CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

14 Uplifting Facts About Victoria's Secret

Getty Images
Getty Images

You’ve been bombarded by their ads, DVR’ed the annual fashion show (but just so you could watch Taylor!), and— whether for yourself or someone else—have probably procured a pair of neon panties there. But how much do you really know about the lingerie giant?

1. ITS FOUNDER WANTED TO MAKE THE LINGERIE-BUYING EXPERIENCE LESS … CREEPY.

Founder Roy Raymond was inspired to open up his own shop after an awkward department store experience. “When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife, I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns,” he explained. “I always had the feeling the department-store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.” The very first Victoria’s Secret, devoted solely to selling lingerie in a more upscale (and male-friendly) atmosphere, opened in Palo Alto in 1977.

2. THERE WAS NO "VICTORIA."

Raymond picked the moniker because he felt it complemented the store’s chic, English-inspired interior, “replete with dark wood, oriental rugs, and silk drapery,” Slate’s Naomi Barr writes. “Outwardly refined, Victoria’s ‘secrets’ were hidden beneath.” Raymond and his wife, Gaye, would go on to open five more stores and launch a successful mail-order catalogue.

 


3. IT HAD A FAKE HEADQUARTERS.

In keeping with its upscale, British-influenced image, the company used to list its address on catalogues as "no. 10 Margaret Street, London"—even though the company was actually headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

4. ITS CURRENT OWNER IS A BUSINESS LEGEND.

The chain was purchased for $1 million in 1982 by Leslie “Les” Wexner. A self-made, media-shy midwesterner, Wexner revolutionized the retail industry when he founded The Limited on the premise that stores built around just a couple of small-ticket items—in this case, basic shirts and pants—could make money. (Lots of it.) Wexner has since sold The Limited (and its little sister spinoff, Express), but his L Brands—the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, among others—raked in $11.45 billion last year. Wexner himself is worth more than $7 billion, making him the richest person in Ohio. (Sorry LeBron.)

5. L BRANDS MAY HAVE INFLUENCED APPLE.

One admirer of Wexner’s: Steve Jobs, who (according to Wexner, anyway) credited the Ohio native with inventing specialty retail.

Getty

6. IT DOMINATES THE MARKET …

No other lingerie brand even comes close to its success: Victoria's Secret is responsible for 40 percent of all intimate apparel sales, according to Business Insider, and operates 1060 stores in the U.S. alone.

7. … AND MAKES WAVES OVERSEAS.

Its recent expansion into the Middle East (via franchisees) hasn’t been without controversy. Earlier this year, Qatari officials banned the brand’s “Strawberries and Champagne” fragrance from a VS there, arguing that the reference to bubbly violated the “customs, traditions, and religious values” of the country.

 

Victoria's Secret

8. SHOPLIFTERS LOVE IT.

VS stores are a frequent target of both petty thieves and large-scale shoplifting rings. From 2007 to 2014, shoplifters carried away nearly $20,000 worth of merchandise from a Fairfield, Conn. store; last fall, one Florida-based “entrepreneur” made $53,000 selling stolen Victoria’s Secret underwear. (In a 2007 story in The New York Times, Lieutenant Christine Petersen of the Jersey City PD remarked that she wasn’t surprised people were able to seize so much product: “Have you looked at Victoria’s Secret panties? There’s not much there.”)

9. ITS FANS CAN BECOME A LITTLE TOO INVESTED.

The company recently had to “divorce” one overly-enthusiastic devotee. Wisconsin resident Amy Thompson was served legal papers banning her from shopping at any Victoria’s Secret location after she allegedly made over $7000 in returns, attempted to use fraudulent coupons, resold almost $200,000 worth of merchandise, and threatened to “batter” a store clerk. (Thompson, for her part, denies the allegations and has filed a complaint with her state’s consumer protection agency.)

10. IT CHARGES MORE FOR BIGGER SIZES.

Its most recent scandal has nothing to do with tone-deaf ad campaigns or retouched photos. This summer, the company came under fire after one fashion editor noticed that shoppers with larger cup sizes pay up to $4 more for their bras than women who fit into sizes A-D.

11. IT'S A CAREER-MAKER.

Throughout the years, the company has helped a number of young models spread their wings (so to speak). In 2014, all but five of the 21 catwalkers included on Forbes’ list of richest models had at one point mugged for VS ads or strutted in the fashion show.

 

Getty

12. THERE ARE VICTORIA'S SECRET ANGELS FROM EVERY CONTINENT …

Except Antarctica.

13. ITS FASHION SHOW IS A GLOBAL PHENOMENON.

The brand’s annual runway show, which debuted in 1995, now serves as the fashion world’s Super Bowl. Viewers tune in from more than 180 countries and territories around the world, and the spectacle is such a guaranteed ratings boon that CBS reportedly pays the company for the rights to air the oh-so-heavenly event.

14. THE BRAND TAKES BEDAZZLING TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

The star of every VS Fashion Show: the fantasy bra. At last year’s event, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio wore matching pieces of lingerie worth $2 million—each. But that’s nothing compared to the bra Gisele Bundchen modeled in 2000. That year’s satin “Red Hot Fantasy Bra” was encrusted with more than 1300 diamonds and rubies. Its $15 million price tag was enough to secure its place in Guinness World Records history as the most expensive piece of lingerie ever created.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
The Top Excuses Employees Give for Being Late to Work
iStock
iStock

Expecting staff to just get out of bed and show up on time seems like a low bar for an employer to set, but some workers have trouble meeting this bare-minimum obligation. Their stated reasons can almost sound believable.

Job placement site CareerBuilder.com recently conducted a survey and asked 800 respondents in various age brackets how often they were late for work, as well as over 1000 human resource managers for data on missing workers. Overall, one in four employees admitted to being tardy at least once a month. Those aged 18 to 34 were the most frequently late, with 38 percent clocking in past their expected arrival. Only 14 percent of workers 45 and older were less-than-punctual.

As for excuses: 51 percent said traffic was the most common reason they straggled in. Around 31 percent said oversleeping was an issue, while bad weather (28 percent) and forgetting something and having to return home (13 percent) plagued others.

According to human resources managers, some workers claimed that they were late because their coffee was too hot; that they fell asleep in the parking lot; that it was too cold outside to travel; or that their false eyelashes were stuck together.

Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder also found that 88 percent of workers were in favor of a flexible work schedule.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
arrow
job secrets
14 Secrets of Costco Employees
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Costco has become something of a unicorn in the brick-and-mortar industry. While employees at other chains express concerns over low wages and questionable management choices, the 200,000-plus ground troops at Costco’s massive shopping centers rave about generous pay ($13 to $22.50 hourly, depending on seniority), comprehensive benefits, and pension plans. After one year of employment, the turnover rate is only 6 percent, compared to an average of 16 percent across the retail industry. Not having to incur costs of training replacements is just one reason the company keeps prices low.

It’s no secret that Costco employees are a relatively happy bunch. But we wanted a little more information, so we’ve asked several current Costco workers about everything from pet peeves to nail polish bans to revoking memberships. (All requested we use only their first names to preserve anonymity.) Here’s what they had to tell us about life in the pallets.

1. WORKING THERE IS BETTER THAN GOING TO THE GYM.

Turns out that navigating a warehouse full of goods stacked to the ceiling is kind of like getting an all-day gym pass. “I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store,” says Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado. “When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work.”

2. THEY CAN DO THEIR SHOPPING AFTER HOURS.

Costco shopping carts are arranged together
Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images

While employees typically don’t get shopping discounts, they have something that’s arguably better: the opportunity to shop in a near-empty store. “You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that,” says Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington state. “You just bring your cart to the front register.” The store will keep the member service counter open so workers can check out after other registers have closed.

3. THE GENEROUS RETURN POLICY CAN GET MESSY.

Costco infamously places very few restrictions on returns. Most anything purchased there can be brought back for a refund as part of the company’s overall emphasis on exceptional customer service. Naturally, some members are willing to abuse the privilege. “Members return couches that are over five years old, and interestingly enough, they still have the receipt,” Rachael says. “My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don't lose it. Then, when they've worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund.”

Rachael has also seen a member return a freezer that was allegedly no longer working. The store refunded both the cost of the appliance and the spoiled meat inside. “The meat smelled like death,” she says.

4. THEY CAN ALSO TELL WHEN YOU’RE A SERIAL RETURNER.

A shopper at Costco looks at the computer display
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Costco purchase records typically date back 10 years or so, but employees working the return counter don’t always need to reference your account to know that you're making a habit of getting refunds. “When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, ‘Oh, you can look it up on my account,’ that’s a tell,” says Thomas, an employee in California. “It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer.”

5. THERE’S A CONVENIENCE STORE-WITHIN-A-STORE.

While employees are generally allowed to eat their lunch or dinner meals in the food court, not all of them are crazy about pizza and hot dogs as part of their daily diet. Many opt for the employee break room, which—in some warehouse locations—looks more like a highway rest stop. Rows of vending machines offer fresh meals, snacks, and sodas, along with a complete kitchen for preparing food brought from home. “[It’s a] relatively new addition that is being implemented at more warehouses,” says Steve, an employee in California. “It's basically like a gas station's convenience store, with both frozen and fresh meals and snacks. The only difference is the prices are more reasonable.”

6. THERE’S A GOOD REASON THERE ISN’T AN EXPRESS CHECKOUT LANE.

A Costco shopper goes through the checkout lane
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Walk into a Costco and you’ll probably notice an employee with a click counter taking inventory of incoming members. According to Rachael, that head count gets relayed to the supervisor in charge of opening registers. “They know that for a certain amount of people entering the store, within a certain amount of time, there should be a certain amount of registers open to accommodate those shoppers who are ready to check out,” she says. If there aren’t enough cashiers on hand, the supervisor can pull from other departments: Most employees are “cross-trained” to help out when areas are understaffed.

7. THERE’S A METHOD TO THE RECEIPT CHECK.

Customers sometimes feel offended when they’re met at the exit by an employee scanning their receipt, but it’s all in an effort to mitigate loss prevention and keep prices low. “We’re looking for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs, or alcohol,” Thomas says. Typically, the value of these items might make it worth the risk for a customer who's trying to shoplift—and they're worth the double-check.

8. THEY TAKE SAFE FOOD HANDLING TO A NEW LEVEL ...

A Costco employee works in food preparation
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At Costco, employees are expected to exercise extreme caution when preparing and serving hot dogs, pizza, chicken and other food to members. “If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated,” Rachael says. “Or, let's say a member asks for a slice of cheese pizza. We place that piece onto a plate, with tongs, of course, then place the plate onto the counter. If the member says, ‘Oh darn, I've changed my mind, I'd rather have pepperoni pizza,’ then we have to toss the pizza that they didn't want into the trash. Once it hits the counter, it can't come back.” Some store protocols even prohibit employees from wearing nail polish in food prep areas—it could chip and get into the food.

9. ... BUT WORKING AT THE FOOD COURT CAN PREPARE THEM FOR ANYTHING.

Costco employees who find themselves behind the counter at the chain’s food court say it's one of the few less-than-pleasant experiences of working there. For some members, the dynamic of waiting on food and peering over a service counter can make them forget their manners. “Usually members are rude when they are waiting on their pizza during a busy time,” Steve says. “If an employee can excel in the food court, any other position in the warehouse is pretty easy by comparison.”

10. THEY GET FREE TURKEYS.

Costco’s generous wages and benefits keep employment applications stacked high. What people don’t realize, Kathleen says, is that the company’s attention to employee satisfaction can result in getting gifted a giant bird. “We get free turkeys for Thanksgiving,” she says. “I didn’t even know that before I started working there. It’s a nice perk.”

11. THEY CAN REVOKE YOUR MEMBERSHIP.

Shoppers go down an aisle at Costco
Gabriel Buoys, AFP/Getty Images

But it’s got to be a pretty extreme situation. According to Thomas, memberships can be terminated if a member is caught stealing or having a physical altercation inside the store. For less severe infractions, employees can make notes under a “comments” section of your membership. They’ll do that for frequent returns, if you’re verbally aggressive, or if you like to rummage through pre-packaged produce looking for the best apples. (Don’t do that.)

12. MANAGERS GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY.

During peak business times on weekends and around holidays, the influx of customer traffic can get so formidable that managers jump in with employees to make sure everything gets taken care of. “Most people would be surprised if they realized that the person who just put all of their groceries into their cart at the registers or who helped load that huge mattress into their car was actually the store's general manager,” Rachael says.

13. EVERY DAILY STORE OPENING IS CONTROLLED CHAOS …

Shoppers appear in front of a Costco store
Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Like most any retail store, Costco prides itself on presenting a clean, efficient, and organized layout that holds little trace of the labor that went into overnight stocking or display preparation. But if a customer ever happened to see the store in the last hour before opening each day, they’d witness a flurry of activity. “It's controlled chaos with loud music along with the blaring of the forklift sirens,” Steve says. “Employees are rushing to finish and clean up, drivers are rushing to put merchandising in the steel [shelving], and the floor scrubber slowly but surely makes its way around the warehouse. It truly is a remarkable choreography that happens seven days a week.”

14. … AND EVERY CLOSING IS A SLOW MARCH.

To avoid stragglers, Costco employees form a line and walk down aisles to encourage customers to move toward the front of the store so they can check out before closing. Once the doors are locked, overnight stocking begins in anticipation of another day at the world’s coziest warehouse. “Our store has over 250 employees altogether,” Rachael says. “If all of us do our little bit, then it's a well-oiled machine that runs without a hitch.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios