When Ebony Cain was notified that she won a Dasani bike from the Mills bookstore, she thought it was final — the bike was hers.
But the next day, she got a call from the bookstore saying she shouldn’t have been given the bike before completing some paperwork.
Cain, a senior, was given a contract that asked her to agree to things she knew she couldn’t.
The contract protected Coca-Cola, Follett’s Higher Education Group, and other retailers from any claims of defamation of character, invasion of privacy, or additional compensation to the prizewinner.
“Accepting the bike became an ethical dilemma because according to the contract, I would be giving permission to the Coca-Cola Company to use my image to advertise their products,” said Cain. “For me, this was unacceptable because I can’t endorse the products or practices of the Coke Corporation, especially in regards to communities of color.”
Cain said that when she read all the fine print on her sweepstakes entry forms, the only rule was that she not be related to anyone in the Coca-Cola Company or the Mills bookstore.
She also read that although there was no maximum entry, she was only allowed to enter once a day, so she went in to fill out an entry form as often as she could.
“She came in every single day, it was very cute. She said ‘I have to win the bike,’” said Riana Shaw, a senior who works in the bookstore. Shaw said she was not surprised that Cain won, because “other people hadn’t been as interested — it would’ve been bad if she hadn’t won.”
Her housemate, Britt Card, a sophomore, said Cain was committed to winning the sweepstakes. “We watched Oprah’s show on self-made millionaires and she figured that winning the bike was her first step.”
“I’ve spent so much money in the bookstore that actually having an opportunity to win something was a chance I couldn’t pass up,” Cain said.
The Coca-Cola Company recently sponsored the “You Could Win A Dasani Bike” sweepstakes at colleges across the country.
“The spirit of the contest was to win the bike,” said Michael Sellers, the store manager, who said that the situation was becoming too complicated and unfair to Cain.
Fortunately for Cain and not for Coke, Sellers has said that he doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork.
“There were these incredible hoops she was going to have to jump through,” he said, “I decided I was going to take the heat, that I would deal with Coke.”
It is still unclear what the consequences will be for not fulfilling the contract, and until she knows for sure, Cain is trying to refrain from using the bike.
Cain said, “This experience has made me realize that when a big corporation like Coca-Cola is concerned, as Margo Okazawa-Rey said, you don’t get something for nothing.”