AskReaders Fact List

AskReaders: What industry is shadier than most people realize?

Sometime ago we asked our regular contributors through e-mail, What industry is shadier than most people realize? We got many interesting response. Here are some of them. We have just copied and pasted their responses, not editing them in any way and most of the respondents have requested to stay anonymous, so no names will be published. Any readers who weren’t mailed can share their stories in comments.

1-5 Shady Industries

Apps

1. The whole app economy. Even a simple little free app wants to access your phone number, address, your entire contact list, your credit card information, mic access, and permission to monitor your location at any time. This is not it. Remember in the mid-2000s when flash-based games were really popular? They were totally free and without too many ads. Even really popular ones like Angry Birds would have been pretty standard stuff and something like Candy Crush wouldn’t have been very popular at all. There were a lot of really neat time waster kind of games back then, stuff to play for a little bit while you’re bored, just like the audience for mobile games today. Today the only motivation is money in microtransactions and ad revenue. They make a game just barely good enough to keep a certain demographic of addictive personality paying for it. Literally every mobile game now follows the FarmVille model: eye glazingly boring grinding that can only be sped up with in app purchases. If this is the future of gaming, it’s not a future I want to live in.

2. The funeral industry: From the cost of coffins to monuments, obits to flowers to cemetery plots/grave-openings, grave-closings – there’s a great deal of mark-up and charges built in to the entire funeral expense. People are often surprised by total outlay – and how they sometimes pay for things not really needed, but included in the overall bill. A month or so ago, I got quoted $3600 for the cheapest, no service, no frills cremation and internment. After hearing that I was low-income (I’m disabled, I barely make $9k a year,) they quoted me about $1500 without internment. When I found someone who would do it cheaper, the funeral home wanted to charge me $600 for a removal fee when I didn’t even call them in the first place, the police did.

3. The fitness / supplement industry. A bunch of new supplements daily with “proprietary blends” that don’t need to be FDA approved with false claims all over the labeling. You have a bunch of fake reviews on Amazon or all over their business website with a bunch of shoddy science and people buy into them to “get fit quick.” They then use people on steroids to market the products as if it was the supplements that gave them the results. Those guys aren’t ripped and jacked from the preworkout they use or the protein they take… they look like that because they’re on steroids.

4. The aged care industry, especially the private sector. There is a lot more neglect than people realize. Many facilities have bare minimum staffing and have nurses and aides working mandatory overtime. I can’t imagine quality care from a nurse who has been short staffed at work for 16 hours against her will.

5. If you’ve ever driven through Western North Carolina you’ve probably seen gem mines. You maybe even have went into one and purchased a bucket of dusty looking feldspar with a few colors peeking through the dirt. You lustily imagined finding diamonds, rubies, and sapphires as you ran each rock under the recycled water stream of your assigned flume and soon enough, you acquired a tidy little pile of assorted raw form “gems.” You probably then took those rocks to the workers who told you that you found a beautiful emerald worth hundreds of dollars if you’ll just pay a small fee to get it cut, and maybe you agreed. A few weeks later a package arrived at your door with your brand new emerald that you found! Yeah, no. We took your greenish rock, threw it back into the pile with all the others for another little kid to find tomorrow and then dug a precut stone out a draw full of them to send to you. This stone is of the lowest possible quality that can still be cut and is worth less than the bucket of rocks that you “found” it in.

6-10 Shady Industries

Wedding Industry

6. The wedding industrial complex. So much price gouging. Pro tip: avoid letting a vendor know that your order is for a wedding at all costs. People holding your order hostage to get you to pay more for “expedited service” at the last minute is not uncommon. This advice obviously needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There are some things it would be better for the vendor to know it is for a wedding. Use your own judgment – the local cover band you hired should know the crowd and that this is an important gig, the flowermart shop where you’ve talked to a different person every time probably shouldn’t.

7. The KPOP industry. The girls are used as prostitutes among music producers, record label execs and advertising CEOs. Such a corrupt and disgusting industry.

8. Mattresses industry. Price rigging leads to several hundred percent price increase. I work in a slabstock foam factory (blocks as big as a VW Beetle), and the materials for a single mattress are closer to $200. Our margins are ridiculously tiny. The rule of retail is that a product doubles in price every time it switches hands, so the $200 worth of foam becomes a $400 mattress of varying glued pieces at the fabrication plant, then $800 at a distribution company, and then $1600 at the retailer.

9. The olive oil industry. Olive oil is one of the most adulterated products in the world, to the point that most of the “extra virgin” oil you buy does not actually adhere to international guidelines and some can be classified as “lampante” grade (literally – lamp oil in Italian). In the U.S., you want to buy olive oil from one of the credible California companies. California Olive Ranch is reviewed as superior, as is Trader Joe’s California Estate product. Forget imported southern European olive oil, especially Italian. Italians certainly know how to buy good olive oil in-country, but who knows what is in the stuff they export.

10. Hollywood. One of the biggest “open secrets” is the rampant pedophilia going on in Hollywood. Family Guy, to my surprise, recently called this problem out and singled out Bryan Singer specifically.


11-15 Shady Industries

School textbook industry

11. The school textbook industry. They come out with a “new edition” every 2 years and most of the time they don’t change a thing. But the universities are all on board and make it a requirement for professors to use the most updated books. Add to this all those school accessory websites. I have to pay $50 for one website just so I can get access to a lab manual to print it myself. Then all those websites charging $50-100 just so you can do your homework on them.

12. Game Development. Devs are extremely overworked. Expected to work 60-80 hour weeks (depending on the company, without additional pay) to meet unrealistic deadlines. As an ex-game dev, I cannot believe what the games industry gets away with. The only reason that any studio has staff is because everyone there loves video games and is putting their passion into it. The work hours aren’t even the worst part. For me it was the constant looming threat of layoffs. Most places don’t care much about you when it comes to the bottom line. There’s always a steady stream of kids fresh out of game design college ready to fill those gaps with inexperience.

13. Oil field supply companies. “Everyone is making millions, so this bolt is now $50.” Oil crashes “everyone is losing their ass, so this bolt is now $49.99.”

14. International sport. Match-fixing, links to organized crime, drug cheating, corruption. The more money invested in a sport, the higher the likelihood of shady things going on. Most people have their head in the sand over it because they’re so passionate about their particular sports. Soccer is really the big one here. Just insanely corrupt at so many levels.

15. Breast Cancer Awareness. Especially big ones like Susan G. Komen. I used to work at a big cancer charity. Before anyone ever donates money to any charity, but especially the really big ones, please research what they spend their money on. Check those sites that tell you which ones are actually providing some type of service rather than pocketing all the cash for operating expenses. A lot of these places are still run in a very old school way. We’d have meetings at restaurants for over $20 a plate when we could have met in our conference room and had sandwiches. The highest paid people were the ones who brought in the most money. The rent at the branch I worked in cost more than all the donations we received at that location each year, but it was kept open so we’d have a “presence” in the right neighborhood. And when people called me to ask for help, I had to tell them we don’t actually help people, then not tell them we just raise money in the name of awareness, research, and fancy lunches. Also, the way we found out who had died of cancer was to have the newest employee call and ask if our “services” had helped them. A lot of the people I called were angry because their relative had died, sometimes years before, and here I was calling and asking for them. After 7 of the first 10 patients I called turned out to be dead, I asked my boss what I should do. She said to put a D next to their name and keep calling down the list. What a great service!

16-20 Shady Industries

Eyeglasses Industry

16. The Eyeglasses/Sunglasses industry is largely monopolized by one company, Luxottica. They own/manufacture over 70% of the eyewear brands worldwide, including Ray Ban, Oakley, Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, and Dolce and Gabbana. Not only do they own/manufacture all these brands, but they also monopolize the eyewear retail industry. They own Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Eyemed vision care plan, and Glasses.com. They have few competitors in Eyewear brands, the only big competitors they have in the retail world are Walmart and Costco (in the US).

17. Gem stones (ex. diamonds). Many people know they are overpriced but a lot of people don’t realize how they end up on those rings, necklaces, etc. You can try to explain it to people but then they think you’re being cheap by refusing to purchase something like diamonds. Most of the diamonds are mined with slave labor, child labor, barbaric punishments for workers and slaves who don’t meet quotas or steal, supporting war and conflict, supporting oppressive regimes, environmental hazards, creating artificial scarcity, and so on. Most people also think it is just diamonds but other gem stones support the things above. Rubies from Myanmar (formerly Burma) are a big one.

18. Corporate Dentistry. Aspen Dental in particular. They only hire beautiful girls, and they try to get EVERY PATIENT on an antibiotic treatment because of deteriorating jawbones. They do this by screwing with the digital x-ray data, so instead of showing a greyscale, it shows a black or white image. The result is, it shows a jagged line where the cutoff point for “black” or “white” would be. They show you the jagged line and let you believe that’s your actual jawbone eroding away, so, of course you sign up for their $4,700 treatment plan. They are run by a bunch of guys from India. THE ONLY COURSE OF ACTION is to get it on paper; their treatment plan, anything they’ll let loose of, get a second opinion from a reputable dentist, or TWO or THREE, and send copies of everything to your city/state’s Attorney General’s office, The better Business Bureau and whoever else sounds good. The only reason they’re still in business is that no one has bothered to complain. COMPLAIN, PEOPLE! It IS the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. In a similar vein, Dateline had a truly unbelievable story on a week ago of an Oncologist(cancer doctor) who was telling people THAT DID NOT HAVE CANCER, that they DID, and was putting them on chemotherapy just to line his pockets. His clinic had the x-ray equipment, the blood testing equipment and the chemo rooms, to keep it ALL in-house, so no one would know. He raked in MILLIONS, while those treated got poisoned, and some died.

19. Private education. Especially for your kids. We’re a business first, school second. If your kids enrolled on extra courses through a school, try to talk to the teacher directly rather than through a “progress advisor” or w/e – these are sales people interested in keeping cash flow incoming. Us teachers are told the same thing, but most of us do care more about your kid than the company’s bottom line. I’m talking specifically about additional schooling and courses, evening classes etc. I am not referring to the accredited network of private primary/secondary schools though I’m sure there’s a decent bit of shadiness possible there as well.

20. Medicine (Research). I am not talking about it being a huge conspiracy trying to make us ill in order to earn more cash. I actually am a pro-medical-research person and I am also working in that field. But there are a lot of publications coming up every year, which are a big pile of hogsh*t, as they either intend to “prove” what they want to prove and/or are driven by industrial demands, or they blow big headlines followed by terrible scientific methods, just to be recognized or publicized by prestigious journals.

21-25 Shady Industries

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21. The prison industry. They make sure lawmakers keep their prisons overflowing with people by passing or maintaining laws or systems that make it easy to put the poor in jail. What’s really fu*ked up is that the prison industrial complex actually creates demand for prisoners. That, in of itself, is completely fu*ked and inherently condemning of American society.

22. Varsity, the company that holds a national monopoly on school cheerleading supplies and competitions. If you have a daughter that’s competing in intramural cheerleading competitions from middle school on up, parents have to pay out of the nose for official Varsity outfits and supplies or they cannot compete in the events. Dues have to be paid to Varsity for a myriad of ridiculous things. If their team is judged to win the intramural completions they can go to “nationals,” which is a complete scam. There are more “national” competitions that Varsity makes money from than there are states in the country. Then there’s safety. Did you know that more cheerleaders go to the hospital for injuries than football players? Cheerleading isn’t considered a sport. Varsity wants to keep it that way, because if it were considered a sport, there would have to be one state championship per state and one national championship, ensuring Varsity would make less money. Also with sports comes oversight in sports safety. Having enough spotters would be scrutinized and some types of dangerous activities might be banned in competition.

23. The corn industry. It’s in everything (high fructose corn syrup) as a replacement for sugar because of government subsidies. We feed the livestock with corn, and they even try to run cars off of it with E-85 (which is a net loss of energy from growing to processing, shipping, then in effectively running your 3 ton truck). Also you should look into how the USA has run their sugar program. They’ve wanted to keep cheap sugar from Brazil out for years, but it is finally starting to bite them in the a*s.

24. The cellphone industry. The price gouging is ridiculous, from services to devices to accessories. I worked in a Verizon retailer for a bit under a year and they encouraged making people pay much more than they needed for phones they could have gotten at half the price, and we had to “throw in” accessories that the customers ended up paying for anyways.

25. College admissions. Most of the individuals working in admissions are doing honest work and aren’t trying to dupe anyone, but the whole game itself is absurd. Admissions offices spend a ton of money on advertising and recruitment travel to convince more people to apply–regardless of how qualified they are– so that admissions rate looks better. The more people who apply, the more people you need to hire to review their applications. Meanwhile, students see the artificially low admissions rate and react by applying to more schools–wow! only 20% get in! I better apply to 15 nearly identical schools just to be safe! Now, the college has to start building state of the art luxury dorms and recreation facilities and invest in “innovative” learning experiences to make sure they stand out from the other 14 schools to insure that the students they actually want to recruit come to their school so their average SAT scores stay high. Why? So the admissions office can convince more people that this is a prestigious school that they should apply to.

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