Who is the Bad Guy in Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?

Who is the bad guy in Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? This isn’t a clearcut true crime documentary with a single victim and a murderer like I write about often. This documentary more about a corporation trying to screw over the little guy.

It’s mid-1995 and Pepsi has a contest to collect points. You can win sunglasses, leatherjackets, and other stupid items nobody would really much care for these days. No tablet? No noise-cancelling headphones? Not even a tumbler for iced coffee?

The commercial for the contest promotes a Harrier Jet for only 7,000,000 Pepsi points. A young man from Seattle not named Kurt Cobain (he’s already dead) realizes it would be more affordable to buy enough Pepsi to collect the points than to outright pay for a Harrier Jet, priced around $32-34 million. He sets out on a quest to outsmart Pepsi.

This documentary explores how John Leonard achieved his goal and the way Pepsi reacted to it. I won’t go into all of the details. You can watch it first then come back and help me answer an important question. Who is the bad guy in this story?

Why John Leonard and Company are the bad guys in Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?

John and his friends are definitely opportunistic. That words has a strange connotation in society. Seizing opportunities can be a positive or a negative. In this case, when the victim is big business, it’s easy to side with them.

John is likeable and everyone in the documentary, for the most part, admits it. Regardless of whose side they were on in the 1990s, nobody has much bad to say about John.

The same cannot be said of some of his partners. The investor who helped him get the idea off the ground, Todd Hoffman, and the lawyer who got entangled in to too, Michael Avanetti who you may have heard of, don’t like each other. Each pulls John in a different direction. Both risk putting him in a difficult spot. Todd does look out for John’s best interest. This one quality and a choice John has to make in the end will define whether or not they could be the bad guy.

Why the Big Business is the bad guy in Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?

It’s easy to pick on big business. In their defense, who really thought a Harrier Jet is a legitimate prize? The court ruling makes a lot of sense. However, Pepsi was idiotic every step of the way. Only a few years earlier, a failed promotion in the Philippines led to riots and several deaths. Did they learn nothing?

The Pepsi representatives in this story have egos bigger than a two-liter bottle. None of them admit to any fault and it certainly comes across defensive. They screwed the pooch many times over beginning with the mistake of lowering the point total from the original $700 million because someone found it hard to read the two extra zeroes.

I know this documentary is about the little guy and we see it from John’s perspective more than anyone else. Big businesses are an easier target than John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Siding with them almost feels like rooting for the New York Yankees.

Final verdict

The bad guy in this story is the eye doctor of whoever told the creative team to make changes to the original commercial. They wanted Patrick Renna, Ham from The Sandlot, to be the actor in the commercial. At the very least, they wanted a frumpy fat kid.

As a frumpy fat kid from the 1990s, we needed more representation. Nobody in Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? admits to the mistakes made along the way. Instead, they point the finger at John for believing a commercial with several legitimate offers and one fake one with no disclaimer.

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