The exploratory travel for the Zap Racket covered three continents and seven countries. While bugs were not an issue in December and January in Europe, they were plentiful in Asia. In Bangladesh, as in most of Southeast Asia, mosquito insecticide, sprays, fogging coils, and mosquito nets are all used as protection against mosquitoes. I’m not a fan of pesticides, especially sprayed in the home. Just like any insecticide available in the US, it’s strong, smelly, bad for your health – especially for children – and, naturally, comes with a long warning label. And while being effective at first, after some time the mosquitoes developed a resistance to the spray. They would dive to the ground, spinning around and appearing dazed, then 15 minutes later they would be flying again. The best protection is a mosquito net, which is hung from posts at the corner of the bed, but who wants to sit in bed all evening? Even if you do, they manage to find their way in, especially as you’re getting in and out of the bed. Bangladeshi mosquitoes are tricky critters. They don’t fly directly at you, but low along the contours of a bed, couch, or sheets/blankets as if evading radar. And when you least expect it, they sneak up on you and get a good bite! Good luck finding one once you’ve lost sight of it—until it finds you!
One sleepless night due to the relentless mosquitos led to a relative suggesting a mosquito bat. Rackets are called bats in Bangladesh and the rest of Southeast Asia, which seems to make more sense because you ‘bat’ the ball, you don’t ‘racket’ it! So, I made a trip to the local market. It was filled with many mosquito bats in different designs, colors, and of varying quality. I purchased one based on looks alone and took it home to test it out. After charging it for the recommended 12 hours, I used it with pleasure on the buzzing flying death squadron of mosquitoes. The crackling, explosive zap of bugs frying was the only sound in house that evening! All the kids watched with envy, dying to have a turn, and unleashed their own wraith on the poor buzzers one by one. We all had so much fun with it, there was a tug of war in the house for control of it. After fighting over the bat for a few days, I eventually gave in and bought my own. Then, I figured why should we have all the fun and bought a bunch to give to other relatives. Everyone loved them! That’s when the simplicity and effectiveness of this mosquito bat hit us. Why have we, for countless years, wasted time and energy swatting at mosquitoes with our bare hands, slapping them on our skin (by which time they’ve already bitten you!), smashing them along with our blood on the walls, and dousing ourselves with chemicals, not even knowing if they’re effective?? You’ve probably had a similar experience with lotions and sprays – it seems there is always one that buzzes at you, robbing you of that bit of confidence you had in your chemical shield. So, it seemed to be a logical and simple decision to bring them to the US. Now, we could’ve just exported the ones available locally but they were poor quality and had no staying power. Moreover, it could only be charged via a plug that slid out of the bottom and had to be balanced on the end of a power strip – it would charge only half of the time and just sit there the other half. They were screaming for an upgrade and that’s when we realized that to bring them to the US, we would have to make a better product. Thus, we began the journey for quality.
This part was time consuming and educational. Sourcing factories around the world was difficult, especially given the global meltdown and following recession in 2009. Sourcing began with 51 factories and suppliers around the world. Of those 51 initial requests, 23 replied with information. We couldn’t reach the other 28 via any mode of communication—we assume the factories shuttered. The 23 that replied were given consideration, however, our design, quality, and safety standards narrowed those down even further. Twelve factories were sent requests for samples and as the pricing varied, so did the quality. Some of the items were of such poor quality, that not only would they not merit our endorsement, we were wary to even plug them in to charge for testing. Quality and safety concerns narrowed the 12 down to 3 viable factories. It should have been simple from here but actually, this was the most difficult part of the process.