The Diet Coke Phenomena

I have had two students in the last few weeks come up with some comments about Diet Coke that are interesting.

One student, a flight attendant for a major airlines, mentioned in my Psych class that she and the other flight attendants have discovered an interesting phenomenon. Shortly before the long haul flights land (she flies the US to Europe routes), there is a sudden rash of orders for Diet Coke (not regular Coke) by American passengers. These same people didn’t drink a single soda, let alone a diet drink, the entire trip. Most drank wine or beer or mixed drinks the entire flight - but they all want a Diet Coke as the last beverage of the trip. Few non-Americans order one at the end of their flight.

The other student, a waitress at a popular restaurant in Las Vegas, mentioned that whenever there are people at a table ordering Coke and Diet Coke, the Diet Coke drinkers will always ask for a minimum of three refills, and the regular Coke drinkers will seldom, if ever, ask for a refill.

My own theory is that non-Americans on the flights don’t order Diet Coke as it is not as popular in other countries - at least it isn’t in Germany…then again, what is sold as Diet Coke in Germany is truly horrible. Also, I think Americans have begun to treat Diet Coke almost as a palate cleaner…sort of a neutralizer of sorts.

However, I have to admit the waitress has a point - I always drink Diet Coke and am constantly asking for refills, but now that she mentions it, only my fellow Diet Coke drinkers and I are asking for them, and seldom the regular Coke drinkers. I have no explanation for that, but the comment hit home.

Anybody else find what these two women have noted to be true? And if so, any theories about why?

Caffeine. I don’t like regular sodas, too syrup-y, but I do sometimes order a diet coke before landing, especially if I’ve got to wake up and go to work shortly after the plane lands, or am going to need a little boost to get me through the whole “getacabgotothehotelblahdeblah” that trips entail.

Diet Coke drinkers might freely ask for refills because no matter how much you have, it’s still zero calories. Regular Coke drinkers, even if they’re not particularly watching their weight, might be conscious of the fact that every additional Coke is anothe 100+ calories.

FWIW in Europe Diet coke is Coke Light

I like the theory of it being a palate cleanser. I used to have multiple refills of Diet Coke in restaurants but in recent years, if I feel the need for a refill at all, I tend to get a half or even a quarter of a glass more. It’s usually just enough to wash most of the taste of my meal from my mouth and then I’m good to go.

Never been on a long distance flight so I don’t know about drinking Diet Coke before or near the end of a plane trip. Maybe some people feel it settles their stomachs during the flight?

[tiny hijack] Seriously? Coke Light is so much better than Diet Coke! It actually tastes… like Coke! [/tiny hijack]

Here’s another one—I know only two people who are addicted to non-alcoholic drinks, and DC is the drug of choice for both of them.

I say addicted tongue in cheek, but it isn’t so far off. Both of them worry when they leave home about having a DC with them (one won’t buy purses she can’t fit a bottle in, for example), neither of them drink much else, and they both drink tons of it (at least 6 cans a day for each). Neither would consider going for a meal somewhere that didn’t serve DC. And it isn’t the caffeiene, as both drink caffeiene free.

ETA: Here’s the worst of it–they both have “pet names” for it (like smokers with their ciggies) and they have me using them, too. Hence the DC above.

Except that in Britain it’s Diet Coke.

My guess is you drink Diet Coke at the end of a long plane ride so you don’t have to pee until you get off the plane. If you drank it earlier, you have to use the airplane potty and some people don’t like to.

[continuing hijack] That’s the problem with it…most Diet Coke drinkers don’t want something that tastes like regular Coke. Hence the overwhelming popularity of Diet Coke over Coke Zero in America. [/ch]

EXACTLY. I tried Coke One and bleah…it tasted like Coke.

Perhaps Diet Coke drinkers get more refills because it’s not as filling as Coke? I don’t see how sugared Coke is thirst-quenching or rinses down the meal, but that’s me.

I’d say the caffeine (for the passengers. It’s the only reason ever drink it, too. Don’t liek the idea of sugary syrup swishing around in my mouth, either) and some sort of weird Diet Cokehead obsession for the refills. Seriously, some people (okay, women mostly) are just crazy about the stuff, as Brynda mentioned. Though the ladies I know who go through it are one salad away from an eating disorder. I think DC feels like a guiltless pleasure to them.

Last time I was at Heathrow, it was Coke Light. This was 2003 and it came in the littlest cans you ever did see. Seven ounces, maybe.

I’m one as well, so is another friend. Can’t stand the regular stuff. I’m trying to move towards Diet Snapple at the moment, but I could easily drink a six-pack of Diet Coke during one shift at work.

Sometimes when I’m DDing or whatever and a bar doesn’t have Diet Coke, I’ll order regular Coke. That stuff makes my mouth feel nastier than a night of drinking + vomiting.

6 cans a day? That’s pretty light weight. :smiley: I have a 44-oz cup that I fill up 3 times a day, plus 5 or 6 cans during the course of a day.

And I can quit any time I want. No, really. :smiley:


A lot of European flights are overnight (at least if my experiences flying overseas were typical). I don’t want caffeine if I’m trying to sleep, so I have no caffeinated beverages of any kind. However, as you are waking up at the end of the flight (or finally admitting that you’ll never get to sleep on the plane) you want some caffeine to perk you up.

Yup. At least, that’s what I do.

Plus, I like the caffeine & diet Coke (or Pepsi) is generally a lot more palatable than airplane coffee.

Maybe they know that sodas in Europe are more expensive and often don’t refill for free. They’re stocking up. :smiley:

Diet Coke (not Coke Light) is available in Italy. My addiction is such that I did pay the unbelievable prices (4 freaking euros for a can?! They must have saw me coming a mile away…)

Count me as one of the people who drink diet coke like water. In fact, I just opened the last one in my fridge, and there’s nothing like that sinking sensation when you realize it’s the last one and you can’t rush out to the store.

Girl, no kidding. I was in Europe for 2 weeks earlier this year. I drank a lot of bottled water initially, but by the end of the second week, I didn’t give a shit that it was so expensive. GIVE ME MY DIET COKE.