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Spectacular Product Flops That People Still Talk About

Esther Trattner
Spectacular Product Flops That People Still Talk About

The internet howled in early 2018 when PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi suggested the maker of Doritos was exploring whether to make chips for women that wouldn't crunch as loudly or stain the fingers as much.

Her company later said it was all a misunderstanding and that "Lady Doritos" would never get produced. But many misguided products have made it into the marketplace -- where they've crashed and burned.

Research firm CB Insights has reviewed a ton of flop products and ranks these stinkers as the absolute worst of all time, counting down to the most disastrous.

16. The DeLorean

DeLorean Motor Company, 1981-1983. AKA ‘Too bad it’s not a time machine’

Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock
The iconic DeLorean was a huge failure.

The DeLorean sports car had a starring role in the classic Back to the Future films — but despite its fame, the car tanked along with the American auto industry in the 1980s.

Although the stainless steel body and gull wing doors were the definition of cool, DeLorean owners complained that the cars were not as powerful as they looked. Only 9,000 of them were made by 1983.

Thirty years after production stopped, the modern-day DeLorean Motor Company announced it would release 50 replica cars per year starting in 2017, with an estimated price tag of $100,000 each. To date, no new DeLoreans have appeared.

15. Satisfries

Burger King, 2013. AKA ‘Saddest fries’

Mike Mozart / Flickr
Consumers felt Burger King's Satisfries were unsatisfying on many fronts.

Desperate to please health-conscious Americans, Burger King rolled out Satisfries — containing 30% less fat than McDonald’s fries — in 2013.

Sadly, the crinkly taters deserves a spot among the greatest fast-food flops. Customers said they were dry and that the outer coating was tough and chewy.

A small order of the fancy taters also cost more than BK’s regular fries and contained more calories than a small order of McDonald’s fries, because Micky D's weighed less.

By 2014, Burger King discontinued Satisfries at most locations.

14. Smith & Wesson bikes

Smith & Wesson, 2002. AKA ‘How off-brand can you get?!’

Smith and Wesson / Amazon.com
Smith & Wesson's bicycles got shot down by consumers.

World-famous firearms and ammunition manufacturer Smith & Wesson decided to branch out in 2002, so it released a line of high-quality bicycles. Consumers were understandably confused.

S&W had been known for centuries for its revolvers, semi-automatic guns, rifles, shotguns and machine guns. The company also manufactured prison restraints like handcuffs and leg irons. But bikes?

Consumers just weren’t willing to accept the unexpected brand extension into two-wheeled transportation. S&W is still selling bicycles for police officers, though not consumers.

13. Atari Jaguar and Sega Dreamcast

1994 and 1999. AKA ‘Game over’

Matthew Paul Argall / Wikimedia Commons
The Atari Jaguar and Sega Dreamcast both lost out in the battle against the PS2.

In the ‘90s, industry leaders Atari and Sega both released video game consoles to compete with Sony’s PlayStation lineup. Unfortunately, both lost out hard to the PlayStation 2, which would become the best-selling console ever..

The Atari Jaguar had finicky hardware that was too difficult for game developers to work with. Only 67 games were released for the console, compared to the PS2's 3,800.

The Sega Dreamcast had superior graphics, say fans — but unlike the PS2, it couldn’t play DVDs, and not enough customers used its online capabilities. Worst of all, it was more expensive, says gamer blog Goliath.com.

12. Google Glass

Google, 2013-2014. AKA ‘Felony Glass’

Peppinuzzo / Shutterstock
Google Glass was no smashing success.

In 2013, Google unveiled Google Glass, an impressive — if funny-looking — head-worn computer that could be used solo or added to prescription lenses.

The smart glasses could run apps, record videos, place calls and be operated remotely and by using voice commands. Unfortunately, these nifty features also made it perfect for breaking the law.

Lawmakers and journalists warned that Google Glass could potentially be used for spying or to commit an array of crimes, such as recording casinos and locker rooms. The terrible press killed Google Glass before any of the bad stuff ever happened.

11. The SPOT Watch

Microsoft, 2004. AKA ‘The DORK watch’

John Biehler / Flickr
Microsoft's SPOT watch failed to catch on in the days before the Apple Watch.

A decade before the sleek Apple Watch hit stores, Microsoft created the SPOT, as in "smart personal objects technology." It was a smartwatch that used an FM radio subcarrier to send a curated "channel" of information to its user's wrist.

The SPOT was marketed to 15- to 35-year-olds and came in "sporty," "retro" and "fashionable" designs, Microsoft said at the time.

Unfortunately, despite the software giant's collaboration with fashion watchmaker Fossil, the watches turned out to be clunky and geeky — and younger people didn’t want the instant updates about the news and the barometric pressure.

10. Gerber Singles

Gerber, 1974. AKA ‘Baby food for adults’

WP:NFCC#4 / Wikimedia Commons
Though they look like baby food, Gerber Singles were marketed to adults.

In the 1970s, convenience foods like Jell-O salad, canned cheese and Spam were all the rage, and Gerber wanted in on the action. So, the baby food company created single-serving jarred meals for adults.

But unfortunately for Gerber, young consumers were just not interested in playing "Here comes the airplane!" in college.

Flavors such as Beef Burgundy and Blueberry Delight were also confusing. Were they entrees? Desserts? Or just brown mush? The only certainty was that no one wanted to eat the stuff.

9. Crystal Pepsi

PepsiCo, 1992. AKA 'The clear drink without clarity'

Mike Mozart / Flickr
Some consumers have found the citrusy taste of Crystal Pepsi confusing.

In the early 1990s, the makers of Pepsi tried to get in on the "clear craze," which brought us a variety of clear beverages and household products that were meant to seem more clean and pure.

Alas, while Crystal Pepsi looked clear, its mission was not. Consumers expecting it to taste like a seltzer or a citrusy drink were instead surprised to find it was flavored like a cola.

Rival Coca-Cola countered by introducing Tab Clear, which was sugar-free and added to the confusion. Crystal Pepsi was off the market within months, though it has had brief revivals in the 2010s.

8. Google+

Google, 2011. AKA 'Nobody’s favorite social network'

Twin Design / Shutterstock
Google's social network Google+ never caught on.

Google has had a whole host of successes and continues to be on the cutting edge of technology development and investment. But Google+, the firm’s fifth and last attempt at creating a social network, was a definite flop.

Google+ never had a clear vision. Critics noted that it looked too much like Facebook, which was kind of the idea. Google was working hard to keep its employees, users’ hearts and ad revenue from being poached by its competitor.

Let’s just say it didn’t work. Google+ was finally laid to rest in the fall of 2018 after a glitch exposed the private information of up to 500,000 users.

7. WOW! Chips

Frito-Lay, 1998. AKA 'Owww!'

Akarat Thongsatid / Shutterstock
Wow! Chips caused stomach aches and intestinal distress.

In the late 1990s, Frito-Lay realized that consumers wanted a low-fat snack to replace potato chips made with oil. Enter WOW! Chips made with Olestra, an artificial fat substitute that couldn’t be absorbed by the human intestine.

A chip that would slide right through you! Looking back now, it seems like a hideous idea.

People soon realized the terrible downsides, including the horrible stomach pain and other unmentionable gastrointestinal effects of eating indigestible food. Only two years after Wow! Chips were released, sales had dropped by half.

6. Twitter Peek

Peek, 2009. AKA 'WHY?!!'

Creative Commons / Public domain
Twitter Peek was a simple device made for one thing: tweeting.

In a world of smartphones, laptops, and tablets, Peek Inc. tried to create something simpler: a small device that would be used purely for tweeting your opinions to the world.

Although it was cute, it was a total and complete flop.

The dedicated Twitter tool couldn’t even show users their whole tweets — only the first 20 characters! And who really needed a smartphone-sized device that could do only one thing?

5. Amazon and Facebook phones

2013 and 2014. AKA 'Hello???'

BestStockFoto / Shutterstock
Amazon and Facebook both failed with phones.

Trying to capitalize on their successes, Amazon and Facebook both introduced phones — and failed miserably.

The over-hyped and underwhelming Facebook Phone that arrived in 2013 was a typical lower-end Android smartphone. Users hated that it couldn't be personalized like other Android phones.

The Amazon Fire Phone, introduced in 2014, couldn’t stand up to competitors. It was clunky, available only through AT&T and offered no access to popular Google apps.

4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Videogame

Atari, 1982. AKA 'The world’s worst videogame'

Jason / Flickr
Copies of the E.T. videogame ended up in a New Mexico landfill.

In the early 1980s, a videogame based on Stephen Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark became a huge hit for Atari. When Spielberg's next film, E.T., became a box-office winner, Atari got the call to gamify it, too.

But negotiations dragged on so long that development time was cut down to a mere five weeks so the game would be ready to ship for Christmas 1982. The Raiders game had taken 10 months to design.

The E.T. game turned out to be terribly confusing, difficult to play and an all-around disaster. Of the 4 million units sold that Christmas, 2.5 million were returned, and an untold number ended up in a landfill.

3. The Newton

Apple, 1993. AKA 'The one Steve Jobs really hated'

moparx / Flickr
The Newton was way ahead of its time.

The very first personal digital assistant (PDA) was groundbreaking when it was released in the early ‘90s, but the Apple Newton tried to do too much too soon.

The first device to move the computer out of the office, it had a stylus and could be used to take notes, store contacts and manage calendars using intelligent natural voice recognition.

Alas, one of the main selling points was a character-recognition feature — which failed to launch. And the Newton's garbled note-taking led to endless pop culture mockery. When Steve Jobs took back control of Apple, he retired the PDA.

2. The Edsel

Ford, 1957. AKA 'The car with the toilet seat grille'

possohh / Shutterstock
The Edsel's grille was called ugly and was compared to a toilet seat.

The Ford Motor Company had great hopes for its newest car design in the mid-1950s and happily sank $250 million into developing, manufacturing and marketing the Edsel, billed as "the car of the future.”

But the first Edsels were delivered with oil leaks, sticking hoods and trunk doors and push buttons that didn’t work. Critics attacked its design, including its vertical grille that was compared to a toilet seat.

Ford’s expensive experiment was discontinued in 1960. Today, the Edsel is considered a collector’s item.

1. New Coke

Coca-Cola, 1985. AKA. Coke II and 'The worst new product of all time'

Like_the_Grand_Canyon / Flickr
New Coke was a huge failure.

“Why mess with a good thing?” is a question that Coca-Cola should’ve considered before launching a "new and improved" flavor formula for its iconic soft drink. The result was the all-time biggest product failure, says CB Insights.

One sip of New Coke confirmed it was a major flop: sweeter and flatter tasting than the original and obviously trying to compete with its fast-growing competitor, Pepsi.

The backlash was swift and fierce. The company received nearly 8,000 calls a day from angry customers. Less than three months later, Coke Classic was back on the shelves — and sales took off.

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