60 Seconds with Neal Gottlieb, American Way Road Warrior

60 Seconds with Neal Gottlieb, American Way Road Warrior

Neal Gottlieb from Sausalito, Calif. and Founding Twin of Three Twins Ice Cream, was the grand-prize winner of the 10th annual American Way Road Warrior contest. He won one million American AAdvantage miles, a vacation for two at The St. Regis Princeville Resort on Kauai and a one-year Admirals Club membership, among other prizes.

InsideFlyer
What were your first thoughts when you found out that you had won?
Neal Gottlieb
I found out via email at about 3am while in Kathmandu, so I was half asleep. My first thoughts were those of relief, as I had put a huge amount of work into trying to win the contest and had a fear that one of the contestants would outsource vote getting to India. I rolled over a few minutes later and went back to sleep with a feeling of great satisfaction and excitement.

IF
Why did you decide to compete in the contest?
Gottlieb
I travel around the country bringing Three Twins Ice Cream to trade shows, sales meetings, and once to deliver 100 pints that a billionaire had purchased through my website. As my business has grown from just me laboring away in a single scoop shop to a national brand, I have started to travel a great deal. My checked luggage is one or two rolling coolers which causes me to look overburdened and ridiculous, especially in contrast to the typical business traveler. I have also been lucky to have some fun trips that make for good stories, such as buying an ice cream truck in Connecticut off of eBay and driving it across the country to California in 93 manic hours, or realizing that the latest posting of my credit card miles would allow me to take a first class trip using 125,000 frequent flyer miles to see my alma mater row at Henley and leave me with exactly 12 miles in my account.

IF
Why do you think you won?
Gottlieb
I really don’t think that it was me that won. I think that it was the ice cream. So many people have such a positive emotional connection with ice cream throughout their lives that many people felt compelled to vote for “the ice cream guy”. People just don’t have the same connection to tequila (that tends to be more of a love/hate relationship), financial analysis, industrial drying or juries, which is a shame because the other winners are all great. I was very lucky to not only be the ice cream guy but to run a company whose inconceivably delicious ice cream is loved by so many. Another key aspect of winning was, to borrow the words of George W. Bush as played by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, “strategery”. The month between finding out that I was one of the winners and when the actual voting began was put to use drawing up a plan to garner as many votes as possible. The plan was enacted the morning that the contest went live and included 2,000 postcards, over 1,000 individually written emails, dozens of posts on social media, a creative Facebook contest, well-timed articulate begging on FlyerTalk and basically asking everybody I came across to please vote for me. I (figuratively) touched thousands and thousands of people in my tireless quest to win the contest.

IF
How did you rack up so many miles on American?
Gottlieb
Thanks to winning the contest, my lifetime miles on American Airlines are now in excess of three million. It’s a wee bit awkward when folks congratulate me about winning the contest and ask what I am going to do with my million miles and I let them know that I actually had more than a million miles in the bank before even entering the contest. In recent years I have flown just over 100,000 miles per year which results in over 200,000 miles with American’s elite bonuses. On top of that I charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on my American Airlines business credit card. It adds up.

IF
What do you like most about being a frequent traveler?
Gottlieb
I love the newness that comes with visiting so many different places. It keeps my life interesting and colorful. Whether visiting New Jersey or Tanzania, I love the regional differences I get to experience from one trip to the next including the different food, landscapes, architecture, vernacular and microbrews. I also love being a frequent traveler, as the free upgrades that I usually receive, free checked luggage, an adult beverage or two, along with my Admirals Club membership, make my travel experience decidedly more pleasant than the average traveler’s.

IF
How long have you been collecting miles? What first got you hooked?
Gottlieb
I believe that I set up my first frequent flyer account during my senior year of college to collect the miles for my first trip to Europe, but my love of miles started when I was a child. My mother has had a Citibank American Airlines credit card for about 20 years, so she instilled the power of earning miles and the possibilities that they represent in me at a young age.

IF
Do you have a favorite hotel loyalty program?
Gottlieb
I’m not really a Hilton guy or a Marriott guy. I’m a Priceline guy. Except when staying at big trade shows, I can typically save 50-60 percent by using Priceline, so that’s what I do. That being said, I recently acquired the Hilton Surpass card from American Express. You get Gold status for signing up and their top-tier status when you spend $40,000 in a year, which is quite simple when you spend more than that on vanilla each year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *