20 Shady Secrets That Companies Wanted Their Employees To Hide From Customers

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that many big companies are prone to a little dishonesty and deception. But you may be astonished by the lengths to which some of them go. Indeed, from restaurants reusing products to adoption agencies lying about where your money’s going, these businesses are apparently hiding some shady secrets from customers. Not only that, but they’re also using their employees to do so.

20. Made in New Jersey

“I worked at an art store that sold glass, mostly made in China with very few actual nice pieces. We were told to peel the ‘Made in China’ stickers off. If anyone asked where the glass came from we would say New Jersey, which is where the supplier was from.”

Yeah, we’re pretty sure this isn’t totally above board. In fact, it’s so far under board that we’re really not surprised the employees were forced to bend the truth. Sure, you could argue that New Jersey is indeed one place the glass literally “comes from,” but we all know what customers are really asking about here.

19. A fry packet half-full

“I worked at McDonald’s and they taught me how to pinch the fry carton while putting the fries into them so that it looked full. But [it] actually wasn’t. I only had one customer call me out on it. He shook the fries out into his bag and poured them back into the carton himself. It only filled up half way, so I had to give him more fries. I was impressed and embarrassed. It’s been seven years and I can still see his face.”

If this alleged story is true, we’re now rethinking our entire history of McDonald’s orders. And you can bet that our next trip there will involve pulling the same genius move. Because we also need to make sure that we’re getting the right amount of fries. And if not? Well, another employee may be telling this exact story in a few years…

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18. Shady sauce secrets

“[I worked in a] restaurant where we would reheat sauces for several days. And depending on how many times this had happened they would look and taste completely different.”

Well, that’s one way to expand your range of flavors. Honestly, though, it’s making our stomachs churn just thinking about it… As it no doubt literally did to anyone unfortunate enough to consume one of those hot messes. You have to wonder how restaurants like this manage to stay open…

17. Fake helmet heat treatment

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“[I] worked at a bike rental shop where we told customers we sanitized the helmets we rented via ‘heat treatment’. [This] consisted of having some high-schooler run up to the attic, and leave them in boxes. Or, if they were wet, hung from nails to drip dry.”

We don’t know who this is worse for: the customers being conned, or the poor kids taking the helmets to the attic. After all, the smell emanating from it must have been absolutely horrendous. That said, the odor probably stayed with the helmets, so whoever ended up wearing them probably suffered, too.

16. Escaping the truth

“I’ve worked for two separate escape rooms. Everyone who didn’t get out “got really close.” Usually we’ll show you what you missed if there’s only a few puzzles left. If we don’t show you anything it’s because we didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

To be fair, we’re quite glad escape room employees hide this particular nugget from customers. After all, who wants to be told how useless they really are by strangers? If anything, then, this is actually a great way to save face, for both the customer and the employee. Unless, that is, you can handle the truth…

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15. Equal soup servings

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“The cup of soup and bowl of soup were the exact same size. People would pay more for a bowl. [But would] just get a cup of soup in a bowl.”

It’s super frustrating to read things like this and realize that you’ve probably spent years falling for the same trick. But unless you whip out a measuring jug in the middle of a restaurant, there’s no way to tell the difference. Indeed, in terms of just lying to customers’ faces, it really doesn’t get much shadier than this.

14. A Christmas infestation

“[I] worked at a nursery (plants, not babies) that sold xmas trees in winter. We had to have two employees per customer in the lot at all times. One to talk to and distract the customer, the other to hold up the particular tree they were interested in and shake the rats out. Basically these people were buying $50 rat’s nests to put in their house.”

We don’t think we’ll ever look at a Christmas tree lot in the same way after reading this. In fact, it’s probably enough to persuade us just to go and cut down our own tree. After all, nobody wants to bring home a nest of rats, let alone pay for the “privilege.”

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13. Protein-filled pancakes

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“My uncle used to work in a restaurant many decades ago as a teenager. It was his job each morning to strain the cockroaches out of the pancake syrup containers on each table.”

The only tiny bit of solace we can take from this is that it happened a long time ago. So, we’re (hopefully) in the clear as far as accidentally partaking in this roach-flavored syrup goes. But to think that it happened at all is absolutely nauseating. And makes us wonder what other gross things restaurateurs hiding are from us…

12. Coloring in shirts

“I machine embroider shirts for different companies. If the stitching doesn’t line up (such as an outline around a logo) and the colors allow for it, we have a bucket full of markers to recolor the thread. [We] even go as far as coloring the shirt that shows through to make it look cohesive. The best ones are Sharpie or dry erase markers.”

Yeah, this totally sounds like a hasty fix to a problem that really shouldn’t pass any quality standards. After all, we’re the ones paying top dollar for these clothes. So it’s quite disheartening to learn that they’re put together with such little regard for the customer. Sure, they may be up to scratch when they leave the shelf, but will they stand the test of time?

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11. Counterfeit coffee

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“The decaf at Burger King isn’t actually decaf. It’s just the regular coffee, but watered down.”

Imagine how badly this could go for, say, someone with a heart condition that prevents them drinking caffeine. Thankfully, we have a feeling this story may not be applicable to all Burger King restaurants. Even if it’s only allegedly true for this particular chain, though, it’s still a heinous practice.

10. Virus removal scam

“When I still worked there, Staples charged $160 for basically running [free programs] and called it virus removal. I think most people know $160 was bulls**t for that, but it was always the old people that got screwed.”

One the one hand, there are people out there who don’t know how to remove viruses from their computer, so providing that service does have its uses. Charging $160 for it, though, is absolutely beyond the pale, and most definitely taking advantage of those less aware customers. Indeed, they’d probably be better off simply learning to do it themselves.

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9. The office scapegoat

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“My old boss invented a fake employee that he would blame all mistakes on when speaking with customers. Once in a while, he would tell the customers he ‘fired’ that imaginary employee and then come up with a new name for [another] imaginary employee.”

It makes sense that you wouldn’t want your customers to know that you do something like this. But it does seem like a pretty clever move on the manager’s part. Of course, that only really applies if those customers’ issues were imagined by them, rather than being genuine issues. In which case, it suddenly becomes an actual problem, rather than a funny solution.

8. Fast food priorities

“In fast food, drive-through comes first because they’re the majority of customers. If you come in [to the restaurant] you’ll get your food between us serving drive-through.”

Yes, it’s apparently true: if you’re looking to optimize your queuing time at a fast food restaurant, you’re better off staying in your car. As a result, if you arrive on foot to see a backlog of cars at the window, you can expect to have a wait on your hands. Supposedly, it’s because managers are aiming to hit low wait times for the drive-through.

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7. Serving time

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“At one spa it was the clocks. They didn’t want clients to see what time it was because they would make us cut their massage sessions. [And] they didn’t want them to know they were being cheated.”

To be honest, we’re not sure how this spa got away with this shady practice. After all, surely the ruse would be up once the customer checked their phone and realized they’d been short-changed? For the less discerning, though, it’s entirely possible that they could have been continuously caught by this scam.

6. Taking a cut

“[I worked at an] international adoption agency. And the fees [that are] made to sound like they were going to poorer countries to help children? Yeah, no. They actually went to the agency.”

If this is to be believed, then it may be one of the most abhorrent practices of all the companies on this list. After all, not only are they depriving those kids of the cash, they’re actively lying to the would-be parents. Sure, the agency needs to make money to continue, but there’s no need to dress it up as something else.

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5. Easy installation

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“Former Geek Squad here. We weren’t allowed to perform computer hardware installs in front of customers. Managers didn’t want them to see just how damn easy it really is.”

To be fair, if everyone knew how easy it was to install computer hardware, Geek Squad would pretty much no longer exist. So, it’s easy to see why managers would want their employees to disguise this fact from their customers. Even if it is more than a little ethically dubious…

4. Oily popcorn

“I used to work for a big name movie theatre. People could butter their own popcorn. When it ran out, we were instructed to fill [the container] with the oil used to actually cook the popcorn.”

You have to wonder how many customers were actually able to tell the difference between the oil and the butter. After all, if none of them did, that speaks volumes about the quality of the butter in the first place. And if they could? Well, we doubt this shady practice would have lasted that long…

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3. Dissolvable dishonesty

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“At Trugreen they told us to tell customers rain won’t wash away the liquid fertilizer and weed control we spray. But it does. A simple Google search will tell you [as much].”

It’s one thing to mislead your customers, but this is just a straight-up lie. And we’re pretty sure those customers are going to realize the level of dishonesty as soon as it starts raining. Indeed, it’s staggering to think the company believes it can get away with this in the first place.

2. Moldy footwear

“I work at a shoe store. We recently got a shipment of “clearance sandals” (A.K.A., years old sandals they had shoved in some warehouse). As I was putting them out I noticed some had green stuff all over them… mold. We were instructed by corporate to wipe it off and sell them anyway.”

Fortunately for the customers of this store, the manager apparently refused to sell shoes covered in mold. But there’s no telling whether managers of other stores were equally responsible. After all, the instruction came directly from corporate. And really, that’s the most worrying part about this whole scenario. Clearly, it’s a company that doesn’t respect its consumers.

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1. Android tablet scam

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“[I used to work for a] daily deal company. [And] the third-party Android tablets we were selling on our site for Christmas weren’t even in production. We were basically just taking [customers’] money.”

If this sounds like the equivalent of crowdfunding – that is, people giving money to fund production – it’s because that’s exactly what it was. Only in this instance, it was masquerading as a genuine product, ready to ship. In fact, there’s a good chance that there were a lot of disappointed faces come Christmas morning…

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20. Dunkin’ Donuts – Frozen Coffee Coolattas

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Donuts are, obviously, covered in sugar, but they’re reportedly not even the most sugary thing on Dunkin’ Donuts’ menu. Yes, its frozen coffee “Coolattas” are apparently loaded with sugar too. Indeed, a large one has 141 grams of the white stuff. But to make it worse, redditor 883Guy claimed that they’re “18 percent cream if you get a coffee one or vanilla bean.”

19. Cookout – chicken strips

Chicken strips are probably one of the most popular items on the Cookout menu, and they’re about to be ruined for you (sorry). According to former Cookout staffer CDC_, the strips take so long to cook that during busy stretches “people would pull them out of the fryers early and just throw them onto a tray. People brought them back for being undercooked all the time. Which tells me, lots of people were probably not paying attention and just stuffing them, half raw, into their facehole.”

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18. Five Guys – bacon

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Five Guys loves to talk about the quality of its beef and potatoes, but what about the bacon? Well, the quality might not be the issue. According to where_is_my_mind92, the bacon that was cooked in the morning is served right through into the evening. And to make matters worse, said the redditor, “We also kept it on a low shelf… so many times when we were cleaning the floor or mopping, the bacon would get covered with floor water.”

17. Applebee’s – oriental chicken salad

If you go into an Applebee’s in the hopes of finding a healthy option, you should probably just leave. But what you definitely shouldn’t do is opt for the oriental chicken salad. As one staff member put it, “It’s actually one of the most high-calorie items on the menu.” How high? Well, apparently it’s 1,240 calories and 77 grams of fat high. That’s equivalent to two and a half Big Macs.

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16. Burger King – veggie burger

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Grilled chicken and veggie burgers are perhaps some of the least popular items on the Burger King menu, and that’s precisely why you shouldn’t get them. Former employee matt_452 claimed, “They sit for hours (literally) and they become horrible dried out garbage.” Best stick to the actual burgers, then.

15. Dairy Queen – iced coffee

You can get an iced coffee of some description almost anywhere now, but one place to avoid is Dairy Queen. Apparently, it uses a “frappe mix” to make it. However, in the words of flacocaradeperro, “That mix smells horribly and in most stores is quite old, never leaving the machine. After a couple of days, it smells HORRIBLY BAD.”

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14. KFC – beans and corn

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Gravy is an incredibly popular side that KFC offers, but beans and corn are also viable options. Well, viable might be a bit generous. Once again, it’s an issue of how long they’ve been sitting there. Three-year KFC veteran L1ghterfeul said that they are “usually very very old. The timestamps were just changed every time one was coming to the end.”

13. Subway – tuna

It’s hard not to wonder exactly how long all the different components have been sitting there in the open air. In Subway’s case, tuna is perhaps the worst offender. DeweyCheatamandHowe claimed, disturbingly, “It just sits there all day, collecting whatever falls into it during lunch rushes such as crumbs, cheese, hair, etc.”

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12. IKEA – pretty much everything

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If you’ve ever been to an IKEA (and managed to find your way back out again), you’ll know that there’s a place to eat inside. The meatballs border on legendary, but how fresh is it all? “Literally all of the food that’s served hot comes frozen in sealed plastic bags that are then dropped in boiling water to heat them up. [Once] the bag is cut open… the food is dumped into a tray and put out on the serving line.” Well, at least it doesn’t come in flat packs.

11. Pizza Hut – pan pizza

It’s no secret that pan pizzas are worse for you than thin ones. But when it comes to Pizza Hut, you might as well be drinking from a vat of oil. “We squirt about two pumps of straight oil into every pan pizza and breadsticks. It’s so disgusting,” claimed cranimhead2. Next time you go to Pizza Hut, maybe bring a pair of gloves.

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10. Wendy’s – chili

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Given that proper chili is meant to be made using fresh meat, it’s hard to trust any chili from any fast food outlet. Still, a deleted redditor, formerly married to a Wendy’s employee, had some interesting insights into how Wendy’s make it. Basically, they said, if you eat Wendy’s chili “you are eating unused hamburger patties that have sat around for hours on end in a white five gallon bucket in a hot ass kitchen.” At least it’s recycling?

9. McDonald’s – anything with bacon

You knew Mickey D’s would make an appearance eventually, and once again it’s the bacon’s fault. If you’re going in for breakfast, you’re golden. But anytime after that is much more risky. Former employee Pandas_panic recalled that they would “make a few trays at breakfast. Maybe one or two more at lunch, and that’s it for the day.” Translation: any bacon you get in the evening has been sitting there for hours.

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8. Papa John’s – anchovies

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Yes, lots of fast food places will leave food sitting out pretty much all day if it doesn’t get ordered quickly enough. It’s pretty bad, but if you get anchovies from Papa John’s, you’re in for a worse fate than actually getting anchovies on your pizza. One ex-employee claims that any anchovies ordered have likely “been sitting in the walk in for at least a month.” Let’s hope they are salted.

7. Subway – guacamole

You would think that anything with avocado in it would be a pretty healthy/safe option, even in somewhere like Subway. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Former sandwich artist SolariaSolacium413 reported, “The guac, is gross. Comes frozen, and takes a couple days to really turn brown. But if you stir it, it gets that bright green back.” That sounds to us like a curious science experiment.

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6. Jimmy John’s – turkey and tuna

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Jimmy John’s is one of the youngest fast food chains out there, having only been active for about 34 years. Sadly, though, it doesn’t seem to be any more well behaved than its forebears. Online redditor itsonlythreeyears reported that when slicing the turkey they’ve “seen pockets of preservatives that can be popped almost like pimples, for lack of a better analogy.” They also claim to have “pulled hair from the bucket of tuna” on “three separate occasions.” One is too many, really.

5. Dairy Queen – chicken strips

Yes, the infamous chicken strips strike again. In a practice reportedly similar to Cookout’s, these questionable chunks of poultry are made early in the day and then left to sit. Employee FantasyBloomed said, “By the time it’s noon, you’re gonna get the chicken that has been sitting in the middle of the bucket for four or more hours in a slightly warmer than room temperature room. In a bucket. Literally a paint bucket.”

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4. Burger King – milkshakes

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Some fast food joints offer some pretty outstanding milkshakes. Burger King is not one of them. But aside from just being fairly mediocre, the milkshakes are apparently birthed in some fairly unsanitary conditions. One reddit user reported that the machines the shakes are made in “are disgusting when you clean them out.”

3. Domino’s – sides

It can be tempting to bolster your pizza order with a few sides, if only to allow yourself a little reprieve between slices. But if it’s Domino’s you’re ordering from, you might want to reconsider. One employee claimed, “Most of it gets lathered in vegetable oil or “butter” as the GM calls it.” Add to that the observation that “it’s very common for employees to touch the food after it comes out of the oven,” and you’ve got a healthy/hygiene double threat.

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2. Subway – cold meats

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Oh, come on, Subway! That’s three strikes! So, we’ve heard about the tuna, but the cold meat options are seemingly even worse. One former staffer recalled how turkey, ham and other deli meats would “smell like rotten ass” coming out of the package. Another commented, “The smell is from the spice mix, plus you have a large amount of rework (ground up ends from the logs of meat) added back into the new material, so in theory part of the meat could be cycling through the process for months.”

1. McDonald’s – cheese

McDonald’s often leaps to defend its meat, but it rarely mentions the cheese. Still, that’s understandable when you look at the ingredients: sorbic acid, sodium pyrophosphate, sodium citrate and a few other chemical preservatives. One ex-employee said, “If you put that in an industrial microwave it becomes huge. It expands with heat.” Cheese isn’t really supposed to do that.

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