If you're selling a product, it's not enough these days to tell consumers that your product is good. That's the lowest bar. Instead, you have to give them something a little extra, tell them that your product will make them richer, sexier, or cooler.
Except, there are some brands whose business practices are so shitty that they don't deserve to be in the same ballpark as "cool." Brands like ...
If you're over 25, the word "supreme" likely only has emotional significance to you when placed between the words "meat" and "pizza." But, if you're under 25, "supreme" is a clothing line -- nay, a whole lifestyle.
As of this writing, Supreme is valued at over a billion dollars -- or to put it another way, the same amount it costs to buy three of their hoodies. That's because back in 2017, an investment group bought half of the business for a whopping $500 million, which by transitive property means the other half is worth the same amount. At face value, it's somewhat weird that a brand that associates itself with skaters would jump at the chance to be owned by an investment group, which is one of the most uncool things a brand can do. At the same time, that's just how business works these days. Besides, isn't it, like, business bigotry to assume that just because they're an investment group, that they're a nest of evil, avaricious bastard vipers? They could be one of those good investment groups. You know, one those things that for sure exist.
Except, they're not. It's the Carlyle Group -- a private equity corporation who, if life were a skater movie, would sooner turn the skatepark into a strip mall than outfit the kids in designer clothing. At the same time that Supreme is exuding an aura of dopeness, the Carlyle Group is a major source of funding for several war-profiteers (read: defense companies), including WESCO International. WESCO is a company that, as Hasan Minhaj noted on Patriot Act, provides parts and support to defense contractor BAE Systems, the folks behind the world's most advanced combat aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon ... aka the plane that Saudi Arabia has been buying in bulk because it's just so damn good at killing Yemeni civilians.
Thanks to a controversial arms deal signed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (of course) in 1985, Saudi Arabia currently owns more British-made planes than the British Royal Air Force does. In recent years, they've put those planes to work fighting a proxy war in Yemen that has so far resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians (it's hard to get an accurate number).
"How do you know Saudi Arabia is behind those deaths?" you ask. That's a good question. Airstrikes killed the majority of these people, and while we're not forensic investigators, we have a pretty good idea of who likely carried out those airstrikes seeing as only one faction in this is utilizing military aircraft. Hint: it's Saudi Arabia.
When Toys R' Us collapsed a few years back as a result of vulture capitalists saddling it with enough debt to sink an aircraft carrier, it was watching a part of our childhood bleed out in front of us. The bikes and cars you could ride around the store! The fistfights by desperate parents over that year's must-have holiday gift! All those toys!
And then, nothing.
"And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Geoffrey, King of Giraffes;
Look on my works, ye parents, and despair!"
So, in 2019, when it was announced that Toys R' Us was getting rebooted, our hearts damn near-exploded. Except, these new Toys R' Us looked different somehow. For one, they didn't smell of cheap plastic and stale Hi-C Ecto Cooler. For another, there were only a few aisles of toys -- with much of each store's floor space being dedicated to specific brands like Lego, Nerf, and PAW Patrol.
It turned out, there's a good (bad!) reason for that. Toys R' Us isn't a toy store anymore, so much as a place where retailers can data-mine kids. In opening these stores, Toys R' Us partnered with technology company b8ta to install sensors in each store's ceiling as a way to "monitor traffic patterns [...] among other metrics" on behalf of those brands mentioned above and clue them in as what's hot, what's not, and what should burn in hell (PAW Patrol).
After people rightfully hit the roof over the fact that their childhoods didn't die for THIS, Toys R' Us responded by saying that while that is the purpose of these stores, the cameras are designed to ignore "objects, including people, less than four feet tall." That's not reassuring considering that not only have we been burned with this kind of talk before, but they're running a toy store. If they're not monitoring the kids, whose browsing habits are they monitoring?
Back in the '90s, Lisa Frank ... the hell with it, you know what Lisa Frank is famous for. Here's one of her famous trapper keepers saying "Hi!" to us from the 5th grade:
Lisa Frank Inc.
However, underneath this rainbow-colored exterior, Lisa Frank was a goddamn glittery mess. In a profile by Jezebel, several ex-employees of Lisa Frank described how workers would regularly be abused and threatened by the company's management combo of James Green and Lisa Frank herself. Employees were barred from talking to each other. Frank and Green recorded people's phone calls and monitored their emails, screaming at anyone who displeased them. The air conditioning was deliberately set to its coldest setting. They even chained the doors up to prevent people from leaving the
prison office early.
If someone did make a permanent break for it, Frank and Green would fight them on everything from severance and unemployment benefits, to even handing over their final paycheck.
In the company's hometown of Tucson, AZ, Lisa Frank quickly became known as a place for job seekers to avoid -- known locally as the "Rainbow Gulag," which still sounds pretty goddamn adorable if we're honest.
If your job involved getting repeatedly punched in the face, you'd be forgiven for expecting some form of special treatment from your manager -- whether in the form of a little extra on your next paycheck, some health insurance, or at minimum, a bandage or two. Agreed? Well, bad news. As a result of your COMMIE WAYS, you're now ineligible to fight in the UFC.
Despite the UFC being worth over $4 billion, its fighters enjoy next-to-no employee rights because despite spilling buckets of literal blood, sweat, and tears, the UFC only employs them as 'independent contractors.' It's a distinction that allows them (legally!) to get away with not providing healthcare, sick pay, and other benefits, including paid-time-off. By being classified as 'independent contractors,' fighters also aren't allowed to unionize and thereby fight for better conditions, which effectively makes them no different from Uber drivers -- albeit Uber drivers that'd sooner punch you in the throat than charge a clean-up fee.
There have been several attempts over the years to drag the sport out of (or into) the stone age. Still, they've all failed for the simple reason that the UFC is overseen by Dana White -- a man that looks and behaves like a porn-parody Lex Luthor.
White, despite his riches, gets his kicks cutting fighters who piss him off with their talk of "rights," hiring lobbyists to derail legislation that might harm his business, and enforcing draconian non-compete clauses against fighters who have the sheer audacity to fight for competing outfits like Bellator or WSOF.
Does White act this way because he's a rich baby? Well, partially. There's also the fact that the UFC isn't doing so hot right now in terms of ratings. If he conceded to any demands, that'd impact the UFC's bottom line massively at a time when he can't afford it -- especially in light of how any unionization/benefits deal would see fighters getting a cut of things like licensing, sponsorship deals, and pay-per-view box office.
If you want a prime example of how screwed UFC fighters are, look no further than its most bankable star, Conor McGregor. McGregor earned more from his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather than his entire UFC career combined to that point. He's since been able to negotiate more favorable incentives for his UFC fights. However, other fighters are still left being figurately kicked in the genitals while getting literally kicked in the head.
Top image: Andersphoto/Shutterstock