There is an ice cream-fueled shadow economy near Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Vermont

Originally published at: There is an ice cream-fueled shadow economy near Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Vermont | Boing Boing


This world is definitely becoming more and more like a Neal Stephenson novel.


My father worked for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco practically his entire adult career. I remember taking a tour back in the mid 80’s with him and at that time you could smoke in the factory (just not on the production floor). Simplistically put they could just smoke as much as they want straight from the production line. Their office really was one of those scenes with an astray on every desk and packs of cigarettes just sitting around. Now take a pack or carton outside of the key card doors and security would be escorting you permanently off the premises. They did have a gift shop where they could buy discounted cartons, but they were not free due to federal regulation and taxes.


Years ago I worked for a food company under the Kraft Foods umbrella. We had stacks of free product coupons in our office to use and give away, and we’d use them like trading cards with employees of other companies under the umbrella so we all benefitted from free Kraft goods. My favorite to barter with was the Kraft candy division, for those dark chocolate caramel squares. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


It’s a cute perk, and the company would be well-advised to keep the perk available even if there were no “seconds” - no sense incentivizing mistakes.

The transcript suggests that these were once but are no longer really from equipment change-overs. That reminded me of the dum dums “mystery flavor


This is the kind of thing that would cause me to buy a dedicated chest-style freezer.

I suspect this goes on all across different industries. The record label I first worked for in the early 90’s allowed employees to get promos of most of the stuff they pressed, but occasionally the owners would send out angry messages to all employees about “no more promo trading”-- the people in the marketing and promotions departments (whose job was to send promo kits to radio and press) would add the names of their friends at other record labels to the mailing lists, and in return their name would be added to the list at say Ryko or Interscope/Geffen-- back and forth the freebies went. It was an open secret, which the owners probably engaged in too.


I had the fortune of having some “seconds” back in the late 80s/early 90s. Great Aunt worked there and brought two “seconded” tubs (whatever the big ice cream shop size is called) of Heath Bar Crunch to a family reunion. They were certainly “happy accidents” as they had full bars instead of Heath chips!

Good times :slight_smile:


This is one of those stories where a thin veneer of cutesiness makes us ignore 19th-century labor relations (see also: ping pong tables).

To Planet Money’s credit, the reporter does point out that when no seconds are available, it’s “like” docking employees’ pay. Unfortunately he says that as if it’s a joke, and the management shill laughs gaily in reply. But to be clear: the phrase is “wage theft”. When your terms of employment include a benefit worth $15-18 per day, your employer doesn’t get to choose when it’s convenient. This piece makes it pretty obvious that a cleaner or factory worker might be financially screwed without their 3 pints of “free ice cream”.

Ben & Jerry’s might be an OK-ish employer, and it sounds like they do provide extra ‘scream if the seconds run out. That doesn’t make them heroes, and it’s a dodgy way to pay people in the first place.


When I lived in VT in the mid-aughts, the local grocery store had a freezer for B&J seconds, half price or less.
Me and my other poor friends thought we’d discovered heaven. Less money for more cookie dough? Yes, please!


The factory seconds sold at the little gas station by my grandparents house were a great perk to our visits! They quit being sold there years ago :smiling_face_with_tear:


Another VT convenience-store seconded here. For a few weeks on summer, we lived one Cherry Garcia mistakes, which appeared to have either missed the chocolate-breaking process or (once) the right amount of sugar.

Still excellent.


Did RJR cover their health plans?


OOPS, this batch is just TOO DELICIOUS :wink:


Other fun fact I learned at the factory tour I went on during my honeymoon in 1990: employees are permitted free factory second pints, yes. But the runoff that never quite makes it into icecream, or other melted or otherwise ‘spoiled’ product gets sent to local farmers, who use it as part of their pig feed.

There is one exception to this: The pigs don’t like any flavor with mint. So any liquid waste from those flavors gets composted, rather than going to animal feed.


That stuff should go to the lambs.



That was SO wrong, bravo!!


Up until the mid-90’s they had their own health & dental care facility that was private for employees and family. I know we had health insurance for more substantial issues, but I don’t know what all that looked like in terms of cost per paycheck. I do know that my +4 years of orthodontics were basically free.

Being a teenager at the time I don’t know all the specifics as to why it was opened to the general public, but eventually it was all bought out by Novant.

As much as the tobacco companies were / are “evil” they did provide a very good livelihood for a large portion of the Winston-Salem and surrounding areas. A full benefits package and pension are things that just don’t exist anymore.


My BIL worked for an advertising firm that had RJ Reynolds Nabisco (after merger, before split up) as a client. This was after they fired their well-known advertising firm from the big city.*

When we visited them in the early 90s, we went out to dinner, and my BIL and sister had to say “no preference” when asked about smoking or non-smoking. I remember telling my sister, “F that. We’re from CA and the smoking makes us sick. We’ll ask for the non-smoking section and pay for the meal.” My sister was worried that RJ Reynolds had spies everywhere in Winston-Salem (they probably did). I told her that they can control them but not us. She and I almost came to blows over this. RJ Reynolds can fuck right off.

*I think they fired the firm because they did an anti-smoking campaign for another client.


That’s a bit creepy!


Yeah, I looked up RJR Nabisco and Wikipedia has a blurb about the incident that got Saatchi & Saatchi fired from the Nabisco account. They did an ad for their other client, Northwest Airlines, that highlighted the airlines new (then) in-flight nonsmoking policies. RJR, who was not their client, had a fit. I think that’s why they hired the local Winston-Salem firm that my BIL worked for because it was a local advertising firm, and RJR could exert massive control.

When people try to claim that the movie The Insider was hyped, I tell them this story.