Business Fumbles and Blunders From 2009. What Were They Thinking?

Need another laugh? Check out our Business Blunders of the Year.

No year is without its collection of baffling business blunders. But for a year in which everyone supposedly was extra mindful of job security, 2009 was loaded with amazingly boneheaded moves. Did Burger King really run sexually suggestive ad in super-conservative Singapore? Did execs at Amazon.com actually pull a classic book from its store and assume no one would notice? You have to ask, 'What were they thinking?' So ask is what we did, in quiz form.

Here are 13 blunders from 2009. See how many you get right.

1. The Price of Bad Management at BofA


Bank of America stock plunged more than 75 percent in the first quarter of 2009 after CEO Ken Lewis engineered the disastrous acquisitions of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, while neglecting to tell regulators that Merrill paid $5.8 billion in bonuses before the deal went through. How did the Bank of America board of directors deal with Lewis?
  • A. Cut his executive compensation by 50 percent
  • B. Demanded that he publicly apologize to stockholders
  • C. Appointed him "CEO for Life"
  • D. Granted him pension benefits totaling $53 million

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  • Answer: D - Granted him pension benefits totaling $53 million

2. Burger King's Super Seven Incher


A print ad for Burger King's "Super Seven Incher" in Singapore featured a phallic-shaped sandwich near the open mouth of a wide-eyed, red-lipsticked woman. The image was in dubious taste to begin with. So what copy did the company include in the ad (before protests forced the company to hastily pull it)?
  • A. "Big Food For Fast Times"
  • B. "Find out why it takes two hands to handle the Whopper"
  • C. "Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled"
  • D. "Mmmmmmm"

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  • Answer: C - "Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled"

3. Apple's Problematic iPhone App


In April, Apple removed a controversial 99-cent application from its iPhone App Store amid widespread criticism. An Apple spokesperson offered an apology for what she admitted was a "deeply offensive" application. What was the app?
  • A. "iAlimony," an app that offered strategies for divorcing husbands to minimize monthly alimony payment
  • B. "Slave Holder" a game in which players bought and sold slaves to work on a virtual plantation
  • C. "Baby Shaker," a game that let users silence an animated baby's cries by shaking the phone until red X's appeared over the infant's eyes
  • D. "StripperPole," an app that let users manipulate animated strippers to win e-cash

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  • Answer:C - "Baby Shaker," a game that let users silence an animated baby's cries by shaking the phone until red X's appeared over the infant's eyes

4. The Chamber of Commerce's Climate Change Fix

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce advanced a novel solution to the effects of global warming, which prompted high-profile public companies such as Apple and PG&E to quit the organization. According to the Chamber, what will help humans adapt to global warming?
  • A. Increased use of air conditioning
  • B. Mass migration from equatorial regions
  • C. Larger refrigerators
  • D. SPF 2000 sun block

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  • Answer: A - Increased use of air conditioning

5. Amazon.com Plays Censor

Amazon came under widespread criticism for secretly deleting a book from its Kindle device because of a copyright dispute. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos later admitted the deletion was "stupid and thoughtless," and ordered the book be restored. What was the book?
  • A. The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama
  • B. Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler
  • C. Jeff Bezos: King of Amazon, by Josepha Sherman
  • D. 1984, by George Orwell

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  • Answer: D - 1984, by George Orwell

6. Citibank's Feel-Good Advice

Even as Citibank accepted $45 billion in federal bailout money, the troubled bank ran ads that offered its customers heartfelt advice about money management. What was the ad's tag line?
  • A. "It's easier to borrow a billion dollars than a thousand"
  • B. "We all have to spend, so let's be smart about it"
  • C. "A penny saved is not much of a start"
  • D. "Don't put your trust in money. Put your money in trust"

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  • Answer: B - "We all have to spend, so let's be smart about it"

7. The New York Yankee's Sparkling Stadium

photo: Ed Yourdon, Flickr.com
The New York Yankees opened its new $1.3 billion ballpark in April and won the World Series in November. But which problem continues to bedevil Yankee Stadium?
  • A. The luxury boxes have restrooms for men but not women
  • B. The stadium's concrete pedestrian ramps, built by a company accused of having links to the mob, already sport large cracks
  • C. Home runs fly out of the new ballpark at a rate lower than any other major league facility
    Water from the stadium's water fountains does not meet New York City standards for cleanliness
  • D. Water from the stadium's water fountains does not meet New York City standards for cleanliness

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  • Answer: B - The stadium's concrete pedestrian ramps, built by a company accused of having links to the mob, already sport large cracks

8. AOL's Post Time-Warner Strategy

In December, Time Warner spun off AOL, marking an end to one of the most disastrous corporate mergers in history. What initiative has the new AOL already announced to improve its fortunes as a stand-alone company?
  • A. An ambitious plan to convince at least 25 percent of its dial-up customers to upgrade to a high-speed connection
  • B. The creation of a million-member "Friends of AOL" fan group on Facebook
  • C. A new logo featuring the company name superimposed over various images, including a goldfish, a rainbow, and a tree
  • D. Changing the "You've got mail" alert to "You've got mail â€" Uh huh!"

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  • Answer: C - A new logo featuring the company name superimposed over various images, including a goldfish, a rainbow, and a tree

9. The Reach of Comcast-NBC

If the proposed $30 billion deal between General Electric and Comcast for NBC Universal is approved, which of the following would NOT be true about the combined Comcast-NBC?
  • A. Would control 20% of Americans' television viewing hours
  • B. Would own The Tonight Show, The Biggest Loser, and Real Housewives
  • C. Would own a controlling interest in Krispy Kreme Donuts
  • D. Would own the site astrology.com

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  • Answer: D - Would own the site astrology.com

10. The Goldman Sachs Pay Plan

In a year when Goldman Sachs accepted $10 billion from the U.S. government to help it weather the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the securities giant set aside $16.7 billion for employee compensation. If the employee compensation was distributed evenly, how much would each Goldman worker receive?
  • A. $140,212
  • B. $87,998
  • C. $259,979
  • D. $527,192

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  • Answer: D - $527,192

11. Glenn Beck's Economic Plan


Despite signs that the recession is lifting, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck warned viewers in November that the economy was still in danger of "recession, depression or collapse." According to Beck, what should investors rely on in such dire times?
  • A. "God, gold and guns"
  • B. "Stocks, savings, and sweat"
  • C. "Google, Apple, and Microsoft"
  • D. "Dollars, dollars, dollars"

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  • Answer: A - "God, gold and guns"

12. Dubai's Debt Freeze

In November, world markets were shaken when the government of the United Arab Emirates announced a standstill on $26 billion in debt owed by its state-run investment company, Dubai World. Which of these assets is NOT owned by Dubai World?
  • A. A collection of man-made islands shaped like the continents of the world
  • B. A collection of man-made islands shaped like a palm tree
  • C. Luxury watchmaker Rolex
  • D. Luxury clothing retailer Barney's

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  • Answer: C - Luxury watchmaker Rolex

13. You Want the SEC to Report What?

This year, a group of institutional investors that manage more than $1 trillion in pension fund assets petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission with an unusual request. What was it?
  • A. That public companies be prohibited from paying their top executives more than $250,000 per year in total compensation
  • B. That pension funds be taxed at a slightly higher rate than they are now
  • C. That pension funds be exempted from all federal regulation
  • D. That public companies be forced to disclose the financial risks they face from climate change

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  • Answer: D - That public companies be forced to disclose the financial risks they face from climate change
Read what you missed on BNET in 2009: