17 People Describe the Worst Business Idea They’ve Ever Seen in Action

Have you ever seen an advertisement, or been walking down the street, and glimpsed a business that made you go “no way that’s going to work?”

I think most of us have, but we probably didn’t stick around long enough to observe how things were going (or how long it lasted).

These 17 people did, so let’s read through these horrible business ideas and shake our heads together, yeah?

17. But only sometimes.

A lady opened a southern soul food buffet in my city.

It was INCREDIBLE! Amazing food.

On some days.

It was a buffet with a rotating menu depending on the day of the week, and those days were NOT equal, so what happened was people would go on an off day, be unimpressed, not come back, or come on one of the better days, love it, come back on an off day, then never come back.

I was so disappointed. I would donate towards reopening that restaurant but with ONLY the optimal menu, every day. That woman has serious culinary talent.

16. And only banana.

The banana pudding store.

One day, my ex-BF and I were taking a stroll downtown in the city that we were living in at the time. We passed a store that was called The Banana Pudding store (or some such, I don’t remember exactly).

Well, I’m sure they sell more than just banana pudding, so let’s go in. You know, like how Home Depot sells more than just hardware. They sell Gatorade, candy bars, etc.

There were vats of banana pudding in the display cases and I thought, “Well, surely they must also sell other flavors,” so I asked if I could have a chocolate pudding and the guy politely informed me that they didn’t have chocolate pudding. So I asked if they had maybe butterscotch or something else. “No ma’am, just banana pudding here.”

I mean, it wasn’t false advertising. But surely he couldn’t be selling just one single flavor in that whole shop, could he? As expected, the next time we strolled down that street a month or two later, the store was shuttered.

I feel bad for him. I’m sure that the guy made great banana pudding that all of his friends and family would compliment him on and tell him that he should probably open a banana pudding shop ‘cuz it was so good. But I don’t think they literally meant that.

15. You can cut too many corners.

Cheapness is what ruined a small restaurant I worked at. At first they opened with great food. It was like a Lebanese deli with wraps, sandwiches, amazing hummus and the best tabbouleh I’d ever had. Guy in charge had 3 more formal restaurants his wife ran.

We had a spot on a super busy street smack dab in the middle of a college area. He refused to advertise. Had us give out samples the first week and that was it. Then when that only got a little traffic he took his own, yellowed, cheap digital camera pictures, printed them at home. Hung Those on our windows which blocked the view. They looked awful. I offered to touch them up in ps but he refused. So next he started buying super cheap deli cuts.

Cheaper breads and wraps. Even the chocolate croissant had the fine dark chocolate replaced with knock off Hershey. So the few loyal people stopped coming in. He told no one he sold the business and had us throw everything away on Friday and btw your fired.

On Monday there was a vietnamese place moved in and opened, and they’ve been booming the last 17 years. I can see why his wife ran the others!

14. Not a brilliant plan.

At a place I used to work, we supplied printing companies with their ink. Being that digital printing is well and truly established at the point, there wasnt a whole lot of business for this type of ink anymore, so there was a lot of competition between suppliers.

One of the technicians somehow weasled his way to the top despite no business experience. When he was told to very simply make more money, rather than go out and find new customers, his bright idea was to make our company’s ink weaker, with the intention that our customers will just have to buy more product to complete their jobs.

Surprise, the customers didn’t like that and went to competitors. Business was closed within a year

13. That’s not going to work out.

We have a small-time theme park in my state called Evermore and they thought it would be a good idea to try and sue Taylor Swift over her album of the same name.

12. A list of grievances.

A small family bar/restaurant that I worked for back in high school was bought by a local couple; he was a retired insurance company executive of some kind that played golf all day, and she was a stuck up (bitch) of a woman that had never worked a day in her life and who looked down on all of the restaurant’s employees as some sort of uneducated lower life form. The place was located in a small town, and the clientele was mostly local farmers taking their families out in the evenings, factory workers at lunchtime, and on Sunday mornings retired elderly people on fixed incomes who would mob the place after church.

The restaurant up to that point was profitable, I am sure they liked the financials they saw on paper or they would not have invested in it. However, once they took over, they decided to improve it.

There was one elderly couple in their 90’s who had been coming in every Sunday morning for years who had no teeth; they always ordered the same thing – 2 hot roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and extra gravy, run through a blender and served in a bowl so they could eat it with a spoon. We were now forbidden to do that since the new owner thought it looked gross and did not fit the “image” of their fine dining establishment, so they stopped coming in as they could not eat roast beef any other way. Beer was no longer served in bottles at the tables, if you wanted beer in the bottle you had to go sit at the bar, at the table it was poured into a glass before being served. Some people really did not like that new rule, and stopped coming in; there were plenty of other bars in the area to grab a burger at.

The first thing they did was to put an end to overtime pay. The staff consisted of about a dozen older long term employees that mostly lived nearby and walked to work because they could not afford cars. These people worked their tails off, some of the 7 days a week, for about minimum wage just to be able to afford their rent and groceries. Once they were told that they could no longer work 50 and 60 hour weeks to make the maybe $25 a week in overtime, most of them had no choice but to quit and go find some place where they could make enough to survive. Pay them a little more? Heavens NO; these are unskilled positions.

The new owners found that when they advertised for new employees to fill the vacancies, they did not get the flood of applicants they expected, waitesses for example were paid $1.70 an hour at the time, and cooks made $4 (this was the 1980’s), and the local sewing factories paid more than that to start. SO, they ended up hiring a bunch of their daughter’s high school friends, most of which were the cheerleader crowd that did not want to do anything that involved getting dirty, like scrubbing the floors or restrooms, and none of who could ever work on nights when there was cheerleading practice, or a football game, or … pretty much any Friday or Saturday at all. SO, the place was chronically short staffed constantly, orders came out slow, and the new owner just sat at the bar fuming instead of doing anything to help, occasionally coming back to scream at everyone to stop goofing off and speed things up.

Then, when business started to drop off they decided to remodel to attract new customers.

They tore all the carpeting out of the bar area, and replaced it with this ugly yellow vinyl flooring “so the workingman can come in and feel at home”, like regular people never had carpet in their houses. They added a char broiler to the kitchen, and decided they wanted to add “charbroiled haddock” to the menu. Ever tried to grill haddock?

It falls apart in little pieces and looks awful; obviously the fault of the 16 year old kids they hired to make the food. At the same time they remodeled the bar to make it look homey to the lower classes of people, they added expensive scotch and other high end liquors to sell to the customers, most of who were draft Budwiser and Miller drinkers. They also, as it turned out, rarely ordered Quiche for lunch.

The place lasted about a year, and then sat empty for about 10 years before someone new bought it. Probably because they were trying to sell it for a huge profit after it was no longer an operating business.

11. Literally the easiest thing to make for yourself.

In my college town there was a cereal restaurant.

Why make a bowl of cereal at home when you can pay $5 for someone else to do it?

Not surprisedly, it closed soon after opening.

10. That didn’t work out.

An old, local pub legend, friend of mine won £400k-ish (around $500k at the time) on the lottery. So, he decides to buy two tanning salons opposite each other thinking that he had an instant monopoly.

But the problem came when he started getting them to compete with one-another. The managers at each salon began a pricing war and he was broke in 6 months.

9. This is downright hilarious.

In 2011 we had «the norwegian butter crisis» in Norway. The shortage caused soaring prices and stores’ stocks of butter ran out within minutes of deliveries. A pack of butter would sell for between 40-200 dollar on the «black market».

A friend got the idea to drive over to the neighboring country, Sweden to buy butter and sell it here in Norway. The problem was that you could “only” carry 100 packets of butter across the norwegian border. So he made a deal with our local nursing home. He rented a bus and took 20 elderly people on a road trip to Sweden in exchange for receiving the butter quota.

The next day, the butter crisis suddenly resolved and he was left with 2000 packets of butter he could not sell.

He still got his basement full of butter.

8. Tough to secure funding.

I used to work with small start up businesses, not fancy tech startups. Lots of construction and restaurants. My favorite 2:

Restaurant/hair salon/child care center, but nonprofit (there were lots of people who wanted to do nonprofit it was mostly very community driven wanting to give back and help employ people). She had a place picked out and was about to rent and had come to us to ask for money. She named the building, which was tiny, with no kitchen. She was lovely and we encouraged her to open the salon but maybe without the salon workers cooking for folks in between clients and without clients caring for kids.

Hooker bus. Older gentleman who was certain that this was a good idea. He wanted money to buy a bus and then he was going to drive it around to find women who wanted to “hang out with” CEOs and executives. And then during the lunch hour (he was very insistent about the lunch hour part) he would take it to the downtown business core and park in front of large business HQs and the gentlemen who worked there would pay to come party on the bus. But you see they’d just be paying a fee to be on the bus so it’s not like anyone is paying for sex so it’s totally legal. He had already bought the bus, it was an old school bus. We did not fund his endeavor.

7. The downside of a speakeasy.

There was a bar that opened up in my city and their entrance was hidden. They did a news story and they refused to tell the paper where it was actually located.

To everyone’s complete surprise, they only stayed open for a couple of weeks

6. They need their coats.

Somebody thought it would be a good idea to open a dance club in my northern Canadian city with a dress code… 90% of the population is tradesmen and miners who only own Carhartts and high vis.

Needless to say, it shut down within 6 months.

5. That’s not a business; it’s theft.

In my country there was a guy who used to sell wood. The problem was he did not have any of it. So he would ask for payment and then not give the product afterwards, hoping that procrastination and time will make the problem go away.

He did 4 years in jail.

4. The future is not quite now.

Can’t believe no one mentioned that guy who went on Shark Tank to pitch a bluetooth ear piece that you got surgically implanted in your ear canal that you charged by sticking a needle in your ear while you slept

3. Same old story.

My schoolmate at high school wanted to be a club manager. He organized a concert where he invited kinda famous foreign band to the local club. He paid so much money for them just to arrive + their expenses at the bar. In the end like 20 people showed up, half of them were his friends.

Fortunately he had a very rich dad, so he paid for that and life went on. The dude started selling art next day, no need to say he failed miserably again.

2. That’s…interesting and specific.

Top for me has got to be a client of a design firm I used to work at.

He was a trucker, his wife was a trucker. He wanted to make a “sanitary pad” that wouldn’t need to be changed. Imagine a pad with a little line running down to a micro-vacuum strapped to your leg, exhausting into another leg-bag.

Basically a pad that sucks the juices into a bag you can chuck in the trash later.

EDIT: Just to be clear this was specifically a menstrual pad you are meant to wear for days at a time…

1. He must have missed a step.

Father-in-law drove 18 hours down to Florida to catch shrimp, filled his tiny car with tons of the shrimp and drove back.

It took days to vacuum seal the shrimp that hadn’t gone bad only to sell a few bags to some friends, the car smelled like seafood for years.

I mean…points for trying, I guess?

Tell us what business idea you would put on this list? We want to hear about it in the comments!