Let’s be honest, we’ve all made a mistake or two… or ten thousand. They can be as simple as mixing up the sugar and the salt or as devastating as forgetting to record your favourite show but everybody, yes everybody, makes mistakes! You see, us making mistakes is one of the many brilliances of our brain’s functionality. Like everything, our brains are limited. You make a mistake when you push the limitations of your brain, it then acknowledges it was a mistake and you learn to (almost) never make the same mistake twice. Brilliant, eh?
For most of us, a mistake is embarrassing. It causes you to dwell on it for a few hours but, sooner or later, you forget about it and move on. Unless, that is, your mistake cost you or your boss thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Imagine that? Well, it happens.
To make you feel better about pressing send on that embarrassing text, here are five of the biggest mistakes that mankind have ever made. Ouch!
5. ‘Erotict’ Typo: $28.2 million
A simple, yet funny, typo is the first blunder on our list. Autocorrect may have us laughing at our phone’s errors on a regular basis but it most certainly did not leave the bosses of Pacific Bell laughing all the way back in the 1980s. A travel company called Banner Travel Services innocently decided to buy some advertising space in the prestigious Yellow Pages to boost their profile. The advertisement should have read “exotic holidays”, which was the little company’s specialization. Unfortunately, someone at the Yellow Pages misheard the word “exotic” and it was printed as “erotic holidays”. Oh my! The guys at Banner Travel Services were none too pleased with this saucy image of their services and decided to sue, eventually winning the case and being awarded $10 million ($28.2 million in 2013 dollars). The case almost put the Yellow Pages’ printing company, Pacific Bell, out of business. Not only did they have to hand over the $10 million to Banner Travel Services, they also refunded the $230 the company had paid for their first month’s ad!
4. Hi-Tech $100 Bill: $120 million
Paper money has been around for quite a while now and has never caused much trouble. You occasionally might leave a bill in your trouser pocket and it goes into the wash – but we all make mistakes, as we are learning here. There has been talk of modernising our money over the last several years, with Bit Coins and digital strips on bills. The USA have been instrumental in their efforts to do this… but it has not really gone to plan. With an initial release date of 2010, the new $100 bill was set to change how we look at money forever. They were hi-tech; with a 3D security strip included. What a brainwave! Counterfeit notes would be ten times harder to produce, money would be more traceable. Plus, they would look pretty snazzy. Unfortunately, things did not go to plan. Several mistakes occurred here! Trial and error is the way forward with new money technology, it seems. In 2010, the Federal Reserve promised a release date of the new bills that year, which would be phased out into circulation. After the printer botched the job, the release was pushed back to 2013. Unfortunately, a similar problem occurred with ‘creasing’, where too much ink is applied to the paper and the printer cannot handle the pressure. Sounds simple enough to sort out but while they figure out a solution, Americans are using their good old fashioned normal paper money!
3. NASA’s ‘Spacial’ Awareness: $165.5 million
That damn metric system. Some of us, nay most of us, use it, while others stick with the good old-fashioned inches and miles. You would think we could all sit down together and decide on one or the other to avoid confusion. NASA must have thought along these lines after a spot of metric confusion led to a $165.5 million loss for the organisation. In 1999, NASA had just finished building their Mars Climate Orbiter. Oh, think of the loss to science! We could have been light-years ahead in our knowledge of space had this initiative not been lost. While the aircraft was orbiting Mars, two teams were communicating cross-country, from Colorado to California, with every bit of information vital. Sadly, one team was measuring their distances in feet and inches; the other in metric units. Space, a difficult place to get to in the first place, is vast and unknown so this tiny error meant that the Orbiter was lost forever. NASA officially “gave up” trying to contact the machine on September 25, 1999. Unfortunately for them (and astronomy), the build and launch, as well as maintenance, of the Orbiter had cost the organisation $165.5 million.
2. Mizuho Securities: 1 Share becomes 610,000 Shares: $224 million
It was something of a Black Monday-type day in Japan back in 2006 when a simple typo cost one Japanese company to lose $224 million (27 billion Yen). It was a simple case of your good old-fashioned mix up when one stock broker sold 610,000 shares for Mizuho Securities at just 1 Yen each (that is less than a penny, FYI). What he was actually supposed to do was sell one share for 610,000 Yen! Simple mistake, really. Except if he had done what he was meant to do, he would have been selling shares for just over $5000 instead of a penny. Unfortunately, the system in Mizuho Securities, which is a division of Mizuho Financial Group, the country’s second-largest bank, had something of a glitch. Though several attempts were made to cancel the company’s error, for some reason there was no emergency stop button so all the employees could do was watch in dismay as stock watchers snapped up the bargain shares. By the end of the day, the total losses were totalling that figure of £224 million.
1. Sleepy German Banker: $293 million
Yes, that does say $293 million dollars’ worth of a mistake. Oh dear. A sleepy banker had a little nap for himself at his desk in a German bank and that couple of seconds of sleep cost an astonishing $293 million worth of damage! When dealing with a customer, the clerk was transferring €62.40 to their account when he accidentally dozed off for a few seconds. Unfortunately, he leaned a little too heavily on the “2” button on his keyboard and ended up typing a few too many 2’s. A lot too many, actually. The total amount he ended up transferring was €222,222,222.22! You might think this would be quickly rectified but his supervisor, who was presumably having a slow day herself, let it slip under her radar which ended up in her losing her job. Fortunately, the mistake was rectified (after it had been approved) and no harm was done. Except, that is, the bank’s fired employee of 26 years taking them to court for unfair dismissal… and winning!