28 Failed Companies Who Should Win A Corporate Darwin Award

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What were they thinking?

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

1. “Whoever was in charge of getting the Yellow Pages online.”

Newscast / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“Multi-billion dollar industry that adopted wayyyyy too late.” —u/zerostyle

2. “Circuit City making the decision to no longer sell appliances. No matter how bad the economy is, people will still buy refrigerators, washers, vacuums, etc., but they will wait on TVs and video games.”

Kim Kulish / Corbis via Getty Images

3. “Borders ceasing business operations with Amazon.”

4. “Prodigy Online Service. They had a great message board system, which was included in the monthly rate. They got greedy, and for no reason other than wanting to make more money, started charging people to use the board, per message.”

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“Beyond idiotic, and at the time, so many of us users were like, OK, we’re done with Prodigy then. Within one year, they lost almost complete market share to Compuserve and AOL, and were all but nonexistent shortly thereafter. All because they got extra greedy.” —u/R_TOKAR

5. “I officially nominate Schlitz Beer for the Corporate Darwin Hall of Fame. Number-one beer in America by far in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when some genius at the head office decided to change the recipe to save money on ingredients. Sales fell off a cliff.”

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“Almost immediately, they changed back to the old recipe. But it was already too late. The old Schlitz drinkers stayed away in droves. The company remains up Schlitz creek without a paddle.” —u/jimmyjazz2000

6. “Back in the mid-’90s, pre-Napster, I worked for BMG marketing those “10 CDs for a buck” crap. A memo came down from up high declaring the internet a fad.”

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7. “We love rice here in the Philippines. There’s a popular and relatively cheap Japanese restaurant that served unlimited rice for every meal, and it was very known for it.”

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“Some brilliant guy decides to take it out, word gets around, and people stop going there. A few months later, they decide to put the promo back, but the customers just stopped coming.” —u/teatops

8. “Excite not buying Google for $750,000.”

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9. “This year, POWDR, a group that ran Park City Mountain Resort, the number-three family ski resort in the country, got absorbed by Vail, its competition, and removed from ownership of its resort. Why? Because after 20 years of having the greatest lease in history (about $150,000 a year for a resort that grosses millions and millions), the end of the lease time rolled around, and they forgot to renew it. Literally, that’s it.”

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10. “I worked on the TV show Fear Factor. Pretty sure making two hot blonde girls drink donkey semen killed the show.”

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“It was cancelled after the controversy of that episode.” —u/Sil_E

11. “Peanut Corporation of America found salmonella in their products. The owner covered it up and told them to ‘just ship it’. Infected and killed scores of people, the company went bankrupt almost immediately after it was traced back to them, and the owners were charged and prosecuted.”

12. “The Milwaukee Road abandoned half of their main line because they thought it was losing money despite having heavy traffic. Several years after they had torn up the line, they realized that there had been an accounting error, and that was actually the only part of the system that was making money.”

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“They sold off some of their rolling stock to generate some short-term cash and then leased it back. When the lease price increased, they could not afford to repair their own equipment, so they sold off more to the leasers. Rinse, repeat.

Instead of completing their electrification and buying new electric locomotives (which GE was willing to give them a deal on), they decided to remove the electrification and sell it for scrap. When they did this, scrap prices fell, and it ended up being more expensive to dieselize than it would have been to finish their electrification. Needless to say, things did not go well for them.” —u/elfo222

13. “RadioShack is doing it slowly. They used to be the place to go to get resistors, switches, and boards. Now, the employees don’t know what a potentiometer is, and they insist on selling me smart phones.”

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“Also worth stating that they know almost nothing about cables, or types of connectors. At my local RadioShack, they’re of zero help.” —u/Tim_Teboner

14. “Digg. That irreversible system upgrade.”

15. “There’s a restaurant in Austin that is practically famous for its really great chicken wings. At one point a few years back, the wings were taken off the menu because they were ‘too popular’ and ‘slowing down the kitchen.’ That lasted about a month before someone realized it was a better idea to put some time and effort into improving the kitchen rather than kill off their bestselling item.”

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16. “Enron for paying their executives ‘idea bonuses’ before the ideas turned a profit. They paid one guy millions for inventing an online movie downloading service about 10 years before that was feasible. Ironically, the documentary is available on Netflix.”

17. “K-Mart took out a whole bunch of debt to buy back their shares, looking to raise their share price. When news of this came out, Walmart (which had basically no debt at the time) decided that it would be a good time to start a price war. K-Mart had to pay off interest, whereas Walmart had little to no interest payments to make.”

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“So by lowering the profit margin to a point where K-Mart had to cut back on their internal investment, Walmart surged ahead while K-Mart lagged behind. The biggest cut K-Mart made, I believe, was CAPEX (capitol expenditures — things like making new stores and upkeeping current ones). And that’s a major reason why Walmart is so popular and booming, whereas K-Mart has always just seemed a little…off.” —u/hokthes

18. “In 1995, Malden Mills burned down. At a time when manufacturers were relocating their operations overseas to cut costs, Feuerstein rebuilt the factory at the same location. And he continued to pay the salaries and benefits of all his employees during the rebuilding.”

Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

“Sadly, the company never recovered, Feuerstein was eventually ousted, Malden Mills declared bankruptcy, and its assets were sold off or spun off to new companies.” —u/Spektr44

19. “It didn’t turn out badly, but FedEx’s founder had a potential Darwin Award on his hands. When the company didn’t have enough money to fuel planes, he took the company’s remaining funds, went to Vegas, and bet it all on blackjack tables. Now, it just so happens he won enough to keep the planes flying, thus saving the company. That was practically a coin toss, though.”

20. “Atari spending something to the tune of $100,000,000 in the 1980s to buy the rights to make an E.T. video game followed by only giving a guy about two months to design, program, and bug test the game. It didn’t just come close to tanking Atari, but console gaming in general.”

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21. “Osborne Computer’s founder made a screw-up so profound it not only killed the company, it generated a name for the effect that is famous in the computer industry. The moral of the story: Don’t tell consumers about your new, improved, cheaper model that is coming out very soon while you are still trying to sell the existing model. Unless you want them to stop buying the existing one.”

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22. “When the iPod first launched, it was an Apple-only product. At the time, I was a Sales Manager in a computer store chain, and we had people practically begging for the iPod on a PC.”

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“The Apple account reps basically told us in so many words that it was not happening and Apple had no interest in making their product connect to a PC. I would say it was at least a year before Apple released PC versions, and there was no amount of stock we could bring in that wouldn’t instantly sell out. I’m not sure why they changed their stance, but it’s a good thing they did.” —u/avrus

23. “Bean counters wanted to change Augustiner (the oldest brewery in Munich, very traditional, fantastic beer) to switch from in-house produced malt to externally produced malt because the malting building is at a prime real estate location in inner-city Munich.”

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“They did test brews with external malts, result wasn’t as good, so they kept their own production, because their business stands and falls with their beer quality. They do virtually no ads and really only live from their reputation.” —u/_ak

24. “Sharper Image suing Consumer Reports for making ‘libelous’ claims that their Sonic Air Filter was bogus. Turns out that it was bogus. Court-ordered product recall. Sharper Image is no more.”

Fox / Via Nokia, September 21, 2010

25. “In 2008, speculators were driving the price of oil to unsustainable levels. Enter Semgroup, a pipeline company that moved oil and traded energy futures on the side. In 2008, they decided to go short on oil.”

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“For the month or two that followed, oil kept pushing higher and higher, and they kept averaging up their position. The problem here was that Semgroup’s management was so certain that prices would fall, they shorted oil on margin. Eventually, the clearinghouse of the brokerage with whom Semgroup assumed this large short position forced Semgroup to unwind their entire position to Barclays. Semgroup eventually went bankrupt. Literally a week later, oil crashed SPECTACULARLY. Over a month or so, it fell nearly 80%. Semgroup missed out on $5 billion profit.” —u/[deleted]

26. “When Nokia said, ‘Using Android is like peeing in your pants for warmth in winter,’ in September 2010.”

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27. “Kodak telling the creator of digital photography to go fuck himself.”

28. “Segway. In June 2003, President Bush made headlines for falling off a Segway during a test drive. This event alone probably killed the future of the company. In September 2003, the company recalled all units due to injuries sustained by customers when the battery died.”

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“Fast-forward to 2009, Segway is acquired by UK businessman James Heselden. In a literal Darwin Award moment, Heselden dies when he rides his Segway over a 30-foot cliff and falls into the river below.” —u/ad8871

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