CNN's “101 Dumbest Moments in Business”

CNN is running a feature covering 2005's “101 Dumbest Moments in Business”, worth reading if you need a giggle.

Some of my favorites:

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.
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.
45. May I see my ID?
In February, ChoicePoint—the self-proclaimed “leading provider of identification and credential verification services”—admits that it sold the personal data of 145,000 people to a number of unauthorized recipients, including an identity-theft ring in Los Angeles. ChoicePoint thoughtfully offers the victims a free credit report—but still makes them pay to see the detailed information that was provided to the criminals. The incident kicks up an identity-theft furor serious enough to draw congressional hearings; the company later reports the incident cost it $21 million.
51. How much extra does it cost to have the telemarketers join our loved ones in the great beyond?
The Direct Marketing Association rolls out a Deceased Do-Not-Contact list to stop calls to dead relatives. The fee for preventing telemarketers from reaching to the grave: $1 per person.
64. Told you we shouldn't have rented that list from the Department of Homeland Security.
Blaming a mailing-list vendor for providing bad information, JPMorgan Chase apologizes for sending a form letter about its credit card services to an Arab American man in California addressed to “Palestinian Bomber.”
66. No late fees. Honest. Sort of.
In January, Blockbuster kicks off a “no late fees” policy. The catch? If customers keep their movies more than a week past the due date, their credit cards are charged for the full purchase price; when they return the items, their refund comes minus a “restocking fee.” By March the company settles with 47 states for $630,000 and agrees to pay refunds to consumers who felt misled.
69. The irony is rich. Shareholders, alas, are not.
In June, H&R Block announces a review of its recent financial statements, estimating it will find discrepancies in its favor of about $19 million. Two months later it reveals that the review found $77 million in errors—in the other direction. The company explains that it had “insufficient resources” to identify and report complex transactions in its corporate tax accounting.
94. Thus giving a whole new meaning to “crash-test dummies.”
After a live demonstration of the radar-powered automatic braking system in Mercedes-Benz's new S-Class sedans turns into a nationally televised three-car pileup, the company claims that the steel walls of the safety center where the test took place interfered with the radar and confounded the system. An investigation by the Stern TV network, however, shows that the demonstration was staged (albeit poorly). Mercedes later admits it knew all along that the system would not work inside the safety center and had enlisted the vehicle's driver to “simulate” the experience.

Make sure you check it out.

Josh Poulson

Posted Thursday, Jan 26 2006 06:41 AM

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Thanks! It's actually Business 2.0's list -- CNNMoney hosts our website, which is why it appeared there.

Owen Thomas

Posted Friday, Jan 27 2006 03:00 PM

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