Fact Check

Contest Pranks Gone Wrong

We chronicle various cases of contest participants suing after receiving 'gag' prizes rather than the valuable merchandise they thought they'd won.

Published July 19, 2005

 (World of Snacks)
Image courtesy of World of Snacks
A woman sued a radio station when the Hummer she won in their contest turned out to be a toy rather than a full-sized vehicle.

While the origins of April Fools' Day may be lost in the mists of time, the practice of subjecting the unsuspecting to tomfoolery on the first of April is widespread. Individuals, of course, feel free to let loose their inner practical joker on that day, but so do corporations and news outlets, as we detail in our article about memorable April Fools' Day pranks.

Radio stations in particular are known for their penchant for playing mean spirited April Fools' jokes on the public. At times this bent has served to land them in a spot of trouble, as appears to have been the case with a gag perpetrated by a radio station regarding its contest to win a Hummer.

In late March 2005, listeners of KBDS in Bakersfield, CA, were told that whoever came up with the correct mileage accumulated that week by the station's two Hummer H2s as they were driven around town would win new Hummers from the station on April 1. Shannon Castillo was one of two listeners who guessed 103.9 miles, the right answer. (KBDS is also known as Play 103.9, so winning the contest was less a matter of figuring out the number of miles traveled by the trucks as it was an exercise in working out the response the radio station wanted to hear.)

Castillo, who had hired a sitter to stay with her two children so that she could be at the station at 6 a.m. to pick up her prize, was chagrined to discover the "Hummers" she and another listener had won were not Hummer H2s, vehicles that cost approximately $60,000 each, but toy trucks. On 21 June 2005, she filed a lawsuit against the station for $60,000.

Castillo's case came hard on the heels of another instance of a radio station's being embroiled in a lawsuit over a contest wherein listeners had been led to believe the prize being offered was substantially different from the one awarded. On 25 May 2005, Norreasha Gill was the 10th person to call Hot 102 (WLTO-FM) after "DJ Slick" (real name Jason Hamman) announced the station would be giving "100 Grand" to the tenth caller. While Gill did get her prize, it was not what she expected: instead of $100,000 in cash, she received a 100 Grand brand candy bar from the Lexington, KY, station. Gill sued Cumulus Media, Inc. for $100,000.

Although the preceding suits might seem to lack legal sufficiency, a waitress at a Hooters restaurant in Panama City, Florida, was able to wring the value of the prize she had thought she'd won out of the company that had pulled what it described as an April Fools' joke. In 2001, 26-year-old Jodee Berry had bested the other servers at her restaurant in a competition to see who could sell the most beer in a month to that eatery's customers, with the winner to receive a new Toyota. When the day came for her to be presented with her prize, Berry was led blindfolded to the restaurant's parking lot to receive her award, but when the blindfold came off she was devastated to learn that the promised jackpot was not a Toyota automobile but rather a toy Yoda, a Star Wars doll:

Berry quit her job and sued Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., the corporate owner of the restaurant, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. In 2002 the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount of money, which one of the attorneys involved in the case said would enable her to go to the local car dealership and "pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants."

Whether the outcomes in the Hummer and "100 Grand" cases were similar is unknown, but one would have thought the "toy Yoda" suit would have served to give prank-minded radio stations pause.


Molloy, Tim.   "Woman Sues Over Radio Station's Toy Hummer April Fools' Prank."     Associated Press.   13 July 2005.

Associated Press.     "Woman Who Won Radio Contest Sues Over Offer of 100 Grand Candy Bar Instead of Cash."     24 June 2005.

Associated Press.   "Former Hooters Waitress Settles Toy Yoda Lawsuit."     9 May 2002.

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