While a video prematurely posted on channel 9’s website announcing the winner of Celebrity Apprentice may have spoiled the hype around its finale, as far as employee stuff-ups go, this was child’s play.
HC takes a look at history’s biggest employee blunders:
Attacking the wrong country
In 2002 a unit of heavily armed British Royal Marines were ordered to land on the beaches of Gibraltar for a practice exercise with other marines. Unfortunately, they landed in the wrong country: confused by bad weather in their helicopter, they unknowingly ended up in Spain where they landed and pulled out their SA80 assault rifles and 60mm mortars on bemused local fishermen. The Ministry of Defence later commented: "It was clearly an embarrassing and unfortunate incident. They made their apologies and left."
The worst promotion
From 1993-1994, vacuum company Hoover offered a promotional deal to their customers: spend £100 on any of their products and win two free return flights to Europe or the US. Unfortunately for the company, the promotion proved so popular that it became financially unfeasible to sustain and the company stopped issuing tickets. Following thousands of complaints, the BBC's Watchdog exposed the company's policy of intentionally holding back the promised tickets, leading to the sacking of the entire board and the selling of the company to an Italian firm. The fiasco cost Hoover their reputation, as well as nearly £50m.
Picasso's painting - punctured
In 2006, Steve Wynn, a high-profile art collector, was finalising the sale of Pablo Picasso's 1932 work, The Dream. While he was speaking, with particularly extravagant hand gestures, he accidentally crashed his elbow through the canvas of the painting. The deal, which would have fetched the art dealer $139m, was called off and expensive and extensive repair work had to be carried out.
Ink and incapability
Thomas Carlyle was an influential nineteenth-century social critic, who enjoyed a reputation as one of the leading thinkers of his age. In the mid-1830s he wrote the first volume of his book The French Revolution, A History, which he then handed to his friend John Stuart Mill to read. Disastrously, while in Mill's care, an illiterate housekeeper mistook the manuscript for a pile of waste paper and burnt the work in its entirety. Carlyle had to rewrite the volume, which, when finally published in 1837, became an immediate success.
The multi-million-dollar miscalculation
The Mars Climate Orbiter, a multi-million dollar spacecraft built to discover more about the climate and atmosphere of Mars, was launched with great hype in 1999. However, the spacecraft failed to enter Mars's atmosphere successfully and never collected any data. When an inquiry was launched into the reason for the failure, it was discovered that one of the scientists working on the project had been using imperial units, while all others had converted to the metric system.
Unlimited first-class flights
In 1985 American Airlines offered the enticing proposition: for $US250,000 ($A245,000) – and an extra $US150,000 ($147,000) for a travel companion – you could enjoy unlimited first-class flights for life. They never imagined the extent of the storm they had brewed.
Travellers snapped up the deal and have been living the high life ever since, bleeding the airline dry and forcing it to hire private detectives and pursue legal action in a desperate bid to ground the passengers once and for all. “We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees,” Bob Crandall, American Airlines' chairman and chief executive from 1985-98, told the LA Times. “It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were.”
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