2008.12.04 Do you think Axl Rose wants to be a Pepper?

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Did you get your free Dr Pepper last week? If not, you’re not alone and rock star Axl Rose is among many not too happy with the soft drink company.

For those not familiar with the situation, Rose is front man for the rock group Guns N’ Roses, which, until last week, hadn’t put out a new album since 1993. During that time, the original group broke up while Rose continued work on a new album tentatively titled “Chinese Democracy.” So many deadlines and new band members came and went that it was generally assumed Rose would never complete the work.

Therefore, the folks at Dr Pepper felt comfortable last March in promising a free 20 ounce Dr Pepper to every man, woman and child in the country if Rose released the album in 2008. The only restriction was that former band members Slash and Buckethead were not eligible for free pop, as the soft drink maker jokingly put the blame on them for the album’s delay.

Axl Rose at first viewed the offer with good humor, saying he would share his bottle with Buckethead. Slash, apparently, would still have to buy his own. Then, the unthinkable happened. Rose finished “Chinese Democracy.” Suddenly, Dr Pepper was on the hook for, including deposits, roughly half a billion dollars worth of pop.

An attempt to cover themselves by offering free bottles to anyone registering on their website on November 23, the album’s release date, turned out to be a disaster. Dr Pepper’s server couldn’t keep up with the traffic, and the offer was extended a second day. I tried to get through then, but the site was running so slowly, I still don’t know if I scored my free bottle.

Now, Rose’s attorney is asking for a full-page apology in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal (Hey, Axl! Why not make them run one in the Observer, too?), an extended time period for anyone wanting their free soda to be able to register for it, and a payment for use and abuse of Axl’s publicity and intellectual property rights. 

I’d bet that whoever was taking all the credit at Dr Pepper a few months ago for their great publicity stunt is now updating their résumé. And you know somewhere a lawyer is working on a class action lawsuit.

Meanwhile, where can poor Slash go if he’s thirsty? If he’s looking for obscure, regional or discontinued brands of soft drinks, there’s always sodafinder.com.

I saw the founder of the website on television a few weeks ago during a story on where to find favorite old products no longer on store shelves. He mentioned that Ruby Red Diet Squirt, one of my favorites, is no longer being made.

Checking around, I found plenty of the product still available in both Fayette and Morenci, so I have no immediate need to pay the website’s asking price of $32 for a 12 pack. That seems pretty high, but they justify their prices by saying they have to go on road trips to find regional and discontinued products so travel expenses like motels, fuel and food are factored into the selling prices.

I used to have a friend who made frequent trips to Tennessee and brought back Sundrop, a regional Mountain Dew-type drink. She finally moved there, so I no longer have easy access to it. Sodafinder.com has it, but at a price I’m not willing to pay. They also carry Cheerwine, another regional soda I’ve never tried and probably won’t at the website’s prices.

But Sundrop is cheap compared to something called Dr Denali, which is $75 for a 12 pack, or Mountain Dew Game Fuel, a whopping $120 for a 12 pack.

Even higher are prices for out-of-date soft drinks that sodafinder warns you should drink at your own risk. Anyone for a six pack of Coke II, just $150?  Could it be that much worse than regular Coke? Or a 12 pack of dn-L, that short-lived green, caffeinated product from 7-up, just $120 for a 12 pack? I wouldn’t pay that much for a truckload. Then there’s Dr Pepper Red Fusion, which I actually liked, but not at $349 for a 12 pack.

Or take out a bank loan and buy a 12 pack of the original Mr. Pibb or Pepsi Blue, just $599.99 each. That comes to $50 a can, plus shipping and handling. I happen to have an unopened can of Pepsi Blue I couldn’t bring myself to drink when it was fresh. Little did I know it would become a collector’s item. If Slash is thirsty enough to come to Fayette, he can have that. Or I’m  willing to share with Axl or Buckethead. First rock star come, first served.

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