We've all had that feeling. The sudden, sinking realization that we've screwed up—and screwed up BAD. Usually, these horrifying mistakes turn out to not be so bad in the long run. Usually. These people felt that terrible feeling, but their mistakes weren't so easy to brush off. From fatal errors to literally billion-dollar blunders, discover the biggest, most expensive mistakes we've ever seen.
1. Time Is Money
I work in rail traffic. When you receive rail cars from the railroad you only get a certain amount of time to load and unload them, which typically takes about two days. If you don't return the car to the railroad in two days, then you start getting billed late fees called demurrage. When I first started, I had the understanding that the timer didn't start until you received the car. So, when our facility was full, I would tell the railroad to hold on to the extra cars coming in until we can clear out some of the cars we already have.
What I did not know what that the timer starts either when you get the car or when the railroad would have given you the car if you hadn't stopped them. I had about 30 cars held up at the railroad for about a month. Boy was I shocked when I received the $20,000 demurrage bill at the end of the month.
2. Trashy Day
I threw my keys away. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but I threw them down a chute into a large apartment trash compactor so retrieval was impossible. I had to pay a locksmith to let me in my apartment since it was the middle of the night. Then the next day I had to pay a tow truck to tow my car to the dealership which was huge ordeal because he couldn't fit inside the parking garage of my apartment complex. We had to break into my car, have a dummy key made, jimmy it into neutral and push it down the ramp.
Finally, I had to pay a nice chunk of money to get fancy new keys made. I then had to contact the realtor for the house I had just bought and received the keys for that same freaking week and explain what happened and get a new set of keys made for the house. And this all made me miss a day of work. That was a fun day.
3. Frivolous Fight
I hired a lawyer to deal with a simple family law matter that could have been handled by mediation. And my lawyer also hired a lawyer and the two lawyers went at it. The next thing we know we're tens of thousands of dollars poorer and really angry at each other. The matter could have been resolved by ourselves if we hadn't let our egos and our money-hungry lawyers take control of the situation.
4. Flooded with Regret
I bought a 40-year-old house on three acres that were three feet above the flood line of the century. Then, four years later, we had a 1,000-year flood. It’s cost me $160,000 in cash so far to remodel because I didn’t have flood insurance.
5. Price of Affairs
I didn't know it would be a mistake yet when I planned this, but my ex cheated on me for three months before we were supposed to get married. Once I found out, we had sunk quite a bit of money into a house we bought together. A house neither of us could pay for on their own. So, we had to sell that and I’m pretty sure we made a little more than we bought it for, but we put way more money into it with a new kitchen and shower, and other stuff.
We had bought furniture which could only be partially returned. The rest was sold via eBay and maybe returned half of what we paid for it. Then there was the cost of the wedding. We already had a venue that had a cancellation fee. We both already had a wedding outfit. We already bought tons of small decorative stuff. None of it could be returned.
So much of that we had to pay to cancel. It was horrible. Altogether, I think this cost me a little over $20k. And I was only 24 at the time, so, pretty much all of my savings was gone!
6. Astronomical Consequences
When I was welding, I screwed up a $65,000 door and may or may not have blown a hole in a $1,000,000 + missile launching platform. The damage happened when I was using a dye grinder to clear a bit of solder in a tube that ran through the door for some electrical—the bit grabbed and twisted the tubing and ripped it out. No way to fix it other than scrap the door.
7. Big Tech
I used to work in the inventory department of an aerospace company. They did repairs mostly on Boeing hydraulic units. There are some very expensive parts on those planes! One in particular was about an inch long, and cost over $11,000. I saw the price tag and couldn't believe my eyes! I'd seen expensive parts before, but never one so small.
Being the idiot that I am, I took the part out of the little baggie that it was in, snapped a picture of it to show my friends, and put it back in the bag. I came back to my desk later that day to put it back in inventory, and it was gone. I lost it. I had absolutely no idea where the part went. I was a bit panicked, but I didn't think it was too big of a deal.
The part had never been needed and had been in our inventory for over two years collecting dust, so I felt like I had some time to search for it. I kid you not, the following day, we had a job that required that part. I almost passed out right at my desk.
8. Sharing Isn’t Caring
I had joint accounts with my ex-husband. He cleared out our accounts, including a loan from my grandmother, and left me with absolutely nothing. I had to borrow money from my parents to make up the rent on the lease we had, sold my car, and took another job. He shut down our accounts and took his name off of all our bills including ones I didn't know about.
At that point, I just wanted to be done with him so I paid for the divorce with the promise that his parents would pay me back because he was a jerk. It's been 11 years and I've not seen a penny.
9. Hammering Water
In my second year as a lifeguard for my local parks district, I was instructed on how to change hair catches and rid the air in the tanks of the pump house. Well, one day I mismatched the order in which to shut the valves off when filling the reservoir, and created what is called a "water hammer," a burst of air that carries a backwash up through pipes.
I thought it was normal cause the pumphouse had been there since the early '50s so I didn't make anything of it. Then I looked out the window—and my blood ran cold. Down the hill by the local library parking lot. The entire place was flooded. The water hammer found a rusted water main below the library parking lot and burst through the pavement. The maintenance men said it cost the city over $800,000 to fix the main and keep the library from flooding and ruining the books. Thankfully it was an accident and not malicious or else I'd be living in said pump house.
10. Just Didn’t Click
I made a mistake sorting a list of addresses with Excel. I didn't select all the columns and consequently sent couriers to 400 addresses that didn't exist. It cost something like $8,000.
11. Sniffed Out
My brother had his medical marijuana card and he had just picked up when a cop pulled him over. The cop smelled weed in the car and my brother, being a freshly minted 18-year-old, submitted to the search. The cop found his stash. My brother had all of his documentation, but this was in Huntington Beach, which has a policy of writing all possession tickets and letting the cardholder work it out in court.
He wasn't willing to risk trying to defend himself based on having the card and getting a ticket on some technicality that he didn't understand. He figured $1,500 for a lawyer was worth it rather than having to explain a possession charge any time he's going for a job that runs a background check. The lawyer got it thrown out immediately.
He did about four hours' worth of work and got paid very nicely. My brother even got to go down and pick up his weed from the police station, which he said was really bizarre, but he was out the $1,500.
12. Slow Drip
There was a leak from my bathroom upstairs to the kitchen right underneath it. Every time someone would shower, water would slowly begin to drip into the kitchen. I thought there was a leak somewhere in the drainpipe and I took the kitchen ceiling down looking for it. And this was an old home, so there was this cement type of plaster with metal latticework through it on top of wooden slats.
It took forever to expose the drainpipe...only to find out that the little knob thing on the shower faucet that you pull up to turn on the shower had broken and I just needed to replace that. That piece costs me $7. Then I had to completely replace my kitchen ceiling.
13. Buy Low, Sell High
I bought stock from a company I worked for. When the stock went down, I purchased more stock. Then, when the stock when down again, I perceived this as a buy opportunity and bought more stock. The company ended up going out of business. In total, I lost $14,000.
14. Speed Cart Driver
I was in a French supermarket when I was three years old. To keep me entertained, my parents supplied me with one of those little shopping carts you occasionally get for kids. I quickly showed why you don't always find them around anymore. Naturally, my little shopping cart was, in fact, a racing car, and I was its small but determined driver.
We went whipping round corners, evading shelves by mere inches, it was wild. However, my control wasn't what I thought it was, and as I went in for a turn into the aisle, I lost control of the cart. Off the cart and I went straight into the wine shelf. I watched as this long aisle of wine wobbled back, and then slowly came back forward, sending all the wine bottles crashing down onto the floor. It was everywhere.
The supermarket was very good about it and didn't accept a cent back. But I never did get one of those little shopping carts again.
15. All Gassed Up
I had a part-time job as a teenager at a Yamaha dealership that sold dirt bikes, ATVs, motorcycles, and stuff like that. I was told one day to deliver a Raptor to some address. Well, I loaded the ATV up on the trailer and took off in the truck down the road. I noticed that the truck was low on gas so I pulled over and filled her up.
I made it about 1.5 miles down the road and the truck started running funny and eventually cut off. I had put gasoline in a diesel truck. I was fired about four days later.
16. Chain of Command
I was working for an international manufacturer that serviced clients in Asia. I got a call from a stressed Chinese woman at my factory. She had been on the phone all day, trying to reach someone who could make decisions because there was a problem with the way the print was outputting during manufacturing. It was Christmas Eve and none of the important decision-making types were answering the phone.
She needed approval to correct the print plates and needed it right away because we were due to load onto a container to ship via sea to LA. The issue wasn't caught until late in the process, and as such, the fix would cost us over $250,000 in lost product. I made a few phone calls, left a few voice mails, but ultimately the decision came to me.
I told her, in my bravest voice, to make the fix—soon, I'd realize just how massive of a mistake I'd just made. I unknowingly set off a chain reaction that made the ship leave port late, more than doubling that $250k figure. After my boss's boss's boss, some VP, reamed into me, he asked if I had anything to say for myself, and I asked him what I was supposed to do and that even he didn't pick up the phone.
My boss coughed back a laugh, and I was shipped off to a doomed on-site account.
17. Wrong Measures
I'm a chemist and was working on a reaction with a new palladium catalyst that we had just ordered. Since I was a dumb undergrad, I didn't really make the connection that I didn't need to put in equal amounts of the catalyst. I weighed out 200 grams of the catalyst and put it in the reaction. I mentioned to my boss later that day that we'd need to order more because I had used up almost all of it already.
It was at that point that he mentioned that it had cost about $15,000 for the 250g bottle and that I should have been using about 3 milligrams and not 200 grams. Not only was it very expensive though, it had taken over a year to come in after they had ordered it. I was very lucky that I didn't get fired and that we were okay to use the remaining 50 grams for the next few years.
18. Shattered Glass
I tried to perform "precursive maintenance" on a touch screen PLC for a multi-million-dollar pumping unit that was not accepting any touch inputs. One thump and the thing shattered like my childhood dreams. Back when this happened, that particular model of touchscreen cost about $7,000.
19. Tenant Eviction
When my dad passed away, I was given his house 2+ hours away. At the same time, my wife and I had a newborn and were working full time. I let my lifelong friend move in for monthly rent and he actually helped fix up the house and keep it in good condition. His girlfriend started staying the night once in a while at the house, and then more often. If I had known what she would do, I'd have kicked her out on the spot.
He and his girlfriend had a falling out. He left and stopped paying rent as we discussed. I sent family over to check on the house and apparently someone's living there. I check on house that weekend. It's my friend's now ex-girlfriend living there. She asks for one week to move all her stuff out that I didn't even know was there.
I had my new family in the car with me and was not prepared for having to remove someone and all their stuff so I said ok. I was to come back the following weekend when my schedule allowed and she would be gone. Well this final week let her have a full 30 days living at my house, and she had proof, so she was now a resident and needed a full legal eviction to get her out of my house.
When you’re involved in an eviction, there's all sorts of help and organizations and websites for the person living at the house to get answers. For the "landlord" evicting the tenant, I found almost nil. SO, I had to pay a crap ton of money and had to drive to the county courthouse 2+ hours away like 6-8 times over the next two months to get her out of my dad's house.
During this time, I set up cameras on the neighbor's property with their permission, attempting record damage to the house, parties, theft of my property still at the residence. I didn't get jack squat. And I was not allowed to enter the house. She did about $40k damage to the home, stole a lot of my dad's belongings that were hidden in the attic, and cost me an insane amount of time.
Well, really, I did this to myself by letting my "friend" move in. It took almost two full years of going across the state every weekend to work on the house. I guess I can pay more money to go after her for the damages to the house, but she was living off illegal means and state aid during this whole process and would never be able to pay me back.
One final kicker, the house was heated via fuel oil in Michigan and we have cold winters. This woman ran out of fuel oil in late December and she didn't have $150 needed to get a fuel oil delivery that you have to pay because you have to order a minimum amount to get them to drive out to your house and put fuel oil in your tank. Instead, she used electric heaters and had several of them running all winter to compensate.
Because she was on state aid or something, the company couldn't shut off her power in the middle of winter, so she racked up an average of $1,700 a month in electric bills over the winter. When I went to put the power back in my name, I was told that I have to pay her $6,300 balance before the power could be restored. This was because I didn't set up some landlord program with the power company in the first place. This took another three months or so, and a couple hundred to a lawyer, to get straightened out.
The house is fixed up and sold now—for less than half the profit we originally anticipated. I lost so much money.
20. Ghost Rider
My best mate was in a bit of a rush to buy himself a car. He had a nice little nest egg of $20,000 put aside just for this purchase. He did a bunch of private inspections around our area, but he just couldn't find one he wanted. He finally stumbled across the perfect car for him, great mileage from all country driving, full-service history and in excellent condition.
The only problem? The buyer was on the other side of the country. For whatever reason, my mate decided to contact the dude and organize the purchase. After the money transferred, the ad disappeared and so did the car owner. I just have no idea what was going through my mate’s head, it’s been five years and they never caught the fraudster and my friend never got his $20k back.
21. Tinder Stack
I accidentally left a stack of paper coffee cups next to the stove. Nothing in the restaurant was recoverable and it was several hundred thousand dollars in damage for equipment alone. Needless to say, I was fired and then under investigation for quite a while afterward.
22. Studying Hard
I was attending a school that did a drawing for free housing each year. It was a big production with prizes given out throughout the night with the big prize of free housing for a year, about $5,000, given out at the end. I stayed for most of the night but decided to study instead of stick around for the drawing. Guess who was called out first? You had to be present to win.
23. Empty Wreck
I had a vacant house up for rent for a few months without any takers when during a particularly cold week the batteries in the thermostat died. Without any heat, the water in the toilets froze and cracked the tanks. Once the weather warmed up the toilets began to thaw and began leaking water. The leaking continued for what I believe was about a week before we checked on the house and noticed the damage.
It was absolutely brutal. The drywall and ceiling were sagging off, the kitchen cabinets had all warped, the carpet was completely destroyed, etc. Also, because my home insurance did not cover vacant homes for longer than 30 days, they basically told me to go away. Myself and the co-owners of the house had to pay for all the repairs out of our own pockets while continuing to pay the mortgage over the course of a year while we fixed the damage.
We ended up selling the house for the same as we paid so all the interest payments since we bought it, plus the cost of the repairs, were all losses. Somewhere between $30 and $40 thousand I recall, split between the three of us. The lessons I learned from that experience was to always pay attention to your insurance policies to make sure you are properly covered and if you own a vacant house, turned the water off! Seriously, what were we thinking?
24. Water is Wet
My parents left the country one summer for two weeks and left me alone, so I decided it was a perfect opportunity to have "some" of my "closest friends" over often. My ‘rents lived out in the middle of nowhere with the nearest neighbors 100 yards away; plus, the house had a pool and a hot tub, so it was a perfect set up.
The first night I had people over, the hot tub got nasty because we may have exceeded maximum capacity a little bit. My bright idea was to siphon all the water out of the tub directly into the pool, and refill the tub with the hose. It worked perfectly—the hot tub was clean and the pool a little warmer.
The next night, word was catching on...and the group of friends increased some in size. Again, the hot tub water was almost opaque by next morning. No problem! Just did the same trick from the previous night. The hot tub water went into the pool. And I refreshed the tub with clean hose water. The last night was just...yuck, but I knew the drill!
I just used my previously successful trick and the hot tub gunk got dumped into to pool. But then I couldn’t see the bottom of the pool. Now I had a problem. In my efforts to keep the tub clean, I had neglected the pool water, which had been slowly turning into a sickly grayish-green color! Uh oh.
I thought that the filters could take care of it by the time my parents came home at the end of the week. But I wasn’t sure how to make the pool water crystal clear for my spectacularly anal parents. That's when the genius idea bulb went off in my head. Twenty minutes later, I had tens of thousands of gallons of water roaring out of the pool working its way down the mountain like a grand liquid chlorinated avalanche. I thought I had the perfect solution—but I had no IDEA what I was getting myself into.
I was feeling smug about my dirty water problem solution when I noticed the shape of the inside of the pool becoming less defined. There's a vinyl skin for the interior of the pool, and the water held it down against the concrete. To my horror, the blue skin was methodically sucking itself off the walls and bottom like a yawning college student extricating his hungover body off his gunky bathroom floor.
Immediately I stopped the exodus of water with the pool only a couple feet deep in the far side. The shallow side was a “little” wrinkled, but I could salvage the deep end. I had to think of a different way to refill the pool, then I remembered my trusty water hose that I used to fill the hot tub. I was sure it could fill up the pool in five days! So, I turned on the water confident that the pool would be full of clean well water presently.
What I didn’t realize was that the house used well water. And after a few days of pumping, the water didn’t flow out so quickly anymore. Five days from the beginning of the refill, the water was just reaching the shallow end, and Mom and Dad were coming home the next day.
25. Sharp Turn
At work, I had a pallet of beer on the jack and I ended up taking the corner too fast and then it all went sideways. When it fell, it seemed to go in slow motion and when it landed, the noise was incredible. In the end, I think they salvaged like 12 boxes with an estimated total of $2,000 in wastage. I had glass in my hands for days and my work pants still smell like stale Waikato Draught.
26. Satellite Error
One time we thought I'd blown up a half-million-dollar satellite communication system with a power test. My first class and I had a grand old time going back to fundamentals, tearing down the system, checking everything over, and fixing stuff as we went. It turns out I only blew up the $100k power amp near the dish, which only happened because the prior ET3 had been really lazy with his weatherproofing. It was a lot of fun.
27. Selling on Fumes
I got a temp job working for a natural gas company where all I did was open gas bidding and approve gas bids every day. I had three hours of training and it never covered any complex situations because they rarely happened. Well one day when the bids were close to approval, a large company wanted to transfer their gas lines to a sister company.
This meant six total transactions at a zero-dollar value. I helped the company with their first one and it went out to the market as a closed bid, so to speak. I told them to copy that bid and change the gas pipes and volumes, etc. They do this and the market closed. Then, with a pit in my stomach, I made a chilling realization. Where did their gas go? They forgot to check a checkbox for the closed bidding and put THEIR ENTIRE YEAR'S WORTH of gas on the market for free! Everyone in the business knew it was a mistake, but BP swooped in and bid a cent or two on it and won it. It would cripple the company.
Everyone was freaking out and yelling at me. I told the client the right process and they didn't follow it exactly. Also, with my three hours of training, there should always be a superior available to check. Since gas bidding closes at 12:30 pm, literally the entire department was out to lunch aside from me. We got it sorted out over three weeks working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
It turns out you cannot post public bids for a full gas release publicly. For a while there though, it was a $40 million inventory loss and who knows how much in profit.
28. Going Ham
Once, I made my company throw away 46,000 lbs. of ham. I dropped my screwdriver into a vat full of ham it got stuck in an auger and chipped a piece of the handle off. Since it's plastic and very soft we obviously couldn't use a metal detector or an x-ray since the hams are so thick once cooked. I guess they sold their tainted meat to dog food companies so it wasn't super bad but still expensive.
29. Accidental Damage Fees
When I was a freshman in college, I came back from a party drunk and decided to watch something on my laptop. When I tried to close it, it didn't work. Rather than try to figure out why, I just shoved on it harder till it closed. It turns out my headphones were in between the keyboard and screen, and I had broken the screen.
So, I ordered a new one, and when it came a week later, I didn't turn off the power while I was swapping out screens, then something sparked and smoked. My laptop didn't work anymore, and I had paid like $900 for it a couple months before I broke it.
30. Well Oiled Machine
I had a ‘99 Miata that I loved. It was the most fun thing I’ve ever owned with nice coil-overs and sticky tires. One day, I noticed my oil gauge was doing wonky things. It was jumping from 0 pressure to normal randomly. I actually drove back to where I was parked to see if there was oil on the ground. Nope. I looked it up and everyone said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. The oil gauges in these cars are mainly for show. If you change your oil regularly, you’re fine.” Oh, how I regret listening to those fools.
Apparently, a lot can happen in between oil changes because one day, maybe two months after my oil gauge started acting up, I’m driving and suddenly, “TICK. TICK. TICK. TICK. TICK,” like the loudest ticking I’d ever heard. I gave it a rev and it went, “TICK. TICK. TICK.TICK.” I drive it home and check my oil levels. It's at 0.
Now I don’t know how this happened because I wasn’t leaking oil and some serious witchcraft had to be going on for me to burn that much oil in a convertible car and never smell or see it. But I refilled my oil and prayed that somehow it would go away even though I knew it wouldn’t. I knew it was bad and my car didn’t have much time so I drove it to the DMV to get my motorcycle license to have a way of getting around while I figure out what’s wrong.
As I pull into the DMV parking lot, I heard a loud crack and then my car turned off. The tow back to the mechanic cost $400 and was expensive because I requested a flatbed tow truck because my car is so low. But then they brought a regular tow truck and then told me, “Oh we can’t tow it with this truck. We need to get our flatbed,” which I had already said but apparently I still had to pay for their mistake.
They quote me $4k for a new engine, which is almost as much as I paid for the car. I only paid the insanely expensive tow and did it myself, which cost me $1,200. But still, I could’ve saved $1,600, if I had just checked my dipstick when my oil gauge acted up. Now, I check my oil religiously on all my cars.
31. It’s All About the PC, Baby
When I built my first gaming PC back in 2005, I spent $800+ on the CPU alone. It was probably something meant for workstations and serious multitasking, but I stupidly thought the more expensive, the better. I could have had the same performance for gaming with something in the $200-300 range most likely.
About a year later, I also spent about $500 on a second video card to get SLI, which was a big novelty at the time. The performance increase was super negligible and a giant waste of money.
32. Lost in the Mail
Someone in accounting decided to break the "don't use non-encrypted flash drives" rule and copied all of the payroll information for the company I work for to his personal flash drive to take it home and work on it. Then instead of driving 30 minutes back to the office to upload the data, he decided to put it in a regular envelope and mail it back to the office.
All that made it back to the office was an empty envelope with a hole. The company had to buy every employee, about 2,000 at the time, a years' worth of premium identity theft protection at $30 bucks a month. $30 x 12 x 2,000 = $720,000. All because they were too lazy to drive 30 minutes.
33. Hidden Charges
I bought a new car when I was 18 and had to get full coverage insurance, so I did. Then I got a letter from my credit union saying that even though I was already fully covered, I needed to get my car inspected by one of their approved mechanics or something. I blew it off. Come to find out, my credit union added their own insurance policy, which added about $3,000 to my loan balance without me noticing.
Then, six months later, they did it again. All the while I was fully covered and paying my payments on time each month. When I finally noticed my debt on my car was growing and not shrinking, I looked into it. That's when I found that they had added three $3000 insurance policies to my balance. All because I never got my car checked out where they wanted me to.
In the end, after years of fighting them on it and showing them that I was fully covered, they only refunded like $1,200 worth. I understand having to read through the insurance policy, but adding $3,000 to my loan balance every six months without even calling me? Not cool.
34. Barely Robbed
I was traveling across the states with my friends and six days in, we got to Miami. We got drunk in Wet Willies and met a couple girls and we decided at 3 AM that it was a good idea to go skinny dipping. We all got naked and ran into the sea, leaving EVERYTHING on the beach. We got out of the sea after playing around for a while and someone had stolen all our stuff.
They took everything. I lost my wallet with $300 in it, my iPhone, my passport, and not to mention ALL of my clothes. We all had to run back to our hostel naked which was a good mile away. I still got laid. But I'm an idiot.
35. Beyond Remedy
I work in pharmaceutical manufacturing. A co-worker of mine in error threw away a filter used to sterilize drugs before it is filled into syringes, vials, or whatever. The company searched through a local landfill looking for it. Without this filter being tested for integrity, the product cannot be verified as sterile.
The filter was never found and the entire lot was thrown out. The total loss was nearly $2.5 million USD.
36. Shipping Fees
I missed an £8 road-tax payment on a motorbike that was stolen and I also moved addresses so I never got a single letter. It tallied up to nearly £8,000 after seven years of me not paying it, £25 per letter + £15 admin fee + a monthly, then weekly, and finally daily penalty.
37. Planted Poison
I accidentally left an Asiatic lily plant out in my apartment when I went to work. When I came home, I noticed my cat had chewed a bunch of leaves off it and possibly swallowed some. I immediately looked it up online and saw that lilies are extremely toxic to cats. I had to rush him to a 24-hour emergency vet where he had to be treated with high volumes of fluid via IV for 48 hrs.
My big floof made it out alive and I couldn't have been happier he was ok, but the whole ordeal cost me close to $3,000.
38. Minor Accident
I rented a U-Haul to move from my apartment to a condo in the same town. I bumped one of the balconies in the alley behind the condos. I made a very small dent in the canopy part of the truck and when we returned the truck, they told us since we didn't get the insurance, we would have to pay for the fix within 48 hours. They said that it would cost $4,800 to fix and they refused to let me take it to a third-party mechanic for a quote.
Then they said that if we didn't pay within 48 hours, it would go to court where it would be doubled. I wasn't too well off then, financially, and maybe too naive, but we decided to pay to avoid having it doubled. My wife was in tears at the counter as she gave them her credit card.
39. Explosive Touch
I blew my hand up with a firework. The surgery alone to fix the five bones I broke cost $27,000. That doesn't include two casts, pain meds, physical therapy, and two braces.
40. Columnizing Mistake
I made a mistake in an aggregation model for a major US Healthcare company that was trying to avoid dissolution in bankruptcy. Goldman Sachs was the audit and administration partner for the bankruptcy, and they reviewed and evaluated my work. Long story short, using the “avg” column instead of the “sum” column can have some very insidious effects if it's buried in the lowest layer of a collection process. Honestly, it's not even exaggerating to say this is one of the biggest mistakes anyone has ever made.
My model underreported profits against margin by a few percentage points, but that difference was enough for the board to accept my results, and vote for dissolution. After all was said and done, I and about 50,000 other people lost jobs and shareholders lost a very real fortune. Goldman Sachs made out like thieves and bandits.
Thankfully, most of the actual facilities survived and those employees were retained eventually by new buyers, and patient care wasn't harmed, or so I was told. But I blew about a billion—yes, with a capital B—dollars out of the US economy in 2001. I realized my mistake after it was far too late. Goldman Sachs basically said "too bad, so sad" and that was that.
I had a nervous breakdown, strongly considered suicide, and got out of my career industry for about five years. I made a three-letter billion-dollar mistake that none of the review partners caught.
41. A Small Drop
A friend of mine in the RAF dropped a radar system that he was due to install onto an aircraft. It was £500,000 instantly in the bin.
42. Lost in the Slots
I turned $50 into $700 on a slot machine. I was pretty drunk and had to use the washroom so I made my way to the bathroom without thinking. And then after I was done, I sort of just wandered off and started playing a different machine. A few minutes in, it hit me like a brick that I had forgotten to cash out before leaving the machine.
I tried retracing my steps to find that machine again, but being drunk and casinos having a confusing floor plan, it was hopeless. I decided to call it a night and went back to my hotel room in the same building where drank until I blacked out.
43. The Heart of the Steal
I once tried to steal Yu-Gi-Oh cards from Walmart. It cost my parents $800 dollars in legal fees. I felt bad about it and got a job. I paid my parents back $1,200+ dollars, the extra $400 just for the trouble.
44. Scraped By
An employee of mine was mixing pigment with powder to create a certain color and accidentally used the wrong powder, costing us $2,600. But it didn't end there...not by a long shot. Unfortunately, my brother, who was the Floor Manager, decided to give this guy another shot, since it was his first week on the job still. He was fully trained and warned about these potential mishaps before each shift and during.
The molds on the machines are welded then coated with Teflon, which is very expensive, so we can only use plastic scrapers on them to scrape the other excess plastic. This guy ignored my brother’s warning and used a metal scraper, quite nearly stripping all of the Teflon. We can’t mold something that has scratches all over it because it comes out ruined. Needless to say, he cost us $5,000+ in damages in one day. This time, he was fired on the spot.
45. Drier Than the Sahara
I'm a mixer in a bakery. One day I forgot the water in a mix and the dough was so dry that the dough hook wouldn't spin. It burned out all of the belts in the mixer, costing over a grand. Didn't come out of my pay but it was still a big oops.
46. Do Not Touch
In the middle of the night at the hospital where I used to work, the entire staff of the Cardiovascular Operating Room gets paged in because this one guy was tanking fast. It turns out that his heart was just totally shot and he needed a transplant, but our hospital wasn't qualified to do transplants and we didn't have a donor heart. Cue technology.
We did have a device similar to an artificial heart that could sustain the guy for a few days until we could get him to a hospital with more resources. The nurse goes to open the device to give to the surgeon, and accidentally touches a sterile part with her bare hand. Now the entire thing is considered contaminated, and they have to go open another one.
They cost about $100,000 apiece, and the contaminated one just had to be thrown away.
47. Making Space
I’m a designer. I picked up my friend’s job and did an amendment. I made the fatal error of not checking for overset text and just sent it to be proofed. Everyone after me signed it off without checking it. The artwork cost £21,000 to be re-printed all because I put a space in the wrong place and didn't check the page afterward. I put my hands up to it straight away and just got a little "be more careful" chat.
48. Insured Losses
About 10 years ago, I got a part-time job that miraculously offered health insurance. Unfortunately, the paperwork they gave me when I started only listed the insurance rates for full-time employees, which was something like $60 a paycheck. I didn't even realize there would be a difference for me until I got my first paycheck and it totaled about $20.
I called HR in panic mode certain that there must be some mistake only to be informed that for the number of hours I was working, health insurance was $400 per paycheck. And no, I couldn't cancel my enrollment unless I had a "qualifying life event." I took home $20 paychecks for four months until open enrollment ended when I could finally cancel.
Luckily, I had another job at the time so I wasn't out on the street, but it certainly taught me a lesson about carefully reading paperwork.
49. Rush Order
At the company where I worked, there was a new trading assistant named Eli on the floor who thoroughly believed he was The Guy. He was going to take the world by storm and decided he was next in line to make partner. Only first, he was assigned the task of sending in an option exercise one Friday afternoon in order to capture a particularly large special dividend.
Poor Eli knew how to do it, but he was in a bit of a rush. He sent the fax through to the broker and then left before getting the confirmation. The fax failed and the options weren't exercised, costing the firm about $150,000. Poor Eli was met by a very angry head trader at the door on Monday morning and he got his walking papers. Poor Eli.
50. Taking the Fall
So, I work in a cnc workshop, and we often engrave stuff. This particular guy wanted a nice wooden jewelry box for their wedding anniversary with a custom message he emailed me. For some reason, he chose to give the box to his wife at the workshop (not the most romantic place I can think of but whatever).
The guy's wife starts to look confused and tear up: "you don't remember the date?" Guy turns pale, looks at me, says: "no, I'm sure it's a mistake." Me: "no, I've copied it straight, can't be wrooon...waaait a minute, omg, it's my fault, I'm so sorry, I will redo it right away, no need to pay, please accept it as a gift..."
Wife gets angry a bit at me, but they leave with a different box and the correct date. Guy comes back next day and pays triple the original price without a word.
51. A Change in Your Morning Dental Routine
When I was 10 or so, I woke up before everyone in the house (it was like 7 am) and decided I would sneak into the pool. I was waist deep in the water before I saw the alligator on the other side of the pool.
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