The billion dollar hotdog stand
There’s a little hotdog stand outside every shopping center, supermarket, mall, and street corner in the world. It looks run down and nasty, but somehow they’re still in business. You’ve never had one. Well, once. You spent the next day feeling sick so you never went back.
How on earth are they worth $300 Billion dollars, so much that nobody in the world can seem to nail an exact number down? They’ve got hotdog stands on every continent, and an accounting department the size of the FBI? All they do is sell hotdogs! If nobody you know has ever purchased one of their products, how the hell are they worth so much money?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. The old guy standing over the grill is on the phone pretty much all day. When he sees you leave the store, he gives his friends a quick ring and tells them what you bought. When you ditch your receipt in the convenient trash can in front of his stand, he grabs it and reads that over the phone too. When you pull out, he’ll even tell them what kind of car you drive or if you take the bus which route you get on.
He keeps saying that if you let him have your shopping receipt and a photocopy of your ID you can have one on the house. Somehow he knows your name and asks you how the cat food you bought last week was. Other times he’ll offer heavily discounted bootleg electronics from his cousin’s van.
You might think it’s creepy, but they call it “data enrichment”. Thanks to all the phone calls, his boss can sell insights to local used car salesmen and drug dealers so they can better focus their efforts on certain demographics. He knows exactly what kinds of products your town buys, and exactly the kinds of xanax and boner pills to sell you.
And that guy’s boss gets even more data. He knows all the guys writing news papers, all the guys at the political parties, and all the guys running the banks. You might see an old guy in a messy apron with some grill tongs, but if you look a little closer you’ll see the most successful espionage enterprise ever operated.