All humans make mistakes and most of them are totally understandable and fixable.
However, some mistakes can be really really costly for the person and even for the company they work for. When working in any industry that deals with large sums of money, it’s incredibly important that people double-check their work to avoid mistakes.
These huge mistakes were the most expensive typos ever made and people definitely didn’t let them off the hook. Let these be a reminder to always check your work or if you’re clumsy, maybe just stay out of financial industries entirely.
This article has been checked many times for typos, but if you find one, please keep it to yourself. The author can’t handle the embarrassment. Thank you.
1. Over-valuation of an entire county
In Wasatch County, Utah, a house was recorded with a value of over a billion dollars. The house was actually worth $543 million less than that, leading to a countywide overvaluation of $6 million. This overvaluation led to revenue shortfalls in five different county entities. It is believed that a staff member may have dropped a phone on the keyboard, causing a massive typo that tax payers are now on the hook for until 2023.
Cost of blunder: $543 million
2. An exotic travel firm
In the 1988 Yellow Pages, an ad purchased by Banner Travel Agency was supposed to say “exotic travel agency.” Due to a mistake from the Yellow Pages, the ad instead was written, “erotic travel,” causing many elderly people to stop doing business with them. The company lost 80% of their business. The owner later sued for $10 million.
Cost of blunder: $10 million
3. NASA’s exploding hyphen
In 1962 ,the United States was in the space race against the Soviets and NASA was preparing to launch Mariner 1, an $18.5 million probe headed for Venus. The probe veered off course seconds after launch. The probe had to be blown up only 293 seconds after launch and many blamed a missing hyphen or decimal place to be the cause of the mistake.
Cost of blunder: $18.5 million in 1962 dollars (nearly $150 million today)
4. The Car Lot Lottery
In 2005, a Roswell Honda dealership mailed 30,000 scratch off tickets to potential customers. One of the cards was supposed to have a $1,000 grand prize, but someone at the marketing company had misread the rules and every person who received the ticket was a grand prize winner. The dealership could not afford the $30 million dollar payout they owed these potential customers and instead offered a $5 Walmart gift card for each winning ticket.
Cost of blunder: $30 million (or $250,000 at Walmart)
5. The letter ‘S’ that ruined an empire.
A 124 year-old-family business with 250 employees called Taylor & Son’s went out of business in only two months after the British government’s register of companies listed that the company was going out of business. The actual business being liquidated was Taylor & Son (with no S), and the registrar didn’t catch the spelling difference. The typo was corrected within 3 days, but the damage had already been done to Taylor & Son’s creditability. Within two months the family engineering business established in 1875 was out of business due to the typo. A court found the government liable for the damages and had to pay $17 million.
Cost of blunder: 8.8 million pounds (about $17 million)
6. The Ebay mistake
An eBay user was auctioning off a bottle of Allsopp’s Arctic Ale that was brewed in 1852 and perfectly preserved. The museum-quality artifact should have been worth a small fortune, but instead the seller accidentally labeled it “Allsops,” and buyers couldn’t find the misspelled item. The item got only two bids and sold for $304, only five dollars more than the starting price. The person who bought the item then sold it again eight weeks later, spelled correctly, for $503,300.
Cost of blunder: $502,996
7. The cheapest international airfare
In 2006, Alitalia Airlines featured a special from Toronto to Cyprus for only $39. The sale was supposed to say $3,900, but before the mistake was caught, 2000 passengers had already bought their tickets. The airline decided to honor the ticket price due to fear of the fallout of not allowing it. The mistake cost the company more than $7 million in losses.
Cost of blunder: $7 million
8. The incorrect subway maps
In 2013, the New York subway system made an embarrassing mistake on its new maps. The metropolitan transit authority printed 80,000 new subway maps to inform riders the pay per ride cards were increasing from $4.50 to $5.00. Someone forgot to include that detail and $250,000 worth of maps were printed with incorrect pricing. The transit authority scrambled to collect the maps and had to reprint them all, with a hefty price tag.
Cost of blunder: $500,000
9. the missing comma crisis
Before ‘typos’ were even a thing, the United States government made a huge one. In 1872, Ulysses S Grant’s administration passed a tariff act to impose a 20% tax on foreign imports. The exceptions said “fruit, plants tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of cultivation.” The problem? The bill was only supposed to exempt “fruit-plants,” not fruit AND plants as that stray comma implied. When importers took advantage and insisted that their fruit should pass into the country tax-free as the letter of the law decreed, the government was forced to refund roughly $2 million in duties—or about $40 million by today’s standards.
Cost of blunder: $38 million +
10. A number swapped typo
For the Japanese Mizuho Securities Co., a stock selling typo from 2005 cost the Japanese bank millions of dollars. The bank accidentally listed 610,00 shares at one yen—they actually intended to sell one share for 610,00 yen. The typo cost the company its entire profit for that year.
Cost of blunder: ~$250 million
11. A typo you made this morning
Typos happen often when looking for a specific website. Google could be earning almost half a billion through typos, thanks to advertisements on commonly mistyped URLs like goggle.com and Twittter.com. It’s called “typo-squatting” and is a harmless way to get users to go to a company’s advertisements. Always remember to double check what you type, some of these sites are dangerous and leave you susceptible to cyber attacks.
Cost of blunder: $487 million per year