If you have worked in an industry or for a company that has some pretty big secrets to keep, then you might have probably been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
You know, just in case….
Those things expire, though, for one reason or another, and people are able to share – so if you’re curious what sort of trade secrets companies are keen on keeping, read on!
1. They Can’t Prove It, But…
I used to work for a company that tracked ticket sales for theaters across the US. By contractual agreement with Hollywood studios, we collected information for approximately 80% of theaters, but we were not allowed to collect that last 20%. Why?
You may have heard of Hollywood accounting. Hollywood studios work very, very hard to ensure their accounting is as beneficial to the studios as possible. No surprise; all businesses do this. But Hollywood has unusually high amounts of money in very narrow products, creating a distorted market. And the industry is rife with films grossing obscene amounts of money but not reporting a profit.
Because our company couldn’t collect that last 20% of theater data, it wasn’t possible to absolutely say that a movie made X number of dollars.
So, I can’t prove it, but …
On Friday, June 21st, 2002, the movies “Minority Report” and “Lilo and Stitch” were both released to great fanfare.
Minority Report’s opening weeked was reported at $35,677,125 (27.0% of total gross).
Lilo and Stitch’s opening weekend was reported as $35,260,212 (24.2% of total gross).
This is a lie. Lilo and Stitch earned more money than Minority Report its opening weekend. 20th Century Fox couldn’t have a Tom Cruise feature film being beaten by a fucking cartoon. So someone at 20th Century Fox called Disney and offered a deal. Since the full amount of money earned couldn’t be proven, Fox would announce that Minority Report was the top earner for the weekend. In exchange …
We never knew what the exchange was. We simply knew that Minority Report was reported as the top earner and Disney received some benefit for not saying anything.
(And then there was the sh**storm of Gigli later, but that’s another story)
Update: Technically, I could have said this much earlier because when the studios found out our company wasn’t handing out NDAs to employees, the studios were not happy. You do not make Hollywood studios unhappy. So the company quickly rushed to get NDAs out to everyone. They were distributed per team. They were distributed the week that I was switching teams. So both my old and my new team assumed I had an NDA when I didn’t. I never bothered to correct their error.
2. Not the Puppers!
Adogo is a doggy daycare in Minnesota that made me sign an NDA for two years saying I was not allowed to talk about the company mainly, sadly, because they treat the workers and dogs badly.
No care for how many dogs were packed into a room, which is both unsafe for the dogs and the dog attendant. Often I’d be alone in a small room with up to 25+ dogs, most who only had the most minor of Behavioral tests done to see if they would play well in daycare.
Owner also tried to get around not paying my workers comp when I did get injured on the job, and whenever anybody put in their two weeks after realizing what a toxic work environment it was (which was often) he would punish them with scheduling them all week or make them open to close 12 hours for all their shifts.
If you’re in Minnesota and looking for a reputable dog daycare: STAY AWAY FROM ADOGO.
If in the Twin Cities I would recommend Dog Days, not perfect, but they actually seem to care.
3. Well, That’s Comforting.
There are power line transformers that predate WWI still up and running in the US…
And the utility companies aren’t a 100% sure where most of them are. They only find out when one finally dies.
Someone over 100 years ago put up a transform that powered telegrams all the way to Twitter.
I worked in the telecom sector. That means I needed to know something about how utility poles operated. On my first day they handed me a binder that was an idiots guide to utility poles and made me sign an NDA on it. It was dumb because I am sure even back then it was public information. I really do not know more than I stated. I use low VA transformers at work and they are a black box of magic to me.
Some people are mentioning PCBs and sure that makes sense. I don’t know what they used to cool them a 100 years ago.
Transformers can last a long time. I have pulled multi-decade ones out of machines so the idea that one hit the century mark seems reasonable to me and I haven’t questioned it.
When my internship was over I talked to a professor I knew about this and she mentioned the bird poop thing.
I am not sure if this related to the multiple fires in California. My internship was in the Bay Area. And I sorta remember the binder being general not that one particular area. Forgive me but this was about 2007 so I can’t remember this perfectly.
The last day of my university I stuck the binder on the shelf in the engineering section of the library.
I am not sure how to locate them or what they even look like. It was just a chart on paper.
I admit the idea is really a cool concept but based on what I am reading here if you found one be very wary.
4. Deny, Deny, Deny.
I used to work in a call center that had Bayer Advanced (yes, THAT Bayer) as a client. Bayer knew/knows full well that their neonicotinoid based pesticide/gardening products killed bees and were responsible for colony collapse.
We were instructed to bold face deny and/or lie to the customer or caller if we were ever asked about it.
We were also instructed to lie about the spray nozzles on the bottles. Bayer knew they sucked ass and were almost always completely DOA defective, but they refused to admit it and decided it was cheaper to just keep mailing replacement nozzles.
5. They Might Still Release It
You know those Jackbox party games? They have a database full of about a hundred jackbox games that were pitched but not used, since rejected games often get featured in later party packs.
Notably, one of those jackbox games is called Poop Cake. Won’t detail how it works in case it does get released, but there is a rejected jackbox game called Poop Cake that exists and is officially documented for potential future use.
6. Coke and Pepsi Have an Uneasy Alliance
Not my own but from a family friend.
Coca Cola and Pepsi regularly settle disputes behind closed doors on things like employees trying to quit and join the competitor. Their employment contracts have entire clauses stating you cannot be employed by the competing companies even after you quit so to protect company intel and confidentiality.
For example, a Coca Cola employee feels like he is being mistreated by the company so he quits and tries to work for Pepsi. So Pepsis legal team will inform Coca Cola as soon as they find out and Coca Cola will sue the guy for breach of contract and in return Pepsi will pay them. This is done so Pepsi and Coca Cola dont sue each others into bankruptcy for breach of laws regarding industrial competition and market regulations.
Basically a peace treaty of sorts.
7. Not All Screaming Fans Are Real
Not sure if I’m no longer bound or not or how common knowledge it is, but living in NYC I was paid to be a fan at a major red carpet movie premiere for a popular film franchise.
100% of the people there were paid to act excited as famous actors and a VERY famous director walked out and said hello and did interviews.
We were under strict instructions not to let anyone know we were hired.
8. Newsflash: “Reality” TV is Anything But
I signed an NDA for a prominent American show where they take a certain type of business on the brink of failure and “transform it” to save the business.
When the producers of the show found out my wife and I both worked there, they tried to fish through our relationship for tv drama.
When they found out we have a solid relationship, they tried to convince us to fake our drama with scripted conflict.
Long story short, we got fed up and quit during shooting. We were cut from the show. Oh well.
9. I Mean, Some of this Sounds Ethical
A recently hired employee trapped a secretary in a bathroom at the company Christmas party and raped her. He was caught in the act, sentenced, and will serve a long jail term.
All the employees who knew about the details were forced to sign strong NDA and ordered not to talk to any other employees. No one was told why the guy didn’t show up for work ever again.
The victim was offered a generous payout and never came back to work. HR put out a story that she was taking time off for personal reasons and her coworkers were never told why. Everything was hushed up as much as it could be.
The company changed from open bar to drink tickets for all future company events.
10. All is Well That Ends Well
Still bound, can’t say where it was.
Was terminated 3 times by the same company for a disability. Ended up getting a rather large cash settlement from them to avoid taking them to court. They’re bound not to say they terminated me (I gave them notice and the next day I got a letter saying I was fired…that’s not how that works) and I’m bound not to report disability discrimination or elder abuse that I witnessed.
Funny story – NDAs can’t prevent you from making a report as a mandatory reporter to a governing body in my state. I reported them anyway, they tried to claim I violated the NDA, and the governing body in my state went ballistic and slammed them with a 7 figure fine. The CEO, CFO, and CNO were all forced to quit.
The place is currently facing a multi million dollar lawsuit for multiple negligent wrongful deaths. I didn’t violate the NDA and kept the settlement.
11. Time Off Task
Amazon is probably here but I’m saying it anyway.
The reason why people piss in bottles is that they are fighting against TOT(time off task). If in a week you accumulate a combined total of 15 minutes of non working, not break away from your station you a reprimanded or more likely fired. So walking away to pee, TOT. Slightly late to station due to high foot traffic, ToT. Stop at you station for a breather because it’s hot, your tired or sick, TOT.
The above plus the strict metrics and constant oversight of the lead staff makes working there feel like you are a machine.
It reminds me of film representations from the twenties about the the sadness of the futures poor.
12. “Boring” Intelligence Work
Intelligence agency work is often tedious, boring, repetitive (honestly safe for the public to see), but sometimes we see and hear some really interesting stuff. I retired a long time ago, and a lot of my secrecy/NDA pacts have expired, so I can share some stuff albeit with the details changed.
Nearly 20 to 30 years ago, a couple analysts and myself were sent for a training program at an airbase in our country to promote inter-agency cooperation between the armed forces our agency. I should note that this airbase was also shared with a friendly western country’s armed forces, and they would often stage operations in the region off our base if required.
On the fourth day or so of the exchange, we were in the midst of a presentation when a couple of older-looking military officers barged into the room and ordered us to close the blinds and cover the windows with any kind of black sheeting if it did not have blinds. A bit out of the left field, but sure, we go ahead and do that.
As our presentation goes on, we hear a slight woosh outside out windows, then a squeal of tires before its silence. This is quite strange, because this sound was considerably softer than the roar of the jets from the base we had got used to. As we have not been given the green light yet to open our windows, we leave it shut. But my curiosity gets the better of me, and as I am sitting in the back right of the room, I take a quick glance out of the window.
On the tarmac, and taxing away from the runway while flanked on all sides by airport vehicles was a massive jet. It wasn’t exactly black, more of a darker shade of grey. It looked to be relatively long, I would guess about 30 metres, and maybe 20 or so metres wide. Instead of an aircraft, it looked more like a delta/triangle shape than the regular shape we see on planes with their distinct wings.
One thing that certainly stood out about the aircraft was that the back was perched way higher than the front, i.e. the front of the plane was much lower than the back. I do not know if this was by design or due to a nose gear collapse, but it was taxing on its own power. I did not get a good look at its engines or anything else, but I distinctly remember it moved into a massive hangar at the end of the runway and out of my sight.
Sometime later, when we were allowed to open our windows, that hangar was shut and had sentries posted around it. Whatever aircraft this was, it was definitely not from my country because we simply do not have the resources to build anything like this, so it has to be from the western country’s arsenal.
I have tried searching up the shape of the plane and anything like it, but have never exactly found it. It had no distinct marking, no sort of exposed weapon bay/pod, no livery, nothing. Maybe someday they will publicly release it because that thing definitely looked nothing like what we publicly have today.
13. Nope. Don’t Like That
I found pallets of candy in the top of the racks that was behind displays and furniture in my Wal-Mart, one pallet had been the home of a mother rat and her brood.
Did you know rats don’t like raisins but will eat the chocolate off and leave the raisins in a pile?
Management decided to put the unopened bags of candy on sale in the clearance aisle instead of disposing the rat infested pallet.
14. Cool Idea, Bro
Uber was planning to make their own Google Street view for use in the app to better help drivers find riders and to map the world for driverless car technology . But they were going to use Uber drivers to capture the images for the streetview.
The plan was to mail out inexpensive GoPro like devices that magnetically attached to the roof of the driver’s cars. Each would have SD cards that could be mailed back to Uber. Routes would be generated and the drivers could accept them in the app and get paid.
This plan fell through quickly and uber eventually sources this data from third parties and ultimately abandoned their in-house driverless car ambitions.
Also Microsoft developed a really cool backpack mounted camera that was going to be used for something like Google Street view. The plan was to take it into pedestrian only areas so you could get imagery indoors like malls and in walking spots.
The United States military snatched up the entire project for their own use and that product was never released or even announced to consumers.
15. Well That’s Terrifying
We fired an employee who had a nasty personality (imagine a toxic gamer working in a call center and that would be this guy).
He had been the son (or grandson) of one of the board members so he was untouchable. When his relative on the board got voted out, it was finally time for this little troll to be fired.
His supervisor took him to a conference room to let him know he was fired and he was escorted from the building by security. As the HR manager, I was tasked with clearing his desk and separating his property from company property.
That was when I found a heavily used 5″ X 8″ notepad on his desk that had a list of names. Next to each name was a mailing addresses and details about how this ex-employee planned to harm these people. I did some digging and found they were all current or former clients of the company and that they all had filed complaints against this monster.
It was a hit list.
I notified the board AFTER I notified the police. The shit was arrested on unrelated drug and assault charges. The prosecutor now had to consider charging this guy for his hit list. Since she couldn’t convince a judge there was a strong enough case, the prosecutor decided to empanel a grand jury.
Since I was the individual who found the notepad, I was subpoenaed to confirm its provenance. Considering any other employee could have walked by and deposited this list on this asshole’s desk, the grand jury decided to not move ahead to a trial. For the drug and assault charges, the former employee was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
As a witness, I wasn’t issued a gag order regarding the grand jury investigation. However, my work did order me to sign an NDA to “protect the clients who were on that hit list” (it was really just to cover up that they were in any danger). I signed and then quit as soon as I got a job offer with another company. Those bastards on the board cared more about their profit margin and public image than they did about people’s lives.
If they figure out I’m violating that NDA, there’s not much they can do. They know antagonizing me with a lawsuit would only lead to me telling the media, naming the company and ruining their public image.
Edit: For clarification, the reason I signed the NDA was because I needed access to my office computer so I could look up the most recent contact information the company had for the people targeted on the hit list. I then gave that contact information to the prosecutor and her investigators. They just tracked down the last person this year and everyone is safe and accounted for.
Whew. I wasn’t prepared for some of these, y’all, but I’m definitely not sorry that I read them, and I hope you’re not, either!
If you’re no longer bound by your NDA, we’re all ears in the comments!
Seriously, give us more. We’re dying here, and you’ve got the goods!