The 6 Most Blatantly Evil Product Recalls Of All Time
Corporations, can we be real for a minute? We don't like making fun of you. It's exhausting, because we have to try to take something horrible like funding genocide or turning us into addicts or how you're taking over everything and layer it with enough dick and poop jokes to make it palatable. For those of us who haven't had our souls surgically removed, seeing so much awfulness in the relentless pursuit of profit really wears on you. So, for our sake as much as yours, could you try being just a little bit less evil?
No? Welp, we gave it a shot. Here are six more unbelievable assholes to ruin your day:
GM Sends Recall Letters to People Already Killed by Unrecalled Cars
Look, automakers, we get it. Cars are big, complicated machines, and no matter how hard you try, some mistakes are going to slip through the cracks. It's just a fact of life. All we ask is that when something does get by you, you give us the courtesy of saying, "Hey, just a heads-up -- it's probably nothing -- buuuuuuut this thing might kill you at any second." Preferably before that very thing happens. General Motors, unfortunately, did that in the opposite order.
"Like we said, it's probably nothing."
Way back in 2004, GM discovered that some of their cars had a bad ignition switch that would turn off for literally no reason, cutting power to anti-lock brakes, power steering, and airbags. Your car powering down out of nowhere may not seem as dangerous as, say, it suddenly bursting into flames, but it has led to the deaths of at least 13 people since these cars have been on the road ... and GM, in the grand tradition of "if we ignore this, maybe it will go away," didn't initiate a recall until 2014. Now they're embroiled in approximately all the lawsuits, have recalled millions of vehicles, and shit-canned a dozen or so people in the process.
Incidentally, some GM cars do have that "suddenly bursting into flames" problem we mentioned, as one man found out when he got a recall letter half an hour before his car immolated itself.
"And you didn't immediately leave it in a ditch?! You irresponsible bastard."
Other recall letters weren't so timely. In their effort to spam everyone who might have ever touched a faulty ignition switch, GM ended up sending recall notices to people who have already died as a result of said ignition switches. A GM rep was quick to apologize to the re-traumatized families, which was almost certainly followed by a pregnant pause before he asked, "So you won't be bringing the car in, right?"
Mattel Apologizes to China for Saying Chinese-Made Toys With Lead Paint Are Bad
As an adult, you know that lead is bad for you and that you shouldn't eat it. Kids, however, are stupid and will gleefully shovel poison into their mouth like it's Swiss chocolate. As a result, the United States banned lead-based paint in 1978, forcing it into the ranks of home glass-blowing kits and lawn darts as perfectly good things that children ruined for everyone.
Fast-forward to 2007 when Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, recalled nearly 1 million toys for being slathered in brain-stupidifying lead paint. Evidently, Mattel's Chinese supplier (i.e., the people who actually make the toys) hadn't gotten the memo about lead being bad for humans, leading us to wonder if there are any other ingredients Mattel didn't specifically tell them not to use.
"Hey, you didn't say we shouldn't occasionally replace Elmo with a live snake."
Unlike most companies on this list, Mattel quickly admitted that selling shoddy, potentially deadly toys was wrong and apologized profusely ... to China. You know, for besmirching the country's reputation. Just a month after the recall began, Mattel sent a top executive to Beijing to publicly say sorry for ever suggesting that the Chinese company which put the lead paint on toys was in any way responsible for putting the lead paint on toys. Mattel also claimed that the whole lead thing wasn't such a big deal after all -- actually, most of the toys were recalled due to "design flaws" that were in no way the fault of the glorious, strong, and breathtakingly handsome republic of China.
"No, you can keep the sword. That's Japan."
Why would Mattel do that? Because it was either that or finding somewhere else to manufacture 65 percent of their toys for cheap. Mattel is so heavily invested in Chinese manufacturing that China was able to wag the dog, lest they become annoyed and start driving up Mattel's costs by giving their workers bathroom breaks or other such luxuries. And remember, Mattel is the customer in this arrangement. It'd be like if Applebee's served you a pile of shit, and then you went on national TV, held up the shit, kissed it, and agreed that it's a delicious steak.
In other words, a regular steak from Applebee's.
And on that note ...
McDonald's Finds Out Its Meatpacker Is Breaking Health Codes, Generously Forgives Them
Mattel is hardly the only company guilty of kowtowing to the almost-Kafkaesque dystopia of Chinese industry. OSI Group, a privately held U.S. meatpacking company, had been outsourcing some of its meat production to plants in China (Jesus, we don't even kill our own cows and chickens anymore?!) -- one of which was found to have employees working without gloves, reusing meat that had fallen on the floor, and mixing expired meat with fresh meat. Perhaps more alarmingly, they had no qualms about doing all of this in plain view of a local TV crew in 2014.
That floor was originally white.
Naturally, when this came to light, many of OSI's customers (like KFC and Starbucks) ran for the hills. But not McDonald's. The Golden Arches decided to keep working with OSI, even after OSI was caught deliberately lying to them about the freshness of the meat, leading to recalls in a number of McDonald's stores. Why stay with them, then? Because it's way less expensive than getting meat somewhere less gross, which is the same reason anyone goes to McDonald's.
"Look, some underpaid 20-year-old is gonna drop that shit somewhere down the line, anyway."
For its part, OSI spent several million dollars in the aftermath to bring the plant up to snuff -- namely, by adding cameras, actually printing instruction manuals in languages the workers can read, and training their food safety employees on, duh, food safety. You might recognize this as a list of shit they should have already been doing, but McDonald's views it as OSI making great progress toward the noble goal of not poisoning millions of people. Hooray?
Firestone and Ford Take Their Sweet Time to Recall Murderous Tires
You didn't think the auto industry would show up on this list only once, did you? In the early 2000s, Ford Motor Company was having a slight problem with its popular Explorer SUV -- specifically, the James Bond-esque secret feature where it would spontaneously go rolling through the air like it was trying out for the Star Fox squad.
The illustration looks a lot less tragic if you play this.
The problem was that the SUV's Firestone-brand tires were shredding themselves when moving at high speeds, something tires are known to do on occasion. At least 119 people were killed and thousands injured. So, the companies dutifully recalled 6.5 million tires in 2000, but here's the thing: Ford and Firestone were already settling "My bad, our crappy self-destructing products maimed you and your family" lawsuits as early as 1992. Also, it turned out that Ford had been recalling international vehicles with the shred-o-matic tires a full nine months before they bothered to say anything in the U.S.
So, why the big cover-up? Firestone made the tires, shouldn't it be their ass on the line? Well, as it happens, Ford and Firestone had a pretty close business relationship going back to the early 20th century, when both companies' original founders were pretty close friends. Their grandkids became even closer (presumably) and got married, because apparently the automotive industry operates the same way as medieval Europe. That all changed when Congress called a hearing about the tire recall in which executives from both companies scrambled to blame each other for the whole clusterfuck.
It looked like the end of Miracle on 34th Street, but with tires instead of letters to Santa.
Since you can't do business with someone you're accusing of murderous neglect, the companies immediately ended their century-long partnership ... in the U.S. People in other countries presumably don't read The New York Times, so they can still be friends there.
A Keurig Machine Burns Down an Apartment, the Company Offers a Replacement Coffee Maker
If you're one of the 100 million or so Americans with a crippling caffeine addiction, you probably like to start your day off with a nice, hot, mainline injection of boiled bean water. If you're an especially impatient caffeine addict, you might have a Keurig machine so that you can enjoy the freshest, artisanal weasel shit, one cup at a time. Malcolm Armstead and Cherie Taylor of Gresham, Oregon, had such a machine, and apparently it worked like a charm, until the day it did this to their apartment:
Imagine suddenly finding yourself without a home or your morning coffee.
Armstead says he stepped out of the kitchen for one minute, and when he came back he couldn't help noticing that the place was in flames. After ensuring that the couple wasn't in possession of the Arkenstone, the fire department determined that their Keurig machine was "the most probable cause of the fire." This wasn't definite enough for the company, who refused to take the blame by arguing that the arsonist must have been some other electrical product in their kitchen -- you know, one made by another company that hadn't just recalled 7 million coffee makers for overheating and spraying hot water on users.
They did, however, offer the now-homeless couple (the rental company didn't return their deposit) what they considered a fair restitution for their trouble: a brand-new Keurig coffee maker!
Which is the nicest possible way of saying, "We hope you die in a fire."
To further prove that Keurig cares about its users so damn much, they also told people waiting for their machines to be fixed that they could use them anyway -- they just had to stand at least an arm's length back (or, preferably, operate it from across the room using a broomstick). Meanwhile, the couple and their son had to rely on the Red Cross and family members to not freeze to death, but they can take comfort in the fact that John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig, has since issued an apology ... to the environment.
An Auto Parts Company's Airbags Shoot Shrapnel at People's Faces, so It Recalls Them ... 10 Years Later
While two of the previous entries seem like some of the biggest auto industry cover-ups in history, they're not even the biggest cover-up on this list. Takata is a Japanese manufacturer of auto parts who recently caused a recall of millions of vehicles in the U.S. alone when it was discovered that their airbags would go off at the slightest provocation. While having a bag explode in your face during a cruise down the highway is dangerous enough, that's not everything Takata threw at you:
They knock you out with a metal tube so you forget the crash? How considerate.
That's the airbag's steel inflator, which doesn't actually jump at your face in a dreamy slow motion like that GIF implies -- in many cases, the thing actually exploded and deployed shrapnel at people's faces. According to former employees, Takata got their first "your airbag tried to re-create Saving Private Ryan on my face" complaint in 2004 and sent two engineers to go collect 50 or so airbags from scrapyards and test them. The engineers were so alarmed by the results that they immediately began to redesign the airbag. That's when the executives reportedly stepped in and told them to delete the data, dispose of the airbags, and to forget about what they had seen.
"Have a free coffee maker!"
Even after the issue became public, that didn't stop Takata from acting like greedy douchebags about it. The company said the problem was related to humidity, so they started recalling vehicles only in high-humidity states, because nobody ever drives out of town. The NHTSA asked them to expand the recall so that drivers weren't playing Russian Roulette every time it rained, but Takata didn't feel that was necessary. The government disagreed and decided to fine Takata $7,000 per unrecalled car per day, which, with an estimated 8 million unrecalled cars, worked out to approximately one Warren Buffett per day. That's when Takata felt a sudden sense of social responsibility and made the recall nationwide.
Hang in there, sirs. If this article has taught us anything, it's that no one will give a shit in a few years.
For further joys of industry, check out 4 Hilarious Leaked Emails Corporations Don't Want You to See and 5 Outrageous Lies Companies Are Legally Allowed to Tell You.