Hoover: Collapse of Competition

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POSTED: November 26, 2006

According to this morning’s Guardian:

Real People, the real-life weekly magazine, was hit by a PR disaster today after a production error in its scratchcard competition led to every reader winning a £5,000 jackpot.

The magazine was today forced to convert the competition into a prize draw after readers flooded it with telephone calls, thinking they had £5,000 extra spending money for Christmas.

This reminded me of the Hoover disaster (not surprisingly, since the Guardian made a brief reference to it at the end of the story). I googled and, lo and behold, there was an article in Wikipedia about it.

The Great Hoover Disaster took place in 1992. Every customer was offered a free flight for every £100 they spent. Unfortunately Hoover had miscalculated and thousands of people realised that it was worth their while to buy several Hoovers and then throw them out, give them away, or sell them second-hand in order to get the flights. The tickets were worth considerably more than the cost of the vaccuum cleaners.

The result was that the promotion cost Hoover an estimated FORTY EIGHT million pounds, and completely killed the entire vacuum cleaner retail market for several months, as Britain was flooded with unused Hoovers that people were literally giving away.

Court cases rumbled on for seven years as people doggedly (but successfully) sued to get their free flights, and finally Hoover UK was sold by Maytag, its American owners, to the Italian manufacturer Candy.