Win an fighter-jet with Pepsi pop-tops!

The family and I were pondering this question (actually the wife and I were; the teenager was incredulous that this story actually happened). IIRC, Pepsi had one of their promotions where you could win fabulous prizes by sending in pop-tops (although this occurred after, I would have thought, Pepsi had phased out the pop-top can…) The commercial that Pepsi ran for this promotion ended with something to effect of “…and with one million pop-tops, you can win this F-14 Tomcat fighter-jet!”

This last was supposedly a joke, but there was apparently no small print or “Just kidding!” accompanying this image.

Well, guess what. Some young boy, with the sort of enterprise that you’d expect of a toddler trying to climb Mt. Everest, actually managed to get one million pop-tops. He then demanded his prize. Pepsi said “That was a joke!”
The kid said “Where does it say that that was a joke? I want my airplane!”

Anyboy know how this turned out?

He didn’t get it.

It was a Harrier.

He got some investors together and bought the $700,000 worth of Pepsi points it would take to win the jet, but Pepsi refused to comply.

He later sued, and lost.

Wow…Common sense in the civil court system.

Well, now he can get 6,500 Walkmen!

I’m pretty sure you could hear the sound of hell freezing over when the kid found out that yes, on occasion, the legal system gets one right.

I have a degree in advertising, and this case is actually used as an example in classes all the time now. It was quite recent when I was in school, but I know it’s one of the ones that is still brought up.
There had been legal precedents before the case which basically say that “no, you can’t get X prize, because no sane person could expect to get such a prize for doing Y.” It always comes down to what someone should expect “within reason.” This case just happened to get a bit more attention due to the nature of the contest (Pepsi, national ads that pretty much everyone saw, extensive media coverage, etc.).
That said, it WAS a hassle for Pepsi (though no one expected them to lose the lawsuit, court is not where a major coporation wants to be). Due to many reasons, this case included, you’re much more likely to see disclaimers on any sort of advertisement, regardless of how outlandish the claim.

I thought I’d read that a little kid pulled that, and Pepsi was ordered to pay him the equivalent of the price of the jet.?.?.? Or am I just nuts?

This makes me think of the classic Urban Legend which states pop-tops are something very valuable. This actually happened? Cool!

Worse coming to worse, the kid could just hang on to all the pop-tops for currency when that pesky nuclear holocaust finally comes aroun.

Did he get his money back? Did Pepsi refuse to accept the money in the first place?

Ahhhh, dear Judge Kimba Woods! The scourge of U.S. District Court! Attorneys cringe when they must appear before her and scour their submissions ten-teen times to insure they meet proper standards (including word count). I love Kimba…she keeps the critters on their toes.

Boyo, the guy didn’t submit the pop-tops, seals, or whatever it was that was required. He submitted like 15 of them and as you could buy them for ten cents apiece, enclosed a check for the balance (approximately $700,000). Of course, the check was refused. If they had cashed it, that would have opened a whole ‘nother can o’ worms.

In any case, that should stop advertisers from trying to use satire in TV commercials. There are too many people who don’t understand it. There are too many people who do understand it who would like to capitalize off it. This is not the first time something like this has happened, although I cannot recall, off the top of my head, other incidences or the outcome of any legal challenges.

They did give him three cases of Pepsi for his troubles though :

So shipping and handling on a Harrier amounts to $10.00?

While you can’t get a Harrier, there is a guy who got 1.2 million miles of frequent flier miles by buying 12,000 cups of pudding.

In the words of the two gigalos from MTV’s old sketch comedy show The State, “That’s ALOT of pudding! Aww yeah!”

[Bart voice]

“Where’s my elephant!”

[/Bart voice]

Tho I am for common sense and reasonableness, the kid/pilot/anti-coprporation in me kinda hoped he’d win.


John Leonard, up to no good,
Shut down by District Judge Kimba Wood.

Pardon me if I ramble, but Leonard v. PepsiCo is my favorite court case.

Now the thing of the matter that I must point out at first is that it was not pop-tops, but “Pepsi Points.” The ruling of Leonard v. PepsiCo (2nd. District Court, dated August 5, 1999; all quotations come from this ruling) tells us that the idea was to “collect ‘Pepsi Points’ from specially marked packages of Pepsi or Diet Pepsi and redeem these points for merchandise featuring the Pepsi logo.” John Leonard, Seattle resident, was among the number of Americans who viewed a commercial featuring the products. To a military sort of theme, a boy prepares for school, with various Pepsimobilia on his body. The name of product and number of points needed to obtain such appears as well. Boy appears at end of commercial landing a Harrier jet emblazoned with Pepsi logos near a schoolyard, jokingly saying, “Sure beats the bus.” HARRIER FIGHTER 7,000,000 PEPSI POINTS

And now the fun begins…

Leonard sent in 15 original Pepsi Points along with a check for $700,008.50 for additional Points (10 cents each, as per rules) and, not being fazed by the fact The Jet didn’t appear in the catalog, wrote in the item column “1 Harrier Jet.” Pepsi sent back a letter stating it was only meant to be humorous, and gave him some free product coupons to boot. Although BBDO, the agency responsible, stated “no reasonable person” would take the ad seriously, Leonard sued in the state of Florida. The case was moved to the Second District Court, since it had nothing to do with Florida (good thing, too-the Florida court found in favor of Leonard). Wood ruled that advertisements are not contracts signed between two parties and that the commerical was intended to be humorous. She also found that The Jet could not be obtained for $700,000; and its main use is for military bombing. It was also discovered the commercial was modified twice-once to change the amount of points to 700 million, and again to add “JUST KIDDING.” It’s not an offer, it’s humorous, there’s no contract between the two parties, Pepsi wins, case closed, so ordered, signed Kimba Wood.