4. McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE: MCD)
Low wages are a major flashpoint for McDonald’s, with many workers arguing they deserve better pay. Pay at the company is generally quite low, with the average crew member reporting wages of $8.25 an hour, and the average cashier reporting wages of $8.41 an hour.
Fast-food workers protested against low wages at the end of 2013. Protests specifically aimed at McDonald’s wage practices continued into 2014. Notably, employees and labor advocates protested outside McDonald’s Oak Brook, Illinois campus during its annual shareholder meeting.
The company’s labor issues may increase after the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) recent ruling that the company is a joint employer alongside its franchisees. In effect, this ruling means that the company is liable for labor violations at its franchisees’ restaurants.
Apart from labor issues, the company has struggled to appeal to customers in recent years. No fast-food company received a lower customer satisfaction score in 2014, according to the ACSI. McDonald’s has also had to deal with a major drop in sales, with four straight quarters of same-store sales declines in the United States. McDonald’s has announced plans to simplify its menu to help stem the decline.
5. Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC)
Fair or not, Bank of America remains deeply unpopular. The banking giant received an ACSI score of just 69, well below the industry average of 76, and an indicator that customers are highly unsatisfied with the bank. Worse still, the company received the highest share of poor reviews of any business in Zogby Analytics’ 2014 customer service survey.
Its inability to satisfy customers is not the bank’s only problem. After the bank discovered an accounting error in April, the Federal Reserve forced it to suspend both its share buyback program and its planned dividend increase. The bank also reached an agreement with the Justice Department to pay a record $16.65 billion settlement related to its mortgage practices leading up to the financial crisis. This was just the latest in a series of multi-billion dollar mortgage-related fines the bank has paid in recent years.
Bank of America’s share price has been effectively flat over the last five years, even as the S&P 500 has risen by almost 80%.
Fast-growing Uber, an app-based car service, was one of the most talked-about companies in 2014. Some of the coverage surrounding Uber focused on the company’s growing popularity and heady valuation. However, few companies have engendered as much controversy as Uber has.
In some cases, outrage has come from established cab drivers. Uber has regularly encountered opposition from regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Regulators in a number of U.S. cities, as well as France, Netherlands, and China have banned or challenged the legality of the company’s ride-sharing offerings, which allow anyone with a car to work as a driver. The company also suspended operations in Spain following similar opposition.
Even Uber drivers have protested the company’s policies, including fare cuts aimed at improving its ability to compete with established cab companies and other startups, such as rival Lyft. Customers, too, have complained about Uber, especially the practice of “surge pricing,” which involves raising fares when demand for rides is particularly high. Some critics have compared decried the practice as price gouging, and New York’s City Council is currently considering a cap on fares.
The company also came under fire for the actions of several executives. Last November, one executive told a BuzzFeed reporter he had been tracking her car — without consent — as she arrived to interview him. That same month, another executive suggested to a BuzzFeed editor that Uber should consider digging up personal information about members of the media critical of the company.
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