A man sued Pepsi to claim a fighter jet

I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay at the Harvard Campus in Massachusetts in 2019.
My sleeping brain cells were awakened by thought-provoking case-solving exercises and discussions. It was one of my most memorable and fruitful experiences. I was supposed to go back this Fall to take up the next level of classes called the Master Class but the Covid struck.

I cannot commit to a full learning program whatever course there is because it usually takes 4 years. What I am doing now is just taking short courses.

I am currently studying Contract Law. The case studies given are actual situations that prevent me from falling asleep during class because they are presented in a simple yet nteresting manner.

One case study is Pepsi’s promotional campaign dubbed Pepsi Stuff and it was shown in a Super Bowl advertisement in 1996. For every bottle cap, you get a Pepsi point redeemable for t-shirts, key chains, sunglasses, leather jackets with a Pepsi logo on the back, and other merchandise you can find in the Pepsi Stuff Catalog. Their tv advertisement shows a Harrier Jump Jet landing on the ground which jokingly gives an impression that the fighter jet is among the prizes and
can be redeemed for 7,000,000 points only.

Here’s a video clip of that Pepsi commercial. I do not own the copyright of this video clip.

A wise guy named John Leonard figured that he’ll drink Pepsi to gain 15 points, and will top up the rest of the points for $.10 a point. He gathered his friends and came up with a bank verified check in the amount of $700,000 and sent it to Pepsico. A fighter jet in those days cost $21M and about $250M today. So if Leonard and his friends get it for $700,000 that would be the deal of a lifetime.

Pepsico rejected their claims. They said the commercial is not a serious offer nor a serious promise. Leonard and his friends hired a lawyer and sued Pepsi from court to court even in Florida where none of them lived. The case landed in New York and the New York court ruled:

“Plaintiff’s insistence that the commercial appears to be a serious offer requires the Court to explain why the commercial is funny. Explaining why a joke is funny is a daunting task.
As the essayist, E. B. White has remarked, “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process…” The commercial is the embodiment of what the defendant appropriately characterizes as “zany humor.”

Video from CBS Evening News

The court threw out the case in favor of Pepsi.


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