Special Report

America’s Most Hated Companies

7. Sprint Corp (NYSE: S)

Sprint has been disappointing many customers for years. In the six quarters through September 2014, Sprint lost nearly 2.6 million postpaid subscribers — customers who have a phone contract and typically are more lucrative for the company. This marked the 11th straight quarter of net decline in subscribers. As a result, many employees lost their jobs, as Sprint eliminated some 2,000 jobs in an effort to cut costs.

One reason that customers may be willing to jump ship from Sprint may be dissatisfaction with its customer service. Nearly 21% of Sprint customers reported a poor experience to Zogby Analytics, the worst rating among cellular carriers and a higher percentage than of all but three other companies reviewed in any industry.

In 2013, Japanese telecommunication company SoftBank purchased a majority stake in Sprint for $22 billion. SoftBank wanted to merge Sprint with T-Mobile US but called off the plan after it became clear U.S. regulators would oppose any tie-up. Investors cannot be happy — shares of Sprint have fallen by half in the 12 months.

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8. Spirit Airlines Incorporated (NASDAQ: SAVE)

Spirit Airlines offers a remarkably unpleasant experience in an industry already known for long lines, invasive security screens, hidden fees, lost possessions, and delays. Services and amenities that are bundled into a ticket’s price on most airlines are sold separately on Spirit, which charges for putting a bag in the overhead compartment or for bottled water. Yet, according to a 2014 report by Bloomberg Businessweek, “Despite the prevalence of fees, Spirit says its total price is still lowest, at $102.02 on a length-adjusted basis, compared to $125.65 at Southwest and $152.97 at Delta.”

Many Spirit customers appear to be willing to sacrifice a bit as far as quality goes in order to fly at a better price. Still, in a 2013 study on the airline industry, Consumer Reports wrote that “bottom-­ranked Spirit Airlines received one of the lowest overall scores for any company we’ve ever rated.” The U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, also noted that Spirit was the most complained-about airline from 2009 through 2013, with roughly three times more complaints per 100,000 passengers than any other airline.

The company has actually embraced its image as the nation’s most hated airline. In Spirit’s “State of the Hate Report” published last summer, the company documented negative opinions among airline customers. Spirit seems to have tapped into a market of consumers who choose low price at the expense of service. Even Spirit’s NASDAQ ticker symbol, SAVE, evokes thriftiness. As spokesperson Paul Berry told 24/7 Wall St., “The one thing consumers tell us is most important is price. We compete on price.”

9. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)

Few companies received a lower rating than Walmart for customer satisfaction, according to the ACSI. Walmart’s scores were low even relative to other discount and department stores, as well as relative to other supermarkets. Walmart was the worst performer in both industries.

Walmart is the largest private employer in America, with roughly 1.4 million associates just in the United States. It is also often cited as one of the largest companies paying front-line workers extremely low salaries. That may partially explain why the company received such low marks from employees on Glassdoor.com, just a 2.8 out of 5.

According to a 2014 report from Americans for Tax Fairness, the company’s low wages mean U.S. taxpayers must cover the cost of keeping its employees on social safety net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

In many ways, Wal-Mart controversies reveal the differing opinions many Americans have on a variety of issues. For example, Walmart sells products at low prices nationwide but is often accused of hurting local businesses where it builds stores.

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10. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA)

Comcast received exceptionally low customer satisfaction scores for both its Internet and television services. Comcast’s scores in each category were so low that they actually stood out in their industries, which are among the worst for customer satisfaction according to the ACSI. The company also had the second worst customer service of any company in America, according to a survey from Zogby Analytics. A recording of a company customer service representative who refused to assist a customer in cancelling his service — and that went viral last year — is one indication of Comcast’s poor customer service.

Consumer outrage with Comcast extended beyond just dissatisfaction with its service. When the company announced early last year that it intended to merge with rival Time Warner Cable, consumers were angered at the prospect of even less competition in an industry that is already notoriously unfriendly to consumers.

Other industries have also been critical of the company’s operations as an Internet service provider (ISP). Notably, video streaming company Netflix has accused ISPs of deliberately slowing customers’ internet performance to extract fees from content providers.

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