This golden era of streaming video and plentiful wifi has created hyper-social internet that can put bad behavior like what was seen on United flight 3411 Sunday under the white-hot scrutiny of Twitter. If a company is caught on video mistreating customers or somehow compromises itself on social media, it could wind up costing that company a lot of money.
Here are five examples of bad behavior-gone-viral that has sent a company’s publicly traded stock tumbling.
1. United Airlines Employees Drag an Employee Off Flight 3411
It’s the elephant in the room. After overbooking a flight from Chicago, United Airlines was forced to ask some passengers to stay behind in order to make room for some United employees who the company said needed to be on that plane.
When the company failed to provide adequate incentives for any of the passengers to agree to wait for another flight, they chose passengers randomly to deboard. One of the selected passengers was a doctor. He refused to leave the plane, saying he had patients he needed to see in the morning. Security was called to forcibly remove the man, and he was injured before being dragged violently off the plane.
It was all caught on video and resulted in a tremendous backlash against United Airlines across social networks.
As a result, the airline’s stock has fallen by 2.6 percent and chopped about $600 million off its market cap.
2. A Tesla on Fire
Naturally, customers were loathe to purchase a vehicle they were afraid might spontaneously combust on them. Tesla’s stock fell by 6.2 percent in the days after the video surfaced.
3. United Airlines “Breaks Guitars”
Its most recent instance of customer disservice wasn’t the first. United Airlines took another big hit in 2009 after a trio of songs, collectively entitled “United Breaks Guitars,” was released by Canadian musician Dave Carroll and his band. According to Carroll, United Airlines broke his $3,500 Taylor guitar while loading the luggage compartment before a flight. Afterward, the airline was wholly unhelpful in his effort to be reimbursed. So Carroll took his case to the internet.
In addition to being inescapably catchy, the song has since garnered over 16 million views and, at the time, caused United’s stock price to drop by 10 percent. It cost investors about $180 million.
4. The Fiery Carnival Cruise
As bad as the US Airways tweet was, it didn’t leave anyone stranded for days on a poop-smelling cruise ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, which is exactly what a 2013 fire on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship did.
After the fire, the Carnival ship was left listing and unable to return to port. As a result, the passengers and crew had to survive on the ship for much longer than was originally intended. Because so much was damaged by the fire, the ship’s occupants were forced to make ramshackle residences on the decks and in safe areas. Oh, and the ship also reeked of human waste, since the systems that deal with that sort of thing weren’t functioning.
The debacle was relentlessly covered and earned Carnival a licking on social media as conditions on the ship became known.
In fact, the mockery hasn’t really stopped.
It’s further proof that, no matter how big the company is, if you aren’t careful, the internet could land your business in the toilet with fewer than 140 characters.