This month the financial website 24/7 Wall St. published its list of America’s 20 Most Hated Companies, based on consumer surveys and other metrics.
The list bears watching. It provides a rogues’ gallery of how companies get in trouble with consumers.
There were some no-brainers on the list: Weinstein Cos., formerly headed by Harvey Weinstein, for instance.
Two airlines made the list — United and Spirit — as did cable/internet firms such as Comcast.
The most hated of all was Equifax, the credit monitoring firm that exposed more than 140 million Americans’ personal data to hackers last year.
Companies have responded to their critics with a mix of denials, apologies and promises to do better. Some CEOs have departed; some firms have paid millions of dollars in sexual harassment settlements.
So what’s the common theme? Overwhelmingly, the firms that made the most-hated list have tended to promise one thing but deliver another. It’s a fatal mistake. Slick marketing promotions cannot overcome the reality of lousy service, high prices and indifference to the public welfare.
Banking giant Wells Fargo landed on the list for allowing employees to create millions of fake accounts in the name of consumers without their permission to juice its metrics. That scandal cost CEO John Stumpf his job in 2016.
Arrogance and bad behavior at the top also can land a company on the most-hated list. That’s why Weinstein Cos. got there despite producing many popular, Oscar-winning films.
There were some surprises. The National Football League landed on the list despite running what arguably are some of the most popular sporting events in the nation. But the NFL’s long denial of the link between head injuries and brain damage has eroded the league’s image in many Americans’ minds.
And players kneeling during the national anthem and the league’s clumsy response drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.
Facebook, too, made the list. Its tone-deaf manipulation of its news feeds, the site’s vulnerability to hacking and the site’s general image of being the Big Brother of American life image all engender consumer scorn.