‘Doing a Ratner’ and other famous gaffes

Daily Telegraph

‘Doing a Ratner’: Gerald Ratner wiped £500 million from the value of his stores with one speech

1 – The most famous of them all, so much so that such gaffes are now known as “doing a Ratner”.

Gerald Ratner wiped £500 million from the value of Ratners jewellers with one speech in 1991.

He said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”

He added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

2 – In 2003, Matt Barrett, the Barclays chief executive, shocked observers by suggesting that consumers should stay clear of his company’s product, the Barclaycard, because it was so expensive.

Giving evidence to a panel of MPs, he admitted he would not use one himself.

He said: “I do not borrow on credit cards. I have four young children. I give them advice not to pile up debts on their credit cards.”

3 – Asked in an interview in 2001 to clarify the target market for the Topman clothing chain, the firm’s brand director, David Shepherd, replied: “Hooligans or whatever.”

He went on: “Very few of our customers have to wear suits for work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court case.”

The company later suggested that the word “hooligan” would not be seen as an insult among its customers.

4 – Alain Levy, chief executive of the music company EMI, offended most of Finland when he said that he had cut the roster of artists on a subsidiary label the company owned because there were not that many people in the country “who could sing”.

5 – In 2006, John Pluthero, the UK chairman of Cable & Wireless, sent a memo to staff, which said: “Congratulations, we work for an underperforming business in a crappy industry and it’s going to be hell for the next 12 months.”

He warned of job losses and added: “If you are worried that it all sounds very hard, it’s time for you to step off the bus.”