30 Stories We Didn’t Expect To Write In 2016

Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski

As a wise internet meme once said, some things are worth waiting for. Often, we end up waiting for them for so long, that when they finally do come to pass, we can’t help but be a bit shocked. And some things… Well, we never expected in the first place.

As we approach the end of 2016, we thought we’d take a look back at a handful of stories we covered that surprised us — for better or worse — simply by existing.

We’ve gathered a few of the top highlights and headlines that had us scratching our heads and saying, “Well, that just happened.”

Top 10 Most Surprising

1. Speak Freely America: New Federal Law Outlaws Gag Clauses That Punish You For Negative Reviews
After nearly a decade of reporting about businesses that use gag orders to prevent their customers from exercising their legally protected rights to voice their honest opinions, President Obama signed into law the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which makes it against the law for companies to prevent customers from publicly sharing honest feedback.

2. Comcast Exec Admits That Net Neutrality Is Not As Scary As Industry Made It Out To Be
Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? Though Comcast claimed in 2015 that the Federal Communications Commission’s rules finalizing “net neutrality” would be counterproductive, ineffective, and unlawful, an executive at the cable giant actually admitted these changes haven’t really had any effect on business.

3. Anyone Can Make & Market A Dietary Supplement, Including Consumer Reports
We knew that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, but we were genuinely surprised to find out how easy it was for our colleagues at Consumer Reports to make their own store-ready supplements on an office desk, using supplies readily available to anyone online. Thankfully, CR’s “Thinitol” pills will never see store shelves.

4. John Oliver Buys $15M In Medical Debt, Then Forgives It
We can tell you about the growing problem of medical debt and how hospitals are suing thousands of patients for having the gall to be both sick and poor. But that was nothing compared to the sight of a goofy English guy forgiving $15 million in medical debt he bought for pennies on the dollar.

5. Petsitter Loses $1 Million Lawsuit Over Negative Yelp Review
The six-month saga of the Texas petsitter who sued a customer for up to $1 million in damages over a negative Yelp review finally came to an end, with a judge agreeing to dismiss the case that made national headlines.

6. Judges In Subway “Foot-Long Fraud” Appeal Ask Why Case Wasn’t Thrown Out Long Ago
How the heck did the Subway “footlong” lawsuit make it all the way to a federal appeals court? We’re not sure, but it did. As one lawyer in the case jokingly theorized, “Perhaps there are consumers that really care that much about the shape of their bread.”

7. University Ripped For Pushing Chocolate Milk As Concussion Treatment
A University of Maryland program that partners up state school researchers with local companies was roundly criticized for declaring — without publishing a shred of evidence — that one corporate partner’s particular brand of chocolate milk can improve cognitive skills of athletes who suffered a concussion. The school eventually beat a hasty retreat, admitting that there were “troubling” issues with the program’s press release, and returning the full $228,000 in funding it received from the beverage company.

8. Interesting Things Happen When Verizon Gives You Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Old Number
In which a Seattle lawyer reveals that he’s spent four years fielding calls on a Verizon number that once belonged to Sir Mix-A-Lot, the inimitable artiste immortalized for bravely voicing his affection for larger-than-average derrières.

9. Man Arrested For Not Returning ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ VHS Rental In 2002
We will always remember 2016 as the year we found out that you can indeed be taken into custody for not returning a 14-year-old VHS copy of Freddy Got Fingered starring Tom Green.

10. Why The Supreme Court Suddenly Cares About Cheerleader Uniforms
A legal dispute over lookalike cheerleader uniforms might seem like a story to be relegated to the “Odd News” section, but this case currently being weighed by the nation’s highest court has far-reaching implications, and could arguably allow companies to create 100-year monopolies in the fashion, furniture, and housewares industries. A ruling in this case is expected early in the new year.

Honorable Mention

11. Netflix Will Finally Let Users Download Some Content For Offline Viewing

12. In-Flight Cellphone Calls May Finally Be Ready For Takeoff

13.  Amazon Won’t Say If Employee Added Unrequested Dildo To Customer’s Cart

14. Is The Klingon Language Protected By Copyright? Paramount Thinks So

15. Scammers Ran A Fake U.S. Embassy In Ghana For A Decade Before Being Shut Down

16. No More Wearing Glasses To Look Smart In Your Passport Photo

17. McDonald’s Accused Of Stealing Late Artist’s Work To Make Fake Graffiti On Restaurant Walls

18. Minnesota Vikings Let Wells Fargo Keep “Photobombing” Rooftop Signs After All

19. Debt Collector Gets Out Of Lawsuit By Buying The Lawsuit Out From Under The Plaintiff 

20. Big Dairy Settles Claim It Killed Cows To Keep Milk Prices Up; Are You Due A Piece Of $52M?

21. No, You Won’t Go To Federal Prison For Sharing Your Netflix Password

22. Punch Up Your Real Estate Listing By Posing In A Panda Costume In Every Photo

23.  Fox Swipes YouTube Clip Of Video Game For “Family Guy” Then Demands Copyright Takedown Of Original

24. Cable Industry Doesn’t Understand Net Neutrality, Wants Netflix Investigated For Throttling

25. Aviation Authority: No, You Can’t Put Your Supernatural Dolls In Airplane Seats 

26. Court Says Tattooing Is Protected Speech, Mocks City For Misrepresenting “Margaritaville” Lyrics

27. ITT Tech Closes All 130 Campuses

28. Price War: Several Michigan Gas Stations Sold Gas For Under $1/Gallon

29. Warner Bros. Demands Copyright Takedown Of Its Own Websites

30. Care.com Can’t Explain Why People Keep Texting Me To Babysit Their Kids

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