8 Things Companies Have Said That Sounded Like April Fool’s Jokes But Sadly Weren’t

In spite of the National Pork Council's best legal efforts, one can still buy canned unicorn meat from ThinkGeek.com.

In spite of the National Pork Council’s best legal efforts, one can still buy canned unicorn meat from ThinkGeek.com.

For the calendar-challenged, we’ll point out that today is April 1, meaning the Internet is full of phony products, fake stories, doctored photos… so, you know, it’s like most days on the Internet. Rather than serve up a “United Charges Upgrade Fee For Merely Being Jealous Of First-Class Passengers” headline, or a post about Comcast CEO Brian Roberts giving up his job to play Gretl Von Trapp in a regional theater production of The Sound of Music, we’re looking back at some stories that would have been appropriate for April Fool’s.

8. When the National Pork Board sent a cease-and-desist to ThinkGeek over canned unicorn meat, a product that does not actually exist.
ThinkGeek dared to use the phrase “the new white meat” as a slogan for the sparkly mythical horse meat it cooked up as an April Fool’s joke several years back. The folks at Big Pork apparently thought it was too close to their “The other white meat” tag line and threatened to sue… again, over non-existent meat from a fictional animal.

7. Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza ignores all evidence to the contrary, declares his company the “most consumer-friendly airline.”
Yes, the airline that charges for carry-on bags — which it declared a “consumer benefit” — and was the only U.S. carrier to make a recent list of the world’s worst airlines, is apparently the most consumer-friendly, at least in the mixed-up brain of CEO Baldanza.

6. McDonald’s suggestion to employees who need to de-stress: Take two vacations a year!
The McDonald’s internal McResource site provided many nuggets of wisdom that merit inclusion on this list, from telling employees to make quick cash by selling unopened Christmas gifts on eBay to breaking up their food into smaller bites so that it lasts longer to the gem of them all — advising that two vacations a year help to reduce the risk of heart attack. Dear McDonald’s — if you have to tell employees how to sell gifts for cash or how to extend their meager pantry, they probably can’t afford the time off for one, let alone two vacations in a year.

Alas, McDonald’s didn’t even pull down the McResource site until folks noticed that the health advice given to employees basically told them to avoid fast food… like McDonald’s.

5. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary calls for standing room cabins in airplanes.
Probably the one person in the airline industry whose statements might make Spirit’s Ben Baldanza bristle, Ryanair loudmouth-in-charge O’Leary has made a career out of his efforts to squeeze as many passengers into flying tin cans as possible. In 2011, he pitched the notion of toilet-free planes — not planes with free toilets, but planes that have nowhere to void one’s bladder or bowels — in order to make room for more seats. But more recently, he declared that “seatbelts don’t matter” and called for new plane design that would resemble a subway car, with people standing around holding on to grips as Ryanair’s bottom-dollar flights soar through the air at several hundred miles per hour.

4. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong not only tries to screw workers out of 401(k) benefits, but also reveals private medical info about two employees and their children.
It’s bad enough when a huge multibillion-dollar company gathers employees to tell them that company contributions to their retirement plans will be delayed. But when the CEO of that company then tells everyone that one of the main reasons for the delay is that it had to pay for the health care of two employees who had each recently had “distressed babies,” a line has been crossed. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a dark comedy — a CEO of a once-great company flippantly announcing to employees, “Sorry about the delay in benefits; blame Sarah, Janet and their sick little kids. Here is their home address and Social Security info while we’re at it.”

3. The FDA applauds itself For banning a chemical in baby bottles and infant formula packaging, after the industry had already stopped using it.
It’s not just big companies that make ridiculous statements. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a controversial but commonly used chemical in plastic food packaging that has been linked to everything from increased risks of certain cancers, to obesity, to diabetes, reproductive abnormalities, and heart disease. For years, numerous consumer advocates, physicians and parent groups have tried to get the FDA to ban its use, but the agency maintains that the science has not yet proven BPA to be unsafe. However, the FDA didn’t hesitate one bit to pat itself on the back (one of its favorite pastimes) when it “banned” BPA first from baby bottles and then from infant formula packaging, in both instances long after those respective industries had already phased out BPA.

“Consumers can be confident that these products do not contain BPA,” declared the FDA of its non-triumph, while inadvertently and tacitly implying that consumers should be concerned about BPA elsewhere.

2. Comcast paints itself as the superhero of net neutrality.
In a recent statement from Comcast’s in-house merger whisperer David Cohen, the company pointed out that while Verizon might have convinced a federal court to gut the FCC’s net neutrality rules, Comcast remains “the only ISP in the country that is bound by” those old rules. What merger-meister Cohen omits from that statement is that Comcast is still required to obey the net neutrality rules as a condition of the company’s acquisition of NBC Universal. Oh, and that obligation expires after 2018.

But the real kicker from Cohen’s statement is when he declares, “There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast,” resulting in spit-takes around the world from everyone who is even vaguely familiar with Comcast’s sketchy history… and who also happened to be drinking water at the time they read that statement.

1. AT&T says that taking away customers’ right to sue is all in the best interest of consumers.
Three years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with AT&T and decided that it was perfectly fine for a company to stick a tiny clause in a massive contract — a contract the customer has no ability to negotiate or alter — that takes away that customer’s right to have her day in court if she’s wronged by the business, and instead forces her into a binding arbitration process that has repeatedly been shown to be weighted in favor of businesses. But, don’t worry, claims AT&T, which declared in the wake of the ruling that they were doing this all in the best interest of consumers, because arbitration almost always results in a faster resolution.

Too bad that this “resolution” is often a pittance compared to what a plaintiff would get in a lawsuit, or that the customer can’t make his case because he can’t afford proper legal representation and research, or that these arbitration clauses generally ban class actions, leaving each wronged customer to fend for himself… and leading many wronged customers to never seek redress.

But yeah… it is faster.

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  1. SuperSpeedBump says:

    “The FDA applauds itself For banning a chemical in baby bottles and infant formula packaging, after the industry had already stopped using it.”

    I know that the FDA’s actions sound really dumb, but it was actually nothing more than a clever tactic used by the “Plastics Industry” to gain back the public’s trust.

    You see, when BPA in baby products was making the headlines, people made a massive shift towards baby products that said “BPA Free”. The shift hurt the major players in the industry quite heavily as they would not be able to inexpensively switch plastics fast enough to prevent massive profit loss.

    Much of the public still didn’t trust those companies even after they removed the BPA from their products, so the “Plastics Industry” asked the FDA to publicly ban BPA from baby bottles and formula and make a really huge deal about it.

    This ban gave the industry the ability to say “See, all Baby Bottles are BPA Free”. And as such, much of the public switched back to their products.