Embarrassing for the company, but especially for you.
Between brainstorming these seemingly great ideas and actually manufacturing them, something went seriously wrong.
To make it on our most embarrassing list, these products had to create some troubling scenarios. Not all of them caused physical damage, but they certainly left emotional scars.
Before we start, lets let all the shame out. Here’s our roll call of accountability:
25. The CPSC
23. NPD Furniture
21. Johnson & Johnson
19. Magic Power Products
18. Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc.
13. JC Penney
12. Burlington Coat Factory
10. African National Congress
8. Kuraas AS
7. Burger King
6. Unilever (again)
5. Michael’s of Oregon
4. Colbra Group
3. L.L. Bean
2. Sloan Valve
Be warned: spiders, bald spots, and explosions ahead.
25) The US Consumer Product Safety Commission Buttons
Kicking off our list is the one extraordinary time the CPSC itself messed up.
In its early years of preventing little boys from shooting their eyes out, the CPSC successfully flagged many toy guns, slingshots, and archery sets as well as scalding toy ovens, dolls filled with pins, exploding metal playthings, and 1500 other dangerous items.
The safety enforcers wanted to celebrate their success with a commemorable button – and ended up giving away 80,000 poisonous choking hazards in 1974. The buttons endorsing toy safety contained lead and had sharp edges. Luckily, the CPSC takes itself pretty seriously, and not only recalled the item but also cracked down on other button manufacturers.
24) Deep Plunge Clearly Daring Wonderbra
Wonderbra added risk to many women’s already risque outfits.
A defect in Wonderbra’s “Deep Plunge Clearly Daring” model, designed for women wearing low necklines, caused many bras to fly open unexpectedly from the front. Deeply embarrassing.
Playtex played along with the bad puns claiming the defect only affected “less than a handful” of wearers.
23) Abby Dining Chair
Look at this photo. Who’d think it would be capable of holding the weight of a normal human being?
A lot of people, apparently. For $200 dollars a piece, shoppers could either buy the product in green or black, and end up on the floor. A leg of the chair tends to snap, sending sitters straight to the ground.
Gotta admit, it could definitely spice up a boring dinner party.
22) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 1999
Tiger Woods certainly has had his share of embarrassments over the past few years. But here’s one you may not have heard about.
A video game designer thought he could get away with planting an easter egg within the Tiger Woods PGA Tour game. When the Playstation disc was opened on a computer, a certain file contained the pilot episode of South Park’s “Jesus vs. Santa.” The first gamer to discover the Easter egg received the game as a Christmas present.
The kid then showed his mother the video. She reacted the same way most mothers react to South Park, EA was immediately notified, eventually recalled the game, and replaced the product with new discs.
21) Johnson & Johnson’s K-Y Jelly 2013
Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled their K-Y products “Tingling,” “Sensitive,” and “SILK-E” jellies, recognizing that some kinksters just can’t take the heat.
Many customers thought the jelly was over the top tingling, and believed the product was harmful. But as part of the voluntary recall the company also let everyone know, the lubricant isn’t actually dangerous, and does exactly what was intended.
The ordeal was mildly embarrassing for some consumers, but K-Y is best at denying all shame with their loyal buyers in mind.
20) Unilever’s Persil Power Laundry Detergent
Unilever had won the hearts of UK mothers with laundry essentials for years. But the company needed to come out with a new product to match more stain-fighting focused brands.
The company decided to step up its ingredients to make their products more potent. Unfortunately, Persil Power actually shredded most people’s clothing.
Unilever recalled the product, apologized for the thousands of shredded pairs of underwear, and later regained popularity with its powered-down Persil Tablets.
19) Magic Power Coffee
Having a hard time getting up in the morning? This product did the trick – but a little too well.
While the product definitely did its job, the FDA cracked down and prompted a voluntary recall. A chemical within the coffee resembled sildenafil, a key ingredient in Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction treatment. The ingredient could potentially mix with other prescription drugs and cause dangerously low blood pressure, even though the box’s “all natural” label implies otherwise.
In the end, the biggest embarrassment still lies on the poor consumers needing an extra spice in their coffee that sugar or cinnamon just can’t replace.
18) Clarcon Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer
There’s nothing more embarrassing than having your product do the complete opposite of what you intended it to do.
One lotion and hand sanitizer company actually managed to bottle disease-causing bacteria within its products. In 2009, the FDA warned consumers to throw away any products made by Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. The cause was suspected to be from unsanitary working conditions.
The product was meant to treat open wounds. Instead, the hand sanitizer put people at serious risk of infection.
17) BMW German Voice Control
BMW’s voice control feature was a bad marketing strategy mixed with a surprising German cultural quirk.
As it turns out, Germans refused to buy the cars featuring voice control… because the voice was female. And many Germans refused to listen to a woman give them directions.
Whether the ordeal was more embarrassing for Germany or the development team, the voice needed to be switched to male in order to gain popularity in the country.
16) DARE Pencils
A classic DARE message, “Too cool to do drugs,” was utterly miscommunicated when printed on a new product.
DARE decided to give away pencils to kids printed with the slogan without considering what would happen once the pencil was used. As the pencils went from “cool to do drugs,” to just plain “do drugs,” it didn’t take long for the organization to recall this item and reverse the slogan’s direction.
15) Coca-Cola’s “Feel the Curves!!” Posters
In an attempt to promote Coke’s sexy glass bottle design, one artist took it too far.
In the mid ‘80s Coke released posters for a new campaign to bring back its classic curvy bottles in Australia. Hidden within the image was a woman’s face. Oh, and a penis.
All the posters were recalled, and the artist was sued for the debacle.
14) Lululemon Yoga Pants
For many women, this recall is entirely too recent.
Lululemon Athletica produces top-line yoga pants, spurring personal collections and clothing blogs dedicated to showing off “Luluhead” wardrobes. Unfortunately, a new line of yoga pants ended up exposing more than just their fashion taste. The pants were so sheer, they were see-through.
A 2013 recall was made on the near-transparent garments, affecting 17% of Lululemons’ total stock and nearly sinking the business altogether. Despite additional embarrassment thanks to the company’s founder, Chip Wilson, claiming the yoga pants simply aren’t meant for women of all sizes, the company has rebounded. Chip was hounded by fans, rubbed much of the company’s leadership the wrong way, and was even attacked by Colbert. Now that the company is on steady footing, Chip decided recently it was time to leave.
13) JC Penney Cute and Sassy T-Shirts
JC Penney tried to give their little girls’ clothing line a relatable “cute and sassy” flavor. A little too sassy, as it turns out – like the T-shirts that read: “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me.”
Parents were furious with JC Penney’s stereotypes, and the product line was off their website in a matter of hours.
The most humiliating part of this recall might actually be the advertisements for the clothing line. One online ad read: “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”
12) Burlington Coat Factory Winter Parkas
No matter what side of the PETA debate you’re on, you probably don’t want a coat made of dog and cat fur.
Many shoppers were deceived by exactly which animals Burlington Coat Factory sources used to create these late 1990s coats. In fact, each coat required either a dozen dogs or two dozen cats.
After the Humane Society ran DNA tests on the men’s fur coats, they verified the animals used were in fact domestic. In the end, the coats were recalled, but the source of the coats was never named.
11) Porsche 911 Carrera
You wouldn’t think the exhaust pipe would fall off a vehicle that’s just been named Car of the Year.
The tail pipe had a tendency to crack and fall off on up to 2,263 Porsche vehicles. Both the 2012 and 2013 models of the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera 4 coupes and convertibles were recalled for the defect.
But even more embarrassing than blowing over $100,000 on a car and having to return it – the car was named Robb Report’s 2013 Car of the Year just before the recall was announced. Good call, Robb.
10) African National Congress 100th Anniversary Condoms
In an act to spread awareness on STD control, the African National Congress celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 by giving away 1.4 million condoms.
The condoms were given out during parties commemorating a three-day event across the city of Bloemfontein. Little did they know, despite the official South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) stamp on each box, all the condoms had holes in them. Every one of them.
Officials didn’t seem to worry. “There is no reason for people to panic,” said one health spokesperson. Not like widespread STDs and unwanted pregnancies aren’t already a norm.
9) Kellogg’s Cereal
Kellogg upset many breakfast eaters’ stomachs in 2010, and damaged the reputation of several cereal favorites such as Froot Loops, Corn Pops, and Apple Jacks.
People who ate the cereals were affected with severe nausea and diarrhea, spurring the recall of over 28 million cereal boxes. After the investigation, Kellogg determined the plastic packaging inside the boxes had somehow tainted the cereal.
At least it didn’t affect Cocoa Puffs.
8) Kuraas AS’s False Halal Meat
According to Islamic law, eating pork is a damnable offense, and 30% of Kurraas AS’s meat caused followers to have to pray for forgiveness.
While checking for horsemeat within products across Europe in 2013, Norway food inspectors discovered that meat labeled “Halal” for Muslim consumers actually contained 30% pork. The recall affected kababs, pizza toppings, and a school providing Halal meals.
Despite the supplier’s story that the mix up was an embarrassing accident, officials remained suspicious of fraud and pressed criminal charges.
7) Burger King Poke Balls
While the story behind these kids’ meals is more sad than embarrassing, the way Burger King handled the misfortune is truly shameful.
Even after learning that the Pokemon toys caused the death of a 13-month-old girl in California, Burger King refused to recall. Soon after her death another accident occurred involving an 18-month-old girl in Kansas. In both incidents the top half of the poke ball closed over the child’s mouth, suffocating her. Luckily, the second was saved, and triggered a massive recall where consumers could trade the toy for an order of small fries.
Unfortunately, even after the recall was ordered, a 4-month-old also died of suffocation by the toy. The first child’s death was settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount.
6) Unilever’s Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Straightening Kit
Unilever strikes again with hasty chemical mixing, but this time it’s reached nightmare level scarring for many women.
The shampoo product was supposed to straighten women’s hair. Instead, it removed it. Despite complaints starting in February of 2012, it took months to enable a recall. Women experienced hair loss, breakage, discoloration, chemical burns to the scalp, and probably an anxiety trigger at the smell of hair dye.
5) Uncle Mike’s Gun Holster
Uncle Mike must be a terrible marksman, because he literally shot himself in the foot.
The Kydex Belt Holster for Glock model handguns manufactured by Michael’s of Oregon, pulled the trigger as the gun was put away. The safety strap was intended to hold the weapon in place, but shifted to actually push on the trigger when the gun was holstered.
After three incident reports in 2002, one being an actual police officer, the company sent a replacement part for buyers to swap the straps themselves rather than recall the item.
4) Fire Cap Fire and Smoke Suppressant
Fires are very scary and unpredictable.
Now imagine using a fire extinguisher that actually feeds the flames.
This hand-held fire extinguisher bottled similar to a can of hairspray sold for years around the world. Police departments, fire stations, and even household buyers were duped by the company’s scam. Fire Cap either did nothing to stop the fire, or only intensified the flames.
Thankfully, there are no reported deaths tied to the fire and smoke suppressant, and the company was driven out of business.
3) L.L. Bean Outdoorsman in a Bottle
Murphy’s law dictates everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and L.L. Bean must have hired him as chief executive.
The Outdoorsmen in a Bottle kit was made up of a blanket, water bottle, flashlight, and compass – all pretty standard for a survival package, except the flashlight had a serious deisgn flaw. Rather than having a battery, the flashlight contained a giant magnet and charged by shaking it. The compass was placed directly next to the flashlight, rendering it useless.
Not only did this affect the compass, but the magnet was so powerful that it could stop a person’s pace maker. As part of the recall, L.L. Bean shipped customers a warning label to stick on the flashlight.
2) Sloan Valve Company’s Flushmate III
This automatic flushing toilet makes it to #2 on our list by adding insult to injury, a very humiliating combination.
For consumers that wish to never again deal with clogged toilets, it’s really better to just use the plunger.
This toilet, while it had the sucking power missing in many modern models designed around water conservation, tended to build explosive pressure within its pipes. The plumbing could erupt and lacerate bathroom goers, causing over a dozen reports of injuries due to flying shards of porcelain. The product sold between 1997 and 2008, and was eventually recalled in 2012 after over 300 cases of property damage were filed.
1) Mazda 6 Sedan 2011 and 2014
These Mazda 6 sedan recalls sent many shrieking in horror to discover exactly what went wrong.
Apparently, the yellow sac spider is highly attracted to the smell of gasoline. Something about Mazda vehicles attracts the spiders to nest within the cars, and weave dangerous webs blocking air flow and causing a fire hazard.
After the first recall in 2011 on many Mazda cars, the company was baffled by the spiders’ tenacity to find their way inside, and attempted installing a spring for shooting the spiders out. After the second recall in 2014, the company resorted to software for alleviating air pressure within fuel tanks once the spiders are inside.
So, in the end, the yellow sac spiders won, and peacefully infect fuel tanks without hazard. An embarrassment for Mazda, but also for the human race. Before you leave, you’re gonna want this.