Covid Inc. in Tempe, Ariz., has been selling audiovisual equipment for decades, but in the past year, some visitors stop by for an altogether different reason: They're looking for a COVID-19 test.



What might be just about the least promising brand name for a company right now, along with, I don't know, plague, misery or dandruff? What about Covid? That is the name of an audiovisual company in Tempe, Ariz. Norm Carson is the CEO of Covid. And he joins us now. Mr. Carson, thanks so much for being with us.

NORM CARSON: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You've been in the AV business there, I guess, for 40 years. When did it occur to you you might have a problem?

CARSON: It was February of last year, and I was at a trade show in Amsterdam. And we went in that day thinking we'd see some customers, do some training, and it would be a regular day. And then before you knew it, they had announced the name. And then before the end of the day, I'd done about 12 interviews, countless pictures in front of our booth in front of the (laughter) sign. And I guess then it started to hit me that this might be a deal.

SIMON: Well, but, I mean, before I ask what problems you've had, is it - you've (laughter) also gotten - forgive me - a lot of free publicity.

CARSON: Yeah. You know, for our business, we don't sell to end users or consumers. Our business is through dealers and distributors. So for the most part, it hasn't affected us a lot that way. It's made for more good stories, I think.

SIMON: Well, like what?

CARSON: We have people who come in every week who just walk into the building, who say, I'm here for the testing. They see the (laughter) sign on the building, and people come in. And so we always have to explain to everyone that, you know, we don't do that. We're not associated with the pandemic at all.

SIMON: And it's Covid because what, video company?

CARSON: Yeah. What it was is 40 years ago, they were trying to come up with a name. And they wanted to name it Video Company, or Vidco for short. And they found out that there were three other Vidcos in the country. So they decided to have a contest. And the UPS driver at the time came up with the name Covid instead of VidCo. And they - I think he won, like, $50 (laughter) or something.

SIMON: Oh, mercy. Well, you must be wired to flinch a little if you hear somebody say, even knowing what they mean, something like, let's stamp out COVID. Let's get rid of COVID.

CARSON: (Laughter). Yes, that's true. You see it on the news all the time about how COVID's done this or COVID's done that. I mean, what are you going to do, you (laughter) know?

SIMON: Yeah.

CARSON: There's nothing you can do about it.

SIMON: It sounds like you have no interest in changing your name.

CARSON: No. You know, we've been in business for 40 years. It's part of the story now, I guess.

SIMON: I know how prized placement among the first ten names...

CARSON: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...You know, on a Google search can be.


SIMON: You probably were there until a year and a half ago.

CARSON: Yes. In the old days when you Googled Covid, we were the whole first page. (Laughter) It was all of our stuff. And now we fall a couple pages down, (laughter) obviously.

SIMON: Do you think you'll laugh at this someday?

CARSON: Yeah, I think we - you know, it's a serious thing. Obviously, a lot of people have been affected by this. People have died over this. So we take it seriously. But the coincidence of a pandemic being named after your company - I mean, what are you going to do but laugh a little bit, you know? We get a lot of customers who always want to come up with our new taglines or, you know, or Covid - we had it first. Or the only thing that's contagious is our quality. You know, we get all kinds of jokes from (laughter) people.

SIMON: Yeah.

CARSON: And a lot of the people call, and they talk to us, and they just - can you believe that? And you just smile a little bit and say, yeah. And you just tell some of the stories that's happened because of it. But yeah, it's OK.

SIMON: Norm Carson is the CEO of Covid, an audio-video equipment manufacturer in Tempe, Ariz. Thanks so much for being with us.

CARSON: Thanks again for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.