Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: Contest(ed) winners

What "unwinnable" contest prize did someone actually manage to win in a Pepsi Stuff giveaway, thereby leading to a landmark lawsuit?

If one definition of insanity is to try the same action over and over yet hope for different results, then Pepsi marketers might be able to defend a claim that their cola is the most insane soft drink on the planet. Why? Because Pepsi is still running promotional contests to encourage people to drink their sodas despite a record of getting such promotions spectacularly wrong.

So far as the general public knows, none of Pepsi's recent giveaways have led to the loss of tens of millions of dollars, or the settlement of precedent-setting lawsuits, but with such a colorful promotional history it's a least a little bit shocking that Pepsi is still in the contest and giveaway business. Let's start with one of their least costly promotional face-plants.

In 1983, Pepsi encouraged folks to drink their products with The Name Game promotion, which promised to reimburse anyone who could spell out his or her last name using letters printed on the inside of Pepsi bottlecaps or can flip-tops. Contest organizers hoped to control the number of winners by making vowels scarce, forgetting that there are plenty of Anglicized names that have no vowels in them at all. Richard Vlk, for example, completed almost 1,400 sets and pocketed over $20,000. Not bad for a soda-abstaining diabetic who simply collected the necessary letters using newspaper classified ads.

In 1996, Pepsi topped the Name Game foul-up with the rare accomplishment of making supermodel Cindy Crawford somehow bad for business. Crawford was a spokesmodel for the Pepsi Stuff giveaway, which let consumers redeem "points" from Pepsi products in exchange for Pepsi-branded sweatshirts, tote bags, and the like. Again, Pepsi underestimated how many people wanted to wear the same t-shirt as Cindy Crawford, and spent $60 million more than anticipated on redemptions. Pepsi was forced to cancel the giveaway months ahead of schedule.

Still, neither of those giveaway gaffes holds a candle to the real landmine hidden in the Pepsi Stuff campaign -- an "unwinnable" prize that someone actually won, and which Pepsi was forbade by law from actually redeeming. The fallout from this unexpected "success" by a contestant was a landmark lawsuit and some eternal infamy for Pepsi.

WHAT "UNWINNABLE" CONTEST PRIZE DID SOMEONE ACTUALLY WIN IN THE PEPSI STUFF CONTEST?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

83 comments
Geekenstein
Geekenstein

So long and thanks for all the fish.

DadsPad
DadsPad

had not heard most of them. It seems that when I had found one of the best blogs for us geeks, CNET messes it up. :( Seriously, will miss your wit and information on TR. I am sure your future will be even better than at CNET. Just remember what you liked the most about your past job (CNET) and what other qualities you like to do, then you just might find what you like even better. It happens. Good luck in all you do and look forward to any books or stories you write.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

Well looking at the date that is. On further investigation it is not unfortunately an April Fool.

Azathoth
Azathoth

Hey Jay, Geek Trivia is (was) one of my favorite sites on the web. Best of luck in your next endeavor.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Nice start. Have you considered adding an RSS feed? With a feed on the Navigation Toolbar its easier to stay current on your writing without having to scroll through dozens of folders and hundreds of bookmarks. Just a thought.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

for $30 shipping and the required Pepsi points (provided by Hals forging unit). Please ship to The Scummy One P.O. box 12345 somewhere on Earth

Tig2
Tig2

Jay, you know that I am sorry to see you go. I am so glad that you were able to leave us all "one for the road". I knew that Pepsi, along with a great many products, has had issues with marketing to a non US audience but never followed any of the contests or give- aways. You're right. They shouldn't do this any more. They are REALLY bad at it!

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

For those that haven't heard, this is my final Geek Trivia column, as I have be downsized by CNet. In what can only be termed a compliment, TechRepublic editorial has decided that the Geek Trivia column won't go on without me. It's been a glorious run, and the 6 years I spent writing this little mecca of minutia has been a pleasure and privilege. I'll miss you all. And stick with TR, they've still got lots of great people left. Jay Garmon, former Trivia Geek http://writtenweird.blogspot.com

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

I was blasted by some higher ups for having subscribed to the Trivia Geek, and waisting resources blah blah blah. Then I let them read a few postings and they all quickly became fans. I used to write golf articles for a weekly rag and I know what it's like to come up with something at least new, let alone entertaining. Live long and prosper Trivia Geek.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

Jay no longer has to pay attention to 'just a thought' comments.

raticus
raticus

Oh no, the highlight of my week gone. Lets face it I barely come to tech repub anymore unless thru the geek trivia, then I branch off from that into other stuff. My kids tell me I'll just have to get a life, what a drag. LOL Cya Good luck hope you come back real soon.

deepsand
deepsand

To quote from my post at [i]So long, good bye, and thanks for all the fish[/i], "Your column was the one that I most looked forward. It served to constantly remind me of joy of maintaining a burning curiousity about all things great and small. In so doing, it reminded me of all those things that I meant to learn more about, but still hadn't found the time for, with the result that it spurred me to go out of my way, to make the time for, attending to some long neglected reading. Not that I'll ever accomplish all the reading and learning that I'd wish to, but, thanks to your columns, and their constant and gentle reminding nudges, I'll leave less undone when I'm finished with this realm. You will be sorely missed." Were you to continue the Geek Trivia column in some form at your blog would be most welcome news. (Insert emoticon for begging with tongue hanging out here.) May the Future Be Kind.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I've looked forward to the Geek Trivia every week for quite a while now. What a shame it won't be in my inbox again. Good luck with your next adventure! And remember, what doesn't kill us still probably sucks big time!

langshipley
langshipley

Love Geek Trivia. Always a great giggle. All the best for the future.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

You will be missed. Not by me...but I'm sure someone will miss you...somewhere.

techtalk
techtalk

Jay - since I see you've got some time on your hands now ... ;) I am so disappointed to hear about geek trivia! It occurs to me belatedly that I would love to have you on my show - at least a one-time interview or if it works out for you to be a regular thing would be fantastic! I host and produce the weekly TechTalk show on WRLR 98.3FM in the northern chicagoland region. Our broadcast range covers over 250,000 households, plus the show is rebroadcast, webcast and also videocast - as well as your ubiquitous podcasting on iTunes. We were recently selected by Information Week as a top (lesser known) media outlet/website to watch in 2008. Let me know if I can provide more info, and definitely we just have to set something up - we would just love to have you on, and give your loyal readers somewhere to keep up on the coolest geek trivia! I got to believe others reading this are interested in hearing Jay over the airwaves or via podcast doing his geek shtick! Comment and show your support! - Michael "TechTalk" Kastler http://techtalk.wrlr.fm jay, email me at techtalk@wrlr.fm if we can do this!

rebeccaaward
rebeccaaward

I just can't believe it. Where will I go to get an injection of geekiness when I feel like I am running low? I suppose it will be your personal blog. Perhaps you can turn it into a new GeekEnd? Find sponsors? I know how to setup a WordPress server.... :) I did browse over there and hopefully, the link I left there will lead to a new day job. ;) TR won't be the same without you, but you are right, there are still some parts of TR that I can't do without. I just wish they could have found a way to do what they needed to do without ditching GeekEnd and those of us that needed a daily dose of GeekEnd with our coffee. Becca - aka Java_Woman

Christina
Christina

Jay, you've been, by far, the most interesting resource around. Sure, the technical articles are (mostly) good (although I often couldn't find what I was looking for when I needed it), but I actually looked forward to getting my dose of Geek Trivia. You have a wit (and a good thesaurus) that I found delightful. I'll watch you on TWW and look for your book on the best-seller's list. Best of everything in the future.

bigWillie
bigWillie

I too will miss my weekly dose of Trivia as will all the other Geeks posting. It made my Wednesday's *special*. I can't imagine the column continuing without you, but I will give it a chance. It is the one thing I read at TR without fail. Hope to see you in another .com location challenging one and all with classic geek trivia. :'(

dpickren
dpickren

Most of my forays into the TR realm began with Geek Trivia. You were the lead in that got me to their stuff. This is a loss for them and all of us who looked forward to this Mid-week boost. I'm still hoping this is a April Fool's Joke.

TaDaH
TaDaH

Jay, Seriously, tears came to my eyes. Sure will miss Geek Trivia. I'll have to check TWW from home. Proxy blocks it here at work. Best of luck to you! Toby

bhaven23
bhaven23

You'll be missed. Now, my output should increase. Oh, wait; I'm losing my job, too!! Not because of goofing off reading Geek Trivia, but due to cutbacks so the feds can spend money on other things besides education. Sorry, Mr. Garmon, not to take your glory; I feel your agony. Why, when we enjoy doing something so much, it gets taken away. Does April 1st have anything to do with it? Best wishes either way. Shucks, now I have to get to work..........

kpbarry
kpbarry

I always looked forward to my Wednesday morning Geek Trivia break and I'm sorry to see it go. I'll check out TWW and I would enjoy reading more geek trivia like posts if you decide to post such content there. Also, if someone would post a letter of recommendation from your fans attesting to your skill as a writer of entertaining geek commentary, I would sign it. Good luck with your future endeavors!

roykirk
roykirk

Jay, I'm one of those who hadn't heard about your downsizing. I'm really sorry to hear it and will definitely miss you as Geek Trivia and Geekend are my two favorite TR newsletters. I hope you land on your feet and we'll see something like Geek Trivia from you in some fashion in future. Best of luck. You'll definitely be missed.

gbarn
gbarn

I am saddened by this news. Finding your wise and entertaining words in my inbox always makes my day. I've greatly enjoyed Geek Trivia for the last 2 years. Will miss you!

ROMbler
ROMbler

I always enjoyed your articles. Gonna miss my weekly Geek Trivia fix. Best wishes!

Justin James
Justin James

Jay - Sorry to hear about this, I have really enjoyed readingf and responding to your posts! A lot of people I like in the CNet family seem to have been caught up in this, I really don't understand how the decisions were made, but it is always sad to see people go. :( You will be missed! And the answer is "fighter planes". ;) J.Ja

PROG19
PROG19

This is the one email I look forward to each week. I hope TR realizes their mistake.

Marty-7
Marty-7

This is wrong on so many levels! Your articles have been great and something that's kept me tuned in to the steadily declining Tech Republic these last few years. Always looked forward to Wednesdays when I'd get the Geek Trivia email to release me from the mundane techno-babble! *sigh* Good luck to you in all your future endeavors, Jay. And thanx - very much - for the many, many smiles! :-)

tyler.poland
tyler.poland

Jay, Geek Trivia has been a weekly staple for me for almost 2 years; by far it was the most valuable thing I found on TechRepublic. The other technical writings are often very basic, and don't really do much to expand my current level of knowledge. One thing about reading Geek Trivia was I almost always learned at least one new thing. Your columns will be missed. I've bookmarked your blog and encourage you to continue writing. I believe CNet has lost more than you have even if they don't realize it yet. Good luck. Tyler

Devans00
Devans00

As someone who recently ended my contract position last Friday, I can sincerely say I feel your pain, man. I've enjoyed your columns and blogs over the years and I wish you good luck. Hurrah

scav8tor
scav8tor

Thanks for all the great GT columns. You will be missed.

linab
linab

I'm going to get the shakes any minute now.

RealGem
RealGem

I would certainly miss Jay too. For those of us that really enjoyed GT (and I really looked forwards to Wednesdays for the additional intellectual challenge at work), let's encourage TR to bring back the geek.

kwitzell
kwitzell

Did anyone notice the date Jay posted his swan song message? 04/01/08? Am I the only one thinking we may have been caught with maybe a litte April foolishness? I could be wrong but how about it Jay? If you are serious I, lilke the rest of the group will miss my Wednesday morning fix. Best of luck!

randomcorey
randomcorey

With a single post, you got me twice. I haven't missed a (new) issue of Geek Trivia in years. Very sorry to see it end. TR will just be another dry tech resource from here on. Excellent example of corporate thinking just like Pepsi...and as a Pepsi employee, I should know. Thanks and all the best to you!

devGuy
devGuy

Random thoughts After the shock wears off, you will come to realize: Every time your life path changes, you will discover new things "off the path", that you never would have had you not changed direction. It's pretty cool. Short-term pain often leads to long-term gain. FWIW, Geek Trivia is the only "TechMail" that I *always* would read. It will be missed. The folks back at corporate often make "remote" decisions. Take care.

michael.brodock
michael.brodock

I guess we are in a recession. Sorry to see you go Jay, as you were the best part of TR as far as I am concerned. I will be stopping by your 'new' home, thanks for the link, and good luck in the future as I am sure you will be a success wherever you go. Peace

RipVan
RipVan

...it's a joke, right?

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

It's a damn shame when people forget that dollars are made from sense and Geek Trivia made a lot of sense :) and was a bright spot on many a tedious day. You and your Geek Trivia will be sorely missed. Has anyone else offered to pick it up? Anyway, just want to wish you good luck and best wishes in whatever life brings your way.

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

Your column is my absolute favorite in TR! Ahh well, take care of yourself and good luck in your future endeavors. Thanks for the column and the wonderful posts all these years.

Dr. Tarr
Dr. Tarr

Cross posted from :The Written Weird" (http://writtenweird.blogspot.com) Hello Jay, and welcome back, even if it is under less than joyous circumstances. I now get to take this site off of the weekly "golly I wish he would post something new" list and move it back to the daily "Must Read" list. For what it?s worth, while I won't be deliberately slighting them, I won't be nearly as frequent a visitor there in the future, purely because the reason I went to TR was to read your column, and I used your page as a portal into the rest of the content. As they have removed my primary motivation for actually going to the site, they will miss my traffic on the rest of the site as well. I hate to see you leave TR, it has been a heck of a ride, but I'm glad to see posting here. p.s. some of us would have gotten the reference to the Scottish play even without the hint

RodneyMac
RodneyMac

The only reason I visit Tr regularly is a dose of geek trivia... This then pops me onto their otehr content. Where do we buy the Bring Back Jay t-shirts? Sorry to see you go, will BM TWW

BobH2
BobH2

as the dad on the "Everybody Loves Raymond" TV show. This is truly a sad, sad day. There's an idea for you, write a comedy movie called "It's a Sad, Sad, Sad World" but 'sci-fi-ize' the old comedy of an similiar name. LOL Truly sorry to see you go but, very unfortunately, that's how business is these days. The only thing that matters is the bottom line. Satisfying customers, or just providing a 'breath of fresh air' is beyond their comprehension. Thanks for the TWW link and consider putting FrontPage to good work by building a Geek Trivia site of your own. Please keep us posted. Good luck and may the force be with you. (Ooooppps. wrong show. LOL - Live longer and prosper!

simsr
simsr

That really sucks... the one and only blog I regularly read! Good luck in the future and thanks for the good reads!

lech
lech

I always looked forward to reading the trivia and trying to figure out the answer before "turning the page".

DPitz
DPitz

It seems like everything good in the world is a target for corporate downsizing. I, like all other readers, am SO sorry to hear that CNet did the wrong thing. Best of luck to you. Sure, we will miss the column, but more so we will miss you.

JazzInLife
JazzInLife

Jay.. This has been a very nice journey... I used to look forward to your Geek Trivia soo much.. All the Best for watever you do.... ~J

four-eyes_z
four-eyes_z

How will I be able to go through life in the office with out Geek Trivia? THE PAIN! THE PAIN!!! Jay, you will be sorely missed... May TR realize their mistake and beg you to come back! Good luck and may the Force be with you!

michael
michael

Jay, I'm really sorry to hear that Cnet canned you, I always enjoyed your columns. Who do we deluge with profane emails in order to get them to re-hire you? I saw in the other comments something about t-shirts - did I miss a free t-shirt give-away? In any event - thanks alot for your columns. Live long and prosper. -Michael

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Jay: Contact me at my gmail address at bfilmfan@yahoo.com or the professional address that I left with Sonja. Jerr

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

Jay, I mean if this is at all my fault for not writing columns, I'm sorry... I've been so busy at work and trying to work on that PhD that I haven't had time to breath, but that's just harsh man! I'll miss you a lot on this... but don't give up the Trivia Geek. At least put it out as a website or something. And yes, this will probably cause me to go to TRR only about half as often as I used to. I mean, I checked TRR just for Geekend every day, even if it's just a quick look and leave....

santeewelding
santeewelding

Don't lose the "poor devil" thing, but don't linger or launch your mind from there, either.

Leon Tribe
Leon Tribe

Hi Jay, Really sorry to hear that. The Geek trivia was a beacon of light in my ever expanding rss feed list. Every day I would look to see if a small '(1)' would be there to brighten my day and stretch my brain. All the best in your future spermological endeavours and thanks for the t-shirt ;)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Read it with pleasure and looking forward to peeping and maybe even being an occasional pita. Dibs on an autographed book. ;) edit: Great way to say 'So long!' Read TWW before reading the Pepsi bit. Durned if I don't remember the Harrier ad and 'giveaway'!

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

No one needs to pay any attention to a monosomic zarf like me anyway.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

I just pinged you from my personal account.

raul62
raul62

But the profile still says "Unemployed"...

brians
brians

Without the Trivia Geek there is no point in having Wednesday on the calendar. I guess I'll be forced to scratch them all off of mine. Sorry to hear that Jay, best of luck.

Zeppo9191
Zeppo9191

Your column was about the only thing that drove me to check TRR in the last few months. I've thoroughly enjoyed your writing style these last couple of years. (Yeah, I was kinda slow to notice this great series.) Good luck, Jay - you'll be sorely missed.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

your persistance on corrections without insults. In my opinion you were just as much a part of the Geek Trivia as Jay was.

RipVan
RipVan

...and I guess I will add an email to Jason as well, for what little good it will do. I skim through other content, and find some articles I can really get into. But I ALWAYS liked and looked forward to Geek Trivia.

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

Considering my all ready shakey emotional state, I am hoping that I'm reading this right. You will be returning to the universe? I'm going to have to order sprinkles on the bun and Carmel Machiados for everyone.

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

Is the Trivia Geek gone? Has he moved somewhere where he is appreciated for his contributions to this site. Jason you say that it wasn't you who got rid of Jay, but did you fight to keep him? Not trying to point fingers or fix blame, but tomorrow is Wednesday and I want my Star Bucks, cinamon roll, and of course Geek Trivia, on my desk before 10:00 am.

jim_d
jim_d

Jason- thank you for your reply. Could you please supply us with a contact name and address to forward our email requests for the return of Jay and Geek Trivia?

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

It was not my call to get rid of Jay. He did not work in the TechRepublic Editorial Department. In fact, TR Editorial is just as sad as all of you at the prospect of losing Geek Trivia and Jay's outstanding contributions to Geekend. Stay tuned. Hopefully, the story isn't over yet. ;-)

michael
michael

Yes, from there I clicked on "Contact" and sent him the letter below. I urge all readers to send him a similar letter. We can make a difference! -Michael ***Letter starts*** Jason, I wish to express my surprise and extreme displeasure at the decision by Cnet and Tech Republic to discontinue Jay Garmon's Trivia Geek column. Like many other technologically-oriented people, I was often intrigued by the stories and minutiae that he presented. It was a welcome break from the tech-heavy columns that I often must read, and I believe that it struck a chord with many people who work in the computer field. Since I assume that there was a business rationale behind your decision, let me bring to your attention the fact that in many ways, the Trivia Geek column was my porthole into Tech Republic. After reading his column I often explored other areas of TR, and today I subscribe to several columns. I truly believe that with the loss of the Trivia Geek, Tech Republic has lost a vital element that was a perfect fit with the audience that TR serves. I urge you to reconsider your decision to discontinue the Trivia Geek column by Jay Garmon. Respectfully, ***Letter ends***

for_merlin
for_merlin

And Jason's e-mail ADDRESSES are??? He has never seen comments like a bunch of unhappy TR Geeks.

techtalk
techtalk

The podcasts are usually ready Monday morning ... you can also sign up for them on iTunes (search on techtalk or WRLR or Kastler) or send me an email at techtalk@wrlr.fm and I'll add you to the newsletter. We're overjoyed to have Jay joining us! Keep your ear to the ground at http://techtalk.wrlr.fm and on Jay's blog http://www.writtenweird.blogspot.com for more updates on this becoming a regular feature. -Michael "TechTalk" Kastler Host/Producer TechTalk on WRLR 98.3FM

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

You ARE going to let us know if/when the podcasts are avail from the radio station, right??

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

He was a bigger part of Geek Trivia than he'll ever know.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But you probably left half the peers scratching their heads with that reference. :D Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson not only clarifies the first reference, but also gets the point across, although the relationship was different. Ed McMahon was much more the straight man than Hugh Downs was.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I personally believe that you are undervaluing your posts to it. The Geek Trivia was about more than just Jay, and you were a very frequent poster to it, with good solid 'geeky' information to add/contribute/quibble. That is why I said that you were just as much a part as Jay was.

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

Thank you for the kind words, but Jay was, is, and always will be the Trivia Geek. I was, at best, the straightman to his talent, the Hugh Downs to his Jack Paar (if you get that reference, you're older than I; I had to look it up, but it seemed so apropos when talking about the Trivia Geek; perhaps if we can one day get Jay back in Trivia Geek, he'll run with that). But I do thank you for the kind words. Now, let's get Jay rehired!

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