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Coke Says Contest Winners Aren’t the Real Thing

December 7, 1990

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ A woman who thought she won $25,000 in a Coca-Cola USA contest said she was heartbroken to see her expected windfall vanish after being told her entry was invalid.

Cheryl Hoch, 43, of Traverse City, is one of four people in Michigan who thought they won $25,000 grand prizes in the Diet Coke Super Bowl contest.

They each claim to have collected all five game pieces from bottle caps and cardboard packages. But officials of the soft drink company say all of the players’ game pieces are not the real thing.

Hoch met Thursday with representatives from Coca-Cola and D.L. Blair Corp., the Nebraska company that judged the contest. The representatives tried to explain to her why she had not won.

″I’m not convinced,″ she said after the meeting.

Coca-Cola spokesman Bob Bertini said the dispute centers around game pieces marked ″XXII,″ of which only five were printed. He said the XXII pieces the would-be winners had were not authentic.

″There, by and large, is a situation where people don’t fully understand how the game operates or accidentally cut out the game piece in the wrong way,″ he said.

Traverse City attorney David Kipley, who also believed he had won, said the extra XXIIs may actually be XXIII with the last digit missing - either accidentally left off by the printing machine or cut off by the contestants.

Hoch, who is married with two sons, said she did not cheat by cutting off the last digit of the game piece.

″I would never even think of doing anything like that,″ she said.

Bertini said there are ″a miniscule number″ of similar rejected prize claims, but he refused to specify how many. He rejected Kipley’s speculation that some game pieces could have been misprinted.

″It is not a misprint problem,″ Bertini said. ″If it were a misprint, with 225 million game pieces out there, you would have widespread problems, and that is just not the case.″

He said it is coincidence that three of the cases are in Traverse City.

Terry Brechbill, vice president of D.L. Blair, which informed each player that their entries were invalid, did not return phone calls Thursday and Friday.

Hoch said contest representatives showed her a photocopy of her game ticket Thursday and tried to show her the beginning of the extra digit. She said she did not believe them.

″It’s heartbreaking,″ she said. ″It’s not nice. And it’s not right.″

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