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Old Bay Seasoning Tracked Down This Woman Because of Her Wi-Fi Network's Name

A Brooklyn woman set up her Wi-Fi network, named it "oldbayseasoning," and never thought of it again. Five years later, the company started looking for her.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Aug 12 2019, 1:39pm

Photo: Getty Images

If you check the available Wi-Fi networks in your apartment building, there's probably a lewd pun, a reference to one rapidly aging meme, and one guy who still thinks it's hilarious to name his "FBI Surveillance Van."

Five years ago, a Brooklyn woman set up her Wi-Fi network, named it "oldbayseasoning," and, in her words, never thought of it again. But somehow, the Baltimore-based spice blend found out about it, and they started looking for her. The company taped signs in the Greenpoint neighborhood that said "Dear Whoever Named Their Wi-Fi Network oldbayseasoning. Are You Our #1 Fan?"

Each sign had six tear-off tabs that instructed the not-at-all-unsettled network owner to DM them on Instagram. As it turned out, she didn't need to—because Old Bay found her first. A guy named Michael Hoffman tweeted several photos on Friday morning: one screenshot of the Wi-Fi network, one of the sign, and one of a real-life human wearing a giant yellow sandwich board that said "If Your Wi-Fi Network is OldBaySeasoning, DM Us." (Apparently, the only thing thirstier than a person who just ate a bunch of Old Bay is Old Bay, the brand.)

So yeah, they found her. "I've gotten a few replies from people on Twitter who think it's creepy and that Old Bay is working with the NSA or something," Catherine Zhou told VICE. "The truth is, Old Bay hired a marketing firm and one of the marketers happened to go to the coffee shop next to my apartment. They saw my wifi network pop up and schemed up the whole thing. The Big Spice x Big Brother theories are pretty funny though."

Zhou said that her partner Jesse Brizzi left for work on Friday morning, then ran back into their apartment to tell her that she needed to go outside. " I thought there was a fire or some type of apocalyptic disaster or something," she said. "Jesse and I both work in tech so we're pretty sensitive about our internet security. When he saw the signs from afar, he actually thought we had gotten in trouble for something we did on the internet. Once we realized it was for a contest, and that they came across our wifi network by pure coincidence, we talked a bit more about the contest and Old Bay Seasoning recipes before they went on their way."

In an email to VICE, Laurie Harrsen, a spokesperson for Old Bay's parent company, McCormick & Company, said that yes, Old Bay really did try to find Zhou—and she also confirmed that they work fast. "It was amazing—it only took us less than an hour [to locate her] after deploying our small street team with signage," she said.

It also seems like Old Bay's weird-ass Say Anything tribute was to promote (???) or raise awareness of (???) or get Zhou to participate in (???) its "You Don't Just Like It" contest, which is presumably supposed to help the company identify its biggest fan.

Anyone who thinks that they love that combination of celery salt and red pepper flakes more than the rest of us is supposed to tag their Old Bay-est photo with #OldBayFanContest and then wait until August 29 to see if they're the lucky winner of an Old Bay Ultimate Fan Trophy and an Old Bay-logo electric scooter.

Or if that seems like too much trouble, you can probably just rename your Wi-Fi and wait for them to find you.