Terrible Decisions People Have Made Throughout History

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Unfortunately, they are one of the many things that can make or break us as human beings, with some having greater consequences than others. Some decisions are so notably bad that they have found themselves in the records of history, which has to hurt. Here are some of those bad calls that will make you feel better about yourself.

The Donner Party’s Shortcut

Picture of the Donner Party
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In April 1846, a caravan of around 20 wagons and 90 pioneers headed west from Illinois to reach California. While their initial plan was to follow the California Trail, they decided to take a shortcut into unknown territory.

This proved to be a deadly mistake as they became stuck during the winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains. With countless pioneers dying in the process, legend has it that many of the survivors engaged in cannibalism during the ordeal.

Filling The Hindenburg With Hydrogen

GettyImages-3205736
Lambert/Getty Images
Lambert/Getty Images

By the time of the Hindenburg, zeppelins had been transporting passengers for over 30 years with few problems. However, Germany’s Zeppelin Company had a vision and built the Hindenburg, which was one of the biggest airships ever built. It could fly twice as high and three times as long as their competitor, the “Jumbo Ship.”

Tragedy struck when a single spark caused the ship to go up in flames. The main reason for this disaster was that it was decided the ship would be filled with hydrogen instead of the less combustible helium.

Mars Declined To Be Featured In E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Picture of ET
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

In 1981, when filming E.T., Amblin Productions contacted Mars, stating that they would like to use their company’s M&M candy in the movie to promote their product. For some reason, the company declined with a firm “no,” and the film used Reese’s Pieces instead.

In turn, E.T. would gross almost $800 million, with Reese’s Pieces seeing more than a 65% increase in their sales. To this day, it’s presumed that being in the movie helped the Hershey Company grow into the following several decades.

Motorola Slacked On Smartphones

Picture of Razr
Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At one point, Motorola was at the top of the cell phone business with hit products such as the Razr. Unfortunately, they focused more on their phones’ looks rather than their technology, leading them to release their version of the smartphone far too late.

This resulted in the company’s shares falling around 90% between 2006 and 2009, losing around $4.3 billion. By January 2011, the company met its end after more than 80 years of business.

Decca Records Failing To Sign The Beatles

Picture of the Beatles
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

On New Year’s Day 1962, the Beatles auditioned for producer Tony Meehan at Decca Records. A month later, executive Dick Rowe heard the tape and passed on signing them because he thought groups with a “guitar sound” were falling out of style.

Sadly, he was mistaken, and the band went on to sign with EMI, becoming one of the biggest names in music history. We’re sure Dick Rowe was kicking himself for that one.

Introducing New Coke

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Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

By 1985, the majority of the population knew and had come to love Coca-Cola. However, that year, the company was celebrating its centennial anniversary and introduced New Coke.

The product was essentially the same, but people didn’t go for it, with sales dropping by 20%. In a frenzy to save itself, Coca-Cola went back to the “old” Coke, even placing a “Classic” on the can for good measure. They probably should have just stuck with what they knew best.

The Titanic Did Just About Everything Wrong

Picture of the Titanic
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Sadly, the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which killed more than 1,500 people, could have been prevented. For starters, the ship didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone, which proved to be a major issue.

Furthermore, although it was looked over, it was never test-driven, with the crew working on a ship that they were unfamiliar with. Finally, the ship received six warnings about icebergs but continued at its fast speed of 22 knots, preventing them from steering clear of the ice in time.

Prohibition In The United States

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Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Prohibition in the United States lasted between January 1920 until the Eighteenth Amendment was finally repealed in 1933. During that time, the consumption, manufacturing, selling, and transportation of alcohol were illegal.

Although the goal was to prevent people from drinking, it resulted in a wave of alcohol-related crimes and didn’t stop people from indulging one bit. Furthermore, thousands of people died due to living lives of crime or from drinking tainted alcohol that hadn’t been prepared properly.

Excite Passed On Investing In Google

Picture of Google
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By 1999, Google had made it clear that they were going to be a major player in the business of Internet search engines. Yet, when they asked Excite for an investment of just $750,000, they were turned down, which was a major error on Excite’s end.

Now, Google is one of the biggest search engines, if not the biggest, and is worth around $200 billion. It’s safe to say the executives of Excite probably refuse to use Google out of spite.

Blockbuster Declines Netflix

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ANDREW MARSZAL/AFP via Getty Images
ANDREW MARSZAL/AFP via Getty Images

In 2000, the co-founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, approached Blockbuster with a business proposition. He asked the Blockbuster executives to join forces and offered Netflix for $50 million.

Of course, Blockbuster said no, and less than a decade later, Blockbuster closed its doors after being run out of business by Netflix. Today, Netflix is now worth tens of billions of dollars, and Blockbuster is nothing more than a fond memory.

Edwin Drake Doesn’t Patent His Oil Drill

Picture of Drake
Photo 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Without a doubt, Edwin Drake could have been one of the wealthiest Americans in history for designing a drill that was able to obtain oil from the ground. However, the major problem was is that he failed to secure a patent.

He was eventually fired from his job and lost all of his money on Wall Street. If he had secured that patent, the Drake name might have been one of the biggest in history, and now only a few people know it.

Tsar Nicholas II Trusted Rasputin

Picture of Rasputin
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Tsar Nicholas II and his family were the last royal family of Russia before the age of communism. They all met their end by assassination, with their demise linked to Gregory Rasputin, a supposed holy man and healer that earned the trust of Nicholas and his wife Empress Alexandra.

Not only that, but the tsar allowed Rasputin to influence his political decisions, which sent Russia into a nosedive of destruction. Because of many of Nicholas’ bad decisions, many due to Rasputin, the tsar and his family were assassinated.

The Loss Of A Controlled Burn In Cerro Grande

Picture of Cerro Grande
HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images
HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images

The enormous Cerro Grande Fire was unfortunately caused by a controlled burn that grew out of control in New Mexico. The fire spread to the point of being unmanageable due to high winds and drought conditions that should have been taken into account before the project was started.

Incredibly, the fire burned for more than a month, engulfing 48,000 acres and destroying more than 400 homes. It’s estimated the fire cost more than $1.3 billion in property damage.

Napoleon Invading Russia

General Napoleon Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole by Antoine-Jean Gros
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

Known for his ambition, in June 1812, Napoleon made the critical error of invading Russia with his massive armies. His overconfidence would prove to be fatal. Although he would initially lead more than 600,000 troops into the country, only 100,000 were left by September 1812.

The army had been completely unprepared for what was to come and were plagued by illness, food shortages, bad weather, and continuous attacks from the enemy. In the end, Napoleon had to lead his dying troops out of the country with his head hung in defeat.

Not Syncing Watches Resulted In The Bay Of Pigs Invasion Failure

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MIGUEL VINAS/AFP via Getty Images
MIGUEL VINAS/AFP via Getty Images

In April 1961, a plan was set into action that involved the U.S. CIA and Cuban exiles invading Cuba during an operation called the Bay of Pigs. Ultimately, it ended up in disaster for several reasons, but one specifically was the failure to synchronize watches.

It was ordered that six fighter planes would be sent in as backup after an initial airstrike failed. However, the pilots forgot to synchronize their watches, rendering the fighter planes useless by the time they got there.

Quaker Oats Purchases Snapple

Picture of Quaker Oats
Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 1993, Quaker Oats purchased the already-failing company Snapple for an astonishing $1.7 billion, which is a lot for any company. Unfortunately, Quaker Oats could not save the drowning company despite their best efforts.

Not only did they mess up the marketing, but they also failed to convince distributors to continue selling their products. Finally, in 1996, Quaker Oats managed to sell Snapple to Triarc for $300 million, leaving them with a $1.4 billion lump on the head.

A Man Accidentally Announced Plans To Deconstruct The Berlin Wall A Day Early

Picture of Gunther
Régis BOSSU/Sygma via Getty Images
Régis BOSSU/Sygma via Getty Images

On November 9, 1989, an East German Communist by the name of Gunther Schabowski was addressing a news conference when he was asked about travel restrictions. He responded by saying that regulations would be ordered for the citizens of the German Democratic Republic to leave East Germany by border crossings established through the Berlin Wall.

Of course, this news wasn’t supposed to be released until the next day, and this blunder set the destruction of the wall almost immediately into motion.

Selling M*A*S*H Was A Bad Call

Cast of MASH
CBS
CBS

The series M*A*S*H turned out to be a hit show for 20th Century Fox in 1972. Yet, when some of its bigger stars dropped out, the network panicked and sold the rights to local television networks for the small sum of $25 million.

The show didn’t decrease in popularity, with the stations beginning to receive $1 million per episode. The show continued for a whole nine years after it was initially sold.

MySpace Crashed And Burned

Picture of Rupert Murdoch
PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

One of the first successful social media sites on the Internet, MySpace had more than a million users just one month after it was launched. It was all the rage and showed real promise until its founders sold the company to Rupert Murdoch.

This was the beginning of the end of the site, as Murdoch tried to monetize it too quickly and ran so many ads that users up and left. Murdoch would go on sell MySpace for just $35 million after purchasing it for $580 million four years before.

A Monk Almost Lost Calculus

Picture of Archimedes
Stock Montage/Getty Images
Stock Montage/Getty Images

Although it’s not fun to study it, calculus allows us to accomplish incredible things in terms of architecture and other technological advancements. However, it was almost lost to humanity when a 13th-century monk who apparently couldn’t find paper wrote over the book Archimedes had used for his calculus research.

Thankfully, researchers were still able to decipher what Archimedes had left behind, and calculus still tortures high schoolers and other mathematicians to this day.

A Blunder At Piper Bravo Oil Rig

Picture of an oil rig
U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images
U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

On a fateful day in July 1988, all of the oil workers were evacuated from the Piper Bravo Oil Rig after an explosion that killed 167 of the 226 men working there.

This was the result of a botched routine safety check in which the inspectors checked all of the valves except for one, which was never replaced after it was taken out. So, when the valve was in use, the gas began to leak, leading to the explosion.

ATARI Refused To Buy Apple

Picture of Atari
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Back in the days when Apple was still showing promise, yet were still a meager company, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak tried to sell their computers to the much-bigger ATARI.

After being denied, they offered to give them their computer in exchange for jobs at the company, for which they were denied again. This was a bad move ATARI made twice in a row. Today, Apple is one of the world’s biggest technology companies, and ATARI is remembered for its nostalgic videogames.

Marie Antoinette’s Decision About Carriages Led To Her Death

Picture of Marie Antoinette
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

Although there’s no denying that her view and treatment of the French people is what got her neck snipped, there is a chance Marie Antoinette could have escaped her fate.

When fleeing from Paris, she refused to use two separate carriages and insisted that she and King Louis XVI take a fancier carriage to Berlin together. Of course, this is the carriage that was recognized by armed villagers and taken over by the French people. It wasn’t long after that she was executed.

Hitler Invading Russia

Picture of Hitler
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

With a seemingly unstoppable force, Hitler launched the largest invasion of World War II in 1941 when he broke the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany and invaded the Soviet Union. Initially, Joseph Stalin was taken by surprise, and the Soviets suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties.

However, the invasion took longer than expected, and much like had been the case with Napoleon, the Germans began to suffer from a lack of supplies. They failed to take Moscow and the Germans retreated from the country.

The U.S. Essentially Created ISIS

Picture of ISIS
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

After successfully invading Iraq and ending Saddam Hussein’s reign, the United States government felt the best course of action was to ban all of the members of the ruling Baath party and military positions from the new government.

These now-banned individuals went on to join a group of small-time terrorists under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that would go on to become ISIS. This terrorist group obviously proved to be a major problem for the United States.

Using Thalidomide As Morning Sickness Relief

Picture of drug
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

Thalidomide was first introduced on the market as an over-the-counter sedative given for pregnant women to combat morning sickness. Unfortunately, the drug would prove to have severe side effects on the babies that were born.

By 1961, it was clear that the drug was leading to major deformities in newborns, such as shortened limbs and other abnormalities in the internal organs. By the time the drug was finally pulled, more than 100,000 women had taken it, with an estimated 40% of the babies exposed to the drug dying.

Drinking On The Job

Picture of oil
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In 1989, an Exxon oil tanker was traveling from Alaska to California when it hit the Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska. Sadly, the tanker ended up spilling as many as 760,000 barrels of oil into the water along the coastline.

As it turns out, Captain Hazelwood had supposedly been drunk at the time of the accident. This resulted in him being convicted and charged with negligent discharge of oil. The area is still recovering from the spill.

Ignoring The Threat Of A Tsunami

Picture of a man
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

After the already destructive tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011, things went from bad to worse. Not only did it cost more than $12 billion to contain the damage that was done, but the injuries and death to those in the area were absolutely devastating.

Evidence has shown that the disaster could have been prevented, as warning signs about the state of the aging facility were hidden by TEPCO and the Japanese government.

Kodak Blew It On Smartphones

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Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

While Kodak was once a popular camera company, they could have been much bigger. Unbelievably, in 1975, Kodak was the first company to hold the patent for digital camera technology, a lot of which has to do with the smartphones we use today.

However, they didn’t do anything with it, waiting until it was too late to become involved in digital technology. This led them to file for bankruptcy in January of 2012.

Fox Missed A Big Opportunity

Picture of George Lucas
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

When Star Wars was released, 20th Century Fox made the massive error by getting George Lucas to take a $20,000 pay cut in exchange for all of the merchandising rights of Star Wars.

Of course, they never could have imagined that the series would become one of the biggest film franchises in the world, making billions of dollars in merchandising… which they get none of. Lucas probably still thinks about how lucky he got every day.