Why Do They Do That? 5 Intriguing Big Business Practices

Why does Walmart have greeters? What's Facebook doing with your photos? Here, bizarre secrets from large businesses.

Why Do They Do That? 5 Intriguing Big Business PracticesIllustration by Peter Arkle
You know those jumbo shrimp you just ordered at the restaurant? Chances are they’re prawns. But put the word jumbo in front of anything and we Americans are bound to buy it. Similarly, dry cleaning isn’t really dry. Instead of using water to clean the fabric, the launderer uses an equally wet solvent called perchloroethylene. Does “dry cleaning” sound so much better than “wet cleaning”? Some launderer thought so. In this article, we’ll demystify a few more intriguing business practices. We’ll reveal the magic employed, the common sense practiced, the manipulation perpetrated—and arm you with facts you can use to protect yourself.

Why do chip companies put so much air in their bags?
To dupe us into thinking the foil bags are filled with chips? Actually, no. In fact, the bags don’t contain oxygen. They’re filled with nitrogen. Oxygen would quickly turn the chips rancid. The nitrogen preserves the freshness of the chips, prevents combustion, and creates sufficient cushioning during shipping so the chips don’t get crushed. Still feel ripped off? Here’s a consolation: NASA reports that bags of potato chips taken aboard super-modified jets respond to the sudden change in air pressure soon after takeoff by exploding. Cool!

Why does Walt Disney World seem larger than life?
Because all those athletes go there following the Super Bowl? That’s one reason. Now here’s the correct one: Walt Disney ingeniously used an optical illusion called forced perspective to enhance the magic of Magic Kingdom. For example, when you enter the park, the street narrows into the distance, creating the impression that the shops stretch forever toward the enormous castle. When you walk back down Main Street, U.S.A. to leave, the reversed perspective of the widening street makes the Walt Disney World train station appear closer, tricking your brain into thinking the walk is short.

Likewise, the buildings lining Main Street, U.S.A. look several stories tall because the windows, awnings, signs, and fixtures higher up are significantly smaller than those on the ground level. The same goes with the castle. It stands a mere 189 feet high and yet appears almost Empire State–esque. That’s because the windows, turrets, and fake bricks decrease in size as they near the rooflines. Disney also designed the top spire nearly half the size it should be to seem twice as tall. After all, as with shrimp, bigger is better.

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