General Question

flo's avatar

Can you tell by the signage if the different retailers that you shop at have one owner?...

Asked by flo (11145points) November 10th, 2010

For example, do Tom’s Toy Store, and Mary’s Toy Store, and Lindsey’s Toy Store, have to have a common logo, or some other indicator that they are owned by Bob? Or do you have to do internet search or some other kind of search to find out? Is there a disclosure law in your region that makes it impossible to hide the monopoly?

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23 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

No, you cannot tell. Wendy’s, for example, has 6000+ locations in several countries. And its founder was named Dave.

coffeenut's avatar

each business you own can have it’s own name/sign, (in my area)

my boss has two businesses different names different signs same service.

If you want to know why not just ask them if they have the same owner?

flo's avatar

@jaytkay Wendy’s locations are all named Wendy’s are they not? I am refering to diffently named stores.
@coffeenut this is not about me and the stores that I use. It is about the legal point of view. Do you have laws that govern bills, the elecricity etc. bills? It is the same kind of thing. It is about not having to ask each store, and each kind of store one by one. That is unnecessary work.

jaytkay's avatar

@flo I misunderstood.

But I don’t understand why it matters whether or not a store’s ownership is proclaimed on its storefront.

coffeenut's avatar

I don’t understand either.

lillycoyote's avatar

I think you would have to search for that information, as to who actually owned any individual business. Some businesses that work on a franchise model would have guidlines about what you, as a franchise owner can do, how far you can deviate from the company line. And I think some shopping centers have rules and guidelines regarding your signage, even if you own the business outright and some people will sometimes create very similar signs and logos to capitalize on someone else’s business, though if you go to far on that sort of thing, you’re going to get yourself sued for trademark infringement… so… no, I don’t think you can tell very much at all from store or fast food logo. Many chain store and fast food places work on a franchise model and they may all look the same but you have no way of knowing who actually owns one or more of the franchises. And some business could appear on the surface to be completely separate enterprise and turn out to all be owned by the same person or the same parent company.

And as to a disclosure law, I don’t know. I don’t know how the whole franchise system works, really. Privately held companies are not subject to the same public “disclosure” regulations and standards that publicly traded companies are, no matter how big or how small.

flo's avatar

@jaytkay
@coffeenut
It is for the same reason that they have disclosure laws. Take me out of the question. It has to do with the public in general.

flo's avatar

@jaytkay
@coffeenut
The words “monopoly”, and “hide” are key. For people who are against competiton, and fairness, informed decision, then there is no need for disclosure.

jaytkay's avatar

@flo If an Internet search reveals the ownership, it’s disclosed.

flo's avatar

The ideal store owners would want people to know at a glance, without having to do any search. A lot of people even just in the USA, don’t own a computer by the way, so it is is only technically that it is not hidden.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, you can’t tell. Many stores on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach look like different businesses, but they are all owned by the same family.

lillycoyote's avatar

@flo I don’t know if this is the issue here but… I certainly like to know who I’m doing business with. I prefer to do business with independently owned businesses, for a number of reasons. I like supporting them and I think I get much better service at those kinds of stores and businesses than at the big chains. I would much rather go to my local hardware store than Home Depot or Lowe’s. Some things may cost a little more but as I said, I get better service; they know what they’re talking about. I think overall I end up saving money because they will tell me when I can solve my problem with a 79 cent part whereas if I deal with one of the larger chain stores I either can’t find anyone to help me or if I do, they don’t know much more than I do, if that, and I sometimes end up buying more solution than I need. That happened when my toilet needed repairs. I was ready to go out and get everything I needed to replace all the parts in my tank but I stopped at my local hardware store and explained the problem, they told me that all I needed was this little part that cost $1.79 and told me how to do the repair. Replacing all the innards would have cost me about $25.

You can say that “The ideal store owners would want people to know at a glance, without having to do any search.” Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t but they are not obligated to disclose any more than the law requires them to disclose. I think the best way to know exactly who it is you are doing business with is to go into the store and find out. You can learn pretty quickly whether the store independently owned, is part of a chain, is an independently owned franchise, or is actually owned by some company that is owned by yet some other company. You just have to ask. No business owner is obligated to disclose anything that is not require by law and certainly not his or her connection with any other company on the front of the store, before you even walk in.

We all have a certain responsibility to decide who we want to do business with and then do the research if we have personal standards or preferences for who that ends up being.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Businesses file ownership papers with the Secretary of State’s office in each state. Businesses can be set up a number of ways, either incorporated, partnerships or limited liability corporations (LLC). Additionally, a business can be a holding company, with DBAs (doing business as), such as BarnacleBill Inc., DBA CatsRUs, Old Dog Bakery, and Help Me Rhonda Counseling Services, LLC.

The county clerk’s office in each county should have a book of businesses in their county. That would be a good place to start, or the secretary of state office.

Just because one company owns several similar businesses under different names, that doesn’t make them a monopoly unless they are controlling the supply side as well as the selling side, precluding a competitor from moving into the market.

lillycoyote's avatar

@BarnacleBill Good answer, I forgot about that option. I still prefer to simply walk into a business and figure out who I’m dealing with. I’m not going to go down to the hall of records every time I decide to go shopping, though.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I am trying to think of the relevance of this question, and the only thing I can come up with is small, rural towns were the largest employer owns the grocery store, general store, gas station, etc, and is making money off its employees because there is no competition for conveniently providing goods; purchasing items from a different store involves a long drive. That would be a monopoly.

Otherwise, in a larger city context, if Bob owns three toy stores under three different names, there’s always Amazon, Target or Walmart for toy purchases. As I’m writing this, I am reminded that ToysRUs at one point acquired a small educational toy store franchise, and continuted to operate them separately, then merged the smaller company into its operations and the lines eventually disappeared. In 2001, Toys R Us went from a privately owned business to a publicly traded company, owned primarily by a holding company. in 2009, the company acquired FAO Schwartz, resulting in the two largest toy stores in the US being owned by the same company.

What generally happens with the shift from private ownership to public trading is that the business moves away from the owners primary mission of making money by doing X, to simply making money for stockholders. In order to gain operational efficiencies , the identity and the individuality of acquired companies disappears as purchasing practices are consolidated into the parent company.

downtide's avatar

In the UK there’s no way to tell without looking at the register of Companies. The only exception is pubs and restaurants, and shops where alcohol is sold, where the licensee (who is usually but not necessarily the owner) must have their name displayed.

flo's avatar

@BarnacleBill the monopoly in the the small town senario, can’t be helped really. But if it is all “Bob’s gas station” “Bob’s restaurant”, Bob’s everything else. So it is not hidden. But if Bob decided to use different names, it is a monopoly but the public gets the impression that it is not. Wherever they go people should just know that they are not tricked into buying from the wrong ..

BarnacleBill's avatar

Why does it matter who owns it if they have an item you need, the price is fair, and their return policy is good? Those are all valid reasons to purchase from a business, or to shop elsewhere. We have a number of shoe shops in an area of town. They are all owned by the same Lebanese family; they bought up the competitors as they went out of business, but continued to run the shops under the original names. The shoe stores all have similar merchandise, but very different customers, which is interesting. People stayed loyal to their favorite shop. He could consolidate them, but he does more business this way, and employs more people.

flo's avatar

@BarnacleBill So, you don’t mind being tricked? I used that word above. If it doesn’t matter to the store owner, why would the owner not ensure everyone knows? It is upto the customer why it matters to them, right? It matters for the reason why disclosure laws exist anywhere, in any context.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I don’t give a rat’s ass who owns the store as long as the business is run correctly, they treat me fairly, their merchandise, pricing, and return policy is fair. If the business isn’t what I want, there’s always Amazon.

What are you not saying in this question? Why would I feel tricked? Why would I care? Do you know who owns Starbucks? Does not knowing keep you from going in there?

flo's avatar

@BarnacleBill it is for the people who need to know, not for the people who don’t need to know. It is not your issue.

esurient_one's avatar

@flo Your question has validity and from my understanding of the United States Antitrust Law, the short answer to your question appears to be YES…especially if they are conducting business of the same nature in an area small enough that competition could be impacted negatively. One of the obvious advantages from operating in a manner deceitful as such would be price rigging…a big No-No in antitrust law.

As for the situations others have mentioned where one person owns multiple businesses of different natures in concentrated areas and otherwise, I believe disclosure is still legally required if the businesses operates under one entity…ie; if the money from one business supports the other. Should the businesses be able to support themselves on their own and are operated under separate entities, no disclosure appears to be required by law. In my opinion, the loopholes created here allow very poor business practices to go unnoticed by the public. If you dont want to do business with “Bob” anymore it is extremely pertinent to know the businesses “Bob” owns.

How certain people do not seem to see a problem with this literally blows my mind.

flo's avatar

@esurient_one you are right on the money. Consumers should know that they are not enriching someone who commited some crime, take Maidoff for eg. if he had gotten off on technicality. That is just one example.

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