101 Dumbest Moments in Business

Giving new meaning to the phrase a day late and a dollar short, it has been more than a year after the humiliating “bic pen” debacle of 2004 that cost the company an estimated $15 million.

Here is a short list of the top five, but do not let that stop you there are a 101 goodies that just make you wonder sometimes …

  • Defrauding investors is sooooooo 2002. These days it’s all about hosing your customers.

    When you’re a bike-lock maker whose slogan is “Tough World, Tough Locks,” it doesn’t get much tougher than finding out that most of the locks you’ve been making for the last 30 years can be picked with a Bic pen. That, sadly, is what happens to Ingersoll-Rand subsidiary Kryptonite in September, after bloggers begin posting videos showing just how easy it is to pop open the company’s ubiquitous U-shaped locks. Still in denial four days after the hullabaloo begins, spokeswoman Donna Tocci says that the locks nonetheless provide “an effective deterrent against theft” and that Kryptonite will speed up deliveries of new, Bic-proof locks to stores. Unsatisfied, bloggers continue to rail at the company until it finally agrees to exchange the old locks for new ones, at an estimated cost of $10 million. Um … make that at least $10 million: In December the company explains that the process of manufacturing and shipping the 100,000 replacement locks is taking longer than expected. In the meantime, many dealers receive no shipments of new locks, costing Kryptonite as much as $6 million in sales.

  • Now that’s pain relief.

    Withdrawing arthritis medication Vioxx from the market because of concerns that it raises the risk of heart attacks, Merck sees its stock drop 39 percent, shaving $38 billion off the company’s market cap. Responding to the crisis, Merck management executes a bold, daring plan—a “change in control separation benefits plan” for 230 of its top executives. The plan gives them up to three years of guaranteed salary and benefits if they lose their jobs as the result of a merger or takeover.

  • What’s the problem? We love a guy who stands behind his product.

    James Joseph Minder, chairman of gunmaker Smith & Wesson, is forced to resign when newspaper reporters discover that, before becoming a corporate exec, he’d spent 15 years behind bars for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape.

  • Do as I say, not as I…hey, get a load of those!

    After joining the Bank of Ireland as CEO, Michael Soden issues a dictate: No porn surfing on the job. His next dictate: The IT department is to be outsourced to Hewlett-Packard. Shortly after the outsourcing deal goes through, IT staffers, now employed by HP, discover porn on Soden’s computer. Soden resigns, leaving the bank and HP scrapping over who should pay his severance, estimated at $5 million.

  • For more nostalgia, you can always check out your legal bills from the DOJ antitrust lawsuit.

    “Microsoft has had competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document this stuff.”—Bill Gates, in a talk at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

  • Business 2.0 – 101 Dumbest Moments in Business: 1-10