Content edited for clarity. Ever wondered what happens behind company closed doors? Well, you are about to find out. From scandals to saving some moolah, people who don't have to follow an NDA finally and expose their former employers. Get ready to have a little bit of the world crumble around you.
“My NDA is still in effect, but I’ve covered my liability. A few years, with a previous insurance company I worked for, 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 brought out 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 five by eight notepad on his desk that had a list of names. Next to each name was a mailing address 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 dude was arrested on unrelated substance 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 impanel 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 criminal’s desk, the grand jury decided to not move ahead to a trial. For the substance and assault charges, the former employee was sentenced to 16 years in prison. I’m not entirely sure if he remembers the hit list in its entirety. He was so angry at so many people that I doubt he could recall every one of them. He was the kind of employee who needed things explained multiple times before he started following the simplest instructions.
As for his prison term, he was found guilty on four separate charges, each one averaging a sentence of eight years. The defense wanted them to be served concurrently (at the same time) with the chance he could get an early release in four years. The prosecutor wanted him to serve the sentences consecutively for a total of 32 years without any early release.
The judge split the difference and sentenced him to 16 years without the chance for early parole.
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 from another company. Those monsters 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.
For clarification, the reason I signed the NDA was that 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.
The company could decide to sue me. I don’t think they’d try to have me killed, but considering their willingness to leave their clients open to potential attacks taught me to not put it past them.
When I quit, an executive made a vague threat that if I were to ever mention ‘that little fiasco with the list’ that I should expect a visit from their representatives. I noticed he didn’t specify if it would be a lawyer or a killer. So I let him know that the transcript from my grand jury testimony, the crazy man’s personnel file, and the NDA were set to be delivered to several local news stations when I die, which for his sake shouldn’t be for a very long time. They haven’t bothered me since.
What Are They Hiding?
“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 of 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 of 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 did that.
As our presentation went on, we heard a slight woosh outside our windows, then a squeal of tires before its silence. This was quite strange because this sound was considerably softer than the roar of the jets from the base we had got used to. As we had not been given the green light yet to open our windows, we left them shut. But my curiosity got the better of me, and as I was sitting in the back right of the room, I took 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 meters, and maybe 20 or so meters 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.”
Hollywood Accounting Part One
“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 percent of theaters, but we were not allowed to collect that last 20 percent. 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 percent 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 weekend was reported at $35,677,125 (27.0 percent of total gross).
Lilo and Stitch’s opening weekend was reported as $35,260,212 (24.2 percent 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 freaking 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 for something.
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 storm of Gigli later, but that’s the next story)
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.”
Hollywood Account Part Two
“For those who don’t know, Gigli is legendary in Hollywood. I’ve heard production costs were anywhere from $50 to $75 million dollars and all-time box-office revenue was about 10 percent of the cost. For reference, a film generally needs to earn about 300% of its budget before it’s considered profitable. Gigli was one of the worst-performing films of all time. Gigli would have had to have earned about 20 or 30 times more than it did just to break even.
That’s the film. Here’s the story.
I was working with another developer on a mobile-friendly version of our site using WAP (this was in the days long before a full browser could be used on a phone). For Hollywood executives, this would be a huge deal. Instead of sitting at home refreshing a web page repeatedly for live data, or having an assistant constantly texting them sales data, the studio heads could actually go out to dinner at a restaurant on Friday nights and see real-time tickets live, on their phone! It was hugely important. They needed to know quickly if they were going to dump a film or keep putting money into marketing. That opening weekend data is huge.
For some reason, though our code passed all of its tests, when we tried it on the phone, we kept getting garbage. Usually, we’d have zero money showing up. For our automated tests, we made up data and injected it, but for the phone, we grabbed real data. A bit of digging revealed that I had grabbed the real data for Gigli, a movie I didn’t know anything about.
And that turned out to be a rabbit hole that took me quite a ways. It was also a very interesting test case for our code because Gigli performed so badly that it shook out bugs in the code we didn’t expect. And in digging into our database, I discovered that while many theaters across the US reported no sales of tickets for Gigli (after the opening weekend), not a single one of them reported that it was because no one wanted to see this turkey. The theater was closed. There was roadwork closing off traffic to the theater. The theater caught on fire. There was [insert dumb reason] why the theater had sold no tickets.
Of course, the ‘reasons’ the theater had zero revenue for a movie were limited by a list in a table in the database and when I checked that table, ‘no tickets sold’ was not an option. Holy cow! I uncovered a major bug, so I reported it.
It wasn’t a bug. It was a feature. Hollywood studios absolutely did not want ‘nobody wants tickets to this show’ listed as a reason for no sales. Maybe it was a stupid PR thing. Maybe it was some weird Hollywood accounting thing. But by sheer coincidence, many theaters across the US had sold no tickets to one of the worst movies of all time, but all of them had ‘reasons’ for doing so other than ‘no one bought any.’
And I was the dumb schmuck who accidentally chose this film to use as test data.
So, Sony had released this turkey and despite releasing some other successful movies at the same time, managed to post a huge loss because Gigli tanked so hard. But Sony wasn’t done yet.
Ever been to a double-feature? If you don’t know what that is, you buy one ticket and you get to see two films. Guess how the revenue is reported? Remember, this is Hollywood accounting. Your guess, whatever it was, is wrong.
Does the first film get the revenue? Does the second film get the revenue? Is there a split in revenue between the films? Heck no! You pay $10 to see two films in a double feature and both films are reported to have earned that $10. Makes sense, right?
No, of course, it doesn’t make sense. Neither did Gigli, and you’re probably wondering what Gigli had to do with double features.
Theaters have all sorts of contractual obligations about the films they show. There are a lot of great films that you’ll never see in a theater because they’re put out by small studios that don’t have the clout to get into most theaters. The major studios want a film shown and it gets shown, no matter how bad it is.
So the theaters were in a bind with Gigli. They have to show the flipping thing, but no one is buying tickets. So many of them got creative. They would ‘sell’ (cough) tickets to Gigli in a small room at a time when sales were already poor, but sell tickets to a better film in the same room on the same day when the sales were usually better. So you might have Gigli being shown in the morning and something you’d actually pay to watch in the evening.
In comes Sony. Ah-ha! Two movies, same room. That’s a double feature! Our company was instructed to report all sales for the other film as sales for Gigli, too.
To the company’s credit, while they usually bent over backward for studios, in this case, they said ‘no’ to Sony. I like to think that maybe the company thought to do the right thing, but it’s entirely possible that for technical reasons, it was too much work for too little benefit.”
“Good Enough For Me”
“I’m still bound by the NDA, so can’t say where it was. I was terminated three times by the same company for a disability. It was a skilled nursing facility. Just can’t say which one. I 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 is supposed to work. And I’m bound not to report disability discrimination or elder abuse that I witnessed.
Funny story though, NDAs can’t prevent you from making a report as a mandatory reporter to a governing body in my state. So 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 seven-figure fine. The CEO, CFO, and CNO were all forced to quit.
They did know it was me who reported them. It’s not hard to put it together. If only one person in a company knows the details of a situation and suddenly a report appears about that situation, it isn’t super hard to figure out who made the report. In fact, when you call the state hotline to report they warn that your employer may well figure out who you are despite confidentiality.
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. I posted them a pretty nasty review without violating any of the aspects of the NDA and got them a huge fine. That’s good enough for me.”
Avoid At All Costs
“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 like garbage.
There was 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 plus dogs, most of who only had the most minor behavioral tests done to see if they would play well in daycare.
The 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.”
Another Technological Advancement That Will Out Live Us All
“There are powerline transformers that predate World War I, still up and running in the US and the utility companies aren’t 100 percent 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 idiot’s 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.
Transformers can last a long time. I have pulled multidecade 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. Apparently, the acid in bird poop really affects these transformers. Basically, she said it eats away at the material until the cooling oil inside of it gets exposed to air and it messes up the oil.
It makes sense. You see birds perch on those things. I assume what comes out of them is acidic since it does eat paint. Plus over a century it could eventually get thru some metal.
On 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.”
He Was Oblivious
“I was Guy Fieri’s body person for six months. This involved a lot of personal assistant stuff: booking travel (air, ubers in a pinch, the dude usually rode around in all-black sedans), confirming what the advance teams did before Guy gets there. Most of my job was to handle his personal life when he was ‘on the job.’ I had to sign three NDA’s, but I’m only sharing what happened on the show.
Guy gave me the impression he really didn’t like what he did. Every morning he would say ‘more of this bull’ even on so-called ‘buffer days’ when we had an extra day before or after shooting and we had much of the day to ourselves.
After three weeks of working with him, I figured out that Red Bulls are his binky. He’s got some crazy ADHD so the caffeine really didn’t phase him. When he would get stressed out, he’d rage up a little, but then he’d completely shut down. A Red Bull just made him calm again.
Guy does NOT remember anything he says. People walk up to him and joke about ‘flavortown’ and he’d look at me after the fact and ask, ‘What’s flavortown?’
I had to remind him that he came up with that. My favorite was someone who went on a cruise – apparently, Carnival Cruise Lines has Guy’s restaurants. Anyway, this fan loved the ‘Donkey Sauce’ that he put on his burgers.
Guy didn’t remember he did that. I had access to his computer and I saw recipe drafts for D-Sauce. There were scores of events similar to this, every. single. time. Guy would have no idea.
It sort of floors me that this guy influences so many people and he doesn’t give a flip. He doesn’t hate his fans, but he thinks interacting with people is a hassle. He legit doesn’t understand why he’s a celebrity, which boggles my mind how much effort he puts into his shtick. That one British chef, Robert Irvine, who lied about helping make the wedding cake for Charles and Diana has more cognizance about his fame than Guy.
On a personal note, his family is full of sweethearts and I went above and beyond a few times to help them out. All I want to say about his fam. They’re really nice people.”
I Have Questions
“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 sourced 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.”
Stir The Pot
“A friend of mine worked for one of those shows where they throw a bunch of strangers together, stir the pot, and film all the drama. The cast votes someone off each week, and the last person wins a chunk of money.
She was a ‘babysitter,’ one of a group of people who stay at another property with the cast members who’ve been voted off each week since they aren’t allowed contact with anyone until filming is finished.
She found out that despite the whole point being cast members who are complete strangers ( they know nothing at all about each other), there are usually at least two, sometimes more, people in a cast who have casually met before, or have a mutual friend in common. It can take a while for either good or bad feelings to develop between people, so putting in people with an existing tie or relationship jump-starts the process. Cast members sign an NDA before filming starts stating they’ll keep their mouths shut if they realize they know someone or have a friend in common, since filming has already started, and it will compromise the whole season. They forfeit their pay if they tell anyone.”