How Team Naked found a Vanishing Author

Our email and twitter handle have been on fire the past two days with the same question; how in the world did Nakedpizza ever manage to find Evan Ratliff? The no drama answer?  We went out and looked.

We had never heard of Evan Ratliff until we got a cryptic redeye email titled Missing Wired Magazine Writer Evan Ratliff is Coming to Naked Pizza On Tuesday or Wednesday – Part of a $5,000 Contest.” Now normally, this would have been filed with the other emails letting us know that some Sultan/Chief/King/General’s daughter needed help dispersing fifty million dollars to us as long as we forked over our banking and routing information, but this one came from Jeff Reifman over at Newscloud.  Legitimate?  We had no idea.  But if we caught him, the press would be nice as we are in the process of announcing the national roll out of our franchise business.

By 7 AM (Tuesday, Sept 8), team naked was researching and kicking around emails and by 8 AM we were fully planning our strategy!  We made contact with Jeff Reifman at Newscloud and he explained he had reliable information (http://blog.newscloud.com/2009/09/how-we-caught-evan-ratliff.html) that Evan had arrived in New Orleans by Amtrak the night before and had begun following Nakedpizza on Twitter using an “unkown/non public/secret” twitter handle.  It made sense.  Evan has Celiac’s Disease and we’re the only place in town that serves gluten-free pizzas.  After discussing with newscloud folks (a flurry of emails and phone calls) we all were pretty confident he was bound to show up, but we couldn’t take the chance that someone else would get to him first.

Evan was also following the Old New Orleans Rum Company as of Tuesday, which gives facility tours at 11am and 2pm on weekdays.  Turns out, newscloud also notified the rum company that Evan was in town and may stop as evidenced by the twitter follow. Would he go on a tour before getting a pizza for lunch?  The only prudent thing to do was to scope it out, so we sent Brock on a sting operation to make sure that we nabbed him before he went in.  Reports were coming in from Twitter claiming that Evan had recently shaved his head, so Brock was on the lookout for bald.  Brock staked out a position around 10:30 but the only people in sight were distillery employees.  When he started peeking around the office, the girl behind the counter sheepishly asked if he was the guy from Wired magazine (Brock also has a shaved head).  He played it off wonderfully and she apologized.  Ah!  This confirmed that Nakedpizza wasn’t the only ones on the hunt.  We had competition – time to double our efforts.

Using an IP address that newscloud had traced to Evan in New Orleans, we were able to verify that Evan had logged onto our website at 11:17 PM the night before through our statcounter. Importantly, he had also accessed our “gluten-free” info page. We started to feel the net tightening.

Meanwhile, Jeff had camped out in the nakedpizza store and was prepping the staff on what to look for.  We knew that Evan was around 5’11” with blue eyes, so we primed to “fluke” anyone and everyone who met that description and ordered a gluten free pizza, pickup or delivery.  Hours rolled by and nothing. Status reports rolled in from Newscloud and Twitter.  The waiting game was driving us a bit crazy.  Evan was so close to the end of his mission we couldn’t tell if he would be cocky or cautious.  Perhaps he would hide out in his hotel room, or disappear for a few days on Bourbon Street.  Would his article play better if he were caught or if he made it?  We obsessed over every angle ad nauseam.

We also knew that Wired had made the Evan hunt a little more complex by providing him a series of challenges that would provoke him into public places.  He wasn’t obligated to do them, but he received extra money at the end if he pulled them off.  One of the challenges required him to get a picture from a 50+ story building.  After doing some research, team naked knew that the Place St. Charles and One Shell Square were the only two buildings that he could use, but we didn’t have the personnel to scope out every entrance and exit.  We did still have to sell pizzas after all!  That plan was out.

Evan’s other challenge was to attend a book reading.  After searching, we could only find two book readings going on in the city: Tom Piazza at 2727 Prytania St. at the Garden District Book Shop at 5:30 and another a few miles away at another location at 7:00 PM.  If we were going to nab him outside of the pizza place, this seemed like our best bet.

Jeff and Brock headed over to the signing and camped out in the coffee shop next door – also waiting on a third team member (Robbie) to show and help with the hunt. All of the entrances and exits were covered.  It was back to the waiting game.  It’s easy to see why so many of those CIA/FBI guys get spotted; they’re the ones who are standing around with nothing to do, giving everyone the stare down.  The book signing started promptly at 5:30 and Evan was still a no-show – it was 5:48 PM.  Damn!  Jeff sent Brock a text to see if he was ready to roll to the other book signing.

As they stood outside waiting, a skinny guy on an old beat-up green bicycle pulled up to the corner.  He made eye contact with Jeff and Brock, hopped off his bicycle and started to walk by.  Jeff looked at Brock and said; “now that guy looks like a local (i.e., fucked up bike).”  As the skinny guy took a few steps past, Jeff straightened up from leaning on the building and called to him.

“Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know a guy named Fluke, would you?”  The bicyclist stopped dead on hearing the password.

“Maybe.”

Jeff and Brock walked over and asked for a picture.  Evan Ratliff was no longer vanished.

8 responses to “How Team Naked found a Vanishing Author

  1. Way to go Jeff and crew! It was your willingness to “hit the bricks”, as someone put it earlier in the hunt, that finally caught Evan Ratliff. Without someone willing to take the hunt to the street there would still be lots of googling and twittering going on and no nabbing.
    How many people did you ‘fluke’ before you got Evan? Or was he the only one?

  2. It was a precision strike. Only one “fluked” was called out all day. And one capture.

  3. Wish I had captured the action on video. Maybe we can invent a “Naked-cam” to serve as the behind-the-scenes eyes and ears for everything Naked?

    Tim Ryan

  4. Jeff,

    Way to go for Team Naked. I am very proud of your detective skills.

    Lynn

  5. Excellent work to all at NAKED pizza!! And ditto what Surely Holmes said, it was due to your willingness and enthusiasm to go out into the field that he was caught!

    And did I read that right, that Naked Pizza will be franchised nationally? I WILL BE YOUR FIRST CUSTOMER IN CHICAGO IF YOU’RE COMING THAT FAR NORTH! :)

  6. Lindsey – thx for the nice comment. Jeff and his team at newscloud really deserve all the credit. they tracked evan for some time and alerted us – we just supplied the eyes in the field. yes, rolling out nationally in the coming year – nice bit today on us in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13fob-consumed-t.html?_r=1

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