2006.07.19 Drink up...L.A. is just 151 Cokes a day away

Written by David Green.


Did you see where a weight-loss instructor in Missouri is suing Coca-Cola over their consumer loyalty program, claiming it encourages children to drink deadly amounts of the soft drink?

Coke’s plan offers prizes ranging from free bottles of the product and movie rentals all the way up to free vacations. It’s the vacation prize that’s raised the hackles of Julia Havey.

Havey’s lawsuit claims that to accumulate enough reward points to qualify for the Los Angeles trip, a person would have to drink 151 cans of Coke each day until the promotion ends in January. “You will die before you can consume all those products,” stated Havey’s lawyer at a news conference.

Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? It’s not something I’d care to try to do. I doubt that anyone could drink that much of any liquid in a day, be it pop, milk, water or anything else. Then to keep on drinking a similar amount every day for six months? Not too likely.

But then, do the math of what it would cost to try this even if you desired to do so. Figuring a vending machine price of 75 cents per can, you would spend about $20,000 on pop by next January. Of course, Havey and her lawyer conveniently fail to point out that not many children have the cash to afford that much Coke. Nor would many parents have the means or inclination to provide it. It would be a lot cheaper just to pay for the vacation outright.

Besides, to qualify for prizes, you have to enter a code found on the can on an Internet site to receive credit for the purchase. Anyone surviving their daily dose of 151 cans of fluid would then have to go online and enter 151 code numbers to get credit for their consumption. I would think anyone who just survived drinking nearly 15 gallons of Coke might be doing something other than getting on the computer.

A Coke spokesman stated that customers can play online games and win up to 50,000 points without even buying a company product. Frequent visitors to the website are more likely to win point prizes and qualify for the bigger rewards. Most of the prizes offered require 100 points or less, making them the most likely to be acquired by someone actually drinking a more normal quantity of pop.

Habitual readers of this space know of my disdain for Coke products in general, so it feels a bit strange to be sticking up for them, especially when I’ll never accumulate the 16,000 points necessary to get the sheet metal from Bobby Labonte’s NASCAR Dodge offered as part of the promotion. But, in fairness, a dumb lawsuit is a dumb lawsuit, no matter who’s being sued.

Havey denies Coke’s suggestion that her lawsuit is only an attempt to sell her weight-loss books. On her website, Havey, whom I’d never heard of prior to the suit and is not a doctor, by the way, claims if she wanted to sell more books, she wouldn’t attempt to hinder the consumption of products likely to cause weight gain. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t she?

Then she adds, “Don’t feel the need to buy my books, tapes, videos or advice to make positive changes in your life, it isn’t mandatory that you do.” At this point, I can almost imagine her thinking, “If only there was some way I could make it mandatory!”

And don’t think that I’m being too hard on her. Of the several demands that Havey makes of Coke in return for dropping her lawsuit, one is that a director of Coca-Cola have one of his children drink 151 cans of the product on television.

In announcing the suit, Havey said, “We’re parents, and this isn’t right for our children.” But it’s acceptable for a Coke director to let his child do it for Havey’s pleasure on television?

She’s right, of course, that drinking that much pop isn’t good for you, but if she’s any kind of a parent, her child or children should be taught that at home, rather than asking the courts to do her job for her. You’d think a weight-loss instructor would know that much. If not, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to be relying on any of her books or videos for counsel, even if they came free with a purchase of Coke. At no cost, I still suspect her advice would be overpriced.

  - July 19, 2006

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