Bad choice by big business
In the mid-1970s, executives at the W.T. Grant variety store chain, one of the nation’s largest retailers, decided that the best way to increase sales was to increase the number of customers … by offering credit. It put tremendous "negative incentive" pressure on store managers to issue credit. Employees who didn’t meet their credit quotas risked complete humiliation. They had pies thrown in their faces, were forced to push peanuts across the floor with their noses, and were sent through hotel lobbies wearing only diapers. Eager to avoid such total embarrassment, store managers gave credit "to anyone who breathed," including untold thousands of customers who were bad risks. W.T. Grant racked up $800 million worth of bad debts before it finally collapsed in 1977.