6 Soulless Companies That Own, Like, Everything
You know how Disney now owns like 80% of the characters you wanted to be as a kid, from Luke Skywalker to Wolverine to Superintendent Chalmers? Well the same thing's happening to other industries, with consequences somewhat more dire than having to come up with yet another password for yet another goddamn streaming service. Here are some companies we're just sorta letting take over the country/world. After all, what are you gonna do, not buy stuff?
Two Companies Produce 53% Of Bottled Water, But Use Different Names To Make You Think It's Special
The idea of a bottled water monopoly seems ridiculous, because there are like 200 different brands available at your local supermarket alone. Look at all this variety!
But here's the thing: Every single one of those brands belongs to Nestle. And that's just the tip of the refreshing melted iceberg. Nestle owns 29.8% of the market in the U.S., with another 23.3% going to Niagara. (As in the company; people aren't dumping the water down a waterfall.) And yes, in many cases, it's the exact same water with different names. When E. coli was found at one of Niagara's water sources in Pennsylvania, they had to recall 14 different brands because they're all bottled at the same two plants. Turns out "Superchill Spring Water," "Acme Spring Water," and "Best Yet Spring Water" are all exactly as chill, despite what their names claim.
Sometimes the "spring water" part is equally bullshit. One of Nestle's top-selling brands is called Poland Spring, but according to an ongoing class-action lawsuit, it's more like Common Maine Groundwater. The lawsuit claims that Nestle has gone as far as planting plastic tubes to make regular well water flow into wetlands, which doesn't fit the FDA's already-flimsy definition of "spring water." You're paying extra for a pretty picture of vegetation on a label.
Nestle's MO consists of going into poor areas for cheap labor and cheaper water (in Michigan they pay a $200 yearly extraction fee) to make billions in profits, using lobbying and lawyers to shut down any resistance. If it's true that the wars of the future will be fought over water, we look forward to sporting our snazzy Nestle or Dasani uniform, with pictures of mountains and all.
Luxottica Buys All The Eyeglass Brands And Marks Up Prices By 1,000%
If you're wearing glasses, those frames currently touching your face probably cost around $4-$8 ($15 if you're fancy), and the lenses about $1.25 each. So why are we paying hundreds of dollars for our glasses? Are they assembled by dwarves in a magical hidden forest? Nope, it's because one company owns most of them, and that's ... well, what they want us to pay.
Italian conglomerate Luxottica owns brands like Ray-Ban, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Alain Mikli, and Vogue Eyewear, and licenses others like Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, DKNY, and Polo Ralph Lauren. It also controls retailers like Sears Optical, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, and GMO. So basically everything from luxury stuff to shitty supermarket glasses. And that's how they get away with 1,000% markups. Isn't there anyone brave enough to stand up to them? Yes. Oakley did. Then Luxottica kicked them out of their stores, watched their stock crash, and bought them for peanuts. So add "Oakley" to the list.
According to a former frame supplier driven out of business, "There's no competition in the industry, not anymore." Well, except for the fake competition between Luxottica brands.
At least they do have a comparable rival: France's Essilor, which owns a 13% share of the global market, compared to Luxottica's 14% sha- wait, no, they merged in 2018 and rule the optics world. Everyone who opposed them has probably walked into an open manhole by now.
The Company That Owns 28% Of The Beer Market Went Into Craft Beer (And Ruined It)
At this point, it might not even surprise you to read that 28% of the world's beer market is owned by one bigass mega-company, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (especially if you saw the title up there). As their ever-expanding name suggests, AB InBev is basically a drunken monster that goes around the world devouring beer companies. In 2016, they gulped down SABMiller and gained 200 brands. Today they own 500 brands in over 100 countries, from America's Budweiser to Mexico's Corona to Australia's Foster's to Belgium's Stella Artois to Brazil's Brahma to Germany's Beck's to Croatia's delicious Zagrebacka.
Good thing you can always stick to craft beers, which give you the satisfaction of knowing you're supporting small, independent companies like ... Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV?
When craft breweries started chipping away at the big companies' market share with their revolutionary "beer that doesn't taste like ass" concept, AB InBev began buying them up. Brands with quirky names like Goose Island, Devil's Backbone, SpikedSeltzer, Four Peaks, and Wicked Weed now belong to a billion-dollar corporation. And since Big Beer also owns the distribution game, those who don't want to play ball can easily find themselves getting edged out of the business. In 2017, AB Inbev was fined $400,000 for bribing stores to display their brands more prominently -- not that you'd notice it, since again, there are 500 of them.
If you're saying "Fuck it, I'll just get some hop plants and make my own beer," good luck with that, because AB InBev has been hoarding insane amounts of them. And of course, craft breweries are paying the consequences. Basically, this one company controls every step of the drinking process except for your destroyed marriage. (So far, anyway.)
Health Insurance Monopolies Are Racking Up More Cash Than The Tech Industry
If you're one of those people who gets stressed just thinking about health insurance, good news: You might not have to anymore! Because the way things are going, soon enough you won't even have a choice about it.
American health insurance companies are merging, leaving people with fewer choices and making obscene amounts of money in the process. How obscene? In 2019, five insurance conglomerates were projected to collect a combined $787 billion in revenues, smashing the $783 billion high score set by the combination of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix (Amapplgeboox). The tech industry still makes way more net profits, but in terms of cash laying around to do Scrooge McDuck money swims, the insurers win.
Today, 17 states have two or fewer insurers to pick from, which is up from eight states in 2015. And unfortunately, no insurance company has ever said, "OK, now that we're practically a monopoly, let's bring down prices and become less evil." In fact, some have been using their Big Market Share Energy to entice hospitals to give them better prices than other healthcare plans -- or better yet, jack up their own prices and just make the hospitals jack the other guys' even more.
But it's not just insurance. Companies in all areas of the healthcare industry are merging or eating each other like rabid viruses, from dialysis centers (two companies own 92%) to ambulances (two have 83%) to syringes (one company has 64%). Eventually it'll all be just one company. Here's hoping it's Disney so we at least get Star Wars hospital gowns and stuff!
EpiPen Patented Epinephrine's Delivery System, Making The Medication Confusing To Prescribe
The technical name for EpiPens, the little devices people with severe allergies must carry if they want to not die, is "epinephrine auto-injectors," but everyone says EpiPen, because it's like Kleenex. Also, who has time to say ... the other thing? (We can't even be bothered to copy and paste it.) Unfortunately, even doctors use the brand name instead of the real name, which has serious consequences for people who want to not die and not go bankrupt.
Between 2010 and 2016, Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen brand auto-injectors, jacked up the price of two units from $100 to $600, even though each one only contains $1 worth of medicine. For that price, you'd think the pen would look like a Montblanc or something, but no. This ugly-ass little dildo owns 90% of the market:
The generic versions that have started popping up in recent years have all of EpiPen's features, except for the "insanely overpriced" one. Problem is, doctors still write "EpiPen" in their prescriptions (some not realizing it's so expensive now). And since Mylan has a patent on the specific delivery system named EpiPen, pharmacists can't legally substitute it for a generic version. And even if your doctor writes "EpiPen or generic equivalent," the pharmacists still can't give you the generic version of another epinephrine auto-injector by the '90s X-Men character-esque name of Adrenaclick, which might be much cheaper at your pharmacy.
According to an investigation by a San Francisco TV station in 2016, some pharmacies didn't even stock these generics, since no one ever prescribed them. In short, getting this life-saving medication is needlessly confusing, all because a company doesn't want its market share to sink down to something crazy, like 89%.
Myriad Genetics Patented The Breast Cancer Genes, And Now Hoards Decades Of Life-Saving Data
DNA testing isn't just for impressing your friends with "I've got a little [insert ethnicity here] in me" jokes. It's also used to detect mutations in your genes that might cause diseases like cancer. The more people get tested, the more we know about these thousands of mutations. So it's great that somewhere out there is a database with many years of breast cancer testing information that could be used to save countless lives.
But the keyword there is "could," because that database is owned by a company called Myriad Genetics, and they ain't letting anyone see it.
For 15 years, Myriad had a patent on the potentially cancer-causing BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which meant they were the only ones in the U.S. who could legally test for them. In 2013, the Supreme Court went "Wait, that's fucked up" and ruled that human genes can't be patented, allowing other labs to offer the breast cancer test. Lots of those labs share the (anonymized) data with a public database to help improve the test. Myriad doesn't, because it's just too hard, you guys. To be fair, being comic book supervillains must be pretty tiring.
They also claim that they don't share data out of respect for their patients' privacy, as if these two (out of 20,000) genes had your nudes embedded in them or something. They also argue that public databases are flawed anyway, going as far as to publish a study dissing them. Hm, could they be flawed because you're keeping millions of relevant data points to yourself, dickholes? They even had the nerve to use the increased reliability brought on by their complete lack of human decency as a selling point for their test. After all, who better to find your cancer than the corporate personification of cancer itself?
For more, check out If Drug Companies Were Honest:
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