January 03, 2006
America's Most-Hated Company
Posted by Gordon Smith

What is America's most hated company? When I saw the title of this Economist article, I immediately thought of Wal-Mart, and it appears that I was not alone:

A straw poll by Fred Bateman, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, brings us to the present. He asked three classes in economics, about 100 students in all, which company they thought was the most hated in America. They almost all said Wal-Mart.

Walmart Without delving into the merits, I think Wal-Mart is the obvious choice for the current top spot, but I wonder whether Wal-Mart hatred is a class thing. The "elites" hate Wal-Mart, but ordinary people don't?

What are the most widely despised companies in the U.S.? Microsoft is the object of derision in technology circles, but most ordinary folks don't hate Microsoft. Cigarette companies have had their day, but oil companies seem to be a perennial whipping boy. Of course, the companies that inspire the most vigorous feelings are companies that have close contacts with consumers. Automobile manufacturers are an easy target, for example. So is McDonald's.

Did Americans hate Enron? I suspect that most Americans had never heard of Enron prior to its collapse and didn't have enough knowing contact with the company to hate it.

Larry Ribstein has often argued that envy is at the root of many of these feelings. So how long before Google makes the list?

Kudos to my friend Mason Carpenter for his contributions to the article, and thanks to my colleague Anuj Desai for the pointer.

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"According to the Economist magazine, the (dis)honor goes to a number of companies including Microsof ..." [more] (Tracked on January 3, 2006 @ 6:55)
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