Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Top 5 Companies We'd Be Better Off Without - UPDATED 1/9/06

Nick over at Punny Money has a list going of the top 5 companies that we would be better off doing without. He's yet to reveal the 2nd and 1st place finishers, so I'll post them for you as soon as he does. I must say, I gotta agree with him on the ones he has posted so far.

Top 5 Companies We'd Be Better Off Without

#5 Sony

Author: Nick

It’s almost winter here in the United States, which means moods will quickly be changing from summertime joy and happiness to intense sorrow and extra-strength depression. Nowhere will the winter blues be more apparent that on the internet–the refuge for pouting, criticism, and complaints.

So let’s get the season started off right by complaining about large companies we really don’t like just because we can! First up on my chopping block: Sony

Founded in 1412 as a Japanese noodle shop, Sony quickly grew to become the world’s largest producer of garbage we don’t really need including:

Before you buy another Sony product, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something I really need? (Probably not.)
  • Does another company sell this cheaper? (Almost certainly yes.)
  • Does another company make something better? (Yup.)
  • Will it explode if I use it? (Maybe!)

Thanks to these questions, I haven’t bought a Sony product in years. Sony used to be synonymous with quality technology and entertainment, but companies like Apple, Nintendo, and those dudes with the awesome $30 DVD players are proving otherwise.

#4 WalMart

Author: Nick

Number Four on my list of companies that ought to be removed from the space-time continuum is probably Number One on a lot of people’s lists: Wal-Mart.

The Big W has earned the ire of countless websites, its own employees, and even entire cities.

So if nobody likes Wal-Mart, why isn’t it the #1 company we’d be better off without? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this question: if nobody likes Wal-Mart, why is it still around?

The answer: because people still shop there, and they always will. Some have no choice because they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. I was in that boat myself just a few years ago. I’m still occasionally forced to shop there because they carry a lot of stuff in one place, and the convenience is too much to resist. Bad Nick, bad.

Wal-Mart may be evil, but it has made itself into a necessary evil for many people. While the world might be better off without it in the long run, there’d be a lot of hurting for low-income families in the meantime.

#3 McDonald's

Author: Nick

(Just for posting this article, McDonald’s is probably going to sue me and have me thrown in Federal Pounding-in-the-Ass Prision. If that happens, please consider McDonald’s promoted to #1.)

Yes yes, McDonald’s is not alone in its trans-fat strangle-hold on the hearts of people everywhere. Our collective health would certainly be better off if Burger King, Taco Bell, Arby’s, and all those other fast food joints closed up shop. But as the first and largest fast food business, McDonald’s has had plenty of time and money to help it stand out from its competitors… in all the wrong ways.

In case you’re a little behind on the McDonald’s Crimes Against Humanity news, here’s a quick recap:

  • Manslaughter by fat. Okay, so nobody’s forcing you to shove those six Big Macs in your mouth. But McDonald’s, in good conscience, could’ve tried to make them a little bit better for you. In 2002, McDonald’s finally said it would reduce the trans fat content of its food. But McDonald’s didn’t actually reduce it. And McDonald’s didn’t tell anyone it didn’t reduce it. Later it turned out that there was more trans fat in McDonald’s food than it originally admitted.
  • Undermining freedom of speech. A couple of folks bad-mouthed McDonald’s in some leaflets, so McDonald’s sued them, claiming everything in the leaflet was a lie. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, just about everything in the leaflet was the 100% ugly truth, and it found itself having to defend its business practices in what turned into the biggest PR disaster in history.
  • Dirty business tactics. Fast Food Nation should be required reading for anyone walking into McDonald’s, except then you’d die from hunger because you read a book instead of eating. It details some of McDonald’s shady business practices such as its bold political maneuvers and child-targeted advertising all designed to bring in the dollars for the Big M.
  • Disrespecting people’s beliefs. While I’m proud to be a meat-eating man, I totally understand (and secretly admire) those who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. McDonald’s, however, does not. Even after claiming to fix its french fry recipe so that it was 100% vegetarian, it turned out that the fries were still made with various beef extracts. And so are the biscuits. Will someone please explain to me why foods I can make out of potatoes and flour have freaking cow in them???
  • Making children cry. When I was seven years old, I went to McDonald’s for the Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers Happy Meal toys. I had all but one, and it was the last week for the Ranger toys; but my local McDonald’s switched over to the stupid McRobots Changeables a week early. I never got my Gadget. She was so hot for a cartoon mouse.

#2 Verizon

Author: Nick

In putting together this list of companies we’d be better off without, I’ve done my best to set aside personal feelings and past incidents which might unduly bias me against certain companies.

I ain’t doin’ that no mores.

I hate Verizon with a passion. If Verizon were a poor little beggar girl in the streets who came crawling up to me whimpering “Please, sir, may I have a small morsel of food to eat?” I would snap back, “Away with you, you scoundrel of a telecommunications corporation!”

Well, there isn’t anything poor about Verizon, that’s for sure. They had a 2005 net income of over seven billion dollars. Yes, billion with a “b” and 7 with that stupid little line through it. And of that $7 billion, I think no less than half of it came from me!

My personal reasons for despising Verizon have manifested themselves on Punny Money before (see Verizon Lies About Dry-Loop DSL Availability and Verizon Is One Sneaky Telecommunications Corporation!), but here are a few others that show why the world would be better with one less Verizon in it.

  • Customer disservice. Hit yourself in the head with a crowbar. Feel the pain? That’s almost what it’s like dealing with Verizon’s customer service. Heaven forbid you should ever have a malfunction that requires you to deal with Verizon’s technical support people or an overcharge that mandates a call to their billing department. Sadly, you’ll probably suffer less mental anguish if you just eat that $6,000 billing error or wait a few months and see if your dial tone returns.
  • Price of a $35/month service? About $50. Plus taxes. Oh, and more fees. Verizon has this neat way of making extra money without having to up the price of its advertised rates–adding fees. These fees have long, official-sounding names like Universal Serial Stabilization Matrix Standard Regulatory Surcharge that make it sound like Satan will conquer the world if Verizon doesn’t charge you for it. In reality, they’re just extra profit for Verizon’s pockets. And when those pockets get full, look for a new “Pocket Enlargement Surcharge” on your bill sometime around 2008.
  • Verizon is really, really bad at math. Read the story for yourself or settle for my awesome limited attention span summary: Guy likes data. Verizon sells data. Guy uses Verizon. Verizon charges .002 cents for data. Guy gets charged .002 dollars for data. Verizon says dollars = cents. Guy is out $70+. Guy rants about it on the internet and gets his money back after twelve MIT professors are called in by Verizon to perform elaborate quadratic equation analyses which demonstrate that, despite Verizon’s wishes to the contrary, dollar = 100 cents.
  • Verizon wants your internets. Along with other phone and cable companies, Verizon is waging a political, social, and economic war to take over the internet. Verizon wants to tax internet content providers to ensure their content actually reaches users. Since Verizon and other telecoms own the transmission networks upon which the internet is built, they could very well do this. “Pay us, or we shut you out” may soon be the corporate motto at Verizon.
  • Phone - Verizon = No Phone. Some people in the United States have two real options when it comes to landline telephone service: Verizon or nothing. Fortunately, more options are popping up everyday including new but lesser-known telephone companies, voice over IP, or even ditching your landline and going mobile-only. But all of those require people to do something different, and we all know how the world is about accepting something new and different–it generally takes about 100 years to fully adopt by which time it’s just as bad as the older thing.

I know what you’re thinking: I could just as easily have writen this article with “AT&T” or “Comcast” in place of “Verizon.” That may be so, but I’m not a customer of AT&T or Comcast. Should this spot belong to Verizon? Or is there another telecom the world would do much better without? (That’s your cue to click the Comment button and type stuff.)

#1 United States Postal Service

Author: Nick

Who would’ve guessed that the #1 company we’d be better off without is a government-owned corporation? (Okay, you can put your hands down now.)

Worse than any monopoly in United States history–yes, worse than Microsoft, Standard Oil, or even Major League Baseball–is this behemoth delivery service which will forever elude antitrust laws because it has the blessings of the federal government.

And why shouldn’t it? After all, think of everything the Postal Service does for us:

  • Delivers a letter anywhere in the country for under 40 cents. That figure will probably be out of date by the time I post this article, but USPS can do amazing things for dirt cheap.
  • Brings communication from the outside world to your door almost everyday. Heck, most people don’t want to see you even once a week, and these guys stop by six times that!
  • Puts up with your crappy handwriting. There are two people in the world who can read my handwriting: the first-grade teacher who taught it to me… and the United States Postal Service. It’s a miracle my hand-addressed envelopes make it to the right state, let alone street.
  • Provides employment for the mentally ill. Ha ha ha, just kidding on this one. Still, USPS is the third-largest employer in the country.

I must be out of my mind to nominate our beloved Postal Service as the top company we’d be better off without.

But don’t worry, I have my reasons. And now… let them be known to the world!

  • USPS has a total monopoly on non-urgent first-class mail. Wanna send a letter to your grandma in Some Town, Wisconsin, telling her how you aced your Differential Equations exam? It’s gotta go through the United States Postal Service. Absolutely nobody else is allowed to deliver standard first-class mail except those men (and women) in blue. Well, blue-gray.
  • Only USPS can touch your mailbox. Ever wonder why UPS will leave a tiny package on the ground even in a torrential downpour rather than stick in it the safety of your mailbox? That’s because the law says your mailbox is off-limits to all but the Postal Service. The penalty for breaking that law? Death by firing squad. Ha ha ha, just kidding again. I love postal worker jokes.
  • By law, potential competitors must charge at least $3 to send urgent letters. So even if FedEx wanted to charge you a buck to send your mail overnight, it couldn’t.
  • The reasons for the USPS monopoly are anti-capitalistic. All of us Americans pay 39 cents to deliver a letter from one point in the U.S. to another. But why should we pay the same to mail a letter to the other side of town as we do to send one to Middle of Nowhere, Montana? If the majority of your mail is paying local bills or sending letters within your state, and unless you live in some out-of-the-way area where your nearest neighbor is three miles away, it probably costs a few pennies for USPS to send each letter. You pay more to cover the cases when someone in Mountaintop, Colorado, wants to send a letter to his cousin Cletus in No Paved Roads, Alabama. An end to the Postal Service monopoly could cut the median American family’s yearly mailing costs in half or better.
  • USPS answers obsoletion with price increases instead of innovation. As e-mail quickly replaces first class mail as the standard form of written communication, and with other carriers doing a better job on urgent mail, USPS finds itself faced with eventual obsoletion. But rather than downsize its operations or look for ways to innovate and become competitive again, the Postal Service simply raises rates every so often to put a heavy tax on those letters you still need to send on occasion. If the business of sending mail were deregulated, competition would force companies to find new ways of doing business before passing on the extra costs to its customers. At this rate, you may only need to send one letter every year in 2030, but USPS will probably charge you $86 to do it!
I couldn't agree more, Nick!

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