INTERVIEWS / DEC. 10, 2013
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Executive Screw Ups of 2013

If as James Joyce put it, “mistakes are the portals of discovery,” then I wonder what some high profile people and businesses have discovered about themselves this year.

Let's take a look at some of the most noteworthy mishaps of 2013...

President Barack Obama certainly had his share of mishaps in 2013. The launch of his health care initiative became, and continues to be, a statistical nightmare; Edward Snowden revealed to the world that America was spying on them; and Obama was left with many questions to answer regarding a cover up in the Benghazi scandal. It seems nothing has gone as planned for the final term President, even his top legislative priority - immigration reform - was put on the back burner for an ultimately failed attempt at gun control which consumed much of his political capital.

Coffee giant Starbucks made the news this year when it was revealed that they had managed to avoid paying the necessary taxes to British revenue services. This ignited caffeine fueled anger from English consumers who insisted that the ‘buck stopped there!’ Many Starbuck stores were boycotted and some closed down. Although the coffee chain was not the only offender of a multinational tax avoidance scheme, ( Amazon, Google and Apple were named also,) the coffee business is a competitive one and customers can make their point by choosing a civilly responsible brew over a tax dodging one.

AT&T’s attempt to honor the victims of the September 11 tragedy backfired this year when the company tweeted a picture of a phone held up in front of the ‘Tribute in Lights’ searchlights. Furious Tweeters responded with a barrage of furious statements calling the picture a shameless product placement opportunity that was tacky and horribly disrespectful. AT&T removed the picture after only an hour and apologized to the people who found the post to be ‘in poor taste.’

Canadian active wear manufacturer Lululemon managed to take a product problem from bad to worse when the company founder insulted its most loyal customers. Lululemon Athletica Inc. had secured themselves as the yoga pant kings of the fitness industry until it was discovered that their product became see-through when stretched. This problem was quickly amended with the release of a new product that ensured full coverage but was then compounded when founder Chip Wilson declared that the reason the original pants were see through was because the women wearing them had fat thighs. Oh dear!

This holiday season, McDonalds made a super-sized mistake when they provided their mostly minimum wage employees with etiquette advice. The company website was full of information from Emily Post on how families should tip over the holidays, which included how to tip their Au Pair, Nanny and Personal trainer….  Need I say more?

You would think that the higher the profits, the less likely the mistakes...but this just goes to show that if you don't have the right people working for you, you can easily force a person's reputation or company's brand image into the mud with one simple (avoidable) mistake. 

This wraps up the mistake riddled year of 2013. We can only wonder what blunders await us in the New Year?


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