Special Report

The 10 Most Hated Companies in America

A company can become broadly hated if it alienates a large enough group of people. It may frustrate customers with poor service, anger employees with unpleasant working conditions or low pay, and fail shareholders with poor returns. Often, these shortcomings are intertwined and it’s usually enough for a company to antagonize one of these groups for its reputation — and even its operations and finances — to suffer.

Many of the most-hated companies have millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of workers. With this kind of reach, it’s important to keep employees happy in order to maintain decent customer service. Often, poor job satisfaction leads to poor service and low customer satisfaction. McDonald’s and Walmart have risked this most recently as employees and some customers have protested the low wages at these companies — low enough to put workers below the poverty line.

Mass layoffs also contribute to low worker morale. Some of the most-hated companies have significantly reduced their workforces. BlackBerry, for one, has cut a third of its headcount as competitors Apple and Samsung have taken most of its market share. Wall Street has accused BlackBerry’s (NASDAQ: BBRY) management of missing the rapid adoption of consumer-friendly smartphones.

Click here to see the most hated companies

Several organizations have managed to avoid this list by reclaiming some of their reputation in recent months. In 2012, the Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) IPO imploded and the company continued to face backlash because of its shifting privacy policies. In 2013, however, the social network’s share price soared and attention to its privacy issues dropped considerably.

T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) had a difficult 2012, losing scores of subscribers and receiving poor marks for customer service. But it had a much better 2013. In May, the company added 9 million new customers when it acquired Metro PCS. It has continued to add customers due to a new strategy that splits phone payments from service fees.

Many of the most-hated companies botched a product or a service. BlackBerry’s most recent line of smartphones, the Q10 and Z10, launched in a desperate attempt to take back some of the smartphone market, failed to catch on. Another major flop was the new store layout and pricing at JC Penney (NYSE: JCP), which alienated consumers and, eventually, investors.

Nothing harms the long-term reputation of a company, at least in the eyes of investors, more than a steep drop in its share price. The stocks of several of the most-hated companies posted double-digit percentage declines in the past year. This certainly happened to J.C. Penney, which has been swamped by competition from other large retailers, ranging from Macy’s (NYSE: M) to Target (NYSE: TGT). Similarly, lululemon’s (NASDAQ: LULU) stock was hammered following the see-through yoga pants scandal that put the brakes on the company’s rapid revenue growth and resulted in the resignation of its chairman.

It is worth noting that some of the companies on the list may have performed very poorly by some measures but well by others. A few of the most-hated companies have had good stock performance. Others have relatively satisfied customers. All of this was taken into account in compiling the final list.

To identify the most hated companies in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a variety of metrics for customer satisfaction, stock performance, and employee satisfaction. This included total return to shareholders compared to the broader market and other companies in the same sector in the past 52 weeks. We considered customer data from a number of sources, including the Consumer Reports Naughty & Nice list, the ForeSee Experience Index, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index. We also included employee satisfaction based on worker opinion scores recorded by Glassdoor. Finally, we considered management decisions made in the past year that hurt a company’s image and brand value, as measured by marketing research firms BrandZ and Interbrand.

These are the 10 most-hated companies in America.

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