Vote Now For The Biggest Business Debacle Of 2010

We asked for your input in nominating the biggest business screw-ups of the year and you responded. Now is your chance to vote for a loser from the final five nominees.

In no particular order, the most nominated debacles are:
Foreclosure Fracas, aka Robosigners Revealed:
2010 saw Bank of America and other lenders putting a temporary halt to foreclosures after it was revealed that, among other idiotic actions, banks had hired so-called “robosigners,” untrained rubber-stampers, to process mortgage paperwork. BofA was also the source of numerous stories of improper foreclosures and seizures.

Toyota Recalls:
The year started out badly for the world’s largest car company, which ultimately ended up recalling over 9 million vehicles over a variety of safety concerns, most infamously for sudden unintended acceleration. The company blamed that particular problem on a combination of “sticky” gas pedals and ill-placed floor mats. While the recall ruckus did little to harm Toyota’s bottom line, it was a public-relations nightmare for a company that had built its reputation on dependability.

iPhone 4 Death Grip:
Upon its initial release, Apple’s iPhone 4 was heralded as a big step forward for the popular smartphone. But customer complaints of lost signal and dropped calls were confirmed by a Consumer Reports study that showed how an ill-placed antenna could easily be covered up by the user’s hand. Apple’s initial reaction to the problem was flip and dismissive but the company eventually issued an “our bad” and offered to supply free bumpers to all iPhone 4 owners.

BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill:
Pumping millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico — costing thousands of people their livelihoods and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem — was bad enough. But then the CEO of BP compounded the issue by issuing such gems as “The environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest,” and the ever-classic “I would like my life back.” Well good news for him — He got his life back when he was shipped off to Siberia.

Gawker Media Passwords Hacked:
Nick Denton’s hubris got the better of him — and a few million of the people who had registered on one of his Gawker Media sites (including those who had signed up with Consumerist in our pre-Consumers Union days). After taunting the hive mind of the internet for too long, Gawker’s database of user e-mails and passwords was hacked and posted on the internet for all to see, leading to several incidents of hacked bank accounts and fraudulent credit card and PayPal purchases.

So vote away! We’ll be announcing the loser — along with several other honorable mentions — tomorrow at noon ET.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Muddie says:

    Only one of these caused irreparable harm for generations to come. Seems like an easy choice for me.

    • axhandler1 says:

      Yep, it was an easy choice for me too. I’ll be shocked if that one doesn’t win.

    • FatLynn says:

      Agreed. But only because the new Gap logo wasn’t an option.

    • VOIDMunashii says:

      Hmmm, massive environmental damage vs. cell phone signal issues? Yeah, not a hard choice to make.

    • perruptor says:

      I notice that the small detail where 11 people died is missing from that item.

    • Erich says:

      goddamn iPhones, ruining nature for years to come…

    • Nighthawke says:

      And is still not not all cleaned up yet, contrary to the CEO’s proclamations.

    • Daemon Xar says:

      Two of these things caused irreparable harm for generations to come: 1) BP, and 2) robosigners.

      Most people don’t understand the actual effect of the robosigning problems. We’re going to spend generations figuring out who actually owns any property bought or sold in the last few years (some estimates are as high as 75%, though I think that’s an overestimate). It also has the possibility of sinking some of our largest financial institutions, and we’ve all seen the consequences of even a moderately large institution going down (see, e.g. Lehman Brothers and the current financial crisis).

      The oil spill was a disaster, but it’s not the first time it’s happened (and not even the first time in that area). It also affects a relatively discrete area, while robosigning affects the entire United States. BP totally screwed the pooch on it and should bear the consequences, and it’s an environmental disaster of near-epic proportions, but the oil spill doesn’t have the same potential for catastrophic, world-wide dominoing economic consequences that the foreclosure/robosigning debacle has.

    • DriverB says:

      Agreed. I think in any other year, Toyota or Foreclosures could have easily taken this. But BP is such an unmitigated disaster, I’m sure it will ‘win’.

  2. fatediesel says:

    You’re seriously putting Gawker getting it’s passwords hacked in the same category as the BP Oil Spill? One situation shut down a region of the country and caused immeasurable harm to the environment, and one situation sort of inconvenienced some people.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      RTFA, it’s based on nominations. So blame the readers.

      • fatediesel says:

        I did RTFA, I’m not blaming Consumerist, I used the word “You” as a directive to the people that would nominate such a minor thing.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          There are only so many debaucles this year worthy of a vote – Would it make more sense to offer only one choice because YOU think it’s the best one?

          • fatediesel says:

            I think if there weren’t 5 good candidates then they shouldn’t have used 5 finalists. It’s clear that there’s 3 serious problems on the list and 2 minor inconveniences.

  3. ngoandy says:

    BP and Bank Of America are by far the worst mistakes.

    Apple and Gawker were minor inconveniences for most. Toyota cost some people their lives, but not on the scale of the destruction caused by Bank Of America and BP.

    • obits3 says:

      I picked “Foreclosure Fracas/Robosigners Revealed” because of human nature. There will be a lot of pressure to fix the oil issues, but I have not seen as many people worried about these false foreclosures. Allowing BoA and other banks to commit crimes with just a slap on the wrist will have long term consequences far worse than an oil spill because of the “corporations are above the law” attitude that is created.

  4. dush says:

    How can anything compare to the oil spill?
    Loss of cell phone signal vs. entire ecosystems destroyed, really?

    • ARP says:

      To play Devils Advocate- The Robo-signing mortgage issue actually inconvenienced a small (comparatively speaking) number of people, but it shed light on how unfair our legal and banking systems are (and they appear to only be getting worse). So while the current impact is low, but the indirect and future damage to individual rights when they run up against big business could be catastrophic.

      PS- I voted for BP as well, but I think the Robosigning issue is an indication of a much larger storm approaching.

      • obits3 says:

        Exactly, the oil spill (while large) is a point and time problem.

        IMO, blatant violation of due process and fraud by an entire industry (that is still happening today) ranks above an accident caused by not following safety standards.

    • coren says:

      Toyota’s shitty cars got people killed, didn’t they?

      That compares.

  5. Red_Eye says:

    I am so sick of the iphone being the only phone on the radar. Samsung sold millions of phones with poor performing GPS but we don’t hear about that (mostly cause Samsung inst the media darling Apple is and they spin more craftily).

    Quick informal statistics google page count for;
    samsung galaxy s gps problem
    780000 pages

    iphone 4 antenna problem
    789000 pages

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      If Apple and other iPhone users hadn’t toted the iPhone 4 as being the second coming of wireless phones then it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Also, if Apple would make more than one phone with the same software as the iPhone on it, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Android phones aren’t going to get near the heat because there are a couple dozen options. When one of them screws up, no big deal. Lots of options for people. When Apple screws up they like to make sure every user is affected.

      • Red_Eye says:

        Its not just one though its 5 models across many carriers and countries.

        • The cake is a lie! says:

          Modifying the hardware on the same phone doesn’t really count as another option. If I go to AT&T and want an iPhone, how many choices do I really have? If you want an Android or even a Windows 7 phone, how many options do you have then? My point is that they aren’t offering consumers the choices we are used to, so when one of your highly hyped products screws the pooch, you are going to get burned for it big time.

  6. psm321 says:

    Hard to decide…

  7. osiris73 says:

    This is a tough choice. I was initially going to go with BP but to be honest and self-centered… the Gawker thing affected me – personally – the most. I’ve been bombarded with emails from so-called good Samaritans who saw my name on the list. I’ve gotten numerous emails from sites I’m registered on telling me that I need to change my password. Yeah, I was stupid for making my password, while a fairly difficult one, pretty much the same on every site I go to. I’m still worried that I missed a site that I haven’t changed that has access to a credit card or something. I have yet to be screwed completely by the Gawker mess, but I’m still worried that it will happen.

    I don’t own a Toyota, an iPhone, nor deal with troubled banks. Nor do I live anywhere near the gulf. So based on what affects ME, I had to go with Gawker.

  8. The cake is a lie! says:

    Foreclosure Fracas/Robosigners Revealed
    – yeah, that one sucks, but no big shock. It is just how bad business is done.

    Gawker Passwords Hacked
    – That also happens. This isn’t the only company to leak passwords. Didn’t the same thing happen with AT&T and the iPad 3G users?

    iPhone 4 Death Grip
    – Not really a debacle. However, the fact they don’t offer many choices if you want your crapple technology in a phone, it stands out as a big Screw You to the consumer.

    Toyota Recall
    – Toyota isn’t the only company to ever have a massive recall. Not really a debacle.

    BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
    – WINNER!! The way they handled it and the way they blew it off like it wasn’t a big deal really makes this the winner for this list.

    I guess they are all screw ups on some level, but nothing compares to what BP did. The clear winner will be BP by a mile and a half.

  9. NumberSix says:

    BP. It shouldn’t even be on the list since it is WAY out the other’s league.

  10. Cameraman says:

    Deepwater was an engineering screw-up (and resultant PR sh*tstorm), not a business screw-up. The Toyota recalls were engineering screw-ups as well, along with a media blowing the problem way out of proportion. The iPhone deathgrip was Apple being arrogant d-bags and the Gawker hack was a d-bag getting his come-uppance (to the extreme inconvenience of lots of said d-bag’s customers, ie us).

    The robo-signers thing, however, is the bottom level of the house of cards beginning to wobble, and that scares me the most. It reminds us that our economy is a shared hallucination that only works if we don’t think about it too hard, and that is the most terrifying thing of all.

    • obits3 says:


      Having a stable economy is a greater concern than a really bad oil spill in the long run. Because an unstable economy creates fear and keeps people from investing in things that are good for the environment. As some have said:

      ‘It’s the economy stupid.”

      I like to think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If people are worried about their homes and jobs, they will tend to ignore the Self-actualization needs like improving the environment for future generations.

      • ARP says:

        +1 for mentioning Maslow in a post. I voted for BP, but wish I can switch to Robosigning. As I mention in the post above, the shakey foundation of our economy + ignoring due process + shady practices by big business + Fox News/ Republicans still going with the “bought too much house” argument= bad economic and political future.

        Corporatism and political and economic philosophy FT(unfortunate)W

      • lucky13 says:

        Exactly why I voted for robosigning too.

    • Kate says:

      No, it was a business screw up. They had plenty of warning there were problems and they purposely ignored those as well as taking huge chances in how they built it.

    • katarzyna says:

      The engineering “screw-ups” are caused by bad business decisions. Toyota and BP decided to cut corners to maximize profits, and people and the environment ended up getting hurt.

    • PunditGuy says:

      When your business is engineering, how else are you supposed to screw up?

      They filed official paperwork stating that they could contain a leak that large if one should happen — it’s one of the reasons why they were allowed to drill there — knowing that was false. That was a business decision.

      They had an option to slow down and do the work more methodically. They chose a cheaper option. That was a business decision.

      Lobbying to limit their culpability in cleaning up their own mess? Business decision.

  11. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    While the BP fiasco is the largest *environmental* debacle on the list, the question is about business debacles. For that, I find it hard to choose between BP’s poor response, BofA’s disregard for proper legal procedure, or Toyota’s failure to immediately request a recall of faulty product.

  12. teke367 says:

    To me, its either BP or the mortgage thing. The Oil Spill is a much bigger problem, but also it was a situation (sort of) out of BP’s control that they didn’t handle well (or handled very poorly to be more accurate).

    The problem with the mortgage crisis wasn’t that they didn’t know how to handle it, it was they went about handling it in the worst way possible. For all of BP’s screw ups, it wasn’t as though they could have said, “well, we’ll just fix it, even if it means we don’t make as much money.” The mortgage companies could have handled their debacle and avoided the problem altogether (the robosigners, not the actual financial meltdown). Even if BP handled their situation well, there still would have been an oil spill.

  13. YokoOhNo says:

    i want to change my vote to the robo signers and BP.

  14. dolemite says:

    They are all so worthy, but BP was such a disaster on so many fronts.

    Ever notice how it just dropped off the face of the news and we never got any follow ups? Was the wildlife affected terribly? Did people ever get to go back to work? Are they still being paid by BP? What about the coverups? How was the US government and a foreign company able to tell people they were forbidden from setting foot on their own property? What about the oil they just buried under a few inches of sand so it’d just look nice…did that ever resurface?

    Of course we won’t know about cancer rate increase, health problems from their toxic stew of chemicals and oil for years if ever.

    • ARP says:

      I agree its a big deal, and a close second to the Robosigning. I just think the robosigning issue is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the intersection of bad business, bad politics, disregard of due process, which will all lead to a very bad economy in the long term. As we see in third world countries, poeople really don’t care about the evironment if they’re too poor to get by.

  15. HoJu says:

    I would like to nominate myself in that I sold and financed my business to a guy that didn’t pay and already has two liens on his house and I stand no chance of getting my money for it….

    Live and learn. Always run a credit check.

  16. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I just read Rolling Stone’s profile of the Massey Energy CEO – I think Massey Energy’s Upper Branch explosion deserves a write in vote.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    I’m choosing based on deaths, destruction and ruin. So the BP oil-spill is a lock for my vote.

  18. Cicadymn says:

    We’re sowwy.

    Dreadfully…dreadfully sorry.

  19. ehrgeiz says:

    I am not sure how any of these can even stand up to BP oil spill.

  20. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The poll is for the “Biggest Business Debacle”. The BP spill was avoidable but the business debacle was BP’s actual and public relations handling of the spill. As with Toyota it’s the denials that get you into more trouble.

  21. KlueBat says:

    Do Apple and Gawker even belong on the list compared to the other three?

  22. no says:

    We need fewer “Worst XXX” polls. Consumerist is getting overrun with them lately, and it’s seriously cheapening WCIA.