100 Surprising Facts About American Companies and Their History

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1 Costco


The food court at Costco makes so much money selling pizza to hungry shoppers that it is ranked as the 14th largest pizza chain in the US, even beating out California Pizza Kitchen, among others.

2. Wal-Mart used to take out life insurance policies on their employees and keep the payouts when they died, a practice colloquially known as “Dead Peasant Insurance.”

3. In 1964, Warren Buffett bought controlling shares of his now multibillion-dollar company, Berkshire Hathaway, just to fire the CEO as revenge for trying to low-ball him when Buffett went to sell the stock. Buffett considers it the dumbest stock he ever bought.

4. 1-800-COLLECT was so popular in the 90s that AT&T launched a competing service, 1-800-Operator. However, AT&T later discovered many people misspelled Operator with ‘er’ instead of ‘or’ at the end, and that unfortunately, 1-800-COLLECT owned the misspelled number and had been taking their customers.

5. The Native American “Shame Pole” is a totem pole erected to embarrass people for non-payment of debts or to ridicule misdeeds. In 2007 one such pole was erected in Alaska depicting the CEO of Exxon to highlight an unpaid debt of $5 million owed from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. This was after Exxon’s punitive damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill were reduced from $5 billion to $507.5 million.

6 Henry Ford II

Henry Ford II

When Henry Ford II took control of Ford Motor Co., the first thing he did was fire his grandfather’s brutal, union-busting head of security by sending his own second-in-command, a former FBI agent, to deliver the news. Both men drew handguns on each other.

7. General Motors purposely kept the 1979 Chevy Malibu gas tank dangerously close to the rear of the vehicle. Instead of paying an extra $8.59 per vehicle to move the gas tank to a safer location, GM estimated that they would only have to pay $2.40 per vehicle to pay off personal-injury lawsuits.

8. During the Panic of 1893, JP Morgan used $60 million in bonds to bail out the United States government.

9. In 1994, Verizon received $2.1 billion in tax breaks in Pennsylvania to wire every house with 45Mbps by 2015. Half of all households were to be wired by 2004. When deadlines weren’t met Verizon kept the money. The same thing happened in New York.

10. Costco purposefully designs their store without any signs to force people to wander through all the aisles and find things to buy.

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11 Walgreens Pharmacy

Walgreens Pharmacy

During prohibition in the US, an exemption was made for whiskey prescribed by a doctor and sold through a pharmacy. The Walgreens pharmacy chain grew from 20 retail stores to almost 500 during this period, from 1920 to 1933.

12. In 2014 people created fake $90 Play Station 4 listings on Amazon and showed them to Walmart, thus getting a $90 Play Station 4 because of their price matching.

13. The highest-paid CEO in the U.S. was John Hammergren of McKesson Corp in 2011. He was paid in excess of $700 million. At a company annual meeting in 2013, an employee asked for wage increases and was fired 4 months later.

14. Pringles had to use supercomputers to engineer their chips with optimal aerodynamic properties so that they wouldn’t fly off the conveyor belts when moving at very high speeds.

15. WinCo is a grocery store in the western U.S. which not only undercuts Walmart on prices, but is employee-owned, offers health benefits, and a pension plan for their employees.

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16 General Electric CEO

General Electric CEO

Former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt wasn’t happy with just one corporate jet flying him around the world. He had a second empty jet tailing the first one in the rare event that the primary jet needed maintenance.

17. Costco sells approximately 100 million hot dogs a year in its food court. This is over four times the number sold in all Major League Baseball stadiums combined. Costco’s hot dogs started out as a single hot dog cart vendor in front of their San Diego warehouse, using Hebrew National dogs.

18. In the 1920s, the Ford Motor Company produced so much factory wood waste that they manufactured it into charcoal and sold it under the name Ford Charcoal. The company was later renamed to Kingsford Charcoal.

19. In 1982, AT&T, which had complete control of the telephone service in the US, broke up into 7 companies due to an antitrust case. Now, 4 of those companies once again belong to AT&T, 2 to Verizon, and the last to CenturyLink.

20. A Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by Black Friday shoppers in 2008. While other employees attempted to help him, the shoppers were unconcerned with the victim’s fate and refused to halt their stampede, complaining that they were not willing to wait in the cold any longer.

15 Most Controversial & Costly Blunders in History

21 Phoebus Cartel

Phoebus Cartel

In 1925, General Electric and other light bulb manufacturers colluded against consumers and created the ‘Phoebus Cartel’. The cartel conspired to reduce the 1925 light bulb life expectancy from 2500 Hours down to only 1000 hours and at the same time, to increase the price per bulb.

22. In 2004, a Wal-Mart was built on a section of Teotihuacan in Mexico. Ancient artifacts were shipped off to be dumped by workers who found them on the site.

23. The Rockefeller owned Standard Oil was declared a monopoly and forced to split into 33 companies in 1911 including Exxon and Mobil which then re-merged in 1999 into ExxonMobil, the 8th largest company in the world.

24. AT&T only put the * and # buttons on the phone keypad because they had extra space, and they figured maybe someone someday will find some use for them.

25. On September 4, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Wal-Mart de Mexico, the Mexican subsidiary of Wal-Mart, must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers that were redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores.

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