2007 in retrospect: bone-headed business moments


Business 2.0 (now with same parent company as Fortune magazine) continues its tradition of the yearly 101 Dumbest Moments in Business, a tradition going back to 2001. Highlights from this year’s vintage of distinguished entities:

  • Leading the pack at #1 is China. The debacle of recalled toxic toys highlighted the dependency of US consumer spending on Chinese imports. Just in time for the unfolding scandal, a Baton Rouge area journalist published a new book about her family’s experiment to live for one year without purchasing any goods made in China. (Note to Apple: adding “designed in California” after “made in China” on your products does not help.)
  • Diebold remains a perennial contender after suffering more embarassment over new trivial attacks against its touch-screen voting systems. Florida state officials add insult to injury by ordering 5000 new units.
  • Waggener-Edstrom (simply “Wag-Ed” inside MSFT) for emailing a Wired author his own dossier that the PR firm had compiled about him. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.
  • Bear-Sterns analysis department for continued persistence in deluded thinking about the extent of sub-prime mess.
  • BestBuy for setting up ringer online websites for in-store comparison shopping. This one wins an honorable mention for truth-in-advertising.
  • Apple– not exactly known for business savvy after years of getting clobbered by MSFT/Intel– threatens to sue a 9-year old girl for writing a letter to Steve Jobs suggesting improvements to the iPod Nano.
  • Frank Gehry. In post-modern architecture form may not follow function but litigation always does. The architect is sued by MIT after the Stata Center develops serious leak and mold problems because of water collecting on the oddly shaped roof-lines.
  • Whole Foods. For spending years to craft an image as a customer friendly, eco-conscious and socially-responsible business, the enterprise manages to shoot it all down in flames after revelations that the CEO had been trashing competitors on online finance forums under pseudonyms.
  • Radiohead? The jury is out on this one, as Wired magazine hailed it as a successful experiment although one unlikely to transform the larger industry because few artists have comparable leverage. (But the band has not released detailed figures on how much fans were paying left to their own devices.)
  • OLPC: One Laptop Per Child project joins the club. Frequently penned by critics for being an expensive blunder, this time Business 2.0 contends that the computers had been put to unexpected uses by children in a pilot program in Nigeria. Shocking.
  • WikiScanner or more specifically, the people WikiScanner caught altering entries on Wikipedia with obvious conflicts of interest.

cemp

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