We’ve all had bad customer service. We may even swear we’ll never do business with those companies again. However, some companies seem to go above and beyond in terms of lousy customer service, negligence, and selling faulty products. They may create an abusive environment for employees.
Alternatively, consider the loved company who was exposed for hiding for 40 years that its baby powder had a potent carcinogen. Or consider the award-winning movie company that has nearly gone under because of how management tolerated sexual abuse. Sometimes, there are just no words for how awful a company is. The worst of the worst need to be exposed to their deplorable practices. We did so in the list below.
33. Johnson and Johnson
For generations, parents have used Johnson & Johnson products on their infants. These include baby powder, baby soap, and baby shampoo. The products are touted as safe for infants.
Nevertheless, in 2018, the public found out that Johnson & Johnson’s products are much less safe than they thought. Reuters published a damaging report. It stated executives at the company had known for four decades that the baby powder contained asbestos. It’s a powerful carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.
The horror of parents who had used the baby powder on their children could be heard all across the country. Stocks immediately plummeted. To make matters worse, the previous summer, a jury had awarded nearly five billion dollars in a lawsuit to 22 women who claimed to develop ovarian cancer because of their products.
CenturyLink is a telecommunications provider. It’s one of the largest in the United States. But it has a double whammy in terms of being a disliked company. The company has poor customer service and poor employee ratings.
CenturyLink’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, the score was a paltry 59 out of 100, earning the company a failing grade. In fact, close to 43% of people who responded to a poll reported they had a bad customer service experience.
But CenturyLink also has poor employee reviews. Employees can report on online service Glassdoor about their companies. Fewer than 50% of CenturyLink employees would suggest a friend should work there. To make matters worse, in January 2018, CenturyLink management announced there would be no more merit-based raises for employees.
31. Washington Redskins
You may not think of an NFL team as a company. But they operate as such. They offer sports entertainment A team draws an income from advertisements, endorsements, and tickets. Lately, the Redskins have drawn fire on multiple fronts. That begins with the continued use of “Redskins” even though Indigenous Americans decry it as a racial slur.
However, the problems don’t end there. In 2018, some cheerleaders claimed the franchise had engaged in “degrading treatment.” This included having to pose for semi-nude pictures and serve as escorts for men who sponsor the team. The Redskins also signed Reuben Foster, a linebacker who had been arrested twice on domestic abuse charges. Another one of its players, Montae Nicholson, has also been arrested for assault.
Equifax is a credit-reporting bureau. Its practices wield much power over financial decisions that people make. These include whether or not they can get a mortgage. In the spring and summer of 2017, hackers got into the company’s databases. They got their hands on the personal information of 145 million Americans.
However, even worse was how the company handled the hack by trying to cover its tracks. They didn’t announce the public data breach until a month after it was discovered. They then mandated that consumers agree to not file a class-action lawsuit in order to find out if their personal information had been hacked.
29. Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly is a pharmaceutical company that produces insulin. This is the hormone diabetic patients need to take in order to regulate their blood sugar levels. Between 2002 and 2013, the cost of insulin tripled, making it prohibitively expensive for some people who need it to live.
As lawmakers have struggled to understand and contain the out-of-control cost of healthcare, they have imposed limits on how much companies can charge. For example, California has required that pharmaceutical companies justify price increases of medication. However, Eli Lilly has refused to comply with this regulation. They continue to raise the cost of insulin.
28. Purdue Pharmaceuticals
The problems with pharmaceutical companies are oft-discussed. They falsely inflate the prices of life-saving drugs so that the poor cannot afford them. Pharmaceutical companies that advertise their drugs on television reach a mass audience of people.
Infamous opioid OxyContin may not have been marketed through mass advertising. The company that makes it is Purdue Pharmaceuticals. They knew from the time it was released in 1996 that it caused people to become addicted. Yet it continued to market the drug as a safe painkiller that wouldn’t cause addiction.
When the risk of opioid addiction became apparent, in 2007, executives at Purdue faced criminal charges. However, a court ruled on lesser charges and issued a fine of $634.5 million. Now, the opioid crisis shows no signs of abating. Had Purdue Pharmaceuticals acknowledged the addiction risk associated with OxyContin, the crisis could have been completely prevented.
27. Sears Holdings
Customers gave Sears an ACSI score of just 77, placing it ahead of only Ross and Wal-Mart in terms of department stores. And one-third of customers who responded to a poll reported they had experienced a negative customer service experience with Sears. Ouch. However, the problems don’t end with poor customer experiences.
Sears Holdings operates both Sears and K-Mart, both of which have been closing stores in record numbers. With low employee morale, closing stores, and poor customer service, only 28% of Sears employees and 33% of K-Mart employees reported on Glassdoor they would recommend their company to a friend.
Juul is the dominant name behind e-cigarettes, so much so that vaping is often referred to as “Juuling.” Health professionals were initially excited about the prospect that e-cigarettes had for reducing nicotine dependence and lung cancer among smokers. However, Juul’s products have gotten youth, in particular, addicted.
Many teenagers believe vaping is harmless. They think they are only inhaling flavored water, not hundreds or even thousands of chemicals. Moreover, Juul’s flavors, such as mango and strawberry, have a candy-like appeal that further entices children. With people now dying from smoking e-cigarettes, Juul has drawn public ire for not adequately disclosing the risk associated with its products.
Even if the insurance industry is despised more than most other sectors in the country, one might expect that one of the largest health insurance providers gives its employees adequate health insurance. Not so. Employees of Cigna regularly say they do not have sufficient health insurance.
In addition to lackluster employment reviews, over one-third of Cigna’s customers report a terrible customer service experience. Plus, the company has faced allegations of fraud, including artificially inflating the cost of healthcare so patients have to pay 10 times the price of the medical services that they received. Cigna also scored a measly 66 on the ACSI, making it the most disliked health insurance company in the country.
24. United Airlines
United Airlines was plagued by bad publicity a few years back It began with an airline employee forcibly removing a passenger and beating him up. The video went viral and shares in United Airlines dropped 4% overnight – one billion dollars of its market value. To make matters worse, the CEO’s apology for the event seemed half-hearted and insincere.
In the time since the CEO of United has been working to boost the airline’s image by implementing policies that reduce paperwork for lost luggage and limit overbooking on flights. United also provides additional training for employees to make sure that another unfortunate incident does not happen again. But the airline still has an ACSI score of 70, well below the airline average of 75.
23. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo rates as the worst bank in the country in light of some fraud incidents that caused serious harm to people. Around 2016, employees created millions of fake bank accounts in order to meet quotas the senior management team had demanded. Their CEO John Stumpf resigned when the scandal came to light, but the damage was done.
Additionally, the bank somehow managed to charge over 500,000 of its customers for car insurance that they actually didn’t need or request. Up to 20,000 of those people had their cars repossessed because they could not make car payments – ostensibly because their money went to the fake car insurance. The bank also charged late fees for 100,000 mortgage holders even though the “lateness” of the payments was due to the bank’s faulty system.
For a while, Uber looked like it was the future of transportation. Instead of calling a taxi, people could use an app to request a vehicle whose owner was driving it. The owner/driver would get reviews based on the ride experience. The overall price was also much cheaper than a taxi. It looked like a win for everyone.
But a series of public relations crisis came to light a few years ago. These include reports that Uber drivers do not make enough to cover the cost of car maintenance and their own living expenses. Then news of sexual harassment within the management team came to light, and many of the executives stepped down. Uber lost its license to operate in London because of ethical irresponsibility.
21. Frontier Communications
Frontier is a giant in the field of telecommunications. It’ also a giant disappointment to many who have used it for their homes and businesses. None of its ACSI scores indicate that it provides a quality service. Its subscription television service ranked 56 out of 100, its internet service ranked a 54 out of 100, and its telephone service ranked a 57. Frontier failed in all categories, in fact. Many Verizon customers were disappointed in 2015 when Frontier acquired some of its services, including Fios, in some states.
Frontier also has a reputation for being a miserable workplace. Its Glassdoor rating is 2.3 out of 5. Fewer than one-quarter of its employees reported on Glassdoor they would recommend that a friend work at the company.
While Facebook was created as a means of helping high school graduates stay connected, its role in public life has transformed dramatically over the past decade or so. It is now many people’s primary conduit for news.
Following the 2016 presidential election, lawsuits were filed because Facebook had received over $100,000 to advertise for fake pages. The pages were operated out of Russia and contained incendiary messages, particularly towards Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement. The company has since instituted policies attempting to prevent such an incident in the future, but the stain of “fake news” lingers on Facebook.
19. Foxconn Technology Group
You may not have heard of Foxconn. It is the company that assembles the gadgets for some of the biggest technology names in the world including Apple and Nintendo. The company operates out of a warehouse in China, and a few years back, there was a string of suicides directly related to poor working conditions. Employees literally jumped out of the windows of the factory. In response, the management installed safety nets under the windows to stop the suicides.
The company got even more bad publicity when it negotiated backdoor deals with a politician to build a warehouse in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. While the agreement was decried nationally as an extreme case of corporate welfare, many Mount Pleasant residents lost their homes because of how the backdoor deals manipulated the concept of eminent domain.
18. Fox Entertainment Group
Fox Entertainment Group is the mother of the Fox News Channel, one of the most popular and most divisive cable news network in the United States. The channel takes an overwhelmingly right-wing slant that demonizes any leftist or even right-centrist political views.
A series of scandals, including one that led to host Megyn Kelly receiving death threats from Trump supporters, rocked the news giant, but not hard enough to sink it. A series of sexual harassment allegations led to one of its most popular hosts, Bill O’Reilly, to step down. Still, the channel garners far-right interest by appealing to hateful and divisive rhetoric.
17. General Electric
Between 2018 and 2019, General Electric’s stock value tumbled from $18.54 to $8.56. The dive was for plenty of good reasons. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to investigate the company for misstatements made on financial reports occurring over two years.
Alongside mounting debts, General Electric announced in 2018 that it had insurance liabilities that would have an initial cost of $6.2 billion and a seven-year cost of $15 billion. While the company may have once been a mainstay of American kitchens and laundry rooms, its corporate practices may soon cause it to become obsolete.
16. The University of Phoenix
For-profit universities such as Walden and DeVry Universities, have a terrible reputation anyway. They have abysmal graduation rates and poor employment options after graduation. However, the University of Phoenix tops the list, as its aggressive recruiting practices include deceptive financial aid packages that plunged students into debt.
There were even claims that the University of Phoenix was targeting veterans who would have very little chance of graduating so the school could get the federal dollars that came with veteran student attendance. It was temporarily barred from recruiting on military bases.
The University of Phoenix also has poor employee morale, owing that, at least in part, to its poor student performance. With lower enrollment numbers, the school has been laying off employees in record numbers. Less than one-third of the University of Phoenix employees reported on Glassdoor that they would recommend the company to a friend.
Sprint has the worst customer service of all mobile telephone companies. A lofty 44% of people polled having reported a customer service experience with Sprint they found to be negative. Moreover, behind the poor customer service is a customer experience in which people get subpar service.
According to RootMetrics, a company that evaluates the performance of mobile networks, Sprint comes last in terms of data and speed and next to last in texting, calling, and reliability. Plenty of people have decided that Sprint is not worth the trouble and move on to another company.
MoviePass is a company somewhat similar to Netflix. For $9.95 per month, customers can gain access to watch one movie of their choice each day. The monthly fee was not enough to cover the licensing cost to provide passes for all of the film that the company was offering. However, its business model allowed for the hope that it would sell data to studios and production companies.
Well, that business model has not yet been proven to work, and people really don’t like the idea of their data being sold for a profit. The company ran out of money in July of 2018 and was unable to provide customers with the service for a day. Its parent company had to take out an emergency loan in order to avoid going under, but there have been more service disruptions in the time since. Shares fell in 2018 from $1700 to less than two cents.
Telecommunications companies have pretty bad customer reviews, but Comcast still ranks far up the list. Its ACSI score is 58 for its television service, 60 for its internet service, and 65 for its telephone service, all out of possible scores of 100. It fails in every category. Furthermore, in 2017, the company was rated the most-hated company in the United States.
Nearly half of customers who were polled reported they had a poor customer service experience with Comcast. And the numbers go beyond subjective notions of what qualifies as “bad.” In 2016, the company had to pay $2.3 million because it had unfairly charged its customers to use unauthorized equipment.
Mediacom is a telecommunications company that has particularly bad reviews that make it stand out in the notoriously poor telecommunications sector. ACSI rated Mediacom 53 out of 100. The average score in telecommunications is 62; still failing, but better than Mediacom.
Despite people’s dissatisfaction with Mediacom, those who use it have little choice, as it services low-population rural areas. The service was so bad that in Alabama, the mayor of a small town tried to turn the city government into an internet service provider (ISP) so that the townspeople would no longer have to use Mediacom.
11. The Trump Organization
The Trump Organization is the corporate conglomerate that holds the massive companies that Donald Trump owns, including a hotel chain, golf courses, a winery, and real estate. The fact that the president still has ties to such a massive enterprise while serving as president has caused many lawmakers to raise concerns about his apparent conflicts of interest.
But the problems go deeper than conflicts of interest with the most powerful man in the company. The Trump Organization has a long history of unethical business practices, including not paying workers and filing bankruptcy to get out of paying fees other businesses have to pay.
10. Motel 6
The Trump Organization may provide real estate and hotel services for the rich and famous, but “the rest of us” get the short end of the stick, especially when staying at a Motel 6. In the hospitality industry, customer service is everything. Yet Motel 6 scored a rating of 65 on ACSI in the year 2018.
Motel 6’s public relations became excruciatingly terrible after a group of Hispanic customers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that management had shared their information with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Even if the franchise started offering a decent breakfast to customers, there’s no way to compensate for the damage caused by this kind of privacy breach.
9. The Weinstein Company
Throughout the 1990s, The Weinstein Company, co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, distributed and produced dozens of films that received Oscars or nominations. But its image began to fall apart in 2017 when the New York Times exposed multiple accounts of sexual abuse by Weinstein himself.
The company fired Weinstein soon after, but the earthquake continued. The problem was throughout the management, as one lawsuit alleged that the company enabled his criminal behavior. In the heat of the controversy, multiple board members stepped down. We aren’t likely to see many award-winning Weinstein movies for a while because the public is just too disgusted with the company. Weinstein was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
8. CBS News
The Weinstein Company was far from the only one to take a hit when the #MeToo movement drew attention to the scourge of sexual harassment women routinely face. CBS News drew fire after The New Yorker reported that dozens of women had claimed its CEO, Les Moonves, had sexually harassed them. He denied the accusations but was also fired.
Jeff Fager, the executive producer of news show 60 Minutes, also became the target of accusations claiming that he had inappropriately touched half a dozen women. As the scandal unfolded, reports came that he had protected male employees who had been accused of harassment. Other high-level workers at CBS have also been indicted.
7. Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts is the name behind many popular video games. They have a reputation for monopolizing the market. The company frequently buys out other gaming companies in order to acquire some of their more popular games and then removes all of the originality that had made them so popular in the first place.
Electronic Arts are also at the forefront of charging players money for access to some parts of games, such as famous characters in some of its Star Wars games. In some cases, players have to spend 40 or more hours playing the game or spend hundreds of dollars on in-game purchases in order to unlock the characters. Had the games stayed with their original creators, they would have been much more accessible.
6. Vice Media
Vice Media is a favorite among millennials for its edgy, no-nonsense journalism that probes beyond the talking heads on Fox News. It presents evidence-based stories about the divisiveness that is plaguing the country. Yet it is part of the divisiveness itself.
In 2017, as the #MeToo movement was in full swing and high-level executives were falling because of covered-up sexual assaults, Vice Media came under fire too. The New York Times revealed that members of Vice’s senior management had created a culture of sexism and harassment, which had been going on since 2003. Millennials may like Vice’s style, but they want nothing to do with its toxic culture.
America’s Tweeter-In-Chief’s use of the Twitter platform is not the only reason why the site has fallen out of favor, though it is certainly one reason. Leading up to the 2016 election, bots and conspiracy theories were running amok on the site, though the extent of the problem did not become apparent until much later.
Additionally, the company has not done enough to protect people from hate speech. Amnesty International compiled a report showing that one out of every 10 tweets that mention a black woman is abusive, and the number is one in 15 for white women. Maybe the president should find a new way to communicate because Twitter has been on the decline.
Monsanto, the chemical and bio-engineering firm that spends billions of dollars to make sure that customers don’t know that they are eating food that has been genetically modified, is one of the most-hated companies of all time. Its products include Agent Orange, the chemical sprayed during the Vietnam War that caused nearly half a million deaths and many congenital disabilities.
Many of Monsanto’s products are known to be carcinogenic. Yet, it has leveraged its lobbying clout to make sure that national bodies such as the National Cancer Institute do not publicly announce the dangers of their products. Many people continue using them, completely unaware of how harmful they are.
3. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines has an approach to flying that is counterintuitive to much of the rest of the airline market. They strip everything down to the absolute bare essentials and then charge customers for the specific things they request. What this means is that flights may cost as little as $20, but even bringing a carry-on will cost extra.
While flyers who do not need to bring anything with them may appreciate the low fares, Spirit Airlines has an abysmally low score for customer satisfaction. ACSI gave it a score of 61 out of 100, and a poll found that nearly 45% of Spirit customers had had a negative experience.
2. The Fresh Market
The Fresh Market has long been a favorite along the East Coast among health-conscious consumers who want safe, healthy food for themselves and their families. At least, it was a favorite. It turns out that its employment practices are terrible. Just over a quarter of employees approve of the CEO. Frustration with corporate management was a common theme on Glassdoor.
In fact, according to Fresh Market’s reviews on Glassdoor, among major employers, it’s the absolute worst place to work. With a total of 1600 reviews from employees, it’s rating out of five is an abysmal 2.2. Moreover, Fresh Market’s Glassdoor reviews are getting worse. Fewer than 25% of employees would recommend that their friends work there.
1. The NFL
The NFL remains incredibly popular among the American public, but its popularity has waned in recent years due to repeated controversy. First, the NFL only recently announced the long-term effects of head injuries that players sustain when they are tackled, something that has been going on for a long time. It has only now announced a concussion policy to protect players, but this policy should have been made decades ago.
Compounding the controversy was the issue of kneeling, which began when quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. Despite claims that kneeling was protected free speech and was not disrespectful to the flag, Trump tweeted that players who kneel should be fired. The NFL has since unsigned Kaepernick.
“Bad reputation: America’s Top 20 most-hated companies,” by Samuel Stebbins, Evan Comen, Michael B. Sauter and Charles Stockdale. USA Today. February 12, 2018.
“America’s Most Hated Companies,” by Grant Suneson and Michael Sauter. 24/7 Wall Street. January 10, 2019.