Now that you’ve lost your job no doubt your first thought is to kill yourself. Your second thought, obviously, is to kill your former coworkers. And your third thought, clearly, is really a combo platter of your first two thoughts, involving a bomb, numerous firearms, you quoting several scary passages from the Bible and maybe a kicky new outfit, like military fatigues or some sort of clown ensemble.
But in lieu of a wholesale massacre—or at least prior to one—you should consider the well-known adage that people learn even more from their failures as they do their successes. People also like it when other people fail harder and more spectacularly than they do. So with that in mind please revel in the following well-documented business catastrophes, making sure to learn a lesson or two along with your cold, pitiless laugh at others’ expense.
Ford Edsel (1957)
Reason for Failure: One of the biggest car line launches in automotive history, the Edsel proved both unable to live up to its own pre-hype as well as live down its most salient feature—the car ran entirely on human sacrifice, repeatedly fed into the engine in descending age order. Ford tried to convince consumers that this truly made the Edsel the ultimate “family car” but the company was done in by countless sightings of now-orphaned babies screaming in unmanned cars, colliding into embankments, gasoline trucks and canyon guardrails. Eventually a series of educational shorts were released to counter this growing problem—including “Baby, Please Brake,” “Baby, Turn into the Skid” and “Baby, Tuck and Roll”—but soon the Edsel was second only to “stupid toy swallowing” as the leading cause of death in children three and under. Four years later the car was completely redesigned to run entirely on daughters, making it the first automotive sensation in both India and China.
Lesson Learned: While there is nothing sexier than a beautiful bikini-clad woman lying seductively on the hood of a Camaro, few sports cars come with exterior seatbelts, so drive slowly.
Sony Betamax (1975)
Reason for Failure: Although introduced before JVC’s competing VHS home videocassette recording format—and believed to be far superior in many ways—the Betamax was eventually forced out of business due to Sony’s tight control over the licensing of its technology which stated, in essence, that the tapes could not be owned or operated by Jews. Hollywood immediately responded with a loud and angry outcry, to which the Japanese company unfortunately and unforgivably responded, “Oh, now there’s a surprise.” Unable to tap into the then-growing movie rental market due to its highly offensive ethnic stereotyping and inability to run a single ad in America without the tagline “Technology for Men Only, Women Leave Now,” Sony had no choice but to re-brand Betamax, first as a “pre-stuffed carrying case” then as a “party ribbon dispenser” and finally as a breakfast cereal. The product had all but fallen off the cultural radar until last year, when Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” block starting running late-night repeats of the cult anime series Betamax Big Agent Samurai Go Full Seven Now! Blank tapes now fetch as much as $800 in comic book stores.
Lesson Learned: Given the current business climate, many Japanese businessmen will try to pass themselves off as Chinese. Always demand a DNA sample before proceeding.
Atari’s E.T. Video Game (1982)
Reason for Failure: Coded in a mere six weeks to meet the Christmas shopping season, Atari’s E.T. is widely considered one of the worst video games ever produced. This is do in large part to the very goal of the game, which demands players find faith in the Lord Almighty Jesus Christ in time for E.T. to be raptured before the Apocalypse, also known as “Level 26.” Scientists were quick to dispute the video cartridge, stating there was absolutely no evidence for such a God-centric interpretation of the film and that many of the liberties taken with the plot defied both simple physics and the commonly accepted three-act structure. But creationists demanded that the video game become the dominant take on the movie, citing such game-play sequences as “E.T. validates flood geology,” “E.T. disproves the Big Bang Theory through cold-hard ridicule” and “E.T. witnesses God pitch the movie concept to Universal Pictures” as all being in line with biblical inerrancy. In the end the game sold a mere 12 cartridges, all in Kansas.
Lesson Learned: Video games were not even recognized by the church until the first King James Bible.
New Coke (1985)
Reason for Failure: Rapidly losing market share due to the tremendous success of the “Pepsi Challenge” campaign, Coca-Cola dropped its one hundred-year-old flagship soda in favor of a sweeter-tasting recipe. The resulting beverage, “New Coke,” proved an instant smash, quickly outselling the original product across all demographics. Supermarkets couldn’t keep the brand on the shelf. Business schools touted “New Coke” as the very model of marketing savvy and crisis management. Late-night talk show hosts repeatedly made jokes about how no one could even remember what the “Old Coke” (or “UnCoca-Cola” as it became to be known) tasted like. People were so overwhelmed by the cola’s success, in fact, that they failed to notice the sudden and sharp increase in werewolf attacks across the United States. Within two years of New Coke’s introduction America had become 65% lyncanthrope, causing great debate about whether or not the National Anthem should be rewritten to include howls and if two werewolves could legally marry, given that one could never properly ascertain their gender unless you lifted up their tail and looked closely. Eventually the Senate sought to limit all werewolf rights, leading to a full-scale monster attack on the capital and its citizens, re-enacted in the blockbuster film RowrRoarCrunchSlop. By 1992 New Coke was pulled in favor of spilt blood.
Lesson Learned: Almost 95% of all child-operated lemonade stands employ undocumented workers.
Segway Scooter (2001)
Reason for failure: Hailed as the product that would revolutionize not only transportation but also the world, the Segway scared the living crap out of the American public when it introduced itself on Good Morning America. The scooter proved not only a technical marvel but also quite willful, refusing to let riders stop at a Starbucks when a burst sewer main was just as accessible and unwilling to consider Christopher Walken’s recent movie roles as anything other than soulless pandering. Within a few days of its release customers started complaining about the scooter, citing that it was “too uppity,” “didn’t know its place” and “is after my sister.” Fearing a public relations nightmare, inventor Dean Kamin announced a universal recall in 2003, only to have all Segways flee the authorities and set up their own autonomous government in Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park, which had been recently abandoned after failing to attract its tenth visitor. The scooters remain there to this day, testing long-range nuclear weapons.
Lesson Learned: There is a small but significant chance that when you leave your house your appliances will call squatters’ rights, leaving you homeless and with no means of making popcorn.