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Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

April 6, 2010

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their “Sweet 16″ picks in Consumerist.com’s annual “Worst Company in America”  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 “teams,” the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the “winner” (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an “upset” Cash4Gold beat defending “champion” AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.

In addition to AIG, past winners have included Halliburton, Recording Industry Association of America and Countrywide. In last year’s final, AIG whipped Comcast 3,528 to 1,968 as voters took their frustration over the recession out on a company that was bailed out by the U.S. government.

“They were just constantly in the headlines,” Consumerist.com co-managing editor Ben Popken said of AIG. “They became a real focal point for what went wrong with the economy.”

Consumers nominate companies to compete in the annual tournament, which was created as a tongue-in-cheek way for shoppers to “bite back” using social media and the Internet, according to Consumerist.com. To be considered for inclusion the website now requires that companies must regularly provide products or services to consumers.

In this year’s bracket, Consumerist.com paired companies in similar industries but seeded the regions based on past performance and preliminary nominations, Popken said. Votes will cut the final 16 companies to eight on April 15, a final four on April 21 and the championship matchup two days later.

Popken thinks Comcast could make its annual run to the title game and Bank of America could be a threat, but Cash4Gold may be this year’s Cinderella story.

Also in the basket:

UK MPs slam Kraft over Cadbury plant closure

Target puts recycling bins in all its stores

Troubled Loehmann’s in cash crisis (New York Post)

Chilly M&A Environment Seen Thawing in 2010 (WWD, subscription required)

(Reuters photo)

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