For big companies, managing public perception is a fickle business. Every announcement or major change in services gets picked apart by news outlets and social media. Every decision has the possibility of pissing off a hundred different groups in a hundred different ways.
Even so, most companies do alright in the long run. Good publicity balances out bad publicity, and the same action which sends thousands of people in a rage may find just as many supporters.
However, not all companies maintain this balance between good and bad publicity. For some, a single disaster becomes something all people can think of when they hear that company’s name. For others, years of bad publicity without any good news to lighten things up results in permanent damage to the company’s reputation.
The financial news and analysis website 24/7 Wall Street recently completed a survey on America’s most-hated companies, conducted by reviewing customer satisfaction surveys, employee satisfaction surveys and various other metrics. While some companies made the list for fairly well-known misdeeds, others earned their spots without much public spectacle.
20. The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company is a film production company which has been involved in many award-winning films. Recently, company co-founder Harvey Weinstein has been accused of over a hundred instances of sexual misconduct, sparking a national movement against sexual assault and harassment.
This has resulted in the resignation of much of the company’s leadership and the severing of ties with many of its business partners.
19. United Airlines
Back in April of 2017, Dr. David Dao was forcibly dragged off a United Airlines flight after being selected to be bumped from an overbooked plane. A video documenting this incident went viral, and the company’s botched response only added fuel to the fire.
Almost a year later, the controversy still carries enough weight to earn United a spot on the list of most-hated companies.
Facebook is pretty much everywhere. As it has gained users, cash and power, it has faced stronger and stronger backlash for unknowingly dividing the political and social sphere with fake news.
The final straw for many came when reports emerged that Russia had attempted to manipulate the 2016 presidential election through ads and fake pages on Facebook.
CenturyLink hasn’t been in the news as much as the previous three companies, but as one of the largest phone and internet service providers in the U.S., it has a major presence in many people’s lives.
It earns its place on this list not only for its terrible customer service ratings, but also for its horrible employee satisfaction ratings.
Monsanto is an agricultural chemical and biotech company with a long history of objectionable products. Some of these have been proven to be harmful, including DDT, an insecticide banned for its devastating effect on wildlife populations, and Agent Orange, used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
In more recent years, it has garnered outcry for products with alleged harmful effects, such as GMOs and the pesticide Roundup.
Comcast finds itself in much the same boat as CenturyLink. Both are major telecommunications companies with terrible customer service ratings. Comcast has earned a higher slot on the list for its size, its power and its shady corporate practices.
While fifteenth on this list, Comcast has ranked as the number one most-hated company in America on multiple occasions, including 2004 and 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index surveys and in 2010 and 2014 Consumerist contests.
In the eight years since its founding, ride-share company Uber has been on the forefront of the sharing economy. However, its pioneering status has not saved it from feeling the effects of terrible publicity, as the allegations and lawsuits it faced in 2017 earned it a spot in the top 20 most-hated companies in America.
Lowlights include sexual harassment allegations, investigations into interfering with the operations of its rival ride-share service Lyft and accusations of theft of intellectual property from Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
13. Sears Holdings
The advent of the internet age hit brick and mortar retailers hard. Sears Holdings, the company which owns retail outlets Sears and Kmart, is still reeling. In recent years, the company has faced falling sales, closing stores and dissatisfied customers.
In addition, only 33 percent of Kmart employees and 28 percent of Sears employees recommended working for the holding company.
12. The Trump Organization
With all the controversy surrounding President Trump, the presence of his company on this list of most hated companies comes as little surprise.
Between the general taint of association with Trump, potential conflicts of interest and general underhanded business practices, the only surprise is that The Trump Organization didn’t make it into the top 10 most-hated companies.
11. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is the only bank in the top 20 most-hated companies, with the worst American Customer Satisfaction Index score in the industry. It has earned these dubious distinctions through multiple accounts of corporate misdeeds, including the creation of millions of fake accounts, forcing customers to pay for unnecessary insurance and penalizing customers for delays when the bank itself was at fault.
The bank’s problems are far from over; recently, the Federal Reserve ordered Wells Fargo to restrict its growth until its internal affairs were in order.
Scraping into the top 10 most-hated companies is health insurance company Cigna. Cigna has had its share of public relations disasters in the past, including allegations of fraud and reports of an unusually large percentage of denied claims compared to its competitors.
In addition, the company has fairly low customer and employee satisfaction ratings.
9. Spirit Airlines
Unlike its fellow airline United, Spirit Airlines hasn’t earned its place on this list from any one scandal. Instead, all the hatred has been focused on the company’s business model.
Spirit Airlines is run as an ultra-low-cost airline, with minimal frills and heaps of extra fees, skimping on comfort while charging for everything from drinks to carry-on bags.
8. Vice Media
Vice Media is a media production company with ventures in fields as diverse as music, print publications, digital media and cable TV.
Its place as the eighth most-hated company in America is due largely to revelations late last year about a long history of sexual misconduct at every level of the company.
One of the more amusing trends in recent years has been the advertising wars waged between the big cell service providers. Sprint customers remain unamused, however, giving it the lowest customer satisfaction rating among large cell service providers.
Part of this rating likely stems from the quality of its service, which, despite advertising, lags behind its competitors.
6. Foxconn Technology Group
Foxconn Technology Group, which makes components for technology companies such as Apple, has earned its place on the list of most-hated companies through years of scandals. Within the past decade, at least 25 Foxconn workers have attempted suicide, with at least 14 deaths in 2010 alone.
Concerns have also been raised about poor working conditions at Foxconn factories and the exploitation of its workers, with the most recent scandal involving the use of interns illegally working overtime.
5. Electronic Arts
The video game production company Electronic Arts, better known as EA, has earned a long-standing reputation for poor business practices, including purchasing small game companies to acquire their franchises and running them into the ground.
In 2017, EA suffered a particularly devastating backlash over its implementation of microtransaction in the new “Star Wars Battlefront II,” which pushed players into spending hundreds of dollars to unlock upgrades needed to compete at the competitive level.
4. University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix is one of the most prominent for-profit universities in the country. However, the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group, has come under fire regarding its finances.
The university’s students owe an unusually crippling amount of money in student loans, and it has been accused of dishonest business methods, ranging from predatory recruiting to poor educational practices.
The excitement which gripped Philadelphia in the wake of the Eagle’s Superbowl win testifies to the place football still occupies in America’s heart. This doesn’t mean, however, that the National Football League is above criticism.
From ongoing concerns about the company’s lax response to player injuries to controversy surrounding players kneeling during the national anthem in protest against the current political situation, the NFL has faced a significant public backlash.
2. Fox Entertainment Group
Fox Entertainment Group, the right-wing media company behind Fox News Channel, earns its number two place on the most hated companies list for two main issues. A large portion of the country takes offense at its conservative bias, which is widely considered to negatively affect its reporting.
The company has also been rocked by sexual misconduct issues over the past few years, with CEO and founder Roger Ailes and popular news anchor Bill O’Reilly being removed after sexual harassment allegations.
Securing the number one spot on the list of most-hated companies in America is the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax. What earned them this spot was a data breach in which the personal information of nearly 150 million customers was stolen.
In addition to the simple facts of the breach, one of the most significant of all time, the company’s delayed response also made it the target of hatred; the data breach occurred between May and July, was discovered at the end of July, and only announced in mid-September.