The whole thing actually reminds me of the time I invented the iPod. See, I'd always liked listening to music while I ran, but my darn "walkman" kept skipping. So I called up the CEO of the company I was a contract security worker at, and I said "Mr. Jobs, Mr. Jobs, have I got an idea for you!"
Much like the Catch Me If You Can scammer who came up a few weeks ago, who turns out to have just been a forger of small checks who clung to people in a really creepy way, but parlayed the same basic lying techniques into being a Hollywood antihero whose criminal genius had the FBI hanging off his every word when they eventually caught up with him
As for the rest, it does all seem to be complete lies. He didn't invent the flavor, he didn't come up with the idea based on his Hispanic heritage, he didn't pitch the CEO as a janitor.
If someone is trying to sell you their strategy for amazing success it matters whether they are actually an amazing success or not. It also matters whether they succeeded by using their own strategy or not. His "take ownership" philosophy might be what drove his success at Fritos, but I'd bet it was more of the typical hard work, creativity, luck, and lying.
His history of lying and taking credit for other peoples' work certainly does cast doubt on the merits of his rise up the corporate ladder. Anyone who has spent time in the corporate world has met people in high-ranking positions who they felt didn't really deserve to be there. I know nothing about this guy's time at Frito-Lay, so of course I can't really say anything about whether his success there was merited. But I'm definitely not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, either.
Don't you think such lies are commonplace these days, unfortunately? This one seems run of the mill to me.
Because it's not an inflammatory topic, it might be a useful case to examine and learn how lies like that function.
Reread the article. It concludes he pitched the concept of a marketing line called “Sabrositas” in 1994. Sabrositas included pre-existing products, including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which had been on shelves as early as 1989. It also included the pre-existing cheeto flavouring on top of popcorn, which was his only new product in the line. And he was already an exec, having been promoted from a Machinist (not janitor) apparently on the basis of initiative shown in waste-reduction ideas and not cheetos-flavour invention, when he pitched Sabrositas.
Alone, it requires a lot of charity to square this with his version of events. Did he, in picking products for his marketing pitch, somehow imagine the cheetos one didn’t exist before he picked it? Did he forget that he was an exec when he pitched the marketing line, too?
But on top of that you have all the elaborate details of his claim of having developed the flavour profile (in talks, he literally claims to have sat around fucking around with spices trying to get the flavour right) and dunked unflavoured cheetos into it to present to the CEO & execs, when again the article concludes that the seasoning is sourced from a supplier called McCormick since 1989, years before his pitch. His claim of convincing all his family to buy out the test market for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, in California where the Flamin Hot Cheetos test market wasn’t, years after it had already entered general sales. And the secretary remembering that he first spoke to the CEO in 1993-1994, only after he was already an exec, despite his elaborate story of pitching to the CEO (who wasn’t the CEO at the time he was a janitor) as a janitor, which he hadn’t been for over a decade when the CEO joined and he made his pitch.
It requires something well beyond charity to believe he genuinely believes his story when so much of it is based on elaborate details that are well out of line with the bare facts.
Funny to hear it described like this. The McCormick in question is almost certainly this one:
If you’re aware of what they do, though, it really further undermines the idea that he’s just misrembering: McCormick does a ton of R&D on seasonings to match the evolution of market tastes, and it makes complete sense that Frito Lay when developing new products to trial does so by buying seasonings that match the market profile they want out of their catalog, and doesn’t have janitors sitting at home mixing Cheeto dust and cayan and other spices for weeks to singlehandedly invent new flavourings to pitch to CEOs, when bulk spice ingredient purchasing and mixing isn’t even the business Frito Lay is actually in.
It may be incredibly bold to you because you likely have a reputation to lose. This guy had nothing to lose. If you have muscles you can always get another unskilled job.
In any case, considering how good he is at bullshitting, they should maybe promote him as VP of marketing.
I know of a politician (a POLITICIAN!) who invented the internet. So there.
The politician you have in mind, Al Gore, claimed credit for driving funding to develop, among other things, the internet. Which, in fact, he did. He also earned a Nobel Prize for his role in alerting a very large number of people to the now rapidly unfolding disaster of global climate disruption. Had more listened, then, things might be better now.
There are some good ones there. Actual quotes.
How a janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos (2017) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25510351 - Dec 2020 (261 comments)
A janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (2017) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20227175 - June 2019 (356 comments)
The Janitor Who Hacked Cheetos - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3764044 - March 2012 (9 comments)
> Maybe I'm just cynical, but this story seems too perfect to me. It smells a lot like PR fiction. Would they really need a janitor to come up with the idea of spicy Cheetos? Seems like something they would've already been experimenting with as part of normal R&D.
Why can't people just be honest? He has an inspiring story without all the embellishments, I wish he would have just stuck to it.
Everyone on that thread was congratulating him (which I guess is what people do when someone posts positive news) but the wikipedia entry was pretty much a copy paste job about someone that had a normal career (school, some job, now a PM at some co., early 30s) with normal accomplishments and it just smelled of 'self-promotion'. The wiki entry was also created two weeks prior by someone who primarily had only contributed this one major edit/post.
Obviously it's not something I felt was my position to point out by commenting on this congratulatory thread of someone I didn't even know but it just reeked of BS.
The irony is that people will see that LinkedIn/wiki post and ascribe some attributes to this person which will probably help him in his career and anyone who says otherwise will be labelled a 'hater' or some other term.
I guess my point is that embellishments and exaggerations work for the same reason that many scams work - a lot of people are gullible/can be fooled by them and it results in a net positive outcome for the perpetrators.
Without that embellishment, he may not have had any success as a motivational speaker.
And let's consider this: He was a marketing exec. Now he's marketing himself.
This is the rug that ties the room together :)
If only the "McDonald's Milkshake Job to Be Done" would be next.
There is a huge incentive for motivational speakers to embellish, emphasize the interesting parts, and downplay the boring parts and the parts that we don't want to hear (i.e. that being successful often requires a good amount of raw talent and luck).
I try not to be a curmudgeon about it and give people the benefit of the doubt, but my life experience has largely taught me that people are willing to lie much more often than not when there's money on the line.
So it sounds very plausible that he did in fact create a "hot cheeto" that may have gone on to inspire the broadly marketed flamin' hot cheetos we see today.
“We value Richard’s many contributions to our company, especially his insights into Hispanic consumers, but we do not credit the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or any Flamin’ Hot products to him.”
This names the person who branded the line but with an internal investigation I would expect the person and the story of how the flavour itself was conceived to be reported.
Seems like there's more to the story than is being told by both sides. The company story would be more believable with more details. There's no reason not to believe that official company records didn't credit a janitor who conceived and prototyped a flavour by someone in a position who was happy to take credit. Could be either way or a bit of both not wanting to give or share credit for whatever reasons.
> Frito-Lay’s statement contradicted its former CEO. “According to our records, McCormick, Frito-Lay’s longtime seasoning supplier, developed the Flamin’ Hot seasoning and sent initial samples to Frito-Lay on Dec. 15, 1989,” the statement said. “This is essentially the same seasoning Frito-Lay uses today.”
He may not even realize he's lying. Things get foggy after 20 years. But that doesn't change the truth. And the truth appears to be that he helped develop a similar product aimed at the Hispanic market that isn't in production today. The dates, locations, and people he claims were involved don't line up at all with the evidence that's out there for him to have been the one that pitched the flaming hot idea.
I suspect that Flamin Hot Cheetos were released early on, and after Montanez' pitch for Sabrositas, they involved him with the design of the existing product even more. But taking claim for inventing Flamin Hot Cheetos is quite simply fraud, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence against those claims.
And c'mon. Lance Armstrong. What a let down. I do respect him for owning up to it at least at some point. That had to take... guts.
I also recognize that he's not a good person. I listen to his podcast from time to time and he comes across as a total narcissist. It literally makes me cringe sometimes. He's not someone that I would wish to emulate or I would want my kids to emulate.
That actually kind of makes me like him more, though. He's not just some legend. He's a real, flawed human being who also happens to have the most interesting career in all of cycling (in my opinion).
Except maybe the late Arty Lang. He was pretty up front about being a piece of shit.
Reminds me of an old joke. "What's the easiest way to tell a comedian has made up a story? They start with, 'now this one really happened to me'."
For example, my mom's long-time accounting coworker claimed repeatedly that someone "stole" her business plan in a business class and then went on to launch Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza franchise.
0. Terry Collins? About the right age and location, but did they attend business classes at the same time?
Doesn't have the same Hollywood ring ...
I thought "SPAC" was a terrible idiom. "Blank-check vehicle" is certainly worse.
“ A blank check company is a development stage company that has no specific business plan or purpose or has indicated its business plan is to engage in a merger or acquisition with an unidentified company or companies, other entity, or person. These companies typically involve speculative investments and often fall within the SEC’s definition of "penny stocks" or are considered "microcap stocks."
In addition, a blank check company registering for a securities offering may be subject to additional requirements for the protection of investors, including depositing most of the raised funds in an escrow account until an acquisition is agreed to and requiring shareholder approval of any identified acquisition.
A type of blank check company is a “special purpose acquisition company,” or SPAC for short. A SPAC is created specifically to pool funds in order to finance a merger or acquisition opportunity within a set timeframe. The opportunity usually has yet to be identified.”
And if Frito-Lay is promoting this story, even though it's not true, because it sounds "good" how is it any different/less offensive from "Aunt Jemima" or "Uncle Ben"? (i.e., fictional characters invented to create a narrative.) It seems patronizing and offensive.
It sounds like he’s simplified part of the story, maybe exaggerated a little, and maybe changed some of the specific product names to ones that are more generally recognizable. But the core of the story is true.
This is no different than how any other energetic, extroverted, outgoing, optimistic sales / marketing executive I’ve worked with would behave (let alone - a founder trying to pitch a VC). They’re not necessarily being dishonest - not everyone has an engineer or a scientist’s analytical memory and linear, organized view of cause and effect. And it’s not as if we’re talking about presenting evidence from a clinical study for a cancer drug here - the man is just telling a story, everyone knows that.
Not sure this merits the tone of the headline or the start of the article, which certainly will give 90% of the people who just skim it the impression he made the whole thing up.
The real shocking part of the article is to find out that we (black kids growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the 80s) invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos because of our addiction to putting hot sauce on our chips. I honestly thought everybody did that, and didn't understand the early rise of the Flamin' Hots craze - I assumed there were always products like that available, because there were always local products like that available in Chicago.
> This is no different than how any other energetic, extroverted, outgoing, optimistic sales / marketing executive I’ve worked with would behave (let alone - a founder trying to pitch a VC). They’re not necessarily being dishonest - not everyone has an engineer or a scientist’s analytical memory and linear, organized view of cause and effect. And it’s not as if we’re talking about presenting evidence from a clinical study for a cancer drug here - the man is just telling a story, everyone knows that.
You could just shorten this to "who cares, it's just another bullshit artist."
seems likely he was involved in different product lines with very similar names
Those lines he came up with do not exist anymore, however, because I'm pretty sure Hispanic stores just import lime-chile brands from Mexico. They weren't an original idea, they're common.
Hella good too.
> our addiction to putting hot sauce on our chips
sounds absolutely delicious, is it as simple as it sounds?
So it’s not out of the question that the guy sincerely believed his push for a latino-marketed chips in the early 90s was widely adopted and rebranded.
He’s also a bit of a story teller, so I feel like this is more a case of “Big Fish” rather than a “Talented Mr Ripley”.
> “None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a statement to The Times, in response to questions about an internal investigation whose existence has not been previously disclosed. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.
> One photograph, posted to Instagram in October 2019 but now deleted, shows four pieces of lined notebook paper, labeled “mild,” “reg,” “hot” and “extra hot,” with Cheetos piled on top of each. At the bottom of one, Montañez signed his name and wrote the date “1988.”
> In another post, now deleted, he wrote that he worked on the Doritos Salsa Rio flavor in 1998 — a product that first hit test markets in 1987, according to Advertising Age articles from that year.
>But Enrico did not work at Frito-Lay when Flamin’ Hot products were developed. His move to Frito-Lay was announced in December 1990, and he took over control at the beginning of 1991 — nearly six months after Flamin’ Hots were already out in the test market.
He is a fraud. End of.
EDIT: Apparently that is also disputed, however.
Then they asked the company about that, and Frito Lay responded that they’ve been buying the same seasoning from McCormick since the initial 1989 test market trials in the northeast that predate Montañez’s 1993-1994 Sabrositas pitch. Not only has it not been reformulated, Montañez entire story (not directly related in this article) of single handedly developing the flavouring to dunk unflavoured cheetos he took home with him for his pitch must be bullshit, since it’s entirely developed by and sourced from a third-party company.
> Carey said he was unsure how to account for that contradiction. “I’m sure if you went back into the Frito-Lay history, OK, there’s probably something in 1990 that was a test market on a spicy product,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if it was this same ingredient, but it could have been, I guess.”
“Ok sure, the entire product may already have been in test somewhere else and I’d be very surprised to learn it had all the same ingredients”, which it did. Incredible stuff. Probably just a coincidence he also gets co-speaking fees with Montañez in some appearances.
A bit of rant, but people like this are toxic and need to be weeded out of organizations. I’ve seen too much of folks getting away with such behavior in my career.
If it was then he's perfect for corporate America and fully deserves his position.
I too did not invent Flamin' Hot Cheetos. But I also did not invent Sabrositas! In fact, I can supply you with a very long list of unhealthy, unhygienic, and even actively toxic junk foods I did not invent. We need not delve into the worlds of trans fatty acids, glucose-to-fructose conversion enzymes, or other current public-health disasters which I have had no hand in -- many of which I don't even know about.
This is the most disturbing thing reported in the article. Who cares who invented a one more type of over-processed shit? What we should care about is that it's marketed to kids.
Or to anyone. The message plastered everywhere should be: don't eat that shit. It's bad for you.
Oh and the article above is just so much white-washed corporate propaganda and advertisement. An entire article about who invented a product and not one warning about the product's unhealthiness.
Can I ask back? My concern is that junk food is junk food. What is your concern with me pointing it out? Am I really causing such irreparable damage by pointing out that it's shit and people shouldn't eat it? And is the damage I cause by pointing out it's shit more than the damage that's caused for example by advertising this shit to kids over 12?
What is your concern, exactly, with my comment, can you explain?
Free time to waste and a reaction to what I perceived as a weird moralizing tangent to a throwaway line only aimed at building social proof of importance for the article's main content about correcting the details of a rags-to-riches tale. (You're probably right it should just be written off as a submarine, though I'm happy for the correction since even the corrected tale provides an example in favor of one of Deming's principles, and it's better for examples to be as factual as possible.) I also was curious that if I mentioned that the marketing to kids angle isn't there and that people are already well aware of what junk food is, would you still be so disturbed?
And I do think you're erroneous in jumping from something being popular with kids to something being marketed to (or even "aimed straight at") kids, though in the process of typing up an even longer comment I realized this isn't entirely fair because one generally expects companies to market to their big consumers. Are kids big consumers? Probably or else the snack wouldn't be popular enough to cause a ruckus, but after a minute's search I didn't find any demographic data addressing more than just adults so beyond the company statement I'm only left with intuition. (FWIW after looking at demographic data I saw a surprising blurb that "America’s Favorite Snack for the Third Year in a Row Is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos". My intuition suggests this is best explained by being most popular with adults, for themselves, rather than kids or teens.) But maybe you'll find a commercial or something to show me that I'm wrong and it definitely is aimed at them, particularly any time recently.
> Why does it make it any better if it's not marketed to kids under 12?
I'm not sure you're even asking this seriously. For an imperfect analogy I would suggest without getting into much reasoning that it's better that society restricts cigarette companies from marketing to kids but lets them continue marketing to adults. If we got into it I think the general principle I'd be going for first would revolve around improved cognition as you age into adulthood, but I don't think it's much better or worse whether this particular junk snack isn't marketed to kids, in part from my own biases that include a fondness for 90s commercials and cartoons.
> Is it more healthy to eat shit when you're over 12?
Generally yes, though the correlation depends on the specific type of shit and often more on weight more so than age... Still, as you age beyond childhood, you tend to get heavier, and your body can tolerate more abuse from lots of kinds of things.
> Am I really causing such irreparable damage by pointing out that it's shit and people shouldn't eat it?
I don't think you're causing damage, I just think it was a weird comment with misplaced moralizing about the kids, and your followup makes me all the more curious whether it's ultimately just a complaint against junk food existing in general. Or is there something about this particular food that you think is egregiously unhealthy? So it's clear, I didn't like this particular flavor when I tried it perhaps 12 years ago, though I do enjoy regular cheetos from time to time (especially when I worked in an office and they were free); I would never mistake them for healthy food, but 1) I think they taste good and 2) I don't think they're particularly unhealthy.
Though my language wasn't technical, I made a qualititative comment about the
substance of the product we're disucssing (and later about its specific list of
ingredients on which I have a lot more to say; but I'm waiting for the other
poster's reply to my comment for that), not about the moral character of the
people who consume it. For example, I didn't say "if you eat this stuff you're a
bad person". I said "don't eat this shit. It's bad for you".
"It's bad for you". Not "you're bad". You wrote six paragraphs in response to
something I never said. And with a condescending attitude ("I'm not sure you're
even asking this seriously").
What can I say? Life on the internet would be so much better if we didn't all
constantly make assumptions about each other's intent and instead asked the
question "what do you mean?" before jumping straight in to do battle.
For instance, you could have asked this, and I'd 've been happy to answer:
> I don't think you're causing damage, I just think it was a weird comment with misplaced moralizing about the kids, and your followup makes me all the more curious whether it's ultimately just a complaint against junk food existing in general.
Yes, it's a complaint about junk food in general. I care about food (see
username) and I'm disturbed to find that most of the food people eat in
developed countries is mass produced shit sold to them by a degenerate food
industry that destroys the environment and consumers' health; and in the process
has taken away the ability of most people to cook a nutritious, healthy and
satisfying meal for themselves. I'm even more disturbed that people are so
used to eating this shit that they protest when anyone reminds them it's shit or
tries to show them how to eat a good, cheap meal instead - like the British moms
that fed their kids kebabs over the school gates when school meals switched to
something more healthy than mac'n'cheese and fries (it was in the news back
then, related to some initiative by Jamie Oliver. You can probably find it on
the web, otherwise let me know and I'll find you a link).
And so, on we go. I say "don't eat that shit. It's bad for you". And you say I'm
moralising, and another poster complains about "handholding" and "coddling".
Because this whole subject of what we eat, which is really a practical matter of
measurable quantities and predictable outcomes that should be discussed on
technical terms, has become a political issue that is only ever discussed in
emotional terms. Even on "Hacker News".
Which is supposed to be all about intellectual curiosity. Where's the
intellectual curiosity in ruminating over the same old boring culture war
issues? Aren't you curious instead why people eat shit when they know it's shit
and even call it junk food themselves, like you say? Because thats what I am
No, because to me it's obvious. They eat it for obvious reasons, four that immediately come to mind include 1) to them it's not shit 2) it tastes good 3) it's part of addictive behavior, which may or may not have a component based in chemical dependence 4) it's fast and accessible (and often inexpensive, though I frequently shake my head when I'm reminded how much markup a gas station store has over a grocery store for the same items yet nonetheless sell a good volume).
I'm even more mystified about your sudden reminder that we're on "Hacker News". How long have you been on HN? (I assume this isn't your first account.) Old HN died a long time ago.
What kind of stance is it then? It doesn't sound like an economic stance, or a legal stance. And it doesn't sound like your motivation is so that you personally won't have to see them.
It's a political stance, not a moral one. As I said earlier, I didn't make any moral judgements about the people who eat that snack, or even for the people who sell it, although to be fair I do have a few choice words for the latter. Anyway in my book accusing someone of "moralising" is most of the time something people say to shut down conversation.
I didn't understand what you mean by your last sentence.
> It is plastered on the bag under "Nutrition Facts."
I don't have a bag handy, but I'm looking up nutrition facts online, and I can't see anything about the product being unhealthy ultra-processed shit:
What I can see is a list of ingredients:
> Enriched Corn Meal (Corn Meal, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, and/or Sunflower Oil), Flamin' Hot Seasoning (Maltodextrin [Made from Corn], Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Artificial Color [Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5], Sunflower Oil, Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Onion Powder, Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor, Buttermilk, Sodium Diacetate, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate), and Salt.
CONTAINS MILK INGREDIENTS.
Never expected MSN to put this much effort into such a random topic.
I like how this guys became successful by literally lying
And according to this article, it wasn't white people that came up with the flaming hot idea in the first place. It came from black neighborhoods in Chicago.
I didn't say that white people invented Flamin Hot cheetos - I said that it's common for diversity advocates to utilize stereotypes as long as they punch in the "right" direction. But the feeling I got from my diversity lecture at work was that "Management at Frito Lay couldn't think of Flamin hot cheetos because they were too white".
Also, I'm not sure where you're getting that the idea came from black neighborhoods. No one has their demographics called out in the article from what I can tell, and it seems like Fred Lindsay, Sharon Owens, and Lynne Greenfeld helped develop the brand - maybe they're black, I don't know. The only place I can imagine you getting that is by guessing that the clientele in Chicago corner stores and gas stations is mostly black, and that clientele is the same clientele that would buy the pre-existing non-cheetos spicy products. Maybe that's the case, but then that isn't a particularly strong point for diversity advocates, which was the basis of my post, if your company can be completely, say, white, and all you have to do is look at what is selling well in "ethnic" neighborhoods and copy it.
I got the idea that it came from black neighborhoods from another comment on here saying it came from black neighborhoods. I don't know anything about Chicago, so I assumed they knew what they were talking about when they said those neighborhoods were largely black.
I don't understand what's so bad about realizing that other cultures have different tastes and they may very well know about a delicious combo that you don't see in the mostly white suburbs where I'm from. What's wrong with saying that instead of writing off curry and spicy chips as foreign, maybe we should try them?
I hate this focus on race and ethnicity. Genetically, it's an incredibly hard thing to nail down, if it's even possible. Let's not be like my grandmother saying that n-words and illegals eat gross things and she only wants to try things that her gradually expanding definition of white says is OK. Differences in culture are a good thing. They make life richer and more varied.
Why shouldn't we make it a point to listen to the voices that have been pushed into the background for the last couple centuries. There's obviously a lot to learn and a lot we're missing out on.
What percent of readers will get past the first 60+ paragraphs to learn that Montañez did come up with one Flamin' Hot product, even if it was much later than he claims?
>“After testing recipes and outlining a marketing strategy, Montañez burst forth with a kernel of an idea: Flamin’ Hot Popcorn, which will soon make its debut.” An industry news wire announced that Flamin’ Hot Popcorn did in fact hit shelves in March 1994, as an extension of the Flamin’ Hot line that Greenfeld and her colleagues had rolled out four years earlier.