Coca Cola Strips ‘Winner’ Of His Prize Over Vote Farming Scandal

The Internet needs to find a new way to cheat.A Georgia lawyer refuses to take defeat sitting down after the Coca Cola Company stripped him of his grand prize for defrauding an iced tea sweepstakes. According to him though, he’s done nothing wrong — he was just using the Internet to his advantage.

The lawyer, a Decatur, Ga. man named Theodore Scott, recently had his winning title stripped from him when representatives from Coca Cola determined Scott had used vote farming to help him win $100,000 and a year off of work.

Gold Peak Tea, the sponsor of the contest and a subsidy of Coca Cola, put on a contest in August called “Take the Year Off” where people who were fed up with their life could submit an essay documenting their hardships. Once Scott had made it through to the next round on the strength of an essay relaying his struggles with family and paperwork, he was instructed to upload a video that people on Facebook could vote to like as a sort of tally system.

Scott, to help his cause, went to an About.com sweepstakes forum where people help each other win contests by exchanging votes. The process is called vote farming, and while many corporations haven’t caught on to it yet, Coca Cola seems to know the practice all too well.

While the company refused to comment on the story or reveal how they’d learned of Scott’s “technique” they were quick to point out a subsection of the contest rules that specifically forbid the practice. Though Scott and his story have largely been scrubbed from the Gold Peak Tea Facebook page, comments continue to pour in supporting the man who “didn’t know he couldn’t do that.” The real question is, who’s right?

Scott is a lawyer — the very profession for which enormous contest rulebooks were created. Had the man been a simple “aw shucks” sort of oat farmer, unfamiliar with the “lawyer speak” that can bog down the majority of the public, there might be a case to be made for “hiding the technicalities amongst the legalese.” But it’s actually his job to comprehend the finer nuances of laws. Ignorance is not a sufficient defense, no matter how bad we want it to serve as one. For that matter, it’s kind of annoying to hear that a lawyer has entered such a contest anyways. It reminds me of that episode of “The Simpsons” where billionaire C. Montgomery Burns wins the Chevrolet Astro Van at a baseball game. Sure, lawyers don’t want to work any more than the rest of us, but they have a bit more leverage than say, your average fertilizer salesman or staff writer at an online tech magazine (surprisingly, these jobs are just about identical).

In claiming he didn’t commit vote farming, Scott seems to undermine his own argument, for I saw his submission on the About.com page soliciting votes in exchange for votes on other sweepstakes. Just because he’s only offering votes instead of Krugerrands doesn’t make the practice any less of what it is. Sorry, Charlie — not in this tuna.

This isn’t the first time that the Internet has injected its tentacles into such pies, either. We’ve seen a girl win and lose a modelling contract with American Apparel over her posting of pictures where she bathed in ranch dressing (amongst other things) as a sort of critique on the clothing company’s hiring of a “plus-sized model.” Then there was Reddit’s determination to sabotage a contest which would result in musician Taylor Swift being sent to perform for a school for the deaf. The website The Chive frequently rallies its troops to help get their readers to live their dreams, be it a man going to space or helping an “X Factor” contestant to a second place finish.

In this specific instance, Coca Cola specifically outlawed vote farming, thereby fairly negating Scott’s claims and practices. While there is a bigger debate as to whether vote farming as a technique falls within the boundaries of fair play, that is an article for another news day.

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