We all make mistakes. Regardless of the planning and executions of our intentions, it is inevitable that sometimes, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. But at what cost to those who worked so hard to avoid them?
We’ve highlighted some of the biggest mistakes made that cost millions of dollars to fix. Whether it was infrastructure or bad business deals, these mistakes are set to sting a little bit. So, let’s take a look at some of them.
The Buckling Millennium Bridge – $6.6 million
At the turn of the millennium, the city of London wanted to mark the monumental occasion with a brand new bridge crossing the River Thames. Well, in June 2000, the Buckling Millennium Bridge was opened by inviting the Queen to walk across it.
The only problem? She had to turn back halfway through due to the bridge literally shaking. Due to poor planning, the bridge was shaking in the wind, forcing it to close. After $6.6 million of repairs, it was reopened a few years later.
NASA and Its Measurement System -$192 million
In 1999, one of NASA’s vessels had completed a 10-month voyage in space on its way to Mars. However, scientists were amazed when they lost the rocket during the last moments of its journey. They had planned everything meticulously – so what happened?
Well, it turns out that during some of the major commands, some of the scientists were communicating with the imperial measurement system, whereas other members of the team were using the metric system. This caused to rocket to go in a different direction than planned – resulting in a $192 million mistake.
Florida Theme Park and Its Collapse – $196 million
Everyone knows that Florida is the home to some of the best theme parks in the United States. Therefore, it makes sense that companies would want to capitalize on that. Well, in 1989 there was the construction of a 75-acre theme park. Located right next to Disneyworld, it was intended to act as a monument to Chinese history and culture.
Upon its opening, Americans were put off by the park and its pro-Chinese communist propaganda. After losing roughly $9 million a year, it eventually closed in 2003.
A Stockbroker and His Counting Skills – $295 million
Back in 2005, one stockbroker would make one of the biggest mistakes of his career – all due to a typo! One trader at Mizuho Securities had attempted to sell his 610,000 shares at 1 yen. This is less than one penny. But what happened?
Well, the trader had accidentally swapped the digits round and was trying to sell one share at 610,000 yen. It turns out that transactions inputted into the Tokyo Stock Exchange are irreversible and so there was nothing he could do about it. It is estimated that the typo cost the company nearly $300 million.
New Jersey and Its ‘Race To The Top’ – $469 million
In 2010, the US state of New Jersey had applied for a grant known as the Race to the Top. Its then-governor, Chris Christie made sure a midlevel official had filled out the paperwork for the application.
However, the wrong information was collected and shared, meaning that the state had submitted its 2010 school budgets instead of the necessary 2008 and 2009 budgets. The state lost out on the grant and the mistake cost $469 million.
The Millennium Tower and Its Sinking Nature – $550 million
In 2005, San Francisco was getting ready to welcome its brand new residential tower. Ast 645 feet, it was intended to be the highest residential building in the city. After its completion in 2009, locals were amazed at what they learned: the tower was sinking.
In 2016, a full report had confirmed that the Millennium Tower had already sunk around 16 inches into the ground! Today, more than $100 million is being invested to fix one of the biggest infrastructure mistakes in history.
A Controlled Fire That Went AWOL – $1.5 billion
Controlled fires are an important part of healthy preservation in rural areas. However, the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, got far more than it bargained for when it conducted a controlled fire in May 2000.
Organizers lost control of the fire and it spread to become the deadly Cerro Grande Fire. More than 400 families lost homes and possessions and the fire destroyed more than 150,000 acres of land. The damage cost the town more than $1 billion.
A B-2 Bomber and Its Breakdown – $1.7 billion
In 2008, a US Air Force bomber called the Spirit of Kansas met an untimely death. After logging more than 5,100 flight hours, it would crash outside Guam just a few moments after takeoff – but how?
According to reports conducted afterward, they deduced that ‘heavy, lashing rains’ caused moisture to enter the sensors. Thankfully, both pilots ejected from the plane and no one was injured. Still, the aircraft cost the US government more than $1.7 billion.
A Lost Hiker and His Flaregun – $1.7 billion
Have you heard of the 273,000-acre Cedar Fire in California? The 2003 travesty was caused by one man who was fighting for his life during an unplanned hike in the forest. When he got lost, he set off a flare gun to catch the attention of the authorities.
The only problem? His shot went straight into the trees causing them to catch fire in a matter of seconds. He definitely got the attention he needed – but at what cost? The resulting fire cost the state around $1.7 billion in damages.
Snapped Up Snapple – $2 billion
In the 1990s, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere that wasn’t selling a delicious bottle of Snapple juice. The company caught the attention of Quaker Oats, who purchased the beverage brand more roughly $2 billion.
As time went on, more soda brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola were imitating the iced tea craze, and with much greater success. In only three years, Quaker would sell its stake in Snapple for $300 million, making it one of the worst business decisions ever made.
A Bank Executive Caught In The Act – $2.8 billion
In 1983, Toshihide Iguchi was enjoying life as a bond trader at Daiwa Bank’s New York branch. While working as its Executive VP, Iguchi accidentally lost $70,000 one day. Not too bad, right? Well, it was about to get worse.
While trying to conceal his mistake, Iguchi conducted many more illegal actions that would eventually snowball and result in a $2.8 billion for the security company. Today, Iguchi is serving time in jail for fraud.
Three Mile Island and Its Nuclear Meltdown – $3 billion
In 1979, the United States experienced one of its worst-ever nuclear disasters. One early morning at Three Mile Island’s Generating Station, workers accidentally caused a malfunction that resulted in a nuclear meltdown.
The aftermath of the dangerous meltdown resulted in intense reforms and enhanced regulatory oversight. Overall, the price tag for the mistake resulted in more than $873 million. Even today, steps are being made to never repeat the circumstanced that occurred back in 1979.
George Lucas and His Toys – $3 billion
We all know George Lucas as the creator of Star Wars – one of the most profitable franchises in the world. Well, did you know he had trouble getting the initial trilogy made? To make sure the funding was secured, Lucas signed over the merchandise rights to 20th Century Fox.
This means that over the years, Lucas would lose out on billions of dollars of revenue. Still, there’s a happier ending for him: Lucasfilm was eventually bought by Disney and he walked away with $3 billion in his pocket – not bad!
Piper Alpha Oil Rig and Its Explosion – $7 billion
Britain’s largest oil and gas producer used to bring in more than 300,000 barrels every day. What was once a smooth-sailing project met its brutal end in 1988 when gas temporarily leaked out and caught fire.
The subsequent explosion killed 167 people and more than $3.4 billion was needed to repair the damaged caused. After an external investigation, it was revealed that mistakes were made during the maintenance and safety procedures.
Exxon Valdez and Its Oil Spill – $4 billion
One night in 1989, Exxon Valdez set sail from Alaska with more than 50 million gallons of crude oil on board. It was intended to be taken to land down south, but on the way, it had hit something in the water. Suddenly, the ship saw damage on its left side as oil started pouring into the water.
Overall, 11 million gallons of oil poured into the water, causing immeasurable damage. The disaster cost more than $4 billion in damage, as well as ruining 1,300 miles of coastline. It is said to be one of the worst oil spills in history.
The Meltdown at Morgan Stanley – $11 billion
Who was responsible for the biggest trading loss in Wall Street history? History fans will remember the name of Howie Hubler, a former bond trader at Morgan Stanley. After being a little too risky with mortgages, his actions caused a net loss of almost $11 billion and directly resulted in the financial crash of 2008.
In an attempt to offset the risk, Hubler was also selling mortgages that didn’t carry as much risk. It’s safe to say it didn’t work and he caused immeasurable damage still felt today.
The Explosion of the Challenger – $13 billion
In 1986, children everywhere watched the live televised crash of the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle. The NASA vessel was in the air for 73 seconds before it exploded, killing all seven people on board.
After the dust had settled, it was understood that there was a cold temperature sweep the night before the launch that had affected the engines. As well as regulatory oversight, the accident resulted in more than $13 billion and the deaths of seven American astronauts.
The Columbia Shuttle Catastrophe – $18 Billion
When Columbia took it’s 28th and final launch from earth, foam insulation broke off and damaged the shuttle’s left wing. NASA officials wanted to get a closer look to see how bad the damage was but senior officials denied the request.
The crew of 7 spent 16 days in space conducting experiments but when they reentered earth, the damage to the wing leaked flammable gasses into the shuttle and it exploded, killing all 7 crewmembers.
France’s Fuller Train – Wreck – $22.2 Billion
2,000 new trains were ordered by The French Railway Train Company in 2014 but they ended up being too wide to fit into the regional stations. Many of the stations were very old and had much smaller dimensions which weren’t taken into account.
The new trains cost $20 billion to produce and the cost was too much to scrap them, so they spent an additional $68 million to redesign the station platforms.
Russia Sells Alaska For Nothing- $37 billion
In 1867, America was trying to acquire Alaska from the Russian Empire. The Russian Emperor Alexander II deemed the territory too difficult to defend and was looking to sell it and America bought it for a mere $7.2 million.
At the time, no one knew how valuable it was and many thought it was useless. It turned out that the 375 million acres was extremely oil rich and had many other valuable natural resources that would have given it a valuation of around $37 billion.
Scott Thompson sells out Yahoo – $60 billion
Former Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson was trying to get back into investors’ good graces but royally messed it up. In 2012 he sold 20% of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba, a company that was worth $30 billion at the time.
A couple years later, Alibaba was valued at $300 billion and Thompson’s decision cost the company $54 billion in losses. Today, Yahoo is worth $48 billion so Thompson made one of the biggest mistakes in the country’s history.
Disaster strikes at Deep Water Horizon – $71 billion
The worst oil spill in history happened in U.S. waters in April 2010 courtesy of the Transocean and British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig. A blowout caused an explosion on the semi-submersible rig, immediately killing 11 men followed by the Horizon sinking two days later.
It was a combination of flawed designs and dangerous operating procedures as a result of cost cutting that caused the incident. 4.9 million barrels of oil had to be cleared up in the leak.
Ron Wayne opted out too soon – $95 billion
Along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Ron Wayne was one of the founding fathers of Apple. He joined the company oversee mechanical engineering and documentation and received a 10% stake in return.
Wayne was concerned about Apple’s debts so sold his 10% stake for 800 million. If he had stayed on and kept his stake it would be worth more than 95 billion, making him one of the richest men in the world.
Aol’s bad deal – $141 billion
In 2000, AOL acquired Time Warner for $162 billion making it the biggest corporate merger of all time. The merger was all over the news and many were anticipating the big moves the company was going to make. A few months after the deal closed, it all began going downhill and the company collapsed.
Advertising budgets were gone as was AOL’s subscribers and subscription revenue. In just two years, the company lost over $206 billion, making it one of the biggest business mistakes in history.
Blockbuster goes under – $157.3 billion
Before there was Netflix and Amazon, there was Blockbuster. The DVD rental company was big in the 2000s but quickly started going downhill when online streaming services began taking over.
Netflix CEO co-founder Reed Hastings reached out to the company in the hopes of getting acquired. Blockbuster had to shell out just $50 million to own all of its assets but passed. Netflix went on to become a $157 billion business and Blockbuster went bust.
Fukushima’s Nuclear Disaster – $212.9 billion
When the 2011 tsunami hit Japan, the 48-foot wave crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.The water disabled the power supply and there was a nuclear meltdown in three reactors.
Part of the problem was that Tokyo Electric Power Company ignored calls for stabilizing the power plant and the repairs ended up costing an astronomical $187 billion in damages with 100,000 people having to evacuate their homes nearby. Many questioned if this all could have been avoided.
Excite disregards Google – $748 billion
Excite.com was the second biggest search engine in 199 behind Yahoo. They were presented with the biggest opportunity to purchase new start up Google for a mere $750,000 and they ended up turning down the offer.
They explained Google wanted to take out all the Excite technology and replace it with Google tech, which was a major no go for them. Today, Google’s parent company Alphabet is currently worth a whopping $748 billion.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster – $836 billion
Chernobyl was the largest nuclear meltdown in history that cost so much money and countless lives. A safety test in 1986 saw a number of oversights that contributed to a major power surge at he Soviet power plant. An explosion and fire ensued and fatal radioactive smoke was emitted.
Over 100,000 people were evacuated from the plant and initially, the cleanup cost $358 billion. Even today the aftermath of Chernobyl lives on with so many people affected recording health issues.
The Walkie Talkie was melting cars – $250 million
The Walkie Talkie building in the city of London was situated at 20 Fenchurch Street and promised to be the latest edition to the new London skyline. It was completed in 2014 and is home to a number of businesses and also features a skygarden.
It was all a success until a man saw a photographer taking pictures of his car next to the new building and realised that his car body had dented from the reflection of the heat generation. Developers had to pay for the car damage and come up with a solution to the problem.
Superman’s mustache – $25 million
After the filming of Justice League was completed, Warner Bros. realized that they needed to schedule a few reshoots and add some scenes to the movie.
However, Henry Cavill had already begun shooting for Mission: Impossible – Fallout and was required to grow a mustache in this role. Paramount refused to let him shave despite Warner Bros. protests and they had to pay for the coordination of reshoots and having the visual team remove the mustache in post production.
Publishers turned down Harry Potter – $7.7 billion
Believe it or not but J.K Rowling had a hard time selling Harry Potter to book publishers when she was an unknown author. Of course, the books and franchise became a billion dollar business and those publishers missed out on a goldmine.
When J.K found the rejection letters, she published them to Twitter, they said ““I regret that we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not publish [Harry Potter] with commercial success.” Who has the last laugh now?
Spanish submarine couldn’t resurface – $2.2 billion
In 2013, the Spanish government invested $2.2 billion into a state of the art submarine called The Isaac Peral. However, just before it was due for launch, engineers discovered a major flaw in the design.
They realized that the submarine wasn’t even complete yet and its weight was just too much. If it was too heavy it wouldn’t be able to resurface. At this point they had to go back and change the whole design.
A stockbroker’s typo cost a Japanese company millions – $225 million
In 2005, a stockbroker accidentally mistyped data that was being analyzed by Mizuho Securities Co., a Japanese company. The stockbroker intended to to offer a single share in J-Com’s stock for 610,000 yen which translated to $5000 on the New York Stock Exchange but instead ended up offering 610,000 shares for 1 yen.
When investors saw the opportunity they bought in bulk and the company ended up losing a total of $225 million.
Alitalia’s ticketing mistake – $7 million
People are always looking for cheap flights for a bargain vacation so when Alitalia accidentally slashed their prices, travelers jumped on it. The airline were charging a mere $39 to get from Los Angeles to San Diego, a price that could probably buy you a nice lunch for two.
It seemed that the price on the website was missing a few zeros in a typo and 2,000 saw it and bought them as quickly as they could. The airline ended up honoring the low cost tickets.
A comma cost a dairy company millions – $5 million
While some typos can be easily looked over, there are others that can become more of an issue and this was exactly the case for Oakhurst Dairy.
When the company’s shipping department had handed out contracts to their drivers, there was a missing comma in one of the clauses that required an oxford comma to clarify that the overtime pay was disregarded in one specific situation. After a lengthy dispute over the sentence, Oakhurst Dairy had to shell out $5 million just to settle the lawsuit.
Big mistake from bitcoin – $148 million
A british man named James Howell found himself in a very annoying situation when he acquired 7,500 bitcoins when they were worth next to nothing. When he spilt coffee on his computer, he made sure all the important information was transferred on to his hard drive, but after a while realized he didn’t need the hard drive and threw it away.
When bitcoin took off, he realized his costly mistake and started searching junk yards for the hard drive. His local council banned him from searching and in total, he threw away $148 million.
Tutankhamun’s broken beard – priceless
Mummy artefacts are some of the most important discoveries and give us so much insight into ancient Egypt and the era of the Giza pyramids. One of the most priceless pieces is the gold death mask of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The 3,000-year-old artefact is one of Cairo’s biggest tourist attractions so when the blue and gold braided beard detached it was a big problem. Instead of having a professional restorer deal with it, museum staff used a glue to try and fix it. Needless to say, officials opened a full investigation to check how it was ruined.
The Titanic sinking – $7.5 million (without inflation)
The Titanic was one of the most tragic stories in history and design mistakes cost thousands of lives and millions of dollars in damages. On its first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1912, Titanic hit an iceberg and despite being dubbed “unsinkable” the damage from the iceberg sank the whole vessel.
Not only was the engineering one of the fatal problems, but also the fact that the Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, enough for 1178 people, when there were 2,229 people on board.
The Lost Lottery Ticket – $215 million
It’s probably everyone’s worst fear: losing a winning lottery ticket. When you’ve been married for more than 50 years, it will take a lot to annoy your partner but this will definitely do it. In 2010, a 70-year-old woman was devasted to learn that her husband had actually taken out the trash.
Perhaps that’s not so bad? Well, you’d also be annoyed if the trash contained a winning lottery ticket worth more than $200 million! After looking everywhere for the missing ticket, the couple had to accept the fact that they lost out on their fortune.
Read More: The Biggest Mistakes You Make While You Cook