Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Strangest Business Stories of 2007

1. Leona Helmsley and her dog

Don't laugh - if she were your master, you'd need a lifetime supply of Prozac too
Upon her death, Leona Helmsley leaves $12 million to her white Maltese, Trouble. And the poor pooch now receives death threats.

2. High-tech toilet disaster

Japanese manufacturer Toto apologizes to customers and offers free repairs for 180,000 high-tech toilets - thrones that feature heated seats, air purifiers, blow dryers, and water sprayers - after at least three catch fire. "Fortunately nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out," says a company spokesman. "The fire would have been just under your buttocks."

3. Help the fat - give them food

Disneyland announces plans to close the "It's a Small World" attraction to deepen its water channel after the ride's boats start getting stuck under loads of heavy passengers. Employees ask larger passengers to disembark - and compensate them with guess what - coupons for free food.

4. Microsoft's PR Firm Fiasco

While working on an article about Microsoft, Wired contributing editor (and former Fortune writer) Fred Vogelstein receives a 13-page dossier about himself, describing him as "tricky" and his stories as "sensational." The document, prepared by the company's public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, as background for Microsoft executives, was sent inadvertently to the writer.

5. Drink With The Dumb Name

After receiving a warning from the FDA, Redux Beverages agrees to stop calling its energy drink Cocaine. It changes the name first to Censored, then to NoName.

6. Cartoon Network Buzz-Marketing Flop

To build buzz for its animated show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network places electronic lightboards throughout Boston, triggering a bomb scare that shuts down two bridges, an expressway, a subway station, and a stretch of the Charles River. The devices depict a character from the show saluting passersby with an upraised middle finger.

7. Analize This

In March, shortly after No. 2 U.S. subprime lender New Century Financial announces a major earnings restatement as a result of failing loans, Bear Stearns analysts Scott Coren and Michael Nannizzi write a research note on New Century. They argue that despite New Century's stock having plunged 50%, to $15 per share, its downside risk is no worse than $10 in a "rescue-sale scenario." Within a month, New Century drops below $1 a share, is suspended by the NYSE, and files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

8. Oral B Vibrator

Lawyers representing Procter & Gamble send a 66-page cease-and-desist letter to British sex-toy company Love Honey, demanding that it stop using images of its Oral B electric toothbrushes to promote a product called the Brush Bunny - a rabbit-shaped piece of plastic that slips over the top of an Oral B to turn it into a vibrator.

9. Best Buy Kiosk Scam

The state of Connecticut sues Best Buy for setting up in-store kiosks set to a website that looks identical to bestbuy.com but lists higher prices than those they would actually find online.

10. The $54 Million Dollar Judge

District of Columbia judge Roy Pearson loses a $54 million lawsuit against the owners of a dry-cleaning establishment that he claims misplaced a pair of his pants. Pearson argued that the cleaner committed fraud by failing to live up to the SATISFACTION GUARANTEED sign displayed in the shop. Four months later a judicial review committee votes against reappointing him to his post, finding that he failed to demonstrate "appropriate judgment and judicial temperament."

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