Special Report

America's Most Hated Companies

Today’s rapid and near-ubiquitous dissemination of news and information means corporations, too, can be more vulnerable to public opinion. For many companies, recovering from a bad reputation can seem impossible. For others, though, a poor reputation seems to have little to no impact on the bottom line.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed a range of information, including customer survey results from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), employee reviews on Glassdoor, company stock price, and financial information. These are America’s most hated companies.

It is usually very difficult for a company to fully separate itself from the perception and reputation of its industry — particularly when that reputation is a poor one. It should not be surprising that companies on this list include an airline, a bank, both a cable and satellite service provider, and two retailers, all industries with some of the worst reputations.

Click here to see the most hated companies in America.

While these are much-maligned industries, and it might be suspected that vitriol towards these companies is due to the reputation of their industries to a certain extent, it is worth noting, however, that these companies have managed to compare unfavorably even against their industry. Spirit Airlines, for example, received a score of just 54 out of 100 on the ACSI, 17 points below the already low-ranked airline industry. This was by far the most a single company underperformed compared to its industry.

Arguably, some of these companies have negative reputations among their customers and employees because they lack the competition that might push them to change their practices. Cable and TV service providers such as Dish and Comcast operate in markets with little to no alternative. Wal-Mart is sometimes the only low-cost option in rural, impoverished parts of the country.

We also chose many of these companies because they generate outrage not just from the American public and employees, but from their investors as well. Whether through poor decisions or circumstance, the majority of these companies have either been struggling for years, or recent events — as in the case of Volkswagen and Chipotle — have hurt their bottom line and long-term prospects. In nearly every case, the companies’ share price fell significantly in the last 12 months.

It may be no coincidence that customer satisfaction is extremely poor at many of these struggling companies. 24/7 Wall St. spoke to Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor, a site that allows employees to rate their employment experience. Dobroski explained, “At highly-rated companies, employees are excited to come to work. When they know where the company is headed, when they feel their senior leaders are being transparent with them, and when they feel they have career opportunities, these are some of the factors that often motivate them to do better work.” He added that the opposite may be true for some of these companies.

Due largely to the enormous success of e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com, the retail industry has become one of the most competitive industries in the U.S. economy. Some companies have struggled to keep up, while others have maintained their positions. Regardless, some retailers have poor reputations. Wal-Mart, for example, has managed to constantly grow and increase profitability despite its poor reputation. Sears, on the other hand, has been largely unable to overcome poor consumer confidence — just one of numerous challenges.

To identify the most hated companies in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a variety of metrics on customer service, employee satisfaction, and financial performance. We considered consumer surveys from a number of sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and a Zogby Analytics poll created in partnership with 24/7 Wall St. We also reviewed employee satisfaction based on worker opinion scores on Glassdoor — this is not a Glassdoor commissioned report. Finally, we reviewed management decisions and company policies that hurt a company’s public perception.

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