This is it. Make no mistake where you are. After weeks of gouged eyeballs, pulverized ribs, countless bruised egos, and one dislocated thumb, the battered bodies of 30 bad businesses are licking their wounds and vowing to fight another year, while your votes have set up an epic rematch of the 2012 Final Death Match.
A year ago, perennial Worst Company In America heavyweight Bank of America seemed destined to finally take home a Golden Poo it could call its own, as it hopped over the razor-wire ropes and on to the electrified mat of the WCIA Nonagon of Doom to face off against a tournament newcomer, video game biggie Electronic Arts. Surely, argued some prognosticators, a game publisher could not contend with one of the nation’s largest and most-irresponsible banks?
And yet, in the end, it was EA wearing the Golden Poo crown while BofA lay bloodied and unconscious on the floor, unable to do anything as people drew crude pictures of male genitalia on its forehead. The noob had become the new grand champ while the vet had fallen in its second consecutive Final Death Match. All BofA could do was go home and pretend that it had actually won the Poo it inherited when it acquired Countrywide.
Not much has changed in the last year — or rather, neither company seems to have done much to win over consumers — so most, if not all of the reasons for voting for either company in 2012 are still valid.
NEW YEAR, SAME OLD PROBLEMS
It’s been almost five years since Bank of America acquired Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, and all the toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities that came with those deals. And every year since, BofA has been criticized by consumers, advocates, lawmakers, regulators, and everyone’s Uncle Eddie for failing to clean up that financial porta-potty.
Last year, BofA was doing a bad job of responding to consumer complaints. That didn’t change in the interim, with the bank coming in last on the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey, or its back-of-the-pack ranking for replying to consumers who registered complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Meanwhile, BofA showed its dedication to customers by cutting its ATM network by around 10%. So you can thank the bank every time you pay a fee because the BofA ATM that used to be there is no longer available.
For years, we’ve been writing about BofA foreclosing on the wrong house or having private property improperly seized. Did that stop? Apparently not, as agents for the bank did things like vanish with homeowners’ classic muscle cars.
Let’s not forget some old fave BofA moves, like screwing up a homeowner’s loan adjustment so that she somehow ends up owing $14,500 more when it’s over, or refusing to acknowledge that your mom has passed away.
And it’s not just consumers that had problems with BofA. In addition to being responsible for the largest chunk of the $25 billion nationwide robosigning settlement, BofA has been sued by investors, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, and the U.S. government — though of course, not a single criminal indictment has been brought against a BofA exec (or any Wall Street biggie) for its part in the mortgage meltdown.
Meanwhile, BofA was caught interfering with the foreclosure review process (before the government just handed the process over to the banks anyway).
Hell, even CEO Brian Moynihan seems to openly regret his predecessor’s decision to acquire the failing institutions that have since resulted in more than $40 billion settlements and legal costs.
After EA came out of nowhere to win the WCIA title last year, it first tried to shrug off the victory by pointing out that some of the previous Golden Poo winners may have been worse, like a bratty adolescent who uses examples of worse kids in the neighborhood to get out of being punished by his parents. EA failed to realize that there may be more than a few different ways to merit a Worst Company crown.
Then later in the year, it seemed to realize that maybe it should do something to suck a little less, with the head of customer service foretelling a “drastic shift in the company.” That message didn’t seem to get around to everyone, as EA’s CFO ticked off much of the gaming community by talking about the importance and predicted omnipresence of microtransactions — in-game purchases for add-on content — in every EA game. He eventually backtracked on his own words, saying he only meant that microtransactions would be part of every free-to-play game.
EA then picked the absolute worst time possible to screw up the release of the eagerly anticipated SimCity 5, encompassing almost every reason so many gamers hate the company.
First, though it’s still produced under the Maxis brand, that name means nothing anymore as Maxis has been owned by EA for more than a decade. Then there is the requirement that SimCity users must be connected to the Internet in order to play, which many claim — in spite of EA’s repeated denials — is a blatant, crippling attempt to fight piracy at the expense of consumers’ convenience or privacy.
Additionally, this always-online requirement highlights another common complaint about EA — that it rushes titles out before they are ready for the market. The company itself has admitted that it wasn’t prepared to for all the people who would, heaven forbid, want to actually play the game they just bought.
In its defense of the always-online issue, EA actually mentioned microtransactions — one of the very things that gamers hate about the company — as a positive reason for not allowing offline play.
As the WCIA nominations poured in, EA bragged about all the copies of SimCity had been sold, glossing over the fact that lots of those people weren’t able to play. Let’s not forget that CEO John Riccitiello stepped down from his gig in the middle of all this.
Then, just as EA’s margins of victory were beginning to get slimmer, company COO Peter Moore decides it’s a good time to issue a “we can do better” message… a message that goes out of its way to deflect criticism, going so far as to claim that a bizarre, right-wing homophobic conspiracy is really the underlying reason for EA’s inclusion in this year’s tournament. That, and people who were mad about the cover of Madden NFL. Funny that none of the many, many readers who nominated EA this year mentioned either of these things.
We’ve talked long enough. Hopefully you’ve made up your mind by this point. Best of luck to both contenders.
VOTING FOR THE WCIA FINAL DEATH MATCH IS NOW CLOSED. CHECK BACK AT NOON ET ON APRIL 9 TO SEE WHO WON!