Are These the World’s Most Costly Typos?

When it comes to writing content, whether it’s for your website, content marketing or stakeholder documents, such as annual reports, it can be difficult to spot your own mistakes. But not proofreading your content properly can lead to trouble.

Your meaning could be misinterpreted, the wrong action taken, or you could even lose money.

Typos, inconsistencies and grammatical mistakes are just a few of the errors that can be easily missed. Because it’s so difficult to see our mistakes when we’ve written the content ourselves, it’s wise to consider using a professional proofreading service.

Here are some examples of organisations that didn’t invite professional proofreaders to check their documents. And their decision cost them lots of money. Millions of dollars, in some cases.

Car dealership loses US$50 million (or $250,000 in Walmart gift cards)

In 2007, in Roswell, New Mexico, a local car dealership mailed out 50,000 scratch cards, one of which was supposed to give the lucky recipient a $1000 prize. The problem was that all the scratch cards offered a $1000 prize. Because the dealership could not honour the debt, they offered a $5 Walmart gift card for every winning ticket.

He pulled a fast one

Juan Pablo Davila, a copper trader at the time, worked for Codelco in Chile in 1994. Due to a typo in his instructions, he ended up buying equities that were losing value rather than selling them. To make amends, Davila went on a purchasing and selling spree. He had, however, cost his company and his country $175 million by the end of the day. In Chile, his name is now a verb. “Davilar” denotes a massive blunder.

Selling shares too low

Mizuho Securities of Japan added a recruitment firm to its portfolio in December 2005. The stock of the corporation was valued at 610,000 yen per share. One of the firm’s dealers sold 610,000 shares at one yen each less than a year later. Despite the company’s best efforts, the Tokyo Stock Exchange refused to correct the mistake. The total cost of the damage was US$340 million.

Missing out an “R” could be costly

A building project necessitated ten sets of drawings, each of which cost $1,000 to print. When a client received their set, they observed that the word “pantry” was missing the “r” in all of the kitchens. All ten sets had to be reprinted at the company’s expense: a total of US$10,000 for a one-letter error. This just shows how important it is to make sure you avoid typos with professional proofreading.

Erotic or just plain exotic?

Way back in 1988, when the world relied on big fat phone directories, Banner Travel Agency’s Yellow Pages listing advertised “International and Erotic Travel” emblazoned in red across her prominent advertisement. The appalled business owner Gloria Quinan said, “We offer exotic travel, like tours up the Amazon, but nothing erotic.”

The effect of this error was catastrophic. Travel sales dropped off by a staggering 80 per cent almost immediately. Not only had Gloria’s business’ 20-year reputation vanished virtually overnight, she became subject to “a lot of crank calls, heavy breathers and unsavoury requests.”

Pacific Bell, the company behind Yellow Pages, claimed that, “Obviously we’re going to have errors from time to time”, but declined to issue correct “exotic travel” stickers for the thousands of directories already in circulation. Gloria launched a gross negligence lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages – a simply enormous sum in those days.

Did she win? Yes. And Pacific Bell almost went out of business. Did Gloria’s travel business ever recover? We don’t know. Perhaps she took the money and put the whole nightmare behind her by taking an extended trip. It’s all rather lost in the mists of time. But the key point here is that, more than 30 years later, the embarrassment and brand damage sustained by Banner Travel are still being talked about.

Houston, we have another problem

In July 1962, a hyphen was accidentally left out of a mathematical/computer code, resulting in the failure of a spaceship destined for Venus. What was the monetary cost of the error? US$18,500,000. That’s a pricey grammatical error!

A typo took nine years off a prisoner’s sentence

Calvin Eugene Wells spotted a mistake on his conviction verdict form. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Ohio, USA, in October 2005 after being found guilty of carrying more than 100 grams of cocaine. However, he noticed that the jurors who convicted him signed a document that stated that it was ten one hundred grams of cocaine. Due to the ambiguity of the amount, his sentence was reduced to one year. He was released from prison because he had already served his sentence.

And finally, a typo that makes money

Here’s one that probably didn’t cost anything yet netted billions. We all know Google, but did you realise that its name was a misspelling? Sean Anderson, a Stanford University undergraduate, assisted Larry Page in naming and spelling the search engine. Page reduced “googolplex” to “googol” after Anderson proposed it. Anderson, on the other hand, proceeded to investigate the availability of the domain name and mistyped it as “Google.” Nobody knows if the spelling contributed to the company’s success, but it’s at least one example of a typo not costing a corporation millions—or billions—of cash.

(By the way, researchers at Harvard University claim that Google earns around $497 million per year from consumers mistyping the names of major websites and landing on “typosquatter” sites, which are crammed with Google adverts.)

Although Google was fortunate, in other cases, as these examples show, money can be lost when documents are not checked thoroughly. You may not be as lucky as Google with your typos or other errors. This is where professional proofreaders can help you. Consider this the next time you send an email, write a letter, create content, or even make a bank transfer!

To avoid costly proofreading errors give Proof Communications’ team of professional proofreaders a call at 02 8036 5532 or Contact Us.

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