Pepsi Bottle Cap Flap in Philippines
* Your front-page story on July 26 (“Bottle Cap Flap Riles the Masses”) omits several crucial facts about Pepsi’s handling of its “Number Fever” promotion in the Philippines. As a result, while the writer’s epic tale of an admittedly unfortunate event makes for great reading, it is a seriously unbalanced piece of reportage.
Here are the most blatant omissions:
1. Allegation: Pepsi had announced the “wrong number” and now “refuses to pay” billions of dollars.
Fact: The number announced, 349, was actually a winning number. The confusion occurred because a computer glitch seeded the marketplace with hundreds of thousands of caps bearing the 349 number, but lacking the authenticated security code required by the promotion rules. About 20 consumers with crowns bearing 349 and an authenticated security code were awarded prize amounts as indicated on the cap. The reporter infers that Pepsi did not pay the rest because the amount was enormous. The fact is, these crown holders weren’t winners, according to the rules.
2. Allegation: “Suing Pepsi has become the choice of a new generation . . . more than 5,200 criminal complaints for fraud and deception” have been filed.
Fact: The reporter fails to mention that the Philippines Department of Justice ruled on Jan. 12, 1993, that there is no basis for criminal charges against Pepsi. More than 7,000 criminal cases, including all 1,400 in Manila, have been dismissed.
3. Allegation: The article says it was to our bottler’s “horror” that nearly 500,000 people accepted Pepsi’s goodwill offer of about $20 for each incorrect cap.
Fact: Our bottler was fully prepared to pay the total sum it offered to Filipino consumers. The overwhelming majority of consumers--above 80%--accepted our offer as fair and just.
4. Allegation: “The anti-Pepsi crowds won support from Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, head of the Senate’s trade and commerce committee” who said “Pepsi was grossly negligent.”
Fact: The reporter chose not to mention that the senator based her inflammatory remarks on an alleged Senate committee report that had not been seen or approved by her fellow committee members. In fact, such a report is in direct violation of a Philippines Supreme Court ruling that forbids Senate committees from investigating cases already under consideration in civil court.
5. Allegation: The article cites one of the protest leaders, Vic del Fierro, as saying, “I would be remiss in my Christian obligation if I didn’t help these people.”
Fact: While the article does go on to report that Del Fierro “is well paid for his crusade” through sizable membership fees and “. . .10% of any money they may get from Pepsi,” the reporter never raises the possibility that there may be a link between the protest groups and the well-orchestrated campaign of violence that has been employed to keep the issue alive.
Thankfully, we can take solace in the fact that, in the Philippines, the vast majority of consumers support the honesty and integrity of our efforts and have rewarded us with a resurgence in sales.
KENNETH M. ROSS
Vice President, Public Relations
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