What would you say if I told you that dream was a lie? That all these brands you think you're picking and choosing between are all sock puppets on the many tentacles of a few, lesser known companies?
I don't know what you would say, but we're about to find out.
#6.Luxottica Makes All Your Sunglasses
The thing is, all of those are made by one manufacturer -- Luxottica. Starting off as a tiny Italian glasses company, Luxottica caught the 1980s fever (see Wall Street) and started buying every glasses-related company it could get its hands on, as well as talking pretty much every fashion designer into letting them make their sunglasses line.
Well, at least you get to pick between stores, right? If the people at the LensCrafters are being dicks while selling you different glasses all made by Luxottica, you can show them what you think of that by taking your business across the mall to the Pearle Vision. Or maybe the Sears or Target optical departments. Except that they are also all owned by Luxottica. Just for the sake of argument let's say that you're not a squinty-eyed nerd, so you pass by the prescription shops and go right to the Sunglass Hut. You guessed it. Luxottica.
#5.Menu Foods: The Shadow Behind Your Cat Food
How could so many brands (about 150) happen to get contaminated at the same time? Well, because most of them were made by the same company. If you buy wet pet food labeled Eukanuba, Iams, Nutro, Hy-Vee, Triumph or Priority, it all comes from the same factory. One Canadian company, Menu Foods, makes all those brands. They just slap different labels on it because they know that we as a breed like the illusion of choice. When they're tapped out of weird syllable combinations to slap on the outside of the food, they presumably send the rest off to be turned into fast food and school lunch.
Even worse, Menu Foods and other companies, like Purina, all get one particular pet food ingredient (wheat gluten) from the same place -- a tiny Nevada company called Chemnutra or as they're known to neighbors, some white guy and his Chinese wife. This couple shipped in 800 tons of suspiciously cheap wheat gluten from China and doled it out to every big pet food maker you've ever heard of. They didn't bother to check whether it was poisonous or not, figuring they'd find out sooner or later when, you know, someone's cat ate it and died. Or a few hundred cats.
So that's how one sloppily run mom-and-pop importer managed to put poisoned pet food into every supermarket in America. But don't worry, at least Menu Foods isn't around anymore. They were bought out by Simmons Pet Food, another huge behind-the-scenes pet food maker, a couple months ago, creating an even bigger company making food for an even larger portion of the pet food section at your local grocery store. That means more product passing through the same factory, and less competition, which means less of a reason for them to care if one of the ingredients that gets used in all of their products happens to be made out of poison.
And ChemNutra? They paid a $35K fine, saw no jail time and changed their name to EOS Direct which continues to import nutritional ingredients, including stuff that gets put in energy drinks. If Red Bull starts to literally give you wings, you'll know who to blame.
#4.When You Eat Corn, You Are Eating Monsanto (TM)
Whoever controls the corn controls ... maybe not the universe, but a lot of money. And the king of American corn is Monsanto, a biotech company. Unlike evil movie biotech companies -- with their dubious business models of inventing mutants or viruses that kill everyone -- Monsanto built their empire on a pretty boring one two punch: weed killer and seeds.
The weed killer, Roundup, is the biggest selling herbicide in the world. The seeds are genetically engineered corn seeds that are immune to Roundup. If you want to grow corn and kill weeds that hurt the corn, Monsanto has the best product on the market by a mile. That's why 80 percent of all corn planted in the U.S. goes into the ground with Monsanto's trademark on it.
But plants will be plants, and make more seeds, so the farmers don't have to keep buying Monsanto seeds year after year, right? Don't be silly. Monsanto's not going to let their money run away like that. Their first plan was to incorporate something called a "Terminator" (otherwise known as the "let's just stop pretending we're not evil") gene that automatically sterilizes the plant so it can't make any more seeds. Then farmers have to buy new seeds every time they plant, just like nature intended.
People objected to this quite a bit for some reason, forcing Monsanto to back down and instead just make farmers sign a contract saying that they won't use the seeds the plants make ... or else. So instead of screwing farmers with a terminator gene, they're just asking the farmers to agree to screw themselves.
So the next time you're deciding between a Coke or a Pepsi (or between a Firestone or a Goodyear), know that whichever way you go, you're buying Monsanto. You're welcome!
#3.Whether You're a Mac or a PC, You're Probably a Quanta
Not only are the laptops you're arguing about both put together in Taiwan, but very likely even by the same company. Taiwan's Quanta Computer makes 33 percent of all laptops in the world, including Dells, HPs, Sonys, Toshibas and yes, Macs.
In fact, if you're reading this on a laptop, there's a 90 percent chance it was manufactured by one of seven giant companies you've never heard of, all located in Taiwan. None of the brands you know and love actually makes computers. Fortunately, Taiwan is a pretty laid back country where almost nothing ever goes wrong.
Even if China's cagey enough not to actually attack Taiwan, most of these Taiwan laptop-makers have factories in China, so if these countries even stop speaking to each other for a bit, we'd be out of laptops, and all our big computer companies couldn't do a thing about it except twiddle their thumbs and look embarrassed.
#2.Max Martin Has a Monopoly on Annoying Songs
Let's just say there's one segment of the population that loves those kinds of songs, one segment that hates them and a really big segment (people on the Internet who want other Internet people to think they're cool) that feel obligated to say they hate them. I'm not going to judge. The point is you've never heard his name before, and you couldn't escape his sparkly brand of tween pop music if you wanted to.
Seriously, take a look at that list. Not only does he write (and produce) all the most popular songs for cool kids to hate, but he's also written for Usher, Def Leppard, a Swedish metal band, a Finnish cello metal band (??) and everyone who ever finished above third place on American Idol apparently.
Even if you hate him, you have to admire his single-minded dedication to annoying you.
#1.InBev: The Imported Beer Barons
Well, as you've probably guessed, every beer you've ever bought in a store was probably made by the beer empire of InBev, along with Stella Artois, Alexander Keith's, Bass, Beck's, Boddington's, Lowenbrau, Rolling Rock, St. Pauli Girl and Spaten. Those are just the brands they own outright. They also have majority stakes in companies like Grupo Modelo, which makes most of the beers in Mexico -- Corona, Modelo, Pacifico.
So, make fun of Budweiser all you want, odds are you're probably still paying them.
I personally don't have that problem because I only drink craft beers, because apparently I hate money. If you, too, want to get rid of your money as fast as you can, I would also suggest buying craft beers. I guess they taste pretty good too.