Woman suing Toyota for ’stalker’ ad campaign

Reading, especially the “fine print,” has never been an American strong suit.

The "Your Other You" website was designed to appeal to "young men who love to play pranks on each other."

The "Your Other You" website was designed to appeal to "young men who love to play pranks on each other."

That trend continues in California, where a court is allowing a woman’s $10 million lawsuit to proceed against Toyota after she unwittingly agreed to take part in an elaborate online advertising hoax.

Wired Magazine reports Amanda Duick sued the carmaker in 2009 after she began receiving “frightening” e-mails from a stranger who appeared to know her personal details.

Duick was unknowingly signed up for Toyota’s bizarre advertising stunt by a friend, who selected one of five fictional characters to send her “stalker” emails.

She was sent a link to a “personality test” and agreed to the website’s terms and conditions, which stated she would receive emails for up to five days.

Shortly therafter, “Sebastian Bowler,” who claimed to be 25-year-old Englishman and soccer fanatic with a drinking problem, began emailing Duick.

According to court documents, the first email read: “Amber mate!  Coming 2 Los Angeles. Gonna lay low at your place for a bit. Till it all blows over. Bringing Trigger.”

A link to a fake MySpace page showed “Sebastian” and Trigger, a large pit bull.

The following day she got an email including her previous home address, describing it as a “Nice place to hide out,” and advising her that “Trigger don’t throw up much anymore, but put some newspaper down in case.”

The messages grew more alarming.

“Had a brush with the law last night.  Anyway, hopefully I’ll have lost them by the time I get to your place.”

One message said Sebastian ” … ran into a little problem at the hotel,” and Duick subsequently received an email from an individual identifying himself as “Jimmy Citro,” purporting to be the manager of a motel and billing Duick for the damage Bowler had done to the motel’s property.

The final email included a link to a video revealing the elaborate prank was just an advertising campaign for the Toyota Matrix.

I’m guessing Duick won’t be buying a Toyota anytime soon.

* Read the Wired article.

64 comments Add your comment

Dean

September 13th, 2011
12:04 pm

Well done, Toyota – What better way to recover from the whole ‘runaway cars’ scare than with a creepy-stalker email campaign? Oh the geniuses in your public relations department…

DW

September 13th, 2011
12:16 pm

What an awful idea that was. $10 million though??? Get real lady.

Seth C

September 13th, 2011
1:35 pm

Um, wow. Hasnt she heard of spam? This is the reason taht America’s court systems are so full. This is NO case!

SAWB

September 13th, 2011
4:03 pm

I hope she wins and that the judge gives her $1.00 for damages.

pay up

September 13th, 2011
4:05 pm

just pay her a couple of mil to make the case go away “quickly and quietly” as they say in DC!

Ah, duh!

September 13th, 2011
4:18 pm

She “….agreed to the website’s terms and conditions…” — NO CASE!

Mr. Ed

September 13th, 2011
4:39 pm

“Are you stalking me?”

“‘Cause that would be super.”

-Van Wilder

SAWB

September 13th, 2011
4:40 pm

No body ever stalks me…

itpdude

September 13th, 2011
4:54 pm

The more you ignore me, the closer I get. . . .

DLink

September 13th, 2011
5:06 pm

“I hope she wins and that the judge gives her $1.00 for damages.” and attorney’s fees for the 10 lawyers needed to properly beat down this corporate ad tactic.

bob

September 13th, 2011
5:07 pm

“agreed to the website’s terms and conditions”

Ha, good luck in court dummy.

ash

September 13th, 2011
5:21 pm

I hope they don’t award her any money! People need to read the Terms and Agreements. Idiots.

dave

September 13th, 2011
5:30 pm

Toyota should pay her, maybe not 10 mill but they should pay. They will settle out of court.

kay

September 13th, 2011
6:24 pm

if it’s toyota’s fault then it’s her friends fault too for signing her up…geez some people ….$10 million, give me a break…

minnie

September 13th, 2011
7:01 pm

She should have know it was a hoax. No one uses myspace any more.

kbb

September 13th, 2011
7:49 pm

So what exactly does she want to be compensated for? Let me guess, mental distress, Gosh this countries legal system is stupid. Through this frivolous case out

La'Tanya

September 13th, 2011
8:03 pm

“She was sent a link to a “personality test” and agreed to the website’s terms and conditions,…”

Amanda, here are the results of your personality test: you are a complete moron.

NoMercy

September 13th, 2011
8:44 pm

In a perfect world, she would have been eaten long before she reached the age of majority.

HENRY

September 13th, 2011
9:29 pm

SHE AGREED………TOUGH CRAP……….I WOULDN’T GIVE HER ANYTHING……….AND I STILL WOULDN’T BUY A TOYOTA…….THE DAMN JAPS BOMBED MY SHIP IN THE BIG ONE..YOU KNOW WWII……………

Christina

September 13th, 2011
9:40 pm

Yes, it is her fault for agreeing to the terms and conditions. What I want to know is, who is the freaking marketing genius at Toyota who agreed to fund this crapola, AND, are they now out of a job? This is worse than Old Navy’s ads, and they are about as bad as it gets.

King Gator

September 13th, 2011
9:53 pm

the lawsuit is just a continuation of the “marketing scheme” by Toyota and you’ll are just proof it’s working

SAWB

September 13th, 2011
11:49 pm

OK, who was that following me at Lenox?

fhalexander

September 14th, 2011
5:38 am

Dean – This happened in 2009, before the acceleration blowup in the media. Which if you might remember was actually more media hype than actual issue. There was little coverage of the updates on these stories that blamed virtually all reported incidents on driver error.

Next Time

September 14th, 2011
6:25 am

HENRY, WAS THAT YOU? DANG IT WE MISSED… WE’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME. SORRY ABOUT YOUR LOSS OF HEAR AND HAVING TO YELL TO BE HEARD…

Oh, and just to nod to the topic, no case.

Who reads SPAM anyway?

September 14th, 2011
6:42 am

Everyone knows you don’t read email from people you don’t know. Now she wants to sue because SHE opened messages from strangers? GET REAL!!! I never would have seen it ’cause I DON’T OPEN SPAM!!!

Mysticsheesh

September 14th, 2011
7:28 am

Um, just curious… is she bothering to sue the “friend” who signed her up in the first place? After all, they would not have had any of the personal info (including her email address) had that not occurred. Maybe Toyota can sue the friend for starting the whole mess!

Prius Prius Me

September 14th, 2011
8:04 am

I think Toyota takes this very seriously. I know that Toyota actively safeguards customers’ personal data by securing that information behind locked doors and a closed computer system. It’s obvious that Toyota feels a responsibility to protect the consumer from ID theft. I’m sure that Toyota regrets any misunderstandings in this case.

Humor has been the backbone of advertising campaigns for decades. There is a risk of misunderstanding inherent in any droll marketing campaign. Perhaps if Toyota had made Trigger a turtle, or a ventriloquist’s puppet-dummy then the joke would have been more apparent, and thus the consumer would have appreciated the gag.

PJ

September 14th, 2011
8:05 am

This situation is wrong on every level! First, what kind of “friend” signs you up for a fake stalking (or, for that matter, even gives your personal email address to an ad campaign)?! Then, Amanda clicked a link to a personality test (almost always a bad idea unless you want your computer infected with adware/spyware) and agreed to its terms and conditions without reading them. Then, Toyota thought they could sell cars through frightening spam emails! Then, the judge declared that she could sue for living under the conditions to which she explicitly agreed! No one involved in this scenario has any sense of decency or, for that matter, common sense. The only way this could get worse would be for a jury to award her any money. (Note to Toyota: Fire your Marketing department and get a new ad agency)

Peaches

September 14th, 2011
8:09 am

Are you kidding me!! How stupid can one person really be!! Ok, Toyota was waaayyy more stupid for pulling the crap to begin with, but 10M? WTH for? Only if she is required to use the money for a brain transplant!!

kishore

September 14th, 2011
11:23 am

Enter your comments here

[...] who did not know she was the subject of a prank, was first sent a link to a personality test by Toyota. She agreed to the terms and conditions, which said that she would be receiving emails for up to [...]

[...] who did not know she was the subject of a prank, was first sent a link to a personality test by Toyota. She agreed to the terms and conditions, which said that she would be receiving emails for up to [...]

[...] who did not know she was the subject of a prank, was first sent a link to a personality test by Toyota. She agreed to the terms and conditions, which said that she would be receiving emails for up to [...]

DangerWoman

September 14th, 2011
8:50 pm

I hope that Toyota will be found guilty of this mess, be ordered to pay this woman $10 million dollars and publicly say that they are sorry for causing her serious harm by looking her in her eyes and profusely apologize, in front of 75 million television viewers on CNN and Fox News!

And that they should also pay for her therapy bills for what happened!

mailman

September 15th, 2011
7:33 am

Duhhhh. Why not simply set up a new email address and change your password? I realize that could take up to three minutes, but what the heck…
Oh, the stupidity!

katz

September 15th, 2011
9:31 am

“see chicken play vienna waltzon tiny piano”
48 pages of fine print
“click if you agree…”

wait… I never said you could have my kidney..

whispered disclaimers and obfuscated contracts are dishonest and immoral
Toyto needs to pay!

Yohoyohorum

September 15th, 2011
9:46 am

She should be glad they didn’t make her into a human centipede. Sadly, Toyota will probably settle out of court just to save face.

Greg Lattanzi

September 15th, 2011
10:29 am

Enter your comments here

LineDrive

September 15th, 2011
10:40 am

The tactic of pages of fine print that hide material information is deceptive and dishonest. If it’s important, put it in larger print or fuggedaboudit. Hope the eejits at Toyota who thought this up didn’t hurt themselves. The “friend” should be in hot water, too, since the friend furnished the information.

Pam

September 15th, 2011
1:02 pm

Make the madness go away!!!!!

missbits

September 15th, 2011
2:57 pm

Seems to me she should be suing the “friend” that signed her up. The friend should then sue her for agreeing to the terms and conditions.

Steve

September 15th, 2011
3:35 pm

Are you sure your screen name shouldn’t be “DangerouslyStupidWoman “?

BWW

September 15th, 2011
3:39 pm

I could use a good stalking!

Dave

September 15th, 2011
5:04 pm

The woman deserves nothing.

But Toyota earns well deserved disrespect for absolute stupidity.

If this is their idea of Marketing, they deserve to go bankrupt.

Mark

September 16th, 2011
6:48 pm

It is irrelevant that she agreed to the terms and conditions and a California Appellate court ruled in her favor saying that Toyota mislead her into agreeing to the terms and conditions under false pretense.

The woman was not made aware of the stalking which constitutes the false pretense as she was made to believe signing up would entail other ‘benefits’ which did not include a creepy guy reciting information about you and telling you he was a criminal and coming to stay at your house.

This will never go to trial as Toyota is going to have to do a lot of damage control if this were to be contested in court. Expect to never hear another thing about this case again as it will be settled quietly out of court and both parties will sign confidentiality agreements.

What a tremendously ignorant advertising campaign. The guy or gal who gave this idea the green light I expect will be looking for another job in the near future.

Mark

September 16th, 2011
6:54 pm

I’m not understanding people’s reactions to this story.

One man accused the woman of stupidity for not simply changing her email??? How would that have possibly helped her if the guy sending her the emails knew her name. address and personal details and was telling her he was on his way??? The woman was probably terrified! What people don’t get is that the prank worked and the woman genuinely believed that this guy whom she had never met was coming to live with her.

Oh and again the fine print did NOT mention the stalking so how was she to know?

Mark

September 16th, 2011
7:00 pm

Think of it like this:

She signs up to receive emails from Toyota thinking it’s legit and that they are probably going to send her advertisements. Maybe she’s in the market for a car?

Toyota then immediately begins their hare-brained scheme with the stalker emails.

She thinks OH CRAP I gotten duped by a hacker with a fake email claiming to be from Toyota and now this guy has gone through my computer and retrieved all of my personal details.

Emails get more creepy and she starts to get even more scared.

Toyota sends her the final email reassuring her that no she was not duped we’re simply idiots who wanted you to believe that you were.

TOYOTA FAIL.

abe

September 16th, 2011
8:02 pm

thats what toyota does scare people buy american keep your job lower your taxes keep america stronge

Joe

September 17th, 2011
4:20 am

People like this should be shot. Her being spammed is not worth millions. SHE should have to pay millions for hurting Toyota’s image, and if she can’t pay, hard-time. I’m tired of this crap ruining society.

Funny about Money

September 17th, 2011
8:51 am

What a vile and cynical marketing campaign. One reader wrote, “Humor has been the backbone of advertising campaigns for decades. There is a risk of misunderstanding inherent in any droll marketing campaign.”

Clearly this commenter has never been the target of a real-life stalker. Toyota’s ad gimmick may seem funny to the uninformed and the inexperienced, but the truth is, there’s no “humor” to it.

That the woman didn’t take 15 or 20 minutes of her time to read near-microscopic fine print that looks like boilerplate does not change the nastiness of Toyota’s “droll” campaign. It’s just one more incident that makes this loyal customer of 40 years think twice about buying another Toyota.