Sometimes new rules are put in place before they're completely thought out. If people don't like those new rules, there's sure to be a response. Whether it's finding a clever loophole or a group uprising, people will find a way to make sure the new rule doesn't last.
Here are all the best stories from Reddit about rules that totally backfired. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I was in high school in the 1990s and early 2000s and short shorts were fairly popular at the time for the girls. It seemed like an arms race to see who could wear them the shortest without getting in trouble. When I started, the rule was vague and hard to define; basically it said shorts must be longer than the cheerleader skirts but a) those were really short and b) how do you compare that accurately to what someone has on. So some genius thought: fingertip length. When standing up the shorts must be at least as long as your middle finger as you held your hands by your side.
A little sidenote early on in high school: one of the teachers got a little too handsy with a student and got in massive trouble. He had his hand was on her lower back while talking to her, despite her trying to get away. After this, teachers refrained from touching students unless it was a hug that the student-initiated.
So girls would get called out and hold their hands at their sides. They learned that if they didn't have their arms firmly against their body and not quite straight, they could easily have their hands an inch or more higher on their legs and since teachers didn't want to touch the girls, they couldn't ensure arms were straight. Also, some people just have short arms so no matter what, they could wear some really short shorts/skirts as a result. For a few years, shorts and skirts actually got shorter than they were before the rule was implemented.
By junior year, they settled on shorts/skirts must be at least 5 inches from the middle of the kneecap. Of course, this wasn't fair because 5 inches on a five-foot flat girl looked really different than 5 inches on a six-foot-tall girl. But, at least the staff could claim they were using the same metric across the board.
I visited a teacher after school hours when I was in college because I had a physics question. I'll just say It appears they had given up entirely because the shorts I saw then were far shorter than anything that existed when I went to school there."
"'No card games at school.' When I was in elementary/middle school, Magic The Gathering and the Pokemon card games were pretty popular. Almost all of the guys played and would get together after lunch to play before classes started again.
Here is where it's important for me to mention that this was a Christian school. It probably didn't take long for a teacher, administrator, or helicopter parent to wonder what all the fuss was about. Sure enough, one of them probably got a hold of a Magic The Gathering card, saw art depicting a demon, and decided that this had to be the work of Satan to warp our young minds.
Almost overnight, all trading card games were banned from school. Any cards would be confiscated until the end of the school year.
Well, you now have several dozen pre-pubescent boys with about 30 minutes of free time and nothing to do. So we did boy stuff. We ran around, pushed each other, went places we weren't supposed to, just overall got into mischief. All this time, they had a free babysitter that was keeping us all engaged, quiet, civil, all while reinforcing quick math skills and teaching multi-level problem-solving.
The next year, we got a new administrator and card games were allowed at school again."
"Air pollution became a big problem in the late-80's/early-90's in Athens. It was mostly due to the number of old, heavily-polluting cars on the roads. So the Greek government made a law where only cars with odd-numbered final digits on their license plates (1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 etc.) could be driven on odd-numbered days (1st, 3rd, 5th etc.) Only evenly-numbered cars could drive on evenly-numbered days. Sounds great, doesn't it? They'll halve the number of cars on their roads, right?
Nope, they doubled it. Everyone bought one old, highly-polluting car that had an odd-numbered plate and another with an even-numbered plate. That way everyone could drive every day. Nobody could park and the air was worse than before."
"I worked at a Pizza Hut that tried to implement a 'swear jar.' The other delivery drivers and I looked at each other, and then at the jar. Then we all pulled out a $5 bill and told the manager to keep track of when we need to put more in.
She argued that we need to keep track ourselves. We countered that since the swear jar was her idea, she'd have to keep track, whether it was a quarter at a time or a $5 at a time. She gave us our money back and left for the day because she was suddenly 'feeling ill.'
The funny thing is, none of us even ever swore that much. We're not sure why the swear jar was even considered. We just hated being censored and we definitely weren't going to self-police."
"A hotel I used to work for decided they were having a bar-free holiday party. This didn't sit well with the people who'd been working there for years and were accustomed to a full bar at the party.
The staff parking lot ended up being full of people drinking in their cars trying to get a good buzz to carry them through the party. Most people ended up getting way more hammered than they would have. The party was a disaster."
"At my son's school, 'seized property' can only be returned to a parent or legal guardian. They refused to give him back his phone which he uses as a Continuous Glucose Monitor. He went a whole day without it. They still wouldn't give it back. My wife and I were both out of town on business.
My mother-in-law had to drive two hours to go pick it up. They will be getting 'Special Needs Education Classes' according to the state superintendent. And they will possibly be speaking to my lawyers Monday."
"Last year, my AP Chemistry teacher had a rule that if you fail a test, you could retake it as many times until you didn't fail for up to two weeks after the date of the first test. This was a way to stop people from failing. But, she never changed the test and used the same version every time. It turned into no one studying for the test, deliberately failing, and then memorizing the questions to search up the answers after and retake the test whenever they wanted.
Everyone constantly bombed every test over and over again until they were able to find the answers for the entire test. No one failed that class but only like three students passed the AP exam. Needless to say, I heard she stopped that rule this year."
"My kids' school had a talent show. They decided two days before that they were going to turn it into a fundraiser and it would be $1 per vote. We had three children in the talent show who were extremely talented. One girl won state for vocals, one girl played the guitar like Hendrix, and the boy could rap like I never heard. However, their parents couldn't afford a lot of votes...so who won?
A kid who finger painted a tree with a tire swing on it in one minute. All because daddy is a regional manager and mom was a hospital Vice President. They dropped $1,000. After the fact, the school sent out a letter stating they were hoping to raise $8,000 that night and only raised $1,900. After that, they changed the way that ran it."
"Sweden's government decided that it's anti-woman for snow plows to target areas supposedly frequented more by men like main roads. They said that they should instead prioritize entrances to daycares, footpaths and cycle paths which they said are used more by women. If you were guessing this wouldn't go well you would be absolutely correct. Public transport failed, traffic piled up and injuries requiring a hospital visit spiked. The politician who suggested this defended his decision by saying the gender equal plowing plan was implemented incorrectly.
Personally, I wonder how this was supposed to help women at all. I think men and women basically use the same paths and roads, especially in a country that is as focused on gender equality as Sweden is. Men take their children to school as well. Also, it's really strange to assume that the reason snow plows prioritize main roads is because of inequality and not just that more people use them. It seems a bit to me like they didn't care that their 'prioritization of women' would leave more people worse off."
"After the principal we had during my freshmen year, who was a super cool guy, left the district, my previous middle school principal took his place. She was...less cool.
During my freshmen year, students were allowed to listen to music in the halls between classes, during lunch or free periods, and in class at the teacher's discretion. When the new principal took over, she banned listening to music at all during school hours. This made a lot of people mad. Even the teachers thought it was dumb and generally let the students listen to music if their work was done anyway.
But, one kid noticed the wording in the policy was a little... specific. It cited that 'Phones, iPods, or other mp3 players are to remain in lockers during school hours and may not be used to play music while school is in session.' Or something to that effect.
It said nothing about CD players. Granted, CD players were already long out of style at that point, but pretty much everyone managed to dig one up. A protest week was organized where everyone came in and used their CD players to listen to music, citing that they weren't prohibited under the new policy. A petition to allow the use of mp3 players was passed around and almost everyone signed it, including most of the teachers, and even someone on the school board.
The announcement was made the following week that the ban would be lifted."
"A buddy of mine told me about a Happy Hour promotion a bar ran close to his campus. Apparently the special was something stupid like 50-cent drinks that lasted until the first person went to the bathroom.
As he tells it, the first few weeks went without incident. But, once it got more popular, people were going to extreme lengths to not be 'that guy.' This included wearing adult diapers. Once people tried to covertly pee in corners and trash cans, the bar canceled the promotion."
"In French Indochina, there was a major problem with rodents eating supplies and bringing disease. Given the plentiful supply of cheap unemployed workers, the colonial authorities thought they could be used to kill the rats and bring their numbers down. The French had a somewhat racially prejudiced view of the work ethic of the locals, so decided to pay them per rat killed rather than per hour worked. Each was compensated for every dead rat they handed over.
A year or so later, the colonial authorities discovered the peasants had set up rat-breeding farms in the jungle."
"The university in my town, University of Western Ontario, used to always hold homecoming in late September or early October when the weather is still pretty good, often summer-like. The University of Western Ontario has a reputation as a party school, and the administration started feeling that homecoming was getting out of hand. So, they decided to move it to late October during midterms. Problem solved, right?
Well, the students didn't take well to the change. Especially when it wasn't a secret that the goal was to keep partying down. So what happened now? They continued to party on the original weekend, but now it's FoCo, faux-coming, instead of HoCo. The partying increased by magnitudes. On top of that, the new homecoming was still chaos. Maybe it was a little calmer than before, but still about the same. While the obvious solution was to move homecoming back to its original weekend, the school refused to let the students win this one, even though it's clear that they have."
"I work in a preschool. At lunchtime, we tried to implement a rule where the children don't eat their dessert first. Seems reasonable, right? Except, we spend every day debating with 3-5-year-olds about exactly what is a dessert. Since we don't have 'hot lunch,' it's not universal what the kids eat for lunch. Sometimes kids come with a sandwich and a chocolate. Other kids come with pasta and fruit. Others come with just pretzels, chips, and yogurt. And every day the kids police each other on eating dessert first. So we hear stuff like 'JANE IS EATING HER DESSERT FIRST.' Except for her 'dessert,' in this case, is yogurt because she had a sandwich and veggies for her main lunch. But for someone else their main food is the yogurt.
The other day, I actually argued with a preschooler that his pasta was not dessert even though it was sweet. He was only eating pretzels and hummus. He refused to eat his pasta because it was sweet, therefore his dessert.
We've basically given up because it's just turned into a disaster where every day, I have kids asking me can they eat their food because it's all dessert or just arguing with preschoolers about what is 'healthy.'"
"A place I used to work had a guy that was a little skittish. They were trying to reign him in as he was often seen wandering around rather than working.
They asked him to keep a log of the time he did things and what he did. They had a great laugh at the log when it also indicated when he went to the toilet and when the door was locked because someone else was in there. He even wrote down the how long people took until they vacated the toilet for him to use because he would wait outside the door rather than go to one on another floor or go back to his desk.
Management had to reiterate what the log was for. The guy was let go a week later. I tried to help him out but some people don't even help themselves."
"My hometown banned selling bottled water at city-owned venues like hockey arenas, etc. It was all in the name of saving the environment from the scourge of plastic bottles. The theory being you can just use the water fountain or bring your own container.
But, they still allow pop and sugary drinks of all kinds. So people just drink the unhealthy stuff at these sports facilities and the volume of plastic hasn't declined at all."
"My city has issues with loud bikes/vehicles. So, as a deterrent, the city put up decibel meters that displayed how loud your engine was. They were similar to those signs that read your speed and display it to you.
But, instead of deterring anyone, people would pull up to these signs and rev the heck out of their engines to see who could get the highest decibel count. The city took the counters down within a week."