The business side of woodworking August 2014
 
Kerry Knudsen

The Legend of Quadro Tracker

I see from the July 29, 2014 issue of Chicago-based Vance Publishing’s Woodworking Network that it is sponsoring “Canada Reception” with IWF management this year. The apparent reason for the event, according to Editor-at-Large Rich Christianson, is, “Woodworking Network reaches thousands of Canadian woodworkers and suppliers through its daily e-newsletter.”

The word “reach” is a slippery one, as it may mean the network has one e-address – mine – and hits it thousands of times.

The fact is, Woodworking Network and IWF are putting on their hijacked version of the same Canada Night that Wood Industry developed and presented at AWFS in 2011 and at IWF in 2012. Our vision of Canada Night was explicit: we said we were going to assemble Canadians outside Canada for the purpose of showing the world who we are. For anybody new to Wood Industry, we have a standing policy of not deceiving readers. Since we cannot guarantee this “Canada Event” will not be a cage fight with you as bait after a long day of dealing, we cannot endorse it. If I were you, I’d pass. A free beer is not worth one’s identity.


Let’s see... Quadro Tracker. I’ll give away the ending: the Quadro Tracker was a fraud. (Click the link or use Google. I am not a fan of Wikipedia, but they got it pretty much correct.)

This all happened long ago, and far away. I had a job in the States back in ’93, heading up the publishing division of a major dog association. There were three divisions, the others being the dog registry and the dog events. Since the magazines published results and reports of the events and the events were for registered dogs, we all worked very closely.

One day, along came Quadro Tracker. The “inventors” were from among the ‘coon hunters, for whom we had a magazine. For those of you that don’t know, there is a culture of men that strap lights on their heads every Saturday night, let their dogs go in the dark and then hope the dogs chase a raccoon up a tree so they don’t get lost. For the soft-hearted, the coons are not hurt. The “hunt” counts points for the first dog to strike, hold the tree and so on. Once the score is tallied, the dogs are leashed and the hunters leave, allowing the raccoon to climb down wondering what that was all about. I believe this is to blame for the clear, deep-seated resentment raccoons have for trash bins.

Some of the dogs, of course, get lost, and it was a rare month when I did not get a tear-stained letter with a death poem about somebody’s lost dog. Dogs are easy to love and hard to lose, but once you hit 25, you should keep your poetry in the family.

The Quadro Tracker gang came marching out of South Carolina with the solution to the lost-dog problem: the Quadro Tracker. According to the Quadro Tracker gang, the unit had a DNA chip in it that could find lost dogs. According to me, it was a plastic box with a three-foot, swiveling, telescoping radio antenna on it, that was selling between $400 and $8,000 per unit, depending on the resources of the chump.

The gang had convinced the event guy the thing worked, and they wanted a story in the magazine about it. This ended up with a dozen men out in the parking lot looking for a hidden dime with a swiveling dowsing rod made from $5 worth of recycled auto parts. When I asked how a dime could have DNA, they sneered that it was not the dime that had DNA, but the person that hid the dime. That person put his DNA on the dime, and rubbed the DNA chip.

So the “objective” finder-of-lost-stuff guy went walking around the lot with the antenna, parallel to the ground, swiveling this way and that in search of the lost dime. I mean, the planted dime. The idea was that the thing could find a lost dime, and could even find an injured dog hiding in a culvert 20 feet under the surface of a highway.

I’m not going to carry this on any further, except I didn’t buy it and refused to write a story. The event guy lost his cool, as he had already bought one and could get cut in for a freebie or maybe even a percentage. The gang had also booked an ad.

The event guy finally puffed himself up at me and reminded me he was a vice president. That was weird, since I was also a vice president. Anyway, we then did what vice presidents in board rooms and parking lots the world over do, as do second-graders on every playground. We disagreed. Lots.

Within three years the Quadro Tracker had been identified as a fake by the FBI and its gang was charged with mail fraud. Unfortunately, the investors lost a boatload of money, as did their customers. This is no new story.

It gets worse, as a British counterpart, looking exactly like the Quadro Tracker, was sold as a reliable bomb detector for use in Iraq. I guess that is one way to limit complaints. By the time the guy holding the detector discovered it didn’t work.... No complaint.


I remember calling my physicist brother, David, in Calgary about this (although he was then in Ottawa). I was certain this was bogus. But, like most people confronted with an overenthusiastic majority of people that don’t know WTF, I wavered. “What if these folks are actually right and I miss a great story,” I thought?

David confirmed my suspicions without hesitation. My brother, by the way, is a professor of charged-particle physics at the University of Calgary. You can look him up.

I should take just a second to debunk a myth. Physics professors are stereotyped as being eccentric. Not all physics professors are eccentric. David, for example, looks and acts quite normal – at least, until you get him talking about space plasma. A word to the wise: this can be dangerous. If you have a brother that is a charged-particle physics professor, you must take great care that he does not seem more normal than you. The reason should be obvious.

It is still OK to make fun of physics-professor stereotypes. It is not hate speech. For example, here is a physics-professor joke from a physics professor. Q. How can you tell if a physicist is aggressive? A. He is looking at your shoes instead of his.

OK. I admit. I don’t get it. But they seem to think it’s hilarious.


Where was I? Oh, yes. Quadro Tracker. One lesson I picked up from the Quadro Tracker incident was that the people that get duped by con artists are often more angry and dangerous than the con artist, him- or herself. Con artists a) have to keep a calm exterior or the con fails, and b) have no skin in the game. The people getting fleeced are the ones that jump.


That’s it for this round. I hope to see some of you at IWF next week. We may even figure out how to start a new trade show. After all, how hard can it be? You rent a warehouse, paint some yellow boxes on the floor and hire somebody to sell them for $10,000 a square foot.


Breaking: Canadian building permits rose 13% in June, following a 13% increase in May.

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