Coca-Cola Pays Off Vendors to Keep Quite About Contamination
MUMBAI: MNC soft drinks maker Coca-Cola regularly pays off its vendors
to keep quiet when substances such as tobacco pouches, dirt and fungus
show up in its beverages, classified documents of the company's marketing
A confidential memo and correspondences between officials of Hindustan
Coca-Cola Marketing Company in ToI's possession suggests that such
substances are frequently found in its products and the practice of
giving complimentary products to vendors is routine.
The December 2005 memo lists 17 shops and restaurants across the city
that returned soft drinks such as Coke, Limca, Thums Up and Maaza
because they contained stuff like dirt, thermocol, tobacco pouches,
fungus and, on at least one occasion, a blade. The company compensated
them with several crates of products worth thousands of rupees.
Consider the evidence: a Mazgaon restaurateur returned a bottle of
Fanta with a pouch in it and two Maaza bottles with dirt.
In return, the company placated him with 40 cases of soft drinks worth
Rs 6,000. Another restaurant in Matunga got 10 crates of soft drinks
worth over Rs 2,000 for a bottle of Thums Up which had a pouch inside.
One crate priced at Rs 216 contains two dozen beverage bottles.
An Andheri restaurateur in the western suburbs who has had to face
angry customers about four times last year over contaminated bottles
said that Coca-Cola representatives were quite insensitive to the
"I do not want compensation from the company. If they cannot prevent
it, they should at least tell people not to drink straight from the
bottle. Instead their promotional campaigns show models gulping down
cola straight from the bottle," he said.
He added that e-mails to company officials go unreplied and representatives
blame it on transporters and adulterators.
Coca-Cola, whose bottling plant in Plachimada village in Kerala is
facing charges of polluting local water sources, admits that there
were some instances when it had to replace contaminated products.
However, it is not willing to admit error.
"On analysis of most cases, the products were found to be spurious.
In some cases, the bottles have also been found to be tampered with,"
a spokesperson of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages wrote to TOI.
Replacing a stray faulty bottle is one thing, but routinely giving
several crates of free products is quite another.
Also, the lure of free products would only encourage adulterators.
"If a retailer is close to the distributor and local manager, he can
get dozens of bottles of complimentary products," said a shopkeeper.
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