Some of 2013's biggest business fails left American consumers scratching their heads. Remember founder Chip Wilson's comment during a TV interview that "some women's bodies just actually don't work" with Lululemon pants?
Just when we thought it couldn't get worse than that, 2014 was another year with its fair share of gaffes and meltdowns from some of the most iconic brands and people in the business world that left us wondering, "What were they thinking?"
Some of this year's most disastrous corporate incidents led to terminations and bankruptcy, while others included public statements that were just too offensive and boneheaded to overlook.
Here are the 10 biggest failures of 2014:
Sony's hack job
Sony Pictures was hit with an unprecedented cyberattack in November that revealed a trove of highly sensitive information about unreleased movies and nearly 50,000 current and former employees, including financial data. Mounted by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace, the attack revealed that Sony had been storing thousands of emails, passwords, and Social Security numbers on an unencrypted server. The severity of the situation intensified in December, leading Sony to cancel the December 25 release of The Interview because of security concerns from threats related to the film.
Dov Charney's ungraceful exit
After a decade of sexual harassment allegations against American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney, the company's board voted in June to remove him from his position. The decision reportedly came when an internal investigation found he had let an employee post nude photos of a former colleague and used company money for his personal use. While Charney was kept on board as a consultant, he was fired from that position earlier this week.
Dumb Starbucks's short shelf-life
Nathan Fielder, the host of Comedy Central's Nathan for You, generated international media attention in February by opening Los Angeles-based Dumb Starbucks, a parody of the national coffee chain. Shortly after announcing the planned opening of a new Dumb Starbucks in Brooklyn, New York, however, Fielder received a visit from the local health inspector, who shuttered Dumb Starbucks because it lacked proper permits. Like many PR stunts, these 15 minutes of fame were really just a waste of everybody's time.
Donald Sterling's racist comments
Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling earned the rare distinction of being unanimously voted out of the National Basketball League by his fellow owners in April after an audio recording of him making racist remarks was leaked to the media. No apologies could undo this PR catastrophe, as Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life.
Vibram's questionable claims
Vibram, which makes the FiveFingers running shoe, waved the white flag following a two-year legal battle in May, agreeing to pay $3.75 million to settle a lawsuit over false claims the company made about the health benefits of its footwear. Vibram had stated that its "barefoot sports shoes" could minimize foot injuries and help strengthen muscles. The science backing up these claims, however, was nowhere to be found. Some consumers who purchased the shoes were entitled to a partial refund.
Amazon's smartphone flop
Amazon began selling its own smartphone, the Fire, in late July, but failed to entice anywhere near the number of customers it had hoped would be interested in the mobile device. The company took a $170 million write-down during the third quarter of 2014, much of it attributed to unsold Fire smartphones, Amazon announced in October, a month after the online retailer dropped the price of the phone with a two-year contract from $199 to just 99 cents. The company reported it had roughly $83 million worth of unsold Fire inventory as of the end of the third quarter.
Satya Nadella's troubling career advice
In October, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it would be "good karma" for women not to ask for a raise, but rather, to trust that "the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along." Nadella later apologized for the boneheaded remarks in a memo to Microsoft employees.
Uber's proposed smear campaign
Following a string of PR blunders, Uber dug itself into perhaps its deepest hole yet in November when senior vice president of business Emil Michael floated the idea of formally allocating company funds to dig up dirt on journalists who criticize the company. BuzzFeed broke the story of Michael's remarks, which were followed quickly by an apology. Though Michael referred to his comments as "wrong no matter the circumstance," he managed to sneak in some additional criticism of journalists, calling recent media reports on Uber "sensationalistic."
In November, five months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that TV-streaming company Aereo's service violated copyright law, the three-year-old company filed for bankruptcy. "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome," Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia wrote in a letter to customers.
The New Republic's mass resignations
Earlier this month, not long after hiring former Yahoo executive Guy Vidra as its chief executive, The New Republic lost Frank Foer, its longtime editor, and more than two dozen other senior staffers, all of whom followed Foer out the door. The resignations were attributed to widespread disagreement with the editorial vision and direction of the publication under owner Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who took control of TNR in 2012. Hughes and Vidra had reportedly set a new strategy for the century-old company, which they said they would position as a "vertically integrated digital media company."