The Secret Confessions of Employees

By Paul Michael on 28 September 2010 9 comments

What do baristas at Starbucks really think of you? What exactly is in Wendy's Chili? What are those big name retailers not telling you? How do you get better deals? Well, you're about to find out.

I'm a big fan of reddit, and they have a subreddit called self.AskReddit that is a forum for all sorts of great information. When I saw the topic Spill your employer's secrets herein (i.e. things the rest of us can exploit) I just couldn't resist. An hour later, I was still reading, researching, and taking notes.

I am not going to give the hundreds and hundreds of tips and stories I read here, you can read the full thread yourself. I also cannot say for certain how dependable this information is, as most of it was given anonymously (for very obvious reasons). But, if you find a few nuggets of wisdom here that get you a few better deals, or help you steer clear of other "bargains" then that's good enough for me. (See also: 7 Shopping Jedi Mind Tricks and How to Spot Them)

Beware of "fresh" wrapped food in grocery stores

I've heard of this one before — I've also fallen foul of it a few times. Basically, stores hate to lose money by throwing food away. So, they will often pull the cling wrap off of meat, fruit, bakery items, or anything else that has just expired, and re-wrap it with a new expiration date on it. If there are any signs of mold or aging, they will carefully remove those first. Just beware of packaged items, get the fresh from behind the counter. And those "manager's specials" are to be avoided at all costs.

Bed, Bath & Beyond tips

They accept expired coupons — don't throw them away. They accept competitor coupons for specific items. And you can return ANYTHING without a receipt — even if you did not buy it from a BB&B. (You'll only get a store credit.)

The Sam's Club liquor loophole

Strange but true. You don't need to have a Sam's Club membership to buy the liquor. Just tell the door person you are there to buy booze and they won't need to see your membership card. You can also grab a few of the free food samples as you walk through the store, if your conscience allows it.

The Starbucks treatment

Badgebunny219 points out "If you go to Starbucks and every barista knows you by name and rushes to make your drink as you walk in the door, it's because you're an asshole and we want you to leave as soon as humanly possible. I've also just given you decaf."

Tips are worth it

In any job that relies on tips, your extra dollar or two can get you a lot more in return. Bigger drinks, more meat, free cookies, you name it. if you treat the staff well they will remember it and use the company's products to reward you.

The ups and downs of UPS

From the former manager of a UPS store:

  • If you put insurance on a fragile package that YOU packed and it breaks, unless you went crazy with packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and a box, UPS won't honor the claim. (See also: 7 Ways to Get Free Shipping Supplies)
  • If you ship something that has to be delivered at a certain time of day (for instance, next day air usually needs to be there by 10:30) check the delivery time. If it gets delivered 10 minutes late or later, you get your money back. So a 10:45 delivery is considered refundable.
  • If you ship something next day air that would usually get there in one day ground, just ship it ground unless it needs to get there in the morning. Ground has the exact same guarantee as air (except during Christmas season) and costs a lot less.
  • Fragile stickers mean drop kick. Individual UPS drivers are almost never responsible for a package getting broken. So a driver who has a bad day is very likely to take it out on a package he knows will break. And he won't get caught.
  • If your package gets lost in transit, and UPS says they will put a "tracer" on it to see if they can find it, that means 90% it's gone for good.

Wendy's chili leaves a nasty taste

If you're a big fan on Wendy's chili, this one might sway you. This one has been circulating on the web for years anyway, and many different sources seem to agree on the main points of the recipe. The big one is that the meat in Wendy's chili comes from old hamburgers. These burgers are thrown into anything from a drawer to a mop bucket and collected throughout the day. They usually sit at room temperature all day, too.

Other sources state that even burgers that are dropped on the floor can end up in the bucket, as the chili cooking method kills any bacteria. These old burgers (sometimes way older than a few days, as they have more old burgers than chili) are then put in a huge pot and boiled for several hours. The lumps are mashed out over the cooking process (the smell is allegedly quite rancid), and excess fat is scraped from the top of the water. Then, dried chili mix and beans are poured in and the mixture bubbles and simmers until it is poured into a bowl for you.

Now, so far no one from Wendy's seems to have come out and denied any of this. I would love you to if this is not true, because I love Wendy's chili but can't bring myself to eat it now.

Chipotle has no limits on sides

From a Chipotle employee: "At Chipotle you can have as many sides of whatever you want except for the meat, guacamole, and the fajitas. Go in, order a bowl (generally more food than a burrito), then ask for two sides of beans and rice, and sides of salsa, cheese, 3 tortillas, and so on. You just fed three people a bunch of food."

Most hotels will let you barter the room rate

All the ads from Priceline and Hotwire have us thinking that it takes professionals to haggle for the price of a room. Not so. Basically, hotels do not like empty rooms. An empty room is not making a profit for them. So, if it comes down to taking $125 a night, or $85 a night, they'd rather have $85. Of course, you can't pull this off when a conference is in town, or during peak season, but most times you can get a better price just by asking. And if not, try upgrading the room for no charge. That one works 95% of the time.

Threatening to cancel ANY service will usually get you a deal

From Comcast and DirecTV to alarm subscriptions, XM Radio, and insurance, you are always more valuable as a customer than a lost customer. If you call customer service and threaten to cancel, you'll usually get an offer that is better than your current deal. Sometimes, way better. Try it today and see what you can save.

The Cash America Pawn secret codes

From an insider:

"At Cash America Pawn shops, on every price tag on a product they are selling is a collection of letters from the word MARY LOUISE. The letters are a code for how much the pawn shop paid out for the item, how much they've invested.

The code is that 'M'=1 'A'=2 'R'=3 and so on. The 'E' = 0. Say that the price for an item is 400 bucks. You look at the price tag, find the code, and it has the letters AAEEE. This means that Cash America paid out $220.00.

Once you find what you want, make sure you're talking to a manager or assistant manager, they are the only ones who can go really low. For the example used above I would offer $250, then $275 then we would probably settle for $300."

The Godiva Chocolate Strawberry Giveaway

All of Godiva's chocolate dipped strawberries (which retail for around $6 each) that are left at closing are thrown away. This is because the strawberry sweats through the chocolate and the next day the look less than appetizing. Go in just before closing, be nice to the sales associate and get some nice freebies.

So, that should be enough to get you started. Again, check the original post for many more tips, and if you are an employee of a store and have a juicy insider secret to share, please do so in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Kicking your packages.....that's logistics!

Guest's picture

We don't kick 'em, but we definitely throw 'em, lose 'em, open 'em and steal 'em! And we'll charge you to "trace" and "insure"

Guest's picture

Interesting stuff. I worked at UPS years ago. I don't think drivers intentionally damage packages. Fragile does not mean anything on a package since half the packages were marked fragile and they don't get special treatment. They aren't treated specially but nobody purposefully abuses them.

Guest's picture

A friend of mine in high school worked at Wendy's and told me a similar story regarding burgers and the chili. I'm not a red meat eater, but I never understand why so many people loved the chili at Wendy's.

Guest's picture

Here's the scoop on the chili. I worked at Wendy's for a year. The process is supposed to look like this:

1. Fresh burger is on the grill
2. No one uses that burger during the time it is ready and it gets slightly overcooked.
3. Grill person takes meat and puts it in a warmer drawer (similar to what McDs does with all their hamburgers before serving).
4. Warmer drawer is emptied out into freezer bag and placed in freezer overnight (it can stay in freezer up to one week if I remember correctly - bag must be labeled with date)
5. Meat is removed in the morning (fat has congealed) and fat is rinsed off with hot water using strainer.
6. Meat is boiled to remove additional fat and strained again. (This also removes the crusty overcooked bits)
7. Meat is mashed using potato masher.
8. Mashed meat is then dumped into pot with other chili ingredients.

Now obviously all these steps are not always followed at every location. You can always tell how good your location is by how much grease is floating on the top of your chili. There shouldn't be any. If anyone from corporate saw anything other than the process I listed above they would ding the location.
As a franchised company, there are going to be locations breaking the rules. You just have to find one you trust and stick with it. The location I worked at was one of the top two in the nation and was a stickler for following the standard operating procedures (it is located in Fairfield, OH near Cincinnati)

Guest's picture


I also worked there when in High School. No mop bucket or room temperature. People who tell you that are telling fibs. If a store did do that, they would not be open for long or the manager would not be with Wendy's for long.

The food is not safe just by cooking it to above 160F. There are heat tolerant bacteria that can survive above 200F. On top of that some foodborn illness is not caused by live bacteria (foodborn infection) but rather by the toxin's produced by the bacteria (foodborn intoxication). So just because you may kill the bacteria, the toxin would be making many people sick.

Guest's picture

I have no idea whether to thank you for this post or hate that I read some of it. Either way, I'm making it my "read of the week" during my round up post that will go up on Saturday.

Seriously...I can't wait for another one of these!

Guest's picture

"The Starbucks treatment" vs "Tips are worth it"
These seem almost mutually exclusive?

Guest's picture

IF at all possible, avoid working for Comcast. They got me reeled in after speaking to an area supervisor. So I got online and did a little research. Ok - so I qualify to apply and test for a Comm Tech 3 position. Can I do that? After asking I was assured I would be considered for that particular position. Next thing I know, Carco, the third-party background checking people hired by Comcast are calling and emailing me to do their work for them which should have been Red Flag No.1. Next thing I know I'm in training. First week went great. Learning about Comcast, taking easy tests, making a little money. Second week, Ladder Handling and Pole Climbing certtifcations. What? You heard it right! They give new trainees THREE DAYS to learn everything they will need to know about safely climbing utility poles and ladders leaning on strands in three days (omg). Wait, I was supposed to be a Comm Tech 3 - remember? Oh, who told you that? You will be climbing poles, getting screamed at by disgruntled customers, bitten by owner's dogs, crawling under houses with feces and urine present. Dangerous and posionous snakes, spiders and vermin of mixed variety. All that along with the fact that if you screw-up while climbing-up or coming down you could die. No thanks! Save your crap for the next guy. It's definately NOT WORTH the MONEY !!!

Guest's picture

I currently work at wendy's and I can confirm the rumors are not true, atleast ar my store! Our meat is thrown in a clean, metal bin held in a drawer where the temperature is required to be over 150 degrees Fahrenheit (this is checked twice a day and if it is not up to the regulations it is thrown out). The meat has to be put in the chili meat bin after the timer runs out located on the grill.

Hope this cure some of the fears!