We’ve all screwed up at work at some point or another. Hopefully, you got away with it, like the time in high school I was spinning a key ring around my finger and it flew off my hand and shattered a glass movie poster case. Maybe you got fired, like the time in high school when everyone working at the theater that night decided to get drunk and we all got fired because some bitch ass little snitch ratted on us. Hopefully, you don't run a blogging platform and fuck up, somehow making it completely unusable. If you work in marketing, the idea is for as many people as humanly possible to see your work so if you fuck up, the odds of nobody noticing are never in your favor.
In 1992 Coca Cola was winning the cola wars big time in the Philippines so Pepsi launched a campaign called “Number Fever,” where people collected bottle caps containing a three-digit number for the chance to win anywhere from a thousand to a million Pesos. The grand prize came out to about 40k USD, which might as well be a million dollars over there. Good job Pepsi, way to invent the lottery.
Sales shot up 40% overnight. Winners were announced daily, leading up to the grand prize. People were drinking Pepsi with every meal and hoarding bottle caps worse than that one aunt who doesn’t get invited to Christmas anymore. In fact, sales were so good, they extended the contest an extra five weeks. Consulting firm, D.G. Consultores, was hired to randomly select the numbers so things would be fair. In the interest of being fair to Pepsi shareholders, D.G. Consultores was given a list of numbers that were under no circumstances to be “randomly selected.” Unfortunately, they didn’t get the memo.
They definitely didn’t want 349 to get picked for the grand prize considering there were about 800,000 bottle caps with 349 printed on it. Can anyone guess what the winning number was? If you guessed 349, congratulations, you just won a million Pesos. Executives budgeted to hand out two million dollars in prizes. They found themselves in what philosophers like to call, “A real shit pickle” when they realized they were on the hook for 32 BILLION dollars. After one of the few meetings in history that should have gone on longer, Pepsi said, “Oh sorry dog, the security code on the cap is invalid but we’ll go ahead and give you $20 just so there’s no hard feelings.” Considering about half the country just told their boss to go fuck themselves, it would be an understatement to say they didn’t have a sense of humor about the situation.
Angry swarms of Philippinos attacked Pepsi warehouses and office buildings, throwing rocks and freaking Molotov cocktails. Dozens of Pepsi trucks were overturned. A school teacher and a five-year-old girl were killed after a frag grenade bounced off a Pepsi truck in Manila and landed in a crowd of people. Six other rioters were injured. Pepsi executives fled the country after receiving death threats from, well… everyone. Pepsi spent the next fourteen years embroiled in lawsuits. Unfortunately for justice and human decency, Pepsi can afford a lot better lawyers than all the peasants in the Philippines, so they only wound up paying about ten million in damages. In 2006 the Philippino supreme court ruled that they found, “No proof of negligence” on the part of Pepsi so they should not be held liable for the riots. It is unclear how many millions in bribes that cost them.
That same year the British wing of Maytag brand, Hoover, found themselves low on sales and high on inventory. They partnered with a travel agency to offer two return airplane tickets to England from anywhere in Europe if you spent at least a hundred pounds on Hoover products. Several marketing companies warned them it was a horrible idea but they went ahead anyway. The thing is, it actually worked pretty well. The rub was: you had to buy a ticket to SOMEWHERE, in order to use the return tickets. Plus, there were a ton of bullshit hoops you had to jump through to actually get the tickets, as well as get hounded by the travel agency for unwanted ad-ons like trip insurance. Products started moving out of the warehouses and due to all the fine print bullshit, most people weren’t using their free tickets.
It would have been a slam dunk, but Hoover got greedy. They extended the program, as well as national advertising for it, and began to offer tickets to New York or Florida. Suddenly it was worth it for customers to jump through all the hoops to get their tickets. Hoover had to scramble to hire new workers and ramp up production to meet the new demand for all the products they were selling. Newspapers reported about angry customers who were experiencing long delays getting their tickets; which just led to even more people knowing about the offer, leading to tens of thousands more orders. All told, half a million people went out and bought the cheapest piece of shit vacuum cleaner they could get to qualify for plane tickets worth at least six times that much.
Hoover and the travel agency did everything they could to weasel out of their obligations. The travel agency didn’t return calls, they did every boiler room ass tactic to upsell any and everything they could; they offered flights from shithole airports nowhere near where people wanted to go. A pissed off customer named Harry Cichy formed the “Hoover Holiday Pressure Group” so angry customers could collectively raise a ruckus about their tickets. Harry used his free ticket to America to go to Hoover’s parent company, Maytag’s, headquarters to yell at Execs. That’s fucking gangster in my book.
Out of the half million motherfuckers that bought Hoover products, an estimated 220,000 managed to get their free tickets. They managed to boost sales by a cool 30m pounds, which would be nice except they handed out 50m pounds worth of airline tickets. That would be like 125 million in American real money today.
One of the things that ironically fucked Hoover over in this situation is that they were a trusted brand back in the day when that actually meant something. That’s why so many people went out and participated. Imagine if you saw that same ad today for “Trump Appliances LLC.” Even people wearing MAGA hats would be like, “There’s gotta be a catch,” and not bother. Well, after that, Hoover’s reputation score was about as high as “Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler” and his world-famous sausage in a bun street cart.
A surly old fuck out in the English countryside named David Dixon bought an expensive washing machine so he could get tickets to take his family to Disneyland. Not only could he not manage to get his tickets, but the washing machine was a busted piece of shit. He was complaining to the repairman sent to his house when the repairman said, “You have to be an idiot to think you were going to get two free tickets to America for buying a washer.” Dixon replied, “I’m not as stupid as you are. At least I don’t have to walk home.” Then Dixon blocked in the repairman’s van and held it hostage for thirteen days until he got his tickets. The police were called but decided it was a civil matter between Dixon and Hoover and buggered off.
The most fucked up part is that now the market was flooded with hundreds of thousands of Hoover products people never wanted in the first place. For the next couple years, anyone who wanted a new vacuum cleaner just had to go on the local classifieds and pick up a never used Hoover for pennies on the dollar. The entire English branch of Hoover was sold to an Italian appliance company called “Candy” for a huge loss.
I nominate Beograd to get off his ass and write something for the contest and American Carnage.