17 Times CEOs And Companies Screwed Up BIG TIME And Either Lost Everything Or Almost Did

17 Times CEOs And Companies Screwed Up BIG TIME And Either Lost Everything Or Almost Did

Recently, I watched the Netflix docuseries Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?, which is about a student who found a loophole in a ’90s Pepsi commercial that would allow him to buy a $23 million harrier jet for just $700,000 worth of “Pepsi points.” I won’t spoil it, but the story is surprisingly captivating. It got me wondering what other big mistakes companies have made over the years.

Redditor u/LeatherFruitPF asked, “What are some of the worst corporate blunders or PR disasters in history?”

Here are 17 of the top responses:


“Gerald Ratner [the former CEO of the British jewelry company Ratners Group, which is now Signet Jewelers] calling his own company’s product ‘total crap.’ The company’s value fell by millions, and he had to resign.”

Closeup of Gerald Ratner

Paul Hackett / Corbis via Getty Images


“Few bits of context — Ratner’s chain of shops were aimed at lower class people, offering affordable jewelry and trinkets — it was the place working class boys bought rings for working class girls.

The joke was something like, ‘How can we afford to sell [a particular trinket] for 4.95? Because it’s total crap!’

Everyone knew it wasn’t Tiffany’s. Nobody was fooling themselves thinking they were getting crown jewels at Ratners. But having the owner of the company dismiss his own products as worthless, poorly made junk guaranteed no working class boy could ever buy anything for his working class girl from there ever again.

It’s one of the most impressive modern failures. He imploded his entire business with one joke.”



“When the singer Susan Boyle had a new album out [in 2012], they got the hashtag #Susanalbumparty trending to promote it. It was supposed to say ‘Susan Album Party,’ but instead, we all just saw ‘Su’s Anal Bum Party.'”

Closeup of Susan Boyle

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images


[Boyle and her team saw the blunder and changed it to #SusanBoylesAlbumParty.]


“In Canada, when the Conservative Party merged with the Reform Party, they called themselves the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, or as all Canadian comedians realized, ‘CCRAP.’ It was hilarious for 48 hours before they changed it. Never forget CCRAP.”

"I have a problem too when they have a name that you couldn't pronounce in front of the kids."

Dimitrios Kambouris / WireImage / Via Getty


“The Microsoft crew having a ‘funeral’ for the iPhone and the Blackberry outside of their headquarters to celebrate that amazing Windows phone.”

A Windows phone

Spencer Platt / Getty Images


“DiGiorno trying to make the hashtag #WhyIStayed [which was used by survivors of domestic violence to bring awareness to reasons people stay in abusive relationships] be about making pizza at home.”

"#WhyIStayed You had pizza."


“Can’t believe the Hoover free flights promotion from the early ’90s hasn’t come up yet. They offered a pair of return flights to America [or Europe] if you spent £100 or more on their stuff. Turned out people thought £100 for a return flight with a free vacuum cleaner was a hell of a deal, and it was a disaster that cost the company millions.”

"Two Return Flight Tickets."


“When Game of Thrones botched the most anticipated episode of one of the biggest shows in history by making it in borderline pitch black. Then explaining themselves by saying people need better TVs.”

Dark lighting in a scene of "Game of Thrones"

HBO / Via Max


[GOT cinematographer Fabian Wagner told Wired, “A lot of the problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to tune their TVs properly. A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway.”]


“[When Pepsi first began selling its products in China, they used the] slogan ‘Come Alive with Pepsi,’ which was mistranslated in Chinese as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.'”

"Come alive! You're the Pepsi generation!"


“The Pepsi Number Fever promotion in the Philippines went really terribly! They basically never recovered in the market there.”

People protesting and boycotting Pepsi

Romeo Gacad / AFP via Getty Images


[In 1984, Pepsi introduced a new campaign that advertised that consumers could win millions by finding bottle caps with certain numbers on them. After it proved successful abroad, they brought it to the Philippines. However, in 1992, they accidentally printed the winning number, 349, on between 600,000–800,000 caps. Pepsi blamed it on a computer error and offered consumers with a 349 cap 500 pesos as a consolation prize. Many took them up on this offer, but others were understandably upset. They organized and took Pepsi to court. They also held protests, which resulted in the deaths of three Pepsi employees and two passersby.]

“When the US Army tweeted, ‘How has serving impacted you?’ [and many service members and veterans in their replies shared their experiences with trauma, mental health issues, and assault].”

How has serving impacted you?

— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019

@USArmy / @FortBenning / Via Twitter: @USArmy


[In response, the US Army tweeted, “To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.” They also shared the number to the Veterans Crisis Line.]


“Have you heard of the Osborne Effect? In 1981, the Osborne Computer Corporation had one of the first home computers on the market. It sounded fantastic and everything. At the launch, the CEO said the next version will be so much better… So, everyone decided, ‘Why buy this version if the next version will be better? We’ll wait for V2.’ So V1 sold terribly, the company folded, and there was no V2.”

A personal computer

Science & Society Picture Librar / SSPL via Getty Images


“Blackberry thinking that they are the top in the mobile market so they didn’t need to innovate to compete with those new iPhone things from Apple.”

Someone using a Blackberry

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


“Target’s expansion into Canada [in 2012]. Collapsed in two years and cost $7 billion.”

People leaving Target

David Cooper / Toronto Star via Getty Images


“I still remember how annoyed my town was when our Zellers (what Canada had before Target) was closed down because Target was rolling into Canada. In the time it took for them to renovate the two-story mall location and convert it to a Target, THEY PULLED OUT OF CANADA. So, for about a year, we lost our only Zellers location, and we didn’t even get a chance to experience it as a Target because they went tits up before it had a chance to open.”



“Sears dominated the mail order industry for over a century with their catalog. In 1993, they decided that mail order was on the decline and discontinued the catalog. Less than a year later, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.”

The Sears catalog

Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images


And finally: “When U2 made us all have their album on our iPods [and iPhones].”

U2 at an event

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


“Seriously. TO THIS DAY they get heat for it.”


[Consumers were so irritated with the automatically downloaded music that Apple had to release a special tool and instructions to help them get it off their iTunes accounts.]

What other major corporate and PR blunders do you remember? Share them in the comments!

Some responses have been edited for length/clarity.

Read More