55 Scummy Things Companies Did
Companies do terrible things. Things like slavery. Or putting out ads that we don't like. Uh, there's a pretty wide spectrum when we're talking about bad stuff companies do. Here's a look at just a little of all that awful stuff ...
1. Philip Morris
Smoking kills, which is bad. In particular, it can be bad for the economy, which is why the Czech Republic seemed ready to crack down on smoking in 1999. So Phillip Morris commissioned a study that basically said, "Actually, people smoking saves the government money." Because so many people die before they become a burden.
Realizing that employees drive home at the end of each day, Walmart tried to get them to deliver goods, in addition to their other jobs. With their own cars, own gas, and own insurance. For $2 per delivery. Workers were not keen to sign on.
3. Universal Pictures
Why is Hollywood the moviemaking capital? Because at the start of the 20th century, Thomas Edison owned patents on moviemaking, and Universal didn't want to pay him. So they went as far west as they could to escape the long arm of the law.
Warehouses are famously backbreaking. But you may be especially disgusted to learn how Amazon has tried convincing workers that they're not working: by making labor into a video game. Electronic panels in the warehouse aisles run programs called MissionRacer and CastleCrafter, registering employee tasks and pitting them against each other, multiplayer-style.
In addition to their more well-known history of creating an actual coup and civil war in Guatemala, Chiquita has funded several terrorist groups. It took the US fining them $25 million to convince them to stop.
7. Atlas Logistics
When someone pooped on the warehouse floor -- not a great situation to have to deal with, to be fair -- Atlas Logistics made employees submit DNA samples so they could track down the culprit. This is illegal, and two workers who sued won $2.2 million.
One representative story to sum up Breitbart's commitment to the truth: In 2014, they reported that attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch had represented the Clintons over the Whitewater scandal. They were mixing her up with a different woman with the same name. So they issued a correction ... but left the original, false statement as the article's headline.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center heard that many employees were complaining about low wages, which meant they couldn't afford food for Thanksgiving. So they offered a solution: an employee food bank. Food would be donated by other employees.
In the 1970s, the company Minnetonka wanted to patent liquid soap. This was impossible because they hadn't invented it. So Minnetonka did the next best thing and bought up all 100 million plastic pumps available for soap dispensers. No other companies could make them, and Minnetonka had a monopoly.
11. Ashley Furniture
Something seemed strange about this furniture chain. With 1,000 injuries among just 4,500 people in three years, this was enough that the government fined them a couple million. Apparently, the factory had a problem with ensuring chopping machines were off before letting fingers come nearby.
12. Range 702
In 2014, a Nevada gun range let a nine-year-old girl handle an Uzi submachine gun. Unable to brace against the gun's recoil, she fatally shot the instructor. This gun range was not Range 702, which we're calling out today. Range 702 was the neighboring gun range, who responded to the shooting by saying they still welcome children: "It's an adrenaline rush for sure."
14. High Plains Wireless
In 1994, the FCC auctioned off segments of the wireless spectrum. High Plains Wireless and other companies colluded to claim segments and keep prices down for the auction ... by inserting secret codes into the dollar amounts of the actual bids.
15. A-1 Pictures
In case you needed another reason to avoid anime, animators are paid by the frame, which can force them into working ludicrous hours. One worker made headlines after putting in 600 hours in a month. That data comes from the hospital that treated him shortly before he killed himself.
When email marketing company HubSpot fired people, it sent everyone else an email saying the laid-off employee would be "using his superpowers in his next big adventure" and threw a "graduation" party. They finally dispensed with this, admitting the practice was "disrespectful and misleading."
Along with buying the domain Verizon.com, Verizon bought VerizonSucks.com, just in case someone wanted to create a site about how much they suck. So someone who hated Verizon instead went and registered VerizonReallySucks.com. Verizon sued, saying (falsely) that this was a trademark violation.
Goodwill pays some workers 41 cents per hour. It is legal to pay disabled workers this amount under a standard called the "subminimum wage." Proponents of the subminimum wage say that without it, companies would not hire disabled workers at all.
19. American Express
In the '60s, Anthony De Angelis claimed to control Italy's entire vegetable oil industry. As proof, he said American Express vouched for him -- and they did because he paid them to. He used their backing to swindle investors out of $200 million, claiming his warehouses were filled with valuable salad oil. They actually held seawater.
20. SkinnyMe Tea
21. Amy's Baking Company
This place is mostly famous because Gordon Ramsay walked out of it, calling the owners too rude even for him. It forbade employees from talking to each other, saying doing so "may result in possible harm." It also confiscated all tips.
Listerine was designed as a surgical antiseptic, which has limited market reach. So the company invented the disease halitosis -- which is not, in fact, a disease, though the word existed to describe bad breath -- and told people Listerine cures it. The ruse worked.
23. Washington Football Team
Back when the team was trying to dodge criticism for its "Redskins" name, owner Dan Snyder decided to invite Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to sit beside him for a game. This might have fooled some people. But not the Navajo, who had in fact already voted Shelly out ... for previously associating with Snyder.
24. Beech-Nut Packing
This bacon seller back in the 1930s wanted people buying more bacon, so they asked an ad company to sell it as a breakfast food. Using some misleading questions, they got thousands of doctors to agree that eggs and bacon made for a healthy breakfast.
Layoffs are always bad, sure. But SunTrust bank went a step further and, after laying off employees, asked them to be available to work for two more years, for no pay. This was illegal, and they had to drop the plan when the story went public.
DuPont knew perfluorooctanoic acid was poisonous. They were warned, then they confirmed it, first with animal tests, then with human ones. They still pumped hundreds of tons of the stuff into rivers and rubbed the stuff in their workers' faces, resulting in thousands of lawsuits.
28. Chivas Regal
Sales were low for Chivas Regal until they decided to rebrand themselves as a premium whiskey. How? By suddenly jacking up the price without actually changing the beverage at all.
Yahoo and many other tech companies pay to freeze employees' eggs long-term, so you can delay having children till your infertile years. Sounds generous, right? They actually do that because they calculated it costs the company less than providing daycare.
In 2016, the US ordered Takata to recall their airbags from 64 million cars. Airbags that could sometimes explode debris into people's faces. Takata went on using the same basic type of bag, though, leading to new explosions and new recalls in the years that followed.
31. The Pan-American Coffee Bureau
This coffee consortium tricked Americans into thinking coffee is the default beverage by inventing the coffee break. Coffee breaks never made any sense -- at work, you're usually welcome to drink coffee even if you're not on break -- but they made them a thing.
32. The Defeat Diabetes Foundation
We could do a whole list just of charities who spend surprisingly little from donations on their cause. Let's highlight the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, which the FTC noted spends approximately zero percent of its proceeds on actually fighting diabetes.
33. Eli Lilly
To boost Prozac sales in 2002, Eli Lilly obtained a confidential list of patients suffering from depression and sent them all a free month's supply. Without doctors vetting the process, the drugs found their way to people like a 16-year-old who actually didn't suffer from depression and someone who responded to the Prozac with a violent psychotic reaction.
35. Quaker Oats
In the '40s, Quaker Oats wanted to measure how minerals in their food travel through the body. So they went to a school of disabled kids and orphans and fed them radioactive oatmeal the company could trace. They did not tell the kids about the experiment.
Drugmakers are now facing the consequences of starting an opioid epidemic in the US. So they've wised up and changed strategy to ... starting opioid epidemics abroad, concentrating on the huge population of hungry buyers in China.
37. Guitar Center
Guitar Center was paying salespeople as little as $800 a month, reasoning that you could make a bunch on top of that thanks to commissions. But no commissions emerged because after talking to sales staff, shoppers bought everything at a website called Musician's Friend. A website owned by Guitar Center.
The government could easily prepare your tax return themselves since they know how much you owe. But they make you do it, thanks to lobbying from tax preparers like Turbo Tax. As part of the lobbying deal, Turbo Tax has to file taxes for some people for free, but they bury that feature where you probably won't find it.
39. State Farm
In the '80s, State Farm kept a list of 240 lawyers, with orders that anytime a claim came in from one of them, the agency had to deny it and investigate further, no matter how straightforward it seemed. They ended up paying a $30 million settlement when someone pointed out the only apparent connection between the lawyers: They were all Jewish.
A bunch of 7-Eleven franchises found a new source of labor: smuggling immigrants into the country illegally. And then paying them only $3 an hour, making them work 100-hour weeks. And also deducting from that salary rent, since they had to live in housing the owners provided.
This Chicago company used keycards to track how long each employee spent in the bathroom, and if an employee spent a whole day without going, they rewarded them with a $1 gift card. We don't know if this story is better or worse when you learn WaterSaver deals in plumbing.
43. American Future Systems
To keep employees out of the bathroom, you can also use the stick instead of the carrot. American Future Systems had to pay $1.75 million in a lawsuit after forcing employees to clock out before each time they took a piss.
44. Tyson Foods
The most extreme bathroom choice though involves just keeping workers out of the bathroom permanently. How? Make them all wear diapers. This would be disgusting at any company but especially bad at a place like Tyson Foods, where those workers shitting themselves are packaging chicken products.
Nestle has a famously evil history of selling places' water back to them, but at least bottled water doesn't kill people. Their campaigns to sell baby formula in underdeveloped countries have killed people -- women who'd otherwise breastfeed mixed powdered formula with unsanitary water and poisoned babies.
46. De Beers
In the 19th century, we discovered so many new diamond deposits that the mineral was no longer rare or valuable. Se De Beers formed to buy up every single diamond deposit in the world, so they could control the supply and fix prices. Executives had to avoid U.S. soil for decades to escape being arrested.
47. Betty Crocker
When Betty Crocker introduced a cake mix, mothers rejected it, reasoning that instant food isn't real cooking. So Betty Crocker introduced a new mix that asked you to add one egg. This was needless (the old mix used powdered egg just fine), but it tricked mothers into thinking they were doing real baking after all.
48. Urban Outfitters
49. General Electric
GE pioneered a way of evaluating employees called "stack rankings." It assigns workers a score from 1 to 5 -- and for every person who gets 5, one person must get a 1. Turns out forcing managers to pick favorites and un-favorites is a lot better than plain rewarding performance at encouraging racism and sexism.
Coke introduced a program in restaurants called "Cap the Tap," which they claimed was a campaign against wasting water. It was actually a campaign to convince restaurants to stop serving tap water and serve Coca-Cola instead.
A McDonald's started giving employees debit cards attached to a bank account instead of just giving them paychecks. Convenient for employees who don't have their own accounts, right? Withdrawing cash from the account costs $5 per transaction.
Shell has been pumping oil out of Nigeria for decades. On top of accepted stuff like bulldozing villages and spilling oil all over vegetation, we have to highlight 1995, which was when they ordered the military to torture and kill nine environmental activists.
Alka-Seltzer realized they could sell twice as much if they convinced everyone to double the amount that they used. They introduced a new campaign with the tagline "plop, plop, fizz, fizz." Drop two tablets in the glass, urged the ads. So people did, for no good reason.
54. Cabin Creek Mine
In 1912, the United Mine Workers went on strike. So the Cabin Creek Mine company in West Virginia brought in armored trains to the tent town the workers had set up and gunned 50 workers down. Things got even crazier in the 1920s, when the mines, now backed up by Army aircraft, fought thousands of union members in a battle that used a million bullets.