8. SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS)
The 2013 film “Blackfish” brought widespread public scrutiny to the morality of SeaWorld’s operations. Since the film’s release, the company’s woes have snowballed. Park attendance is down as total admissions revenue declined from $921 million in fiscal 2013 to $859 million in fiscal 2014. Company stockholders are also feeling the pain. Since the company’s IPO, the same year “Blackfish” was released, SeaWorld’s share price went from $27 to less than $19 a share.
In another blow to the company’s bottom line and public relations, three whales died in the last six months of 2015 in SeaWorld’s San Antonio, Texas location. While killer whales in the wild typically live 30-50 years, the most recent killer whale to die at SeaWorld did not even live to 19. Though many attribute the orca’s early death to stress brought on by life in captivity, SeaWorld claims such allegation are unsubstantiated. In a likely attempt to polish its tarnished image, the company announced that it will end the killer whale show in its San Diego location in 2016.
9. Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: SHLD)
With unsatisfied customers and employees along with rapidly declining sales, Sears’s old slogan — “Where America Shops” — is far less accurate today. Like with Wal-Mart and other major department stores, Sears’s low-paid workers are unsatisfied with their employer and protests have cropped up throughout the country. The average employee review of Sears on Glassdoor is just 2.6 out of 5, one of the lowest of any major company.
In addition to the retail stores of the same name, Sears Holdings Corporation also owns Kmart, another major retail company with abysmal customer service ratings and dissatisfied employees. In a Zogby and 24/7 Wall St.’s customer service poll, Kmart had one of the highest shares of shoppers who said they had a poor experience with the company.
Unlike Wal-Mart, however, Sears has not been able to leverage its cheap labor into profit. Major retailers in general are losing ground to online giant Amazon.com and other online stores, but few are losing as much as Sears. The company announced in January it would be closing both Sears and Kmart locations across the country. Each store chain has lost money for the holding company, and Sears Holding reported net losses of $927 million in 2013 and $1.5 billion in 2014. Today, Sears stock is worth about half of what it was worth a year ago.
10. Chipotle (NYSE: CMG)
Another company that has experienced a surprising turn of events is Chipotle. The restaurant, which has promoted its focus on food quality, now finds itself fighting a rising tide of evidence that it did not meet its own standards on safety. Serious foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015 were linked — in multiple incidents — to Chipotle locations across the country. These include a tomato-borne salmonella outbreak that sickened 64 people throughout Minnesota, and separate outbreaks of the norovirus in California and Boston, each afflicting dozens of patrons.
In addition, an E. coli outbreak has sickened more than 50 people in 12 states. The company faces several lawsuits, including one class action lawsuit brought on by investors, which claims the company made false statement about its safety standards following the outbreaks. The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations has also launched a formal probe into the California norovirus incident, and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has subpoenaed the company as well. Same-store sales in Chipotle locations in the fourth quarter fell by nearly 15%, and shares of the company plunged by more than 40% in the past 12 months.