People Award Corporate Darwin Awards, Celebrating Decisions That Tanked A Business
Running a company is hard. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made to make sure everything keeps running smoothly. However, sometimes companies choose to do things that anyone looking on could tell them will go horribly wrong.
Reddit user koyoyele-a asked:
Hubris Doesn't Help Anyone
Lifelock's advertisements with the co-founder Todd Davis SSN on the sides of trucks and on TV - telling people to try and steal his identity, because Lifelock was protecting him.
Don't antagonise the internet. The did steal his identity. Thirteen times. Within 2 years. He lost millions of dollars. Also, his identity was stolen so much, the FTC ended up fining the company $12 million for deceptive advertising because they weren't 100% effective like the ads claimed.
After that, the company kept getting fined and sued. It's still around, but nowhere close to the strength it was.
Branding Is Important
Home Grocer started a grocery delivery service that had a colorful peach logo on their delivery vans. They were an early concept but starting to take off. Then they were bought by a company that changed the name to Webvan and changed to logo to a shitty W. So, that company bought a brand that had gained strong recognition and immediately killed it. What were they thinking? Webvan, of course went under.
In the UK we say "Hoover" instead of "Vacuum Cleaner". There's a point in every Brits life where they learn that Hoover is actually a brand name.
They had a complete monopoly over vacuum cleaners in the UK, could do whatever they wanted. Then they decided to do some insane special offer giving away plane tickets with hoover purchases. So people started buying them for the plane tickets, then giving away/binning/selling dirt cheap the hoover they didn't need. Hoover couldnt afford the plane tickets and tried to duck out of it. The courts made them give the plane tickets they promised.
Now hoovers are so unheard of that people don't even realise it's a brand but use the word synonymously for vacuum cleaner. If that's not a business Darwin award then nothing is.
Too Set In Their Ways
AOL was the gateway to the internet, complete with Discord analog, messaging, email, and search. When they decided to stick to dialup and refused to become a broadband ISP; they killed themselves. They had a huge contented user base and threw it all away.
Yahoo Strikes Again
Flickr was a great photo display site that I used to log into several times a day. It had a quite simple, usable interface with a lot of white space so that photos could stand out by themselves. It was great if you were a hobbyist photographer. You could get inspiration, try things out, post them, and get almost immediate feedback from other users.
Then they changed it into a real mess. As soon as you opened a page, the site tried to cram it with as many pictures as possible - all without context or titles. I keep an RSS feed so that I can watch out for new pictures from photographers I've followed. It hasn't changed in months. I haven't been on the actual site in months.
Yahoo has such a talent for killing the companies it buys haha. Flickr is one. Then Tumblr, which they just destroyed this month.
Wang Computers. The had, early in the late 70's a solid, well respected office automation system. It was multi-user, fast and reliable. The suite included a database, spreadsheet and word processor and other utilities and was bulletproof. They jealously guarded it, not letting anyone write software for it or allowing licensing. Guess what? Microsoft and IBM came in with MS-DOS, licensing the operating system and allowing literally anyone to write software for it. Wang tanked. It was a perfect storm. i loved that system and used it in the Army Reserves in the 80's and early 90's. Then the system just went away and we had IBM PC clones.
The Internet Is For... Well...Y'know
I worked for a mom and pop computer repair shop in the late 90s. We also had a dial up internet service, back when that was a legitimate thing. The only other option in the area was a sh!tbag telecom that would literally charge long distance phone call charges for calling someone directly across the street, because, "It's a different district, you understand."
So we were making money hand over fist.
Problem is, the "Mom and Dad" of the organization are also super religious. The interwebs are in their formative years, so Mom and Pop are going to make a statement. They hire up an agency that blacklists any and all porn sites they can find. That's right, an internet provider that says, "I don't care what your beliefs are, I don't care what your desires are, you can't visit porn sites. End all."
So for the next couple of weeks, we got every possible persona you can imagine coming in and telling us to f off, they quit.
Sleaze bags making excuses, to soccer moms saying straight up, "It's because of the porn filter with their kids in tow." and everything in between.
We went from 40k customers to less than 3k within a month. I got laid off because 1 repair technician was no longer affordable.
Osborne computers announced their improved new computer too early. Everyone stopped buying the current one. It took so long for the new one to be released that the company had basically folded.
Mattresses Are Not An Impulse Buy
Mattress Firm decided to put stores on every corner. You don't pick up a mattress on your way home for work like you'd pick up a coffee, so there's no reason to have so many locations. All of the rent they had to pay caught up with them, they declared bankruptcy.
Ratners Jewelers in the UK was almost destroyed by its own CEO who in an after dinner speech called his own products "crap". The value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500 million, they closed 350+ stores and it very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse.
"It wasn't me!"
There's not much you can do when the righteous fist of the law comes down on you. Call it a mix-up, or call it a mistake, if someone's pegged you at the scene of a crime there's not much you can do but trust the justice system to prove you innocent. However, that's a gamble, and just because you've been given a "not guilty" doesn't mean the effects won't follow you for the rest of your life.
Reddit user, u/danbrownskin, wanted to hear about the times when it wasn't you, seriously, it was someone else, when they asked: