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Pepsi Promotional Flap Leaves Thousands With Bad Taste

May 29, 1992 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A mix-up over winning numbers in a Pepsi-Cola promotional has left thousands of customers with a bad taste and the company’s Philippine subsidiary with the prospect of years of litigation.

The flap began this week when Pepsi here announced the winning number ″349″ in its ″Number Fever″ promotion. Thousands of customers holding bottle caps with the number thought they would share in $38,000 in prize money.

But their hopes fizzled when they were told that the caps must contain a second, undisclosed ″security code″ number, not clearly visible.

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Pepsi said more than 500,000 caps had been printed with the number ″349″ but only those with a seven-digit security code would be considered winners. It did not say how many had the proper combination.

Paying off all ″349″ holders could cost the company around $10 million.

But the company soon found itself with a legal and public relations problem. Thousands of angry customers besieged Pepsi offices throughout the country demanding their prize money.

Company President Rod Salazar offered to give 500 pesos, or $19, to anyone holding a ″349″ bottlecap. In a television spot, he encouraged customers to keep buying Pepsi during the rest of the promotion.

″Who knows, you may become a millionaire,″ he said.

Nevertheless, about 4,000 ″winners″ have asked the Philippine National Police to file criminal fraud charges against Pepsi, and the Department of Trade and Industry is also looking into possible legal action.

″We are listing down the names of ’349′ holders,″ said Imelda Madarang of the Trade Department. ″This case may take years to resolve.″

In the meantime, the controversy has created a ″futures market″ for the ″349″ bottle caps. Speculators have been offering to buy the caps for $15 in the hope that a court may order the company to pay the full amount.