The Fifteen Most Hated American Companies Of 2010

11. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) reputation has been badly affected by the recalls of a number of its generic and over-the-counter products including  Tylenol, Motrin and Rolaids. The FDA has said that J&J was slow in making these recall decisions and announcements to the public. Several of the firm’s plants have come under scrutiny for manufacturing practices, particularly one that J&J operates in Puerto Rico. There is now speculation among Wall Street analysts that this plant may be closed. A survey of press coverage of the company shows it has an especially high number of negative mentions.  J&J shares have underperformed the DJIA during the last year.

12. McDonald’s
McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) is the poster child for unhealthy food in America. As the demand for higher quality, lower-calorie foods has risen, McDonald’s is among the most savagely criticized firms. McDonald’s is in the bottom 10% of the American Customer Satisfaction Index among 181 firms across all industries measured in the poll. The negative reaction of the press to McDonald’s business practices has grown rapidly, fueled by attacks against the firm by the health care sector and consumer advocates. McDonald’s has also been accused of using free toys as an incentive to entice children to their fast food outlets.  So far legal actions, like the one recently brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, do not seem to have damaged the company’s business. But the obesity epidemic and rise in diseases from high calorie and high fat foods will change consumer practice over time, especially if there is a “sin tax” placed on these foods. The bad PR appears not to have hurt the company’s share price, however, which has soared up nearly 25% in the last year.

13. United Airlines
In the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index, United received a score of 60, the lowest score received by any company across all industries – tied with Charter. According to a recent Consumer Reports article, United has a policy to reimburse consumers who find a lower fare for a flight they have already booked on United’s website by providing a voucher for a discount on the next flight booked by these customers.  However, the airline charges a $150 fee if the consumer purchased a standard “nonrefundable” ticket. The company has a Glassdoor employee satisfaction rating of 2.1 out of 5, which is the worst of all the companies considered for our list. Before stepping down in October 2010  after the merger with Continental, former CEO Glenn Tilton had an approval rating of just 11%.

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14. British Petroleum
BP plc (NYSE: BP) is the most obvious choice to be on a list of hated companies. The Gulf incident will be remembered as one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history. Research shows that the company has received more bad press this year than almost any other company. The actions of its former CEO Tony Hayward after the incident, which contibuted to his dismissal, fueled negative public opinion about BP. Shares of BP are down more than 20% in the last year.

15. DirecTV
DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) scores a weak 68 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, down 4.2% from the company’s score last year.  The direct broadcast satellite company draws complaints for a number of reasons.  It automatically extends customers’ contracts for 24 months when new equipment is added.  Customers often receive unexpected fees, such as a $480 cancellation fee.  There has been a great deal of dissatisfaction over aggressive telemarketing practices.  Recently the company reached a settlement with all 50 states over allegations that it misled consumers about pricing and policies.

-Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, Douglas A. McIntyre

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