100 Surprising Facts About American Companies and Their History

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51Acxiom

One of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of is Acxiom. It gathers information on some 700 million people, with up to 1,500 data points per person, for ultra-targeted marketing. Their database is detailed enough to list the people who buy a particular brand of cereal in your local supermarket.


52. FedEx uses several empty cargo planes that roam the country’s skies overnight in circuitous flight paths, ready to divert on demand in order to accommodate unexpected package volume.


53. Mexican shamans began to use Coca-Cola in their religious rituals to heal worshippers. When PepsiCo discovered this, they offered commissions to shamans for using Pepsi instead. When Coca-Cola began paying too, rival religious groups were formed based on which soft drink they used.


54. General Motors chemist Thomas Midgley Jr. invented both chlorofluorocarbons and leaded gasoline, having “more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.”


55. AT&T made a working answering machine in 1939 but suppressed it, thinking public fear of being recorded would lead to widespread abandonment of the telephone.


56Proud American

Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, American Airlines and two other corporations released a movie called Proud American in 2008. The movie featured an overly-patriotic storyline about the wonders of American life. It was a failure, and became IMDB's worst movie of the 2000's.


57. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit apologized for Citigroup’s board of directors’ misuse of bailout money on increasing his salary, condemned their purchase of a private jet plane, and worked for 2 years for only $1 a year until they returned to profitability.


58. Ford was the first American Company to give its workers both Saturday and Sunday off, in hope that it would encourage more leisure use of automobiles, and thus popularizing the idea of the “weekend.”


59. In order to stand out from competing catalogs, Sears simply printed their catalogs on smaller paper so when a stack of catalogs were delivered, theirs would always be on top.


60. Tropicana OJ is owned by PepsiCo and Simply Orange by Coca Cola. They strip the juice of oxygen for better storage, which strips the flavor. They then hire flavor and fragrance companies, who also formulate perfumes for Dior, to engineer flavor packs to add to the juice to make it “fresh.”


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61Camaro

When the Camaro name was unveiled by General Motors in 1966, 200 journalists present asked Chevrolet managers what it meant. They replied, “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”


62. When PepsiCo entered India, the Indian government stipulated part of its local profits be used to purchase tomatoes. This requirement worked for PepsiCo because it also owned Pizza Hut at the time.


63. The FedEx logo has won over 40 design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years. The white arrow in the logo was an intentional design choice, created by blending two different fonts together.


64. Wal-Mart loses around $3 Billion a year to theft. In 2015, $3 billion dollars lost due to theft constituted only 1% of Wal-Mart’s $300 billion revenue.


65. Boeing was banned from bidding on contracts for US spy satellites after one of their contracts went over budget by at least $4 billion before it was ultimately canceled and given to Lockheed Martin.


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66New GM

In 2009, General Motors declared bankruptcy, took billions in government bailout money and issued new stock for the "New GM," with no compensation for the old shareholders now worthless "Old GM" stock.


67. In 2012 Wells Fargo fired a customer service representative for putting a cardboard dime in a laundry machine when he was a kid back in 1963.


68. Wal-Mart once pulled Midge, a doll in the Barbie line, from the shelves due to concerns she was pregnant with no wedding ring and it would promote teen pregnancy.


69. In the 1920s and 30s, Procter & Gamble (originally known for soap and candles) sponsored several radio shows, those shows becoming known as “soap operas.”


70. UPS drivers don’t take the shortest routes. UPS has special software which optimizes each route by eliminating as many left-hand turns as possible. As a result, UPS claims it uses 10 million gallons of less fuel, emits 20,000 tons of less carbon dioxide and delivers 350,000 more packages every year.


71Target Tracking

An algorithm developed for Target to predict who was pregnant in order to optimize advertising predicted a specific teenage girl's pregnancy, even before her family knew about it.


72. General Motors once hired prostitutes to attempt to seduce Ralph Nader in order to discredit him in his campaign to force the automobile industry to include seatbelts in its cars.


73. In 2011, a man killed his wife inside the Wal-Mart she was working at. Rather than close the store, they chose to just rope off the gore-splattered area while police investigated.


74. Dr Pepper is owned by neither PepsiCo or The Coca-Cola Company, but are instead only distributors. This is why you can find Dr Pepper in both Pepsi and Coke soda fountains and vending machines.


75. In the early days of FedEx, CEO Fred Smith took the company’s last $5,000 to Las Vegas and won $27,000 gambling on blackjack to cover the company’s $24,000 fuel bill.

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