Yet another meaningless list: The 10 “best” companies in America

It’s not that I don’t believe the 30,000 members of the general public surveyed by Harris Interactive are telling the truth, when it comes to the most reputable companies. It isn’t even that I don’t think the winners deserve to be highly ranked.

No, it’s the fact that the list, such as it is — at least the top 10 — is almost completely meaningless to the average consumer. What it means to corporate America, however, may be the most troubling.

Let’s start with the list:

1. Google
2. Johnson & Johnson
3. 3M Company
4. Berkshire Hathaway
5. Apple
6. Intel
7. Kraft Foods
9. General Mills
10. The Walt Disney Company

Sure, all of these companies have solid reputations. But c’mon. How is this going to affect the way you buy products?

Take Berkshire Hathaway or Intel. Berkshire is a diversified company whose stock price is $122,310. Are you going to do business with BRK — or not — because of the Harris list? I don’t think so.

And Intel? Do we have any choice, when it comes to the microprocessor in our PC. Not really.

How about Google? It has a commanding market share among search engines, because it’s the best. Ditto for cloud-based email (Gmail) and browsers (Chrome). The list just reinforces the fact that there’s nothing better out there for us to use, which may say more about the lack of innovation in corporate America than it does about Google.

In fact, as you go down the list — Apple, Disney, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson — it’s pretty clear that there are no real alternatives to their products. I mean, nothing comes close to a Mac or an iPhone (sorry, Android fan boys). Those fake Cheerios at the grocery store? Blech!

Employees at the top 10 in corporate America may be doing high-fives because of this list, but I’m actually depressed by it. I’m struck by the lack of robust competition and innovation and troubled by the rise in de-facto monopolies.

But what’s worse, I’m bothered that American consumers would reward the very companies who dominate their industries, often unfairly, and often to the detriment of their own customers.

Maybe having a “good” reputation isn’t such a good thing, after all.

(Photo: Laughing Squid/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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