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12 Bizarre Secrets from the World’s Biggest Businesses

Updated: Jul. 23, 2021

From Walmart to McDonald's, these major corporations have some secrets hidden in plain sight that help you save more—and spend more.

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Potato chips in bag And outside the bag On a wooden table

Why do chip companies put so much air in their bags?

It’s actually not to dupe buyers into thinking there are more chips inside. In fact, the bags’ “air” doesn’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! Check out these other 50 things food manufacturers won’t tell you.

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YANLEI LI/Shutterstock

Why does Walt Disney World seem larger than life?

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 for 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. Don’t miss these 23 insider secrets Disney park employees are keeping.

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Why does Walmart have greeters?

In 1980, the manager of the Walmart store in Crowley, Louisiana, had problems with shoplifters. So he hired a woman to stand by the front door to greet customers and ask them if they needed any help. The greeter’s mere presence intimidated any potential shoplifters. After visiting the Crowley store, company founder Sam Walton quickly instituted greeters as a trademark of all Walmart stores. The benefit to customers? Less shoplifting means lower prices, which help you “Save money. Live better.”

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Why does Facebook encourage me to post my photos online?

By posting your photos on Facebook, you’ve granted the company the license to use it. Theoretically, they can use them any way they want, whether it’s for corporate promotional material or advertisements, unless you know to opt out. They also allow businesses that you’ve “liked” to use your profile photo on ads shown on your friends’ pages. Most people fail to read the user agreement, which clearly says that “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).” If you skipped that snore-fest we don’t blame you. Translation: Unless you and anyone who’s shared your photos deletes them. Occasionally, third-party advertisers have used photos without the user’s or Facebook’s consent. A few years ago, a man logged on to his account and stumbled upon an ad for an online dating service. Who was the star of said ad? His wife! Awkward! Turns out the service lifted her profile photo from her page. Here are 17 more secrets your Facebook page wants you to know.

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Cooking with Kids. Girl Hand Mixing Ingredient Cook Muffin Dough Wooden Table
Erhan Inga/Shutterstock

Why do we have to add milk, oil, and an egg to pancake mix?

If you buy Aunt Jemima Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix, you merely add water. The Original Pancake & Waffle Mix makes you work a bit more and actually crack open an egg. The company decided to keep “The Original” around once they realized that some customers were clamoring to flex their inner Jamie Oliver and add real ingredients, rather than just water, to the mix. Besides, many prefer the taste of real milk and eggs over their powdered cousins. So Aunt Jemima was happy to oblige.

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Why does Coca-Cola taste better at McDonald’s?

Mickey D’s fans have a special spot in their hearts for its Coke, and the taste difference might not be in their heads. McDonald’s has a leg up on other companies that use soda dispensers. First it gets its soda syrup delivered in stainless steel tanks instead of plastic bags, then it chills the water in a separate fridge instead of in the soda fountain itself. Predicting that you’ll want ice to keep your drink chilled, the fast-food chain also reportedly uses a custom syrup-to-water ratio so it still tastes good after it’s watered down. That’s not the only secret the chain is hiding—this is the ingredient that makes McDonald’s fries so addictive.

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Homemade Rotisserie Chicken with Herbs and Lemons
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

How does Costco avoid price hikes on its rotisserie chicken?

Costco’s chickens are bigger and cheaper than its competitors, yet it still has no plans of raising its price anytime soon—which is surprising because its $4.99 price tag is so low that the retailer actually loses money on its chickens. But the money lost is a small price to pay for the foot traffic the company gets when poultry lovers go in for a chicken and come out with a full shopping cart. Here are 15 more secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

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Why are so many fast food signs red?

McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, Arby’s—almost all popular fast food chains use red in their logos. You’ve probably heard that red sparks appetite, but that’s actually not the case. (Have you really ever glanced at a sign and felt a sudden rumbly in your tumbly? Didn’t think so.) Actually, we tend to associate red with danger, so our minds are hardwired to pay more attention to it. For the same reason you rubberneck a cherry-colored convertible but don’t give a black station wagon a second glance, you’ll pay more attention to that fast food chain’s sign if it’s bright red.

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Blue ballpoint pens capped with one uncapped on white background

Why do pen caps have holes in them?

It seems like a hole in a pen cap would just dry out the ink. But pen companies actually have something a little more important in mind: your life. Pen caps can be a choking hazard, so pen companies thoughtfully (OK, it’s because they’re required to) leave a hole in the caps so there’s still a tiny bit of airflow if they get stuck in someone’s throat.

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Silver Wings SS/Shutterstock

Why do candy bars have a pattern on the bottom?

You’ve probably noticed that the flat bottom of some candy bars like Snickers has a zigzag pattern to it. The weird lines aren’t some stamp the company chose, but an imprint the conveyer belt left while your chocolate was cooling. These are the hidden meanings other everyday objects are hiding.

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designs by Jack/Shutterstock

Why does Heinz ketchup say “57 varieties”?

That “57” actually doesn’t refer to anything—it started as a clever marketing trick. The company’s founder, Henry Heinz, saw an ad for a shoe company touting its 21 styles in 1896, and he liked the weird specificity of it. At that point, the company already had more than 60 products, but 57 felt lucky. Heinz started using it in its advertising, and 5,700+ products later, the company still sticks with that magic number.

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Toothpaste squeezed out from a toothpaste tube
Tasha Cherkasova/Shutterstock

Why is most toothpaste mint-flavored?

You can thank Pepsodent, one of the first popular kinds of toothpaste, for that minty-fresh feeling you get after brushing your teeth. The mint extract in that formula irritated the mouth a bit, giving that tingling feeling that makes you feel like your toothpaste is working. Even better, that “clean” feeling sticks around in the mouth, so people began to love that fresh feeling. You won’t want to miss these other 50 interesting facts about practically everything.