Chip-based cards are the reason Netflix says it missed subscriber projections.
Photograph by Simon Dawson—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vacations, accounting, and crappy salespeople are to blame.

By Jonathan Chew
October 15, 2015

Netflix missed subscriber growth projections in its latest quarterly earnings report, and has blamed the transition to chip-based credit and debit cards for its bad quarter.

That drew some sharp comments from analysts who thought the reason was, well, kinda stupid. “It’s just the dumbest thing I’ve heard,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters.

It wouldn’t, however, be the most head-scratching excuse for a bad quarter. Here are five explanations offered by companies for their poor earnings report that were even worse:

1. Tesla
Excuse: Vacations

Earlier this year, Tesla missed targets for vehicle deliveries, with a figure of 9,834 Model S vehicles falling short of the 11,200 mark. The electric automaker pointed to the severe winter weather and shipping issues, but one reason was also cited by the company: vacations taken by customers. “The stock is down because they missed on deliveries, revenue and earnings,” Theo O’Neill, an analyst with Ascendiant Capital Markets, told Bloomberg. “Blaming customers for taking [a] vacation seems like an odd thing to put in the press release.”

2. Travelers Companies
Excuse: The polar vortex

The weather offers companies a boatload of reasons for its poor financial performance. Winter, especially, gets a bad rap among companies, and in the second quarter of last year, 23 companies cited the “polar vortex” as a significant downer in their financial reports. Insurance company Travelers Companies saw a 21% drop in quarterly profits earlier this year, and went into a lengthy explanation in its earning call on the nature of the Boston winter, even offering a meteorologist quote that the Northeast wouldn’t be seeing such snowfall for “approximately 26,315 years.” “It was an extremely unusual event,” said COO Brian MacLean.

3. National Beverage
Excuse: We’re not sure, but holy cow, what a press release

In September 2013, Florida-based soft-drink maker National Beverage announced a slew of less-than-stellar results, including a 6% drop in revenues and 16% drop in net income for its first quarter of its fiscal year. The press release by CEO Nick Caporella, however, turned into a rambling stream of thought that offered no excuses, and at the same time, blamed “Big Cola” and “a whiplashed consumer” for its results. One example:

“Should we have the most credible reason for these results (and we could have), would it make a difference?” asked Nick A. Caporella, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer on a recent management call. “Does it make us feel less contrite relative to the credibility of the justification?” he queried. “There can be no allowable regrets in business or fumbles on the field (deck) of Endeavor – none . . . (no one even knows how to practice them),” quipped Caporella.

The killer Caporella quote? “Good soft drinks are to the human race what sunshine is to a picnic!”

4. Societe Generale
Excuse: Accounting

French bank Societe Generale third-quarter net profit dropped precipitously by 86% in 2012. When interviewed by CNBC in Paris, CEO Frederic Oudea offered his deep-dive analysis: it was those dumb accounting rules. “Exceptional items are related in particular to this stupid accounting thing which means that when you have a credit that is improving, your CDS is going down and you have to recognize negative revenues,” he told CNBC.

5. Oracle, IBM and TIBCO
Excuse: Crappy salespeople

The spring of 2013 saw a new trend offered by IT companies explaining their drop in profits: their own salesforce. One by one, Oracle, IBM and software company TIBCO said that poor execution in the training of their incoming sales team led to misses on quarterly projections. “Since we’ve been adding literally thousands of new sales reps around the world, the problem was largely sales execution, especially with the new reps,” said Oracle CFO Safra Catz after the company reported a 1% drop in sales. This didn’t escape the notice of analysts, with Berenberg investment analyst Daud Khan saying that poor sales execution “is fast becoming the favored scapegoat.”

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