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Your thoughts about reopening businesses

It sounded like a transmission from another planet, but there’s something to it: Deadline reported that Tom Cruise is involved in a project with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to shoot a movie... in space. This is a real tweet from NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine:

May 6, 2020
The Hustle

It sounded like a transmission from another planet, but there’s something to it: Deadline reported that Tom Cruise is involved in a project with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to shoot a movie… in space. This is a real tweet from NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine:

We’ve got just one suggestion for the space station’s set designers: Don’t let Elon near the windows, OK?

Coping With Coronavirus

What Hustle readers think about returning to work and life

You’re itching to get out of your house. You’re really looking forward to hitting up your favorite restaurant or watering hole.

But it’s going to be a loooong time before many of you are comfortable attending an event with lots of others around.

Those are just a few of the takeaways from last week’s survey of how Hustle readers feel about returning to work and life.

Here are a few highlights

~1,800 of you responded (whew! Thanks to everyone who did). A quick breakdown of the responses:

1️⃣ 37% of you said you’d feel comfortable returning to the workplace ASAP — the highest share of any venue we asked about.

2️⃣ Restaurants were next. 33% of you said you’d feel comfortable dining out ASAP, and another ~24% said you would in the next couple of months. 

  • In the words of Hunter D. of Boise, Idaho: “I just want to go to a restaurant and get a marg.”

3️⃣ You’re more divided on schools and traveling. 28% of you said you’d feel comfortable sending your kids back to school ASAP, but 19% of you said you wouldn’t until 2021 at the earliest. 

  • When it comes to traveling, 27% were in the ASAP crowd, while 22% are waiting ’til next year.

4️⃣ And you’re not feeling great about big events. 40% of you said you wouldn’t feel good about attending a large gathering (like a concert or sporting event) until 2021.

As more lockdowns lift, here’s what you’ll do first

We’re with reader Angel F. of New York, who wants to “run outside and yell, ‘I’m free, I’m free, thank God almighty, I’m free!’”

Then again, there may be downsides: Kelly H. of Pittsburgh says she’ll “cry because traffic will be back to normal and I’ll be back on my normal work schedule.”

Keri H. of Indianapolis put it simply: “GTL.” She’s kidding, she says, but “just as shallow: hair salon, nail salon and day spa.” 

She may be on to something, because Gym, Drinks, Haircut appears to be the new GTL. Kristin S. of Greensboro, North Carolina, just wants to “deal with the atrocity on the top of my head!”

What it’ll take to feel comfortable getting back to normal

A slice of readers said they’re ready to resume their routines.

  • Take Clint N. of Statesboro, Georgia, who wrote last week: “The only thing holding me back are the shelter-in-place orders our clients are dealing with. When they ramp back up, I plan to be on-site.”

But lots more of you mentioned one thing, again and again: You’ll need a vaccine first (it was cited 500+ times in ~1,700 responses to one of our questions).

Short of that, you said we need much stronger testing and tracing programs, plus evidence that new cases are waning — not fueling a big 2nd wave.

Doug C. of Atlanta was one of several readers to point out that the whole idea of “normal” is different now.

“This has changed everything for the near future and we are foolish to pretend otherwise,” he said. “Rushing back into ‘life as we knew it’ is not what we need to be doing. Let’s get beyond our selfishness for once and act with the common good in mind.”

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Conversation Starters

In a sun-fueled frenzy last weekend, Bobby penned a petition to replace Austin, Texas’s beloved Town Lake Hike & Bike trail with a 10-mile lazy river. While that idea is destined for failure, it got our gears turning… What other absurd petitions are circling the web? 

Here are a few we found to bring up on your next Zoom call with 15 coworkers you’ve only met in passing.

Get My Dad to Play Animal Crossing: In trying times like these, there’s no bad way to bond with your kids… unless you’re like Katy’s dad and want to teach her how to file her taxes (she won’t do it, so stop asking!!). For a mere 250 signatures, we can get this cool dad to hang out with his kid, virtually planting fruit trees and fishing, as our forefathers envisioned. 

Bring Back the Whopperrito: 2016 giveth (Ken Bone, the Mannequin Challenge) and 2016 taketh away (Harambe, the Whopperrito). This petition can’t bring everyone’s favorite gorilla back, but it *can* revive Burger King’s short-lived culinary monstrosity.

Stop Emerson Hate From Growing a Mullet: We don’t know who Emerson is, and we don’t know what his hair looks like, but we do know one thing — unless he looks like one of the 2 Joes (Exotic or Dirt), a mullet just ain’t gonna work. 

Give My Mom a Medal: In honor of Mother’s Day, give this mom a medal. We don’t know her story, but if she’s successfully momming through a pandemic, she deserves at least 1 medal. Oh, and let’s get her 20-30 margs while we’re at it.

Disclaimer: The Hustle does not formally endorse or support any specific hairstyle, foodstuff, video game, or mother. (In other words, please don’t send us a thousand emails about how much you hate the Whopperrito.)  

Very Rare Meat

Burger blackouts mean it might be time to moo-ve on from a drive-thru fave

Fast foodies in California were dismayed to discover this week that some Wendy’s outposts were without their signature item: hamburgers.

So, uh, where’s the beef?

Those of us vintage enough to remember ads from the ’80s might recall Wendy’s @ing competitors like McDonald’s and Burger King for their puny burgers. 

But now the joke’s on Wendy’s, whose “fresh, never frozen” promise has left the chain lacking very necessary supplies.

Analysts estimate that 1 in 5 Wendy’s restaurants can’t get beef. Shortages tend to occur by region depending on an outpost’s proximity to meat processing plants. 

In states like New York, Ohio, and Michigan, there’s nary a Dave’s Single to be had. Arizona, Louisiana, and Nevada — at least for now — are still getting their Baconator on.

BK and Mickey D’s, meanwhile, boast of bountiful beef

The whole sitch has shed light on vulnerabilities within North America’s meat-supply chain. If you’re relying on fresh meat, you might have more disruptions than a competitor who can buy frozen products from Australia and other countries.

In the meantime, Wendy’s is pushing chicken sandwiches. And its new breakfast menu is highly profitable, so it’s too early to say whether they’re out… or even down.

Wendy’s ain’t the only one missing its meat

Last month, about a dozen slaughterhouses shut down after workers started getting sick from COVID-19. This means shortages of not only beef — but also pork and chicken.

Costco announced a temporary limit on the amount of meat customers can buy. Kroger and Giant Eagle stores also have put caps on the amount of meat customers can pick up at some of their locations. 

But that’s OK. As the wise Madonna once put it, we’re… like a vegan.

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This same-day delivery pharmacy is blowing up on SeedInvest

Invest in NowRx through SeedInvest and hop on the rocket ship

When NowRx became the most funded campaign on SeedInvest ever, hopes were high. Then the numbers started pouring in, and they did not disappoint… 

  • 326% increase in new customers
  • 200% growth in new customers year-over-year for March
  • 20% increase total customer base in the first 3 months of 2020
  • 2X customers in March compared to February

NowRx is well on it’s way to disrupting the $330B pharmaceutical industry, and they’re doing it by reverse-engineering everything wrong with traditional pharmacies. 

Applying ice directly to pharmaceutical pain points

NowRx focuses on turning every industry “Oh no…” into a Kool-Aid Man “Oh yeah!”, and it appears to be working:

  • Ditch long lines and waits by offering free same-day delivery
  • Create low-cost, high-efficiency automated fulfillment centers to fill prescriptions faster than ever 
  • Eliminate overhead to 1/100th of most pharmacies

Clearly, their approach has been a smart one — in a time of uncertainty, when market volatility is high and the economy is on pause, they’ve still seen unprecedented growth.

Check out their investing page and see how you can get involved with one of the biggest disruptors in the game today:

Let’s invest →
Corona Commerce

A new puzzle for pandemic-era ecommerce: Dealing with returns

Throw a couple of corona trends into a blender, and you’ve got a recipe for a “perfect storm,” declares Vogue Business:

Small businesses spinning up ecommerce solutions to keep the lights on + big ones reporting surging online sales + retailers dangling deals to hang on to customers, pleeeease = a ticking time bomb. 

If they haven’t seen them already, in a few weeks, retailers may suddenly see an influx of sad, lonely cardboard boxes.

It’s another consequence of the COVID marketplace

Managing returns is challenging — so much so that some companies’ business models are all about making them smoother. Doing it well can mean happy customers — and returning ones.

With shopping habits shifting online, returns are more important than ever:

  • Shoppers return 10% of what they buy in a store, but as much as 40% of what they buy online.
  • Americans returned ~$400B in merchandise in 2018.

So far, Vogue Business says there’s not a clear return trend, though a shakeout could be coming: 

  • Narvar, a retail tech company, says it’s seen online return volume rise 2x in the past month.
  • Optoro, a returns-solutions provider, has seen a 20% decrease in average weekly returns.

One theory for the fluctuations: Some brands have relaxed their return policies. As more states ease social distancing rules, returns could come flooding back.

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The Hustle Says

How bad is your shower singing? Take this Tone Deafness Test from Harvard’s Music Lab and see if the real problem is your ears, not your voice. 

You’ve gotta be doing something right to get on FORTUNE magazine’s Fastest-Growing Companies list. But to get it 3 years in a row like Paycom has? Your app has to be straight-up amazing.*

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*This is a sponsored post.

Not Just Fun and Games

Regular people are cobbling together a living with Zoom trivia nights

Stephen Walsh usually works in bars in Baltimore. But when his income evaporated in the pandemic, he fell back on an old skill: Quizzing drunk people on “Friends” references.

On March 17, he launched a Zoom trivia night he nicknamed Walsh Trivia. For the last 40+ days, he’s spent all of his free time workshopping questions for strangers across the world. 

His trivia schedule includes: 

  • One event at 8am ET (for people in Asia).
  • Another at 1pm ET (for virtually everyone else). 
  • Sometimes a 3rd that he tacks on for the Alaskans in the audience. 

Some of his games are huge: As many as 300 people join at a time, including from his concentrated fandoms in the US embassies in Pakistan and Nepal.

Walsh charges $3 for a team leader, then $2 per player after that. He told Business Insider, “I’ve never earned what I’m earning now doing any other job.”

What is… a sustainable side hustle?

Zoom trivia nights are a big deal right now. To keep money trickling in, restaurants, bars, and British pubs have put all their chips on the trend.

There are some professional trivia outlets there: The Syracuse Trivia Company has a buzzy game going, plus let’s not forget the one-time revival of HQ trivia in late March. But some of the most popular trivia nights are hosted by… randos. (No offense to Walsh.) 

A sign of the amateurs’ rise: Companies like QuizRunners, which sell trivia questions to businesses, have actually seen a decline in subscriptions. That means most trivia hosts aren’t professionals paying for pre-made questions — they’re regular people coming up with their own.

Meet the new head honchos of trivia night 

One Pennsylvania family — husband, wife, and 2 daughters — launched a trivia night from their living room using two iPads and a microphone. 

While they have other day jobs —  Jennifer McMenamin is an executive at a local bus service, and her husband Bill is an HR manager at a tech company — they’ve organized trivia fundraisers and other events for 10+ years.

Their 1st quarantine trivia night brought 200+ participants, and after that, the numbers kept climbing: 400, 600, 950 players. 

The family runs on tips, and they’ve also set up a GoFundMe that raised $4k+ for a local food bank.

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📉 Big cuts come to Airbnb — the company is laying off ¼ of its staff.

📈 A rare bright spot against the gloom elsewhere: The online home goods/weird products peddler Wayfair is going bananas.

🚘 California is suing Lyft and Uber, claiming they misclassified drivers as contractors — in violation of a state law that went into effect this year.

✏️ Are you sure you want to tweet that? Twitter is running a “limited experiment” that lets users edit a reply before it’s posted — if it uses “harmful” language.

☀️ Things we never would have imagined we’d need: Meet the social distancing picnic blanket.

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Today’s email was brought to you by Faye S. Culver (Chief Maskmaker), Nick “No Returns” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, and Bobby Durben.

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