cold War staple gets the blockbuster treatment

Once upon a time, spirytus was big among the subset of drinkers who have ever taken a sip of absinthe and thought, “This could use a little more ethanol.” 

In Communist-era Poland, people hoarded it to cheaply distill into vodka or to mix with carnation oil in order to ward off mosquitoes. Had a cold? You’d take a little spirytus. 

Now it’s all up in your hand sanitizers. Across the world, eye drops, perfume, and vodka manufacturers have pivoted toward making hand sanitizers — and they’re relying on spirits with more than 60% ethanol. 

But for the DIY crowd, spirytus is an intoxicating at-home brew

Spirytus hand sanitizers are easy to make, according to Elwira Ogórkiewicz, who is offering Facebook tutorials. A good sanitizer is three parts spirytus and one part aloe gel, she said.

But Ogórkiewicz told the Journal that spirytus has one fragrant flaw. Even after adding in some lavender fragrances, she admitted, “It smells a bit like alcohol.”

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Looking to cook up something new this weekend? Take a cue from the incomparable Missy Elliott and “Getcha bake on.” 

FOR THE ROOKIE COOK-IE: How To Make A Basic Butter Cake

“The hardest step is the first one.” True for many things, especially cakes. So, start with this simple cake, and if you mess up… well, just throw it in the trash. We won’t tell. 

FOR THE FAST LEARNER: 26 Tips from Tasty

Did you know you should bang your cake pans on the counter before you use them? Us either. Here’s the reason for this, along with some other hot tips.

FOR THE BAKED COUCH POTATO: The Great British Bake Off

Not all of us have the willpower to get off our couches. For that, there’s TGBBO. Mary Berry is one of many bright spots in British television’s most relaxing show, available on Netflix. 

FOR THE MUFFIN TOP LOVER: Baked Goods of Seinfeld (from Binging with Babish)

Screw stumps, we’re team muffin top all the way. YouTube sensation Binging with Babish breaks down how to make muffin tops, cookies, and even babka. Sorry, Jerry, chocolate is better. 


Congrats on catching the baking itch. Now that you’ve mastered the perfect loaf of bread, here are some quality kits to keep you occupied. 


Is the “kitchen” in your efficiency apartment just a hot plate? All good — just order a Milk Bar cake online, then eat it while you bake virtually in this app.


What are you waiting for? Launch your next big idea today with ConvertKit

Take it from us — nobody wants to waste their time and money figuring out complicated tools when you’ve got a killer big idea. 

Get your idea out there ASAP with a free ConvertKit landing page.

In just 10 minutes, you can build your own customized landing page to promote an upcoming book, slick new product, or even your new masterclass about raising goats. Plus, their free plan gives you access to other great tools like email sends, custom forms, and yes, unlimited landing pages.

Try now →
The Hustle’s Birthday Giveaway
Ambassador Rewards

Today’s the last day of our birthday giveaway

And we’re going out with a bang.

Get your Silicon Valley on with our classic Startupy Hoodie. We’ve got 10 of our coveted sweatshirts coming atcha’ straight from the heart of Hustle land. 

Want a hoodie? Give us a share:

  1. Copy & paste your referral link
  2. Share it far and wide

And hey, thanks for celebrating our birthday week, Hustle fam. Can’t wait to show you what we have up our sleeve for the big #5…

Shower Thoughts

Coming soon: Shower Thoughts Lite (now made with 60% less shampoo!)

1. Being able to tolerate the sound of your own voice in a video is probably the highest form of self acceptance.

2. If the ™ symbol were trademarked, it would also require a ™ symbol, and reproducing it properly would trigger an infinite loop of ™ symbols.

3. We talk about half and quarter hours but never third hours, even though it’s a nice, even 20 minutes.

4. We typically want our fiction to be believable and our nonfiction to be unbelievable.

5. Drinking through a straw is the exact opposite of going snorkeling.

via Reddit
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