The 5 Most Expensive Typos in History
Typos can be embarrassing. They can also be costly. And not just for those individuals whose jobs depend on knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its” or where a comma is most appropriate. In 2013, bauble-loving Texans got the deal of a lifetime when a misprint in a Macy’s mailer advertised a $1500 necklace for just $47. (It should have read $497.) It didn’t take long for the entire inventory to be zapped, at a loss of $450 a pop to the retail giant. (Not to mention plenty of faces as red as the star in the company’s logo.)
On the other hand, Google loves a good typing transposition: Harvard University researchers claim that the company earns about $497 million each year from people mistyping the names of popular websites and landing on “typosquatter” sites … which just happen to be littered with Google ads. (Ka-ching!)
Here are 5 other costly typos that give the phrase “economy of words” new meaning.
1. MIZUHO SECURITIES SELLS LOW—LIKE, REALLY LOW
The damage: $340 million
In December 2005, Japan’s Mizuho Securities introduced a new member to its portfolio of offerings, a recruitment company called J-Com Co., nicely priced at 610,000 yen per share. Less than a year later, one of the company’s traders made more than a simple boo-boo when he sold 610,000 shares at one yen apiece. No amount of pleading to the Tokyo Stock Exchange could reverse the error.
2. JUAN PABLO DAVILA BUYS HIGH, SELLS LOW
Online trading was still in its relative infancy in 1994; a fact Juan Pablo Davila will never forget. It all started when the former copper trader—employed by Chile’s government-owned company Codelco—mistakenly bought stock he was trying to sell. After realizing the error, he went on a bit of a trading rampage—buying and selling enough stock that, by day’s end, he had cost the company/country $175 million. Davila was, of course, fired. And Codelco ended up filing suit against Merrill Lynch, alleging that the brokerage allowed Davila to make unauthorized trades. Merrill coughed up $25 million to settle the dispute—but not before a new word entered the popular lexicon: Davila, a verb used to indicate a screw-up of epic magnitude.
3. NASA’S MISSING HYPHEN
The damage: $80 million
Hyphens don’t usually score high on the list of most important punctuation. But a single dash led to absolute failure for NASA in 1962 in the case of Mariner 1, America’s first interplanetary probe. The mission was simple: get up close and personal with close neighbor Venus. But a single missing hyphen in the coding used to set trajectory and speed caused the craft to explode just minutes after takeoff. 2001: A Space Odyssey novelist Arthur C. Clarke called it “the most expensive hyphen in history.”
4. CAR DEALERSHIP PULLS A MICHAEL SCOTT
The damage: $50 million (or $250,000 in Walmart dollars)
And you thought alien sightings were the only interesting thing happening in Roswell, New Mexico! In 2007, a local car dealership came up with a brilliant plan to stimulate sluggish sales: mail out 50,000 scratch tickets, one of which would reveal a $1000 cash prize. But Atlanta-based Force Events Direct Marketing Company mistakenly upped the ante when they printed said scratch tickets, making every one of them a grand-prize winner for a great payout of $50 million. Unable to honor the debt, the dealership offered a $5 Walmart gift certificate for every winning ticket.
5. AN EXOTIC VACATION BECOMES X-RATED
The damage: $10 million (plus $230 per month)
Remember the Yellow Pages? Yeah, well, Banner Travel Services would like to forget them. Years ago, the now-shuttered Sonoma, California-based travel agency decided to market its services in the phone book … only to find that the final printing advertised its specialization in exotic destinations as a forte in “erotic” destinations. The typo certainly piqued the interest of some new customers, just not the kind of clientele the company was hoping to attract. The printer offered to waive its $230 monthly listing fee, but Banner sued for $10 million anyway.