101 Dumbest Moments in Business
What do you think of our latest list of dumbest moments in business for 2006? Have you ever worked for the companies that made the list? Or been on the receiving end of their dumb behavior? The best replies will be published here, and possibly in a future story on CNNMoney.com.
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My Comment regarding the Bank of America outsourcing is we should now call them "Bank of India"
And how much did the executives make??? I bet they wouldn't even pay someone to dumpster dive!
With ridiculous compensation packages from various companies when are the stockholders/consumers going to say ENOUGH....if there are no customers a company can't offer multi million dollar packages...or should the government step in and say if you can pay one person that much than you can pay more taxes
John Edwards decided to sign his book at Barnes and Noble instead of Walmart . He was protesting their low wages. The only problem is Barnes and Noble pay their employees a lot less than Walmart.
Enough bashing Walmart(the greatest thing that happened to America)
Having worked for BMS during the reign of "P. Dolan", I can attest that Dolan's court of advisers and senior VPs were nothing short of a group of Yes Men and Yes Women. It does not surprise me that this blunder made the Top 10...but the travesty of it all is that only Dolan paid the price for his mistake. BMS has yet to "clean house" and eliminate all of the worthless IP, Strategy and Marketing idiots who pushed these types of deals forward. Glad I'm out, thank you!
Comcast should fire itself. Their customer service has always sucked.
The board needs to pay attention to this or there will be no company left.
Northwest is by far the WORST Airline I have ever flown and has grossly inadequate customer service! I will NEVER fly Northwest again.
Comcast and Customer Service do not belong in the same sentance. Comcast does not believe in Customer Service and is incapable of providing Customer Service. A monopoly of the cable market will do that.
Walmart did the campaign as stated, and had a bad quarter etc, but nowhere do you show that there was a link between the two actions. Is there any evidence that the campaign caused the bad quarter? if so, you certainly fail to make that case. Pretty sloppy logic and writing if you ask me. No where do you show cause / result.
I think Taco Bell handled the situation very well. They stopped service till the problem was corrected, putting their customers ahead of their own profits. I wish I could say most corporations would do the same.
Plagiarism - not just in the business world. The piece regarding the artwork made out of meat products? The Belgian artist methinks ripped the idea off of a Canadian Artist, Montrealer Jana Sterbak who had done a similar exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa and was selected in 2003 to represent Canada in the Venice Bienale. Sterbak's exhibit titled "Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic" was made with 50 pounds of flank steaks mounted on a plastic mannequin. This exhibit first unveiling was at the National Gallery in Ottawa, 1987!
Other notable cities where Ms. Sterbak's flank steak dress have shown are London, Barcelona and Chicago.
Men....always stealing ideas from women.
Now that wal-mart has run most small business out of smaller towns, they don't need to worry about anything. If they are the only place to shop, what can the public to but shop there - right? Now they want to stop stocking certain items, cut back on sporting goods, and sewing/crafts.... maybe they should stop stocking all departments if they are not going to live up to the responsibility of supporting the community needs any better than they have been.
They are missing a great opportuinity... in many cases, they have the sole shopping opportunity in town..... so... why not make each department the top shop in town ...instead of carrying a min of products, expand each dept into it's own specialty shop... change the wal-mart theme to "wal-mart - we have it all..so you can too".. Then they could actually EARN customers instead of forcing them to shop for lack of choice...
Comcast, instead of firing their nodding employee, should take a look at the root of the problem, such as, why, the employee, as it's customers, was on hold for a RIDICULOUS amount of time.
I have the "102 Dumbest Moment in Business".
Getting a birthday card from State Farm Insurance wishing me a Happy Birthday and offering to add Auto to my other policy... on the same day that I got my Renewal notice raising my homeowner's insurance from $1,850/yr to $6,300/yr.
THAT was a nice touch.
I knew when I clicked on this feature that I would see Bob Nardelli (Home Depot) somewhere in the list. Since the founders stepped down and Nardelli gained control, Home Depot's quality and employee moral (not to mention benefits) have plummeted. Home Depot used to be known for good customer service that was prompted by happy employees. Since Nardelli focused only on dollars for stockholders and eliminated everything good about the company, he has hurt everyone.
#34, a coat made out of steaks? How many hungry people could have been fed by 'art' like this? I dont care how creative it might be, it's a shameful waste of food that could have been put to better use.
This is one of the best galleries that CNN.com has put together! I really enjoyed the pithy analysis and the graphics are excellent! Thanks again for entertaining us here in the heartland.
On #26 about RadioShack. Here is what I have to say. In August I was doing some electrical sub contracting work. So I was helping set up a new RS store about a mile or so away from HQ. As I was there I had a chance to talk to several "higher ups" and they told me about the lay offs days before it happend and what was interesting is that they seem to get "off" from the fact that people would show up to work only to find out they had just being fired. They even mentioned things like "I wish I could be there to see the face of so and so when he gets his email" or "I wish I was a fly on the wall in so and so department when #$*! hits the fan". I was also told that by noon everyone would be allowed to go home and "take it in". Pretty sad...by the way I think the reason they told me this is because I used to work for RS for three years and I still knew some higher ups...so I guess me mentioning names brought their guard down. Lol.
#45, about the "cryonics pioneers" who thawed in a freezer failure: What has this to do with business? They weren't clients of a cryonics firm, they were strictly do it yourself. They had no business, and never started one, so describing them as "pioneers" is a little odd as well. They used a conventional freezer, not the custom cryogenic equipment cryonics companies use (and which use no electricity and so cannot fail the way the Martinots did).
Would someone cutting off his thumb doing home renovations somehow be a failure of the contracting industry? That is the equivalent of what you are saying here.
Oh my god, the AOL one about cancelling service is so true. Do you know that I cancelled service with them in Oct of 05 via fax 3 x times and I still get a bill telling me I am being sent to collections. I just toss them in the garbage
About Northwest's guide to save money, what's wrong with making your own baby food? It's certainly cheaper and most likely will be more nutritious as well. The women in my family have been making baby food to supplement the stored purchased ones for years and the kids and healthy and happy.
Regarding Dumbest Moment #19, the firing of Melanie Martinez,
My daughter, who is two, loved watching Ms. Martinez on Sprout's "Good Night Show," and would often ask for her by name when she wanted to watch television. The fact that she also acted in a racy (and, in my opinion, extremely funny) short film was a terrible reason to fire her. After all, Sprout still airs episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine, which has been narrated by George "Seven Dirty Words" Carlin, as well as Alec Baldwin, who is no stranger to racy roles.
I don't mean to suggest that Carlin or Baldwin shouldn't get work narrating kids shows, or that Sprout shouldn't carry Thomas the Tank Engine. But there does seem to be a double standard here, and it's a shame that it cut against a young woman who doesn't yet have the career clout to be able to fend it off.
ok, that is really funny, but I must say that my experience with Comcast has been that the technichians that have responded to service calls at my home have been really fantastic. They've been courteous, extremely competent and professional. The telephone reps are another story. I've waited on hold forever and the reps on the phone are not very eager to actually help. Comcast also has an absurd policy of only scheduling service calls 48 hours in advance, so after waiting on hold and having no luck with the over-the-phone help, I'm told to call back in a few days if I want to set up a service call on the weekend. Boo! If I actually had a choice in high-speed internet (or cable, for that matter) I would take my business elsewhere.
That's just like comcast! Fire the poor guy they put to sleep by keeping him on endless hold instead of fixing the real problem. Shame on them.
Fiji water: not bottled in Cleveland.
The worst part is, they stole the line from the first season of Saturday Night Live. Dan Akroyd did a commercial for a spring water called "Swill" which was, of course, bottled in Cleveland. Us Clevelanders remember everything - and we have a chip on our shoulder.
I have some beef with item #77 (Bank of America IT employees told they need to train their outsourced Indian replacements as a condition of getting their severance packages).
Severance pay is not an entitlement (CEO jokes notwithstanding), it is a gift from a company to an employee to smooth things over. Additionally, knowledge transfer - and the risk of knowledge loss - is a major concern in outsourcing. For it to be an actual money-saving venture, the new employees can't be starting from nothing, or the continuity of service delivery is at risk. The outgoing employees have something (knowledge) that the company is willing to pay for. So, they offer severance packages if the employees are willing to do their company a favor on the way out. If it sounds somewhat callous, remember that the employees have the right to walk out the door anytime they feel like - as long as they don't expect any more cash coming their way.
This is not some Bob-and-Bob from Office Space scenario here. How the heck is this one of the dumbest moments in business? How is this anything other than a good business decision by BoA?
Disclaimer: I'm a management consultant who does IT outsourcing for financial firms, but we have never worked with BOA, and furthermore I actually believe what I'm saying.
Being one of those who "invested", I believe this should be number one on the list of dumbest business decisions. I should have known it was fishy when Vonage made the IPO available to average Joe's like myself. I am not part of the class action suit though I am looking for information on it now.
I see no problem with MS employees using Google. If I were a decision maker at MS I would strongly encourage aggressive use of Google - employees need to recognize the goods and bads of a competing service.
I don't think that one beats my having to wait for 4 weeks for Comcast to finally accept my explanation that all the wiring is already set for installation, only to catch the Comcast worker, who finally showed up for the installation, URINATING on our brand new home. Talk about caught with your pants down.
Our future is dismal indeed if the students being tested take the reins of our corporations and government. Their cheating could very well
translate into the same sort of conduct seen in some of our leaders today which has resulted in everything from shame to actual imprisonment.They are fooling no one but themselves and they will be ill prepared for the future by their lack of education as well. Where is their moral compass?
The two spelling moments were too funny. Spellcheckers drive me nuts. The guys I work with in India use them on the emails they send and the spellchecker always changes my name to "Dough".
The folks at Northwest Airlines, Delta and alike (those who stiff their hardworking employees pensions)all of them including Enron should be jailed for theft....or better yet send them to Iran where they cut off the right hand of thieves.
Yeah...no bias in this article at all. I mean, it is amazing that Wal-Mart could get 6 entries on this list, and stilll see their stock rise in 2006.
Re: Item #18
Where does this perception come from, that a stripper cannot be a good caretaker for small children? The two things have NOTHING to do with one another. Further, children's minds won't be "corrupted", because children do not go to strip clubs!!!
What a crock.
All of you big business hater better wise up and start thanking god they exist elsewise you would be digging salt in a siberian mine. You are patheticly stupid !!!!! and yes I said GOD, I'm sure you will take issue with that toooooooooo - geee tooooooo bad. !!!
RE: 35. Wal-Mart, Part 3
What? 2 years of home confinement for embezzling half a mil? Most similar criminals would be in the state pen!!!
I hope they let other cons make "conjugal visits" to his home!
Re: 85. U.S. Mint
I very much question their calculation of "cost". If we could believe the mint, it has cost U.S. taxpayers about $2 for every $1 printed since about 1960. If that were really true, I doubt we would even be a nation today.
The Heart Attack Grill's Quadruple Bypass Burger has been a big hit. How is that dumb business?
I have a comment regarding Item #77 concerning BofA, the outsourcing of IT work and the requirment to cross train for receipt of offered severence packages. Additionally, a response to a comment left by STEVE in NY posted on the 23rd.
Disclaimer: I am an IT professional currently still employed by BofA. My Opinions in no way reflect that of the company's or its business partners &/or affiliates, they are Mine and Mine alone. As much as I was directly affected by the practice in question, I still believe that BofA is a perfered employer and am proud to work for them.
#1 To Steve in NY, do your research! Upon employment within the company you enter into a signed contract, therfore oblicating BOTH parties to certain stipulations as drawn out by policies and guidelines. One of which is the right to severence package upon release from the company for any reason not diciplinary in nature. a full time associate is eligible to receive 2 weeks pay for every year they are with the company. Nowhere in the guidelines and policies applicable to my contract of employment did it ever state as a condition to receiving severence that I had to train my replacement counterpart (Which I did regardless of my personal feeling on the matter due to company loyalty). I was lucky enough to find another position in the company not affected by the outsourcing with the help of my supervisor at the time. Yet when offered the package, I too was told that training my replacement was a requirement. In my opinion the company was out of line in doing this. Put yourself in the shoes of an affected employee. it is a morally degrading and depressing feeling to be told that your job is being taken away from you for no reason other then really saving a shareholder $ and it is being given to a person in a 3rd world country who will do it for less. That in itself is a slap in the face, then only to get slapped again when you find out that you have to train the individual. An American company putting americans out of work, giving an american company job to a foreigner. Which in reality I researched to find out it actually ends up costing the company about $10k more a year outsourcing my position then it would of to keep me on. where is the logic in that. companies are run by people, people make mistakes and hopefully learn by them. no one is perfect. other then this topic of conversation - the company has always been good to me and I believe in what I am saying that Bank of America is the best company to work for and for the most part truely cares about its associoates. A bad choice was made, one of many more sure to be made. As much as the reasons for it beiong done were well intended, the mannerism of which it was done was morally wrong in my opinion. with that said - I will step down from my soap box.
WalMart became America's darling with their "Made in America" advertising. It would be hard to FIND something in WalMart that is made in America right now. If they want MY business, they should buy from American suppliers.
Walmart is like many corporations who have grown huge on the backs of their employees and customers. I have not worked for them but have many friends who do and have. Despite the folksy appearance it is their intent to drive all competition under and make more money. How about the revelation a few years ago that Walmart takes out a life insurance policy on every employee naming the corporation as the beneficiary?? They survived that one. When are people gonna say enough??
Everybody hates Wal-Mart except the millions of people who shop there everyday because of what if offers them. Maybe people who don't shop at Wal-Mart are elite snobs (like CNN???)
Big Labor has targeted Wal-Mart for being nonunion, and the political left acts like Orwell's geese for them.
Unbelievable!! The man scams $500,000.00 and gets 2 years home confinement?? Where do I apply for this position? There is something totally wrong with our judicial system when certain people can commit these crimes and get a slap on the hand and other Americans of lesser means get sent to prison for much less. It is very upsetting!!
Cleveland Rocks and so does our WATER. Fiji Water people: Have you been to Cleveland lately?
Re: Thomas Coughlin. First, our names are similar, which catches my attention.
Second, he looks well-fed on the company trough.
Third, they say that if you took 1 or 2 billion, give or take a few million, of the 11 billion annual profits of Wal-Mart, you could improve the salaries of every Wal-Mart lower-echelon employee.
Fourth, it's not going to happen with pigs running the company.
Fifth, clever of Coughlin to use the company's anti-union bias to pull the wool over his underlings eyes. "Hoist by their own petard" applies here.
Sixth, I could go on but I won't. Shop Costco.
Inre: Wal-Mart. Just the time proven
fact that the biggest in any field are
put under the microscope. I have to
believe that there are countless examples of ignorant corporate policies
which abound in the universe of small
companies. No one has a lock on stupidity...it's just that if your company is large..the moments are bound
to be truly huge.
After Wal-mart has put all the small business out of business... will everyone still want to shop there? I don't like to now.
Give the tech credit....he hung in there. He could have quit in fustration which would mean Comcast would have to replace him with a less skilled worker. Fire the operations guy.
I can't say about others, but as for myself, I love Wal-Mart. I guess if your intentionaly reading business pages or you're a Democrat you've never been so poor that Wal-Mart was the only place you could afford to shop. But for poor white trash like me, it's a godsend. Yeah, I'd like to have enough money to buy Evian water, live a carbon-neutral life, and buy only hip organic stuff. But until I do, I'll be shopping at Wal-Mart.
I agree with Ian. It's very elitist to say that Wal-mart is all bad. Sure, they have problems. All big corporations do. But, If it wasn't for Walmart I don't know where I would get money to pay my rent each month. I actually save over $250 each month just on my regular grocery and household items compared to the other stores around here.
The new services like the $4 prescription for many generic drugs without need of insurance has been a life saver for many of us and not a blunder. It may have hurt the bottom line in the most immediate quarter, but has helped the image of the company. Just wait and see how many switch from Walgreen, CVS and others, not to mention the greedy pharmsutical companies to Wal-Mart. I think this will pay off for Wal-Mart in the long run and cause a lot of people like myself to buy my drugs there. I have already switched all my generics to Wal-Mart from Walgreens and changed some patent protected drugs like Lipitor to the $4 drug Lovastatin at great savings. It is nice to see that a company could look beyond just making profits to help the people in America. Keep up the good work Wal-Mart.
Where are CNN's cable ratings? Where is Hillary Clinton flip flopping on the Board of Wal Mart? Where is the miserable performance of the WalMart competition which led to the formation of the Union sponsored attack against WalMart which led to the #1 item? This is sloppy and slanted journalism at best.
OF COURSE Playboy bunnies did better than the market, and OF COURSE they did better than many mutual funds! Women generally don't trade frenetically; they tend to buy and hold. Many of the managers of mutual funds are male, and many of them DO trade too often. The costs of all those trades add up.
I'm no Playboy Bunny, and never will qualify, but I am female and yes, I DO beat the market by investing carefully and for the very long term. I don't have a degree in a business field, either. I'm a biologist.
In my opinion Wal Mart's antagonists are retailers whose bottom line has been affected by Wal Mart's success. There's a game called combat pushball that we used to play in the Service... the object is to push a huge canvas ball across your opponents goal line... very much like competitive business. Scoring is often determined not only by the strength of your pushers, but, also, by the cunning of the players sent to the opposite side to tear away at your opponent's strengths... so it is with Wal Mart's competitors. Wal Mart has been and always will be a place of employment for students, moonlighters and retirees wanting to suppliment their income. For a few it's a career... managers, district and regional staffs, but for most others it's no more than a job in the retail industry. Wal Mart's pay, benefits and working conditions easily beats out 90% of businesses employing students, part-timers and retirees. As a very small business owner, I am neither threatened by Wal Mart nor am I as able to provide equivalent pay and benefits. If Wal Mart's detractors would spend more effort in bettering their businesses and less time and energy in tearing down Wal Mart's they might be more successful.
#1: way to write in, Lulu from Cleveland. The Fiji Water slap in the face was one of the funniest stories of the year. Score one for the lowly utility company workers!
#2: Just a quick response to Dick, in SF, about Bank of America (see comments Jan 24th)...
If part of your employment agreement was that you get 2 weeks' severance for every year of service, then BofA was wrong to insist on anything above that. If, however, they had offered 4 weeks' severance instead of 2, or a 30% increase in money or something, in exchange for training, I imagine that A) I would support that and B) you would still think it was terrible. The magazine's claim here that this was a "business blunder" is still, I contend, just as ridiculous. Such an arrangement ought to make significant business sense if done properly, not lose $10k per head. I bet someone like Accenture handled the planning. :)
it is a morally degrading and depressing feeling to be told that your job is being taken away from you for no reason other then really saving a shareholder $ and it is being given to a person in a 3rd world country who will do it for less.
Actually, it is the essence of capitalism. Things being made more efficient, freeing up other people to go do other valuable things wiht their time. You'll note we're not all working on farms anymore, either. Saving the shareholders some money, thus making a more efficient and profitable enterprise, ought to be the only concern of management. If they were outsourcing a department and shareholders did not stand to gain, but the management did (something not-too-infrequent, sadly), that would be wrong.
Yet you (and the laid off workers) are lucky: you likely have skills you can resell to many other employers. They are getting paid to find another job. And while these guys may have botched it (and I rather doubt they're losing $10k per head), it still makes a lot more sense when done properly. Also, there are a bunch of Indians who now can feed their families and live an almost-middle-class lifestyle while the laid-off BofA workers do nothing for 6 months and collect a paycheck.
There's very little wrong with this, if they had stuck to their contractual terms. You seem to object to the principle here.
I think when I get laid off, I'm going to enlist the aid of beavers to help me obtain the wood pulp with which to make my own toilet paper. Think of the savings!
Thanks for a very entertaining series, CNN. I haven't laughed so much in quite some time. You guys rock!
I'm working for a small company called Ornaments to Remember, which produces fun-spirited, blown-glass ornaments for all occasions, and profits go to helping parents through The Learning Community (see www.TheLearningCommunity.us) Anyway, I posted some online ads to test through MSN adcenter.com. I set the budget (our budgets are small) at $400 each for 2 ads. When I checked back in a few days, I saw that the "Budget Spend" column said $1400! So I called customer service, and the CSR told me he would research what happened, and get back to me in 1 or 2 days. He said our account was "paused" because the budget was on overspend, and also, the adcenter had rejected our keywords, anyway. He also said to set a "Manual Pause" to be sure nothing would happen with our account until the CSR got back to me about the glitch. But he did not get back to me! So I checked our account again on the third day, and our "budget spend" had increased to $1800! I called the same CSR back and told him about it, and he told me it would take 10 more days to research! The next day, I called a different CSR, and had to ask to talk with a supervisor for information. She told me that the first budget overspend was caused by their system being slow to pause ads when the budget was exceeded, and that usually that extra spend would just be deleted from the customer's account. But in our case, because we must have accidentally increased our budget when I had tried to set the manual pause, (which they say did not take effect even though it said "Paused" on my screen), we would have to pay the extra charges. Who are these people? They are in a Call Center up near Canada. Does Microsoft know how they are treating customers?
Regarding ThomasFly: it would have been worse customer service if that cell phone had jammed the flight controls on takeoff. Taken in perspective, I would rather find the phone.
I had the exact same experience when canceling my AOL account. I was on the phone for 1/2 hour and repeatedly asked to simply cancel service. I would never contract with AOL again and in sold 2000 shares of stock that included the AOL division. Other than AOL, I would have retained the stock. CEO's should pay attention to such things.
Regarding Bank of America Outsourcing:
This has become more common than many realize. So many tech companies are doing this that it has become a feature in employee dark humor where it is equated to the quaint death camp practice of having inmates dig their own slit trench graves prior to being shot by the guards. Perhaps companies that do this should call their CEOs Commandant.
I loved your 101 Dumbest Moments piece. I think you missed an opportunity in "Worst moments in customer service," though:
I really enjoyed reading your article about the 101 blunders! It made going to my job a lot easier knowing we weren't on your list!!!
The music industry lawsuits against children, customers and potential customers over alleged downloading should be one of the greatest examples of "shooting own foot" in business history.
About: Bank of America,
(these comments reflect mine and mine alone and not of Bank of America)
I agree with Steve, I am currently an employee of the corporate bank and as a Chinese-America from Boston now living in Hong Kong, I think Bank of America is doing what they feel is best for their company in terms of delivering added shareholder value and makes business sense from a cost standpoint, especially when certain jobs that can be done in the US can easily be replicated by a willing and eager worker in China or India.
That being said, I think its partly that American labor, as a whole, is moving towards those types of jobs which involve higher skills and as Steve said, "freeing up people's time". Is it right? I don't know. I think that Americans can definitely resell their skills to other employers, while people in India and China, with high unemployement rates in those countries, are struggling to just have a decent job. Just my two cents
Wired magazine's recent article on the Chevy Tahoe's user generated content campaign, easily shows it as a winner, not a loser. How is this a dumb mistake: "Sales took off too, even though it was spring and SUV purchases generally peak in late fall. Since its introduction in January, the new Tahoe has accounted for more than a quarter of all full-size SUVs sold, outpacing its nearest competitor, the Ford Expedition, 2 to 1. In March, the month the campaign began, its market share hit nearly 30 percent. By April, according to auto-information service Edmonds, the average Tahoe was selling in only 46 days � quite a change from the year before, when models languished on dealers' lots for close to four months.�
The law suit against Starbucks is just more proof of the audacity of people. They must think the world owes them their daily meal without fail. I believe we should pay all the judges that kind of money to just toss people in jail just for trying to cheat the justice system like that.
The public seems to enjoy testing honest companies to turn sour, like so many others.
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