101 dumbest moments in business: Companies
The year in shenanigans, skulduggery, and just plain stupidity in the world of companies.
17. Say "cheesed."Three and a half years after filing for Chapter 11, Polaroid is sold to Petters Group Worldwide for $426 million. Chairman Jacques Nasser and CEO J. Michael Pocock walk away with $12.8 million and $8.5 million, respectively. More than 4,000 retirees, meanwhile, receive one-time checks for $47 but lose their medical and life insurance benefits.
18. Perhaps they should change the motto to "Don't be stupid."New Google employee Mark Jen adds a post to his blog in which he says he spent his first day in an HR presentation about "nothing in particular." Apparently, Jen snoozed through the company's strict disclosure rules. In a subsequent post, he reveals that the company expects unprecedented revenues and profit growth in 2005, projections that Google has yet to share with Wall Street. Jen soon receives another presentation from HR: a pink slip.
19. "Don't be stupid" keeps sounding better and better.
23. New for 2006: gaunt, hollow-eyed Stalking You Bear.In January the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. receives protests from the mental-health community over its Crazy for You Bear, a plush toy in a straitjacket that comes with commitment papers. The company agrees to discontinue the bear.
31. Next up: the caramel crown of thorns.In March, Russell Stover unveils its new Easter candy: 6-inch chocolate crucifixes. The Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Conn., denounces the confection, saying that an edible version of the cross on which Jesus Christ died is not an appropriate Easter-basket mate for marshmallow chicks and chocolate bunnies.
33. It'll be even clearer when the accents are from Bangalore.Several McDonald's outlets in the Pacific Northwest begin outsourcing drive-through functions to remote call centers staffed by "professional order-takers" with "very strong communication skills." Says CEO Jim Skinner, "If you're in L.A. and you hear a person with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to."
35. Meanwhile, in other news about Wal-Mart and Germans ...In November, Wal-Mart loses an appeal of a ruling that its attempts to prohibit workplace romances among its 10,500 employees in Germany conflict with the country's laws. Wal-Mart had tried to introduce a 28-page ethical code that reportedly banned "lustful glances and ambiguous jokes" as well as "sexually meaningful communication of any type."`
36. We know why you fly ... JetBlue.The winner of the American Airlines "We Know Why You Fly" contest, which promised to award 24 round-trip tickets to the traveler who submitted the best video about his airborne experiences, turns down the grand prize. Why? Because American fails to cover the winner's federal, state, and local income taxes, which amount to about $19,000, or $800 per ticket.
38. Jeez, it's just a little beeping noise. Don't go having a heart attack.In June, Guidant recalls 50,000 heart defibrillators -- about 38,600 of them already implanted in people's chests -- that might, in rare cases, short-circuit when they're supposed to deliver vital electrical jolts. The recall comes after the devices were reported to have failed at least 45 times, including two instances in which the patients died. Guidant fixed the flaw in devices made after mid-2002 but neglected to inform doctors and continued to sell units produced before the fix. The recall advises patients that, should the device malfunction, it will emit a beeping noise, at which point they should contact their doctors or head to an emergency room. Next: 101 Dumbest Moments in Business: Full list >>
From the February 1, 2006 issue