"Monday 5 Things" with D. Paul Graham

Monday 5 Things…..2018 Annual Blunders…..

It’s hard to believe another year has come and, within 24 hours, will be gone. This is the 8th year that M5T takes a look at some of the incredulous blunders made by some of the largest companies (and for this year, one of the 50 states), in the world. Once again this year, as in the past, there was plenty of fodder to choose from; proving once again that some of the brightest minds in some of most visible corporations can make the most egregious of screw-ups. Your scribe keeps note of such things throughout the year, and without further ado, gives you some of the biggest blunders of 2018.

1. Aloha

Kicking off this year’s blunders was the Aloha State. January is a great time to watch whales in the warm oceans surrounding Hawaii. Although this year, residents and tourists alike spent more time anxiously watching clear blue skies for inbound objects instead of clear blue ocean waters for breaching whales. An emergency alert was broadcast on January 13th on every available media platform announcing “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” If that isn’t enough for anyone to drop their Mai Tai’s and head for the hills (whatever good that would do you on an island), I don’t know what would. Adding to the panic was the fact that North Korea was actually conducting missile tests that week. It took 38 minutes for a 2nd alert to announce that the first message was “just” a false alarm. Hawaii’s emergency management administrator resigned as a result of this and may still be looking for employment. 

2. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide

Oh, what a year for Southwest airlines. In April, a tragic mid-air explosion sadly took the life of a passenger. Finger pointing and poor communication between company management and mechanics ensued, with the mechanics publicly accusing management of positioning on-time statistics before safety. Three other serious mechanical incidents served to add credence to the mechanics’ concerns. On top of all that, in November, a gate agent mocked a 5-year-old girl’s name and posts her boarding pass on social media. The child’s name is ABCDE (pronounced Ab-City). Social media responses either took the side of outrage at the gate agent, or sheer bewilderment at the mom who “named her child for an entire row of air-line seats”.

3. Thumbs down to Mark

Neck and neck with Uber, (more on that next) Zuckerberg and Facebook continued to make incredulous decisions. In March of this year, Zuck’s minions admitted that it knew for 3 years that Cambridge Analytica was improperly using information obtained from over 50 million FB accounts. On the day that this was announced, FB lost $37 billion in market value. That’s 37 with a “B”. It gets better folks. In November, it became public knowledge that FB hired a “black-ops” PR agency to discredit critics of the company by making false accusations about them. COO Sheryl Sandburg made everyone feel better about the issue by apologizing and promising the company would do better. But wait! There’s more! Just a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times reported that FB gave unfettered admittance to Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, Sony and Yahoo (to name a few) to access FB user accounts. What harm could that bring? You certainly have read FB’s privacy notices, haven’t you?  How much could really happen if companies can read, write and delete your private messages? It’s not that bad. Is it?

4. Taxi!

Back to Uber. A history of class-action lawsuits that the company has had to defend (the largest settled out of court for $100 million); drivers with criminal backgrounds and intent; former CEO and founder Travis Kalanick (who needs some serious counseling for anger management); a revolving door for senior management; accusations of rampant sexual harassment; and charges of aggressive means to eliminate competition. What else could possibly be wrong with Uber? Well, let’s see. Last year the company admitted a massive data breach (of which it took the company over a year to admit to the 2016 fissure). It seems that rather than coming clean and notifying 600,000 drivers and over 57 million customers that their personal information had been hacked, in Uber-esqe fashion, the company hid evidence and paid $100,000 in ransom to the robbers. Uber finally publicly admitted the break in 2017. This year it reached an agreement with all 50 states to pay $148 million in fines for its failure to report the theft, with a promise to tighten data security and become more transparent. Watch in 2019 to see if the company’s word is good on an IPO, and if investors will still be hungry for shares. Despite losing $4 billion (there’s that ‘B’ word again) in 2017 (and almost $900 million in the 2nd quarter of this year), I suspect the market will snap up shares if they are released in the second half of 2019. And I still press that app when needed.

5. Figo Failure

Not only in America folks. The “brilliant” creative minds at J. Walter Thompson in India came up with a spot that was inadvertently (and without approval) posted to the website adsoftheworld.com. The illustrated ad showed three women, bound, gagged and stuffed in the trunk of their new Ford Figo hatchback, while former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi looks on from the front seat. The tag line read, “Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot.” Ford refused to comment, and JWT issued a press release saying, “these were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet.” Ya think?

On this eve of anno 2019, I want to sincerely thank all of you for another year of your support of M5T. I continue to be humbled by your comments, and by public and private messages that you have sent or said to me. Here’s to wishing you all a blunder-free New Year of peace, health and success. Happy New Year!

© 2018 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.

You can find M5T each Monday here on www.southmag.com and by friending D. Paul Graham on Facebook. Paul is also a contributing photographer to South Magazine. His photographic work can be found on Instagram @dpgraham and at www.imageGRAHAM.com. Your feedback is always welcome. Email Paul at dpg@imagegraham.com