When you work for a company long enough, you learn all about its secrets: both the good ones and the bad ones. Depending on your experience at that company, you may feel obliged to keep those secrets confidential or totally reveal them to the public. This article deals with the latter. Here are some secrets of big-name companies, according to their former employees:
#1 Pet Store Shenanigans
The first thing you do every day at my old pet store as an employee is dispose of the dead reptiles into the trash. We treated them as well as we could once they were in the store—given our fairly minimal resources— but they're mistreated in transit and often die within a day of arriving at the store. We once reordered chameleons three times because they kept dying. Everyone knew they were too delicate to transport, but the head office wanted a chameleon in the store. Most employees aren't aware of this since management tries to sweep it under the rug, but I was the morning custodian.
The birds are also neurotic as heck due to sheer mind-numbing boredom, and the rodents bite because they're unsocialized. Elderly hamsters get put in the back room, where they'll never be purchased because they make customers sad. At least in my experience, the employees genuinely try to take care of the animals, but it's just not a good environment for them. The cats are okay, though, since they're not actually sold by this pet store. The company just lends display space to rescue groups and shelters. They're mostly pretty happy and well cared for.
#2 No Sick Days
I worked at a popular pizza chain in college. Our franchisee made it a fireable offense to call in sick. If you missed a scheduled shift, it would be considered quitting, and you wouldn't get put on the schedule ever again. As a result, workers would come into work INCREDIBLY ill and still make your food. I once witnessed a coworker begin to make a pizza, stop to go puke in the bathroom, then continue making the pizza.
#3 Shady Business
I worked at a certain big-box store several years ago. At the time, it had a yellow smiley face for its logo. Now it is a weird star thing. Anyway, every Christmas, they would put out a bin for customers to donate toys, clothes, etc. to low-income children. Everything that went into that bin went back on the shelf. If it didn't have a receipt attached, we "couldn't prove it had been purchased." If it had a receipt, we were supposed to make sure it fell off. Don't donate anything at that store.
#4 About Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is fake. Their waterfall is pumped in. It's artificial. The formations are paint and plastic and styrofoam or occasionally purchases from other caves halfway across the country. They lie about the height of the falls. Like not a little exaggeration—they claim it's almost twice as high as it is. Most of the stories your tour guides tell you are made up.
Unless they have gray hair their funny quips about past tours are mostly nonsense. The employees are not told any of this and have to piece it together on their own. A lot of management legitimately doesn't know. The tour guides know and don't care, the ones that do care quit. They threaten to sue employees who reveal any of this, EVEN TO FELLOW EMPLOYEES!
#5 Messing With Nature
The previous company I worked for killed off an endangered species in an area they wanted to expand. Then, they laid off some folks who knew they were endangered, and magically, the EPA inspector didn't find anything because they had buried up the pits and holes where the frogs had died. If I had been single and didn't have a wife or dependents, I would consider speaking out and bringing it to the press. But I refused to throw away their lives.
#6 Can I Breathe?
I worked for a popular restaurant chain. I was their sole busboy AND dishwasher for the holiday season across from a mall. I would gather dishes (often overflowing from the bins) and bring them to the sink. I'd get back onto the floor out front and my store manager would ask, "Why aren't the dishes done?" I would go into the back, get about three or four dishes done, and my store manager would come back and say, "Why aren't you clearing the dish bins?" I finally quit after a few months and my boss had the sheer gall to say: "Well, this makes it very difficult to schedule for weekends." I told her, "That's not my problem."
#7 A Common Practice
When diesel fuel gets spilled in a working waterfront, they just spread dish soap. This sinks the fuel to the bottom, where it can't be cleaned up, avoiding the rainbow slick, a $10K fine, and an actual clean up. Unfortunately, this is a common practice on the water. Never ask anyone why there is so much morning fresh on the boat.
#8 Reservations Out The Window
I still have copies of emails from our video game store's district manager directing us to sell through all our pre-orders of GTA4 instead of holding them for the customers that reserved them because he got a commission on total numbers sold. Other video game stores did this too. I quit as a result, after a whole two days, having to watch my coworkers lie to the faces of people who had pre-paid in full for their reservations, after having purposefully sold them all the night before at the midnight opening to people with no reservations.
#9 Lying For Profit
This is my best story. I was 18 and a pushover at the time, so I wasn’t going to argue since I just started working there: At an office supplies store, we ran out of pencil crayons during back-to-school season, which was not good for business. Parents want to do one-stop shopping for school, so one of the managers took me to Walmart at the other end of the shopping center, and we loaded up two carts with ALL of their pencil crayons.
It gets worse. To eliminate any suspicion and prevent the Walmart managers from stopping us, we told the cashiers we were on a mission trip to Africa and that these were supplies for poor schools over there. They believed it, we took them all, stocked the shelves at our store and resold them.
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#10 A Penalty For Being Ill
My husband once called in sick, he is an EMT. He was vomiting and could not leave the bed. This is the only time I’ve ever seen him call in sick. He found out a couple of weeks afterward the higher-ups wrote him up for calling in ill. That company is now being flushed down the toilet. The company had been committing fraud for years. Another profession where you don’t really want the person caring for you also vomiting on you.
#11 Standard Procedure
I worked for a small record store in the '90s and every week, all the staff members would have to go to K-Mart one at a time and buy up one each of the Top 10 CDs... which we would then put into stock and sell at our store. I also worked at a restaurant that was known for its "homemade" ice cream. I can't remember where we bought it from... but I know we used to run out constantly... I was at 7/11 three or four nights a week buying a tub or three to hold us over.
#12 Serving Dirty Food
My first job was at a French bakery. It's a decent-sized chain in the States. I watched a pizza come out of the oven and fall toppings-side-down on an unusually filthy kitchen floor. This was on Mother's Day (one of the busiest days of the year for a place like this), so it was scraped up (as instructed by a manager) and tossed back in the oven with a little extra cheese to hide all the gunk stuck to it. I was made to serve this to a lovely older lady and it haunts me to this day.
#13 Preventing Unionization
My company's distribution center had a week-long orientation. For about two days of that orientation, they gave us reasons as to why unions are bad and have no place in the company. They told us we would be terminated if we tried to unionize. They pretty much fed us propaganda materials and treated us like kids. They made us repeat that we understood the situation and the consequences of attempted unionization.
#14 Reusable Popcorn
At a movie theater where I used to work, we would collect all the unsold popcorn and stuff it into these enormous yellow trash bags. The next morning, yesterday's popcorn was the first to go in the warmer. My boss said that popcorn was fine to reheat and serve for up to a week. We never dated the bags, though... we were not allowed to throw them away. We reused them all the time, so there was literally no way to know how old the popcorn was. Not as horrifying as some stuff here, but I thought it was kind of gross.
#15 Don't Trust This Doctor
I worked in a privately-owned doctor's office. They would routinely schedule people with government insurance for appointments months out and schedule people with private insurance for much closer appointments. Also, since Medicare and Medicaid won't pay for immunizations and therapeutic injections separately, when they are given during an office visit, they would schedule the patient for another appointment the next morning, and "give" the injection then.
This would allow them to bill it separately. The thing is, the patient would never even know about this "second" appointment, and their insurance would pay the bills. The office manager would also sign into the doctor's computers and send in prescriptions for patients under their names, even though she had no medical license at all.
I went to a prominent beauty school. Every year, they do a big recycling cap program, since most plastic caps cannot be recycled. We collected caps for a month, and our clients were really excited to be helping the environment. After the promo was done, the instructors made us grab three to four garbage bags of caps each...and we threw them in the dumpster of the building next door. We didn't even use our own trash. Probably because the company could take away their franchising rights if they found any infractions.
#17 Good For Him
I was about 18 at the time and I worked at a retail type store that is burnt to the ground now. I worked with a middle-aged guy still in an entry-level position and my boss was unusually rude to him. After a long winter watching the guy constantly being treated worse than others, he told me he was leaving town and not to tell anyone. He did just that and even used the company's garage to build a bed on his truck beforehand.
He left and my boss was livid. He clearly depended on the guy much more than he let on... I never told my boss I knew where he was or what happened, and I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to do. I know for a fact I would have said something if I had seen the guy treated fairly, that much I know.
#18 The Disappearing TVs
When I worked in the mailroom for the main AT&T facility for the West Coast, the management company Global Real Estate would order Tivo's and flat-screen TVs for the 350+ vacant rooms in the building at the end of every fiscal year. After they were installed, the following weekend, all those TVs and Tivo's would "magically" turn up missing. If you look up Global Real Estate, they're up to some pretty shady stuff all around the world. I'm pretty sure they're run by the mob. My Italian boss once made a thinly veiled threat to me over a steak during a Christmas party.
#19 The Worst Food
The best I can think of is this one burger chain. It gets a lot of its foods from other companies while advertising that everything they make is their own branding. That and none of the stuff they fry is even fresh... They're just re-dipped and re-fried over and over in used batches. Their cheapness makes their food terrible.
#20 No Health In Healthcare
ER nurse here. My hospital pulls this kind of nonsense. I was seen IN MY OWN EMERGENCY ROOM for a heart rate of 160 and I needed medical attention. Our hospital allows for six absences every year for illness. Did they count this toward mine? You betcha. Despite the fact that I received care from my own staff, my own physicians, and my own charge nurses at my ER, and ended up ADMITTED to the hospital, I still got "points" against me for calling in.
Sure, in most office jobs, six days per year seems reasonable. However, consider that people in health care are exposed to nasty, contagious pathogens 100% of their day. I'm literally around sick people 24/7 when I work, and yet I get punished if I call in (even if my own ER can vouch for my absence). It really doesn't make any sense.
#21 Stingy Much?
The burger chain I worked for is vile. They will sell you sandwiches that are literally roast beef shavings and burnt scraps because they want to save money by not wasting even inedible bits of beef. I was told, when I worked there, to not waste any meat, even if it meant rolling a pile of burnt skin, rubbery scraps, and miscellaneous shavings into a ball and plopping it on a bun.
#22 Shredding The Evidence
A female co-worker of mine filed a complaint because a male co-worker slapped her inappropriately. I watched management have him sign his paperwork for a “written warning” and then shred it while the female co-worker was at lunch. I worked in HR for them at the time. I can confirm they made no formal documentation of anything that happened that day. They shredded the only paperwork that even acknowledged it happened.
When I worked at a sub place, the tuna that came vacuum-packed said "dolphin-safe," and then one day, it did not say "dolphin-safe". Then lo and behold, a few months later back on the package in big letters: "dolphin-safe! Also, we definitely were told to use up stuff if it was only a day or two over the use-by date.
#24 Security Breach
I worked at a local drugstore and we had a guy go to the pharmacy, reach over the counter, and carry a tray full of filled prescription papers out of the exit. These papers included private information on DOZENS of our customers—names, numbers, addresses, meds they are on, etc. There was virtually no reason for that information to be so easily accessible or out in the open, even behind the counter. Some tech really screwed up, but the kicker was my store manager who told everyone not to tell anyone or report it because it "wasn't that big of a deal."
#25 Medium Rare... Chicken?
At a certain chicken establishment, we had deep fryers that you put the chicken into. You locked them up, waited on the machine's timer, then pulled them out. It was a three and a half minutes wait. In rushes when we were low on chicken, they made us open the machines up earlier before they were fully cooked by sometimes a full minute... I didn't work there that long.
#26 Quarter-Inch Gunk
I "managed" a food joint at Six Flags when I was 16. We literally watered down the nacho cheese and grilled chicken for 10 hours a day on the same grill without cleaning it. By the end of the day, there was a quarter-inch of gunk built up, I had new crew members every day who had never worked there before.
My managers would take their breaks when we needed to close but we couldn't leave until they checked our work, so we would just sit for a good 30 minutes before we could go home. I ended up getting fired because in accidentally bumped a HIDDEN SECURITY CAMERA while cleaning in the back room.
The chicken joint I worked for intentionally shift-starves older team members to prevent them from bringing the labor budget up. Then, when they quit due to lack of shifts, they don't get paid out because technically they are quitting. Just think about that for a moment. The only people above 18 in the store are likely the management staff.
The people cleaning the dishes your food is prepped on, cooking your food, preparing your food, packaging your food and handing it to you are 15 to 17-year-olds with exactly as much maturity as you would expect. Don't get me wrong, a lot of them are pretty good for their age, but still, all it takes is one kid angry at their boss for whatever reason to forget a step. Then bam, you're sick for four days with food poisoning.
#28 Picking And Choosing
I worked in a state-level congressional office. The state legislator’s office. All those calls and letters you guys write to your lawmakers about issues you care about? Don’t really matter. Calls get entered into a log nobody reviews. Letters get entered into a log nobody reads and then thrown away. The elected official will only even ask about calls and letters if they already care about an issue. Then usually they will ask their staffers to keep a for/against tally to use when they argue the issue on the floor.
#29 Behind The Scenes
I worked at a popular fast-food chain as a teenager in the kitchen. When I was training to be a manager, I was taught that the timers were the recommended safe time for a patty to sit in the warmer and that all the patties in the tray that timed out should be thrown away. As a cook, we would often have trays that had their timers reset 5+ times in a row before the patties were served from them.
#30 Faking Gourmet
I worked in a coffee shop where they would buy individually packaged muffins in bulk, like the kind you see in convenience stores. They would then have us remove them from their packaging, wrap them in saran wrap, and sell them as homemade for over twice the price as what they sold literally next door at the gas station. I always enjoyed the compliments I got for my baking skills.
#31 Labelled Enemies
I worked for a peacekeeping organization. There's a list of global corporations they refuse to work with or accept donations from because they are considered basically evil. It's not publicly available information, even to most people who work in the company's system, but if you try to work with a company on the list and you send the proposal up the food chain, eventually you'll get shut down. I don't have the list to share, but maybe someone else does. Some very well-known brands are on it.
#32 Bad Upselling
At the popular merch store I worked at, they warned about having low units per transaction, or ‘UPT’ as they called it. If a customer only wanted to buy one thing, we were supposed to try and pressure them into buying related items. The store I was at had a box of horrible little pin-on buttons that we had to suggest to everyone at checkout.
#33 Broken Rules
I worked for a company that provided a delivery service. They gave me an entire safety orientation on proper lifting on the job and applying warning tape to packages over 70 lbs. They did not, however, follow either rule as I was expected to get things done faster than proper lifting or warning tape application would allow. I was also fired after my manager neglected to inform me that I was supposed to perform certain duties on the line I was working on. Not to mention your packages are usually never handled with care, but that's the trade-off of receiving next day shipping.
#34 The Last Payback
A friend of mine from college was a programmer for a mobile game development company and they were screwing him on wages. So before he quit, he did the worst thing he could think of. He used VMWare snapshots as version control for two weeks. Some poor system admin likely spontaneously combusted. By the way, VMWare is a piece of software that essentially lets you take a snapshot of an entire system (or set of systems) at their current state and recover exactly to that point.
#35 Cardinal Sins
After moving on to a position where I worked more closely with software developers, the DocuPAD commits several cardinal sins of database design that lead to numerous financial errors. This is because they are transferring field values to another database and financial calculator, instead of just referencing the fields over a secure connection. This increases the clunkiness in use and causes all sorts of numbers to be off.
#36 A Gross Infestation
I worked for a chicken restaurant. At one point, we were so infested with cockroaches it was normal to see about 20 a day. We (the management and supervisor staff) begged the manager to shut down the store to clean. Instead, we never ever stopped and were required to come in on the weekends to clean around everything.
We also were required to call cockroaches "friends" so we wouldn't let the customer know that we were infested. On more than one occasion, we would feel them crawling on us and we were told we weren't allowed to react or we would be written up. Thankfully, we got shut down by the health department and corporate took over the store and turned it around.
#37 Manage Your Expectations
Not really that bad, but I like to let people know about this: In high school, I was a youth football ref. All we did was talk about the hot girls at our school and make sure nobody got hurt. I would only call things that were a) too obvious not to call or b) dangerous. Nobody cares about that third-grader who's holding on the back end of the play except for the parents and coaches who think their kid is playing in the state championship game. Also, if your kid goes out with a head injury and you try to send him or her back in a couple plays later, you're a terrible person.
#38 Bottoms Up
I worked in a staffing agency in a large city. We had a fridge in the office filled with bottles. We drank during our entire afternoon. Mornings were when we met with clients. Afternoons were job interviews and filling slots. Oh, and the company bought the bottles. I literally got paid to drink, but that's not necessarily a good thing... not at all.
#39 A Fair Return Policy
It's not really a secret, but it isn't typically trumpeted from the hilltops either; you've got a full week to bring any used game you buy from GameStop back with the ticket for a full refund. You've got a month to bring it back for a store credit refund in full. I made it a point to tell every customer who bought a used game this information and got (unofficially) reprimanded for it on more than one occasion.
#40 An Experiment For You
I have an experiment for you. Take a thin stack of regular index cards and go to your local Walmart. Go to the fresh chicken section. The long clear plastic strip at the front of the shelf can be lifted up out of the black shelf. Lift it up. Take your index cards and place them where the plastic was. Now run it, without lifting it up, to the end of the shelf.
If half-rotten chicken guts don't fall out of that shelf, then you are at a cleaner Walmart than I've ever been in. Odds are you'll be able to see (and smell) them caked all over the bottom of the plastic thing as soon as you pull it out of the shelf. When I worked at Walmart, I always waited until the place was practically devoid of customers before I pulled those shelves apart to clean them.
#41 Hiding The Truth
Technical support for Compaq, the mid-'90s—we never mentioned PPRs to customers. Why? Pre-production reports were official documents about known failures of their hardware from before they went into production... We had hundreds of them in a database we referred to in troubleshooting. Each one was a case of "we know this is fucked up and will cause problems, but we're not going to fix it."
#42 Wash Thoroughly
I'm currently working at a grocery store, I learned that you should always WASH YOUR PRODUCE. We would often get boxes with squished, molding and rotting fruits and vegetables (it is perishable food after all), but we would just sort those out and quickly wipe off the surrounding items. It’s very likely that the apple that you took a bite out of has been touched by at least five customers. It might have been right next to a pile of rotting fruit for a few days. Enjoy.
#43 Blockbuster Secrets
I worked at Blockbuster from 2004-2009. We would have to up-sell everything, food, rewards programs; anything the company was trying to do at the time. Towards the end, it mostly programmed to try and win people back but just drove the company into the ground. Blockbuster Rewards: we were told to offer it to everyone $9.95 for a year with dumb perks. Including the grandma who came in once a month. Only about 20% of the customers would actually benefit from it. One perk was “one free rental a month” which was one of the old ones that were more than a year old but no one would tell you that.
#44 Fair And Square
We ran a survey with a random draw prize. The marketing girl said the winner should NOT be chosen randomly and instead be one of our high net worth clients. I refused to be a part of helping her search for the winner as it was basically illegal to choose a random winner in a non-random way. As she was dumb and unable to search for anything, she conceded defeat and let me choose someone randomly. I work for one of the largest banks in the world.
#45 Learning Center Realities
A certain learning center basically forces employees to rewrite student college application essays. They also put a non-compete clause in their contract, which while legally dubious, is not worth fighting. My boss also hit me with a binder and tore a Halloween mask of my face (they forgot to mention that despite working with kids, no Halloween costumes allowed for teachers, though staff could wear them).
#46 Deli Disaster
I worked at Harris Teeter's deli several years ago and dropped a whole deli turkey breast on the ground. My manager picked it up, went to wash it in the raw foods sink (with just water), dropped it in the raw food sink with raw chicken juice, rinsed with water, and handed it to me to cut for a customer. She left immediately after and I promptly threw the turkey away to get a new one. This happened literally ALL THE TIME.
#47 Questionable Freshness
This one's about a pizza shop which shall remain nameless. Their pizza was never fresh. Probably in the rack most of the day. The one near where I live now gets so much traffic that the pizza is pretty much always fresh. The “Hot 'n' Ready” box is usually almost or completely empty. I’ve had to wait behind several customers for fresh pizzas before (not complaining; I like it fresh). Still, not the greatest pizza, but $5 for a pizza right from the oven isn’t bad.
#48 Taking The Power Back
I worked at this Hawaiian BBQ place a couple of years ago. When someone had a large order, the cashier would show the cooks in the back how much the customer tipped with their hands. If they tipped poorly, the line cooks wouldn't be as generous with the portion sizes and give them less food. I had mixed feelings about it but went along with it anyway.
#49 The Hosting Industry
If you're not hosting with a big name provider, don't assume you have functional disaster recovery that can fail your site over with no downtime. A datacenter I know of in Eagan, MN that hosts NASDAQ core servers had only one functional uplink for over a week. Thank god that building didn't catch fire that week, it could have cost the economy more money than I'd like to imagine.
#50 Stale Candy
Worked for a few years in a Shell gas station in Denmark. The mixed candy aisle is only filled, it's never, ever emptied or cleaned. The gummy bears at the bottom are probably highly sought by archeologists around the world. The only candy that was ever restocked often was the Sour Patch Kids and it was because the staff would eat it. Everything else was super stale and old. Whenever a customer came up with a bag, it made me gag because I wouldn't touch it.