Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Courts Privacy Your Rights Online

Toyota Claims Woman "Opted In" To Faux Email Stalking 667

An anonymous reader writes "ABC News is reporting that a California woman is suing Toyota for $10 million for sending her email that appeared to be from a criminal stalker. The woman claims the emails terrified her to the point that she suffered sleeplessness, poor work performance, etc. Toyota says the ruse was part of a marketing campaign for the Toyota Matrix. A Toyota spokesman says they are not liable for the woman's distress, because 'The person who made this claim specifically opted in, granting her permission to receive campaign emails and other communications from Toyota.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Toyota Claims Woman "Opted In" To Faux Email Stalking

Comments Filter:
  • by vekrander ( 1400525 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:48PM (#29762133)

    Advertising gets weirder and weirder. I don't understand how this is supposed to get someone to buy a car. The only thing I could think of is she didn't had a car so maybe she's supposed to buy a Toyota so she can get the hell away? I think it's lost on me.

  • by Shishio ( 540577 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#29762269)
    So either she didn't see the opt-out links or address of the company, or the email didn't have these. Unless they got really creative with the opt-in, this sounds like a violation of the CAN SPAM act. A $10M lawsuit from one woman is the least of their worries.
  • by yali ( 209015 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#29762275)


    Tepper, Duick's attorney, said he discussed the campaign with Toyota's attorneys earlier this year, and they said the "opting in" Harp referred to was done when Duick's friend e-mailed her a "personality test" that contained a link to an "indecipherable" written statement that Toyota used as a form of consent from Duick.

    Tepper, said that during those legal negotiations, Toyota's lawyers claimed Duick signed the written legal agreement, which they said amounts to "informed written consent." [emphasis added]

    I work in research with human subjects, and there is no way this constitutes informed consent.

    If Toyota wants to argue that the fine print spelled it out and it's her fault she didn't read it carefully enough, maybe they can win the case through legalistic hairsplitting. But if they buried it in fine print and incomprehensible language, they're jerks no matter what.

    But they're making a much broader claim if they're calling it informed consent. Informed consent means that she comprehended what was going to happen to her as a result of agreeing. In other words, "informed consent" isn't just a statement about the objective content of the opt-in statement -- it's an assertion about the state of mind of the person who gave consent. If she had truly given informed consent, then not only would she have no legal claim, but she'd have no moral claim either (because she'd have known what she was getting into). But it's blindingly obvious that that isn't true here.

  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:00PM (#29762345)

    I think a week in jail for the VP of marketing will do much more. But a week is probably all this is worth.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:04PM (#29762401) Journal

    It's not designed to get the stalkee to buy cars. It's designed to get the friend that set them up to buy cars. The friend is now in collusion with Toyota, they share a dirty little secret, they're friends now...

  • Re:Yep (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Disgruntled Goats ( 1635745 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:12PM (#29762559)
    Yeah because when your yearly revenue exceeds $200 billion you definitely are going to sweat 10 million dollars.
  • Re:I'm over 35 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:13PM (#29762573) Homepage

    And if this article helped me remember that Toyota offers a commuter car, then the PR campaign worked.

    I already new that Toyota makes cars of all sorts -- is there anyone in an industrialized nation that does not know that? I did not know that they found it acceptable to engage in psychopathic behavior.

    I've owned a Toyota before and was happy with it. I was considering a Matrix when my Impreza gives up the ghost -- but that is no longer an option, at least not unless Toyota apologizes and makes amends for such outrageous behavior.

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:17PM (#29762647) Journal

    This reminds of a psychology experiment a few decades ago, where the consent form was something like:

    I agree to *insert a bunch of things here* including "I agree to be deceived."

    Then you became the subject of an experiment that appeared to be one of the other things, but in reality, you were being deceived as part of the experiment.

    I'm a behavioral scientist. An experimentalist. When working with behaving subjects one of the things that's harder than anything else is to understand the experiment that you performed. This was brought home during a lecture I saw being given by a very senior faculty member who was describing an experiment that didn't seem to have gone very well at all. After reviewing the not very encouraging and somewhat confusing results, he said, "it took us quite some time to realize that although we had designed and performed this experiment in good faith, the experiment we ACTUALLY had done was quite different than what we intended." The difference was one of how the subjects had interpreted the non-verbal instructions. Viewing the results in the new radically different light made far more sense. Sometimes, it's the experimenter who is the one being deceived!

  • Re:Yep (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TakeoffZebra ( 1651327 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:19PM (#29762685)
    like must other cases of such ludicrous nature targeted against large companies, this will be settled out of court for a few mil and everyone will forget it ever happened.
  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Disgruntled Goats ( 1635745 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:31PM (#29762867)
    I'm willing to bet $10 million that no one is going to get laid off over this.
  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:43PM (#29763021) Homepage

    What if you kept getting phone calls.. that said:...

    Actually, something like this happened once, almost. Some movie that Sam Jackson was in had a promo where you could go to a web site and fill out some information and Jackson's voice would make a custom call based on that information.

    I was out of town on a business trip, and late in the night a buddy of mine had did this and my wife picked up. She's not a movie buff, and while I would have recognized the voice in a second, she didn't. She just heard an angry-sounding man talking about coming to our house in [our town], checking in on [one of my hobbies, one of hers], and a few other spooky things. Even though it was clearly a recording, it was really unsettling to her, so she called me right away.

    Luckily, the system sends an email after calling, so when we were talking about it, I thought it sounded like something prank-ish and checked my email on a whim. I was able to talk her down, but she was a little pissed and asked me to tell my buddy not to pull that shite again.

  • Sooo... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrSenile ( 759314 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:53PM (#29763169)

    [Hypothetical Situation:]

    I jokingly said to the Toyota person 'oh sure, you can send me threatening email, but then I get to come to your store in the middle of the night and slash all the tires of your vehicles'. We both had a great laugh over it, shook hands, and we walked away.

    2 death threats later, and Goodyear is having a wonderful fiscal year.


    Somehow, I doubt Toyota would be as easily forgiving if the tables were reversed. So why should this women have to cave in?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#29763343)

    I think that pretending will get you pretty far on the way to actually doing.

  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:13PM (#29763367)

    I don't wonder why she never reported it to the police: its' because this entire episode, including her and her complaint, is a fake. The news story itself is the actual marketing campaign for Toyota (and Saatchi & Saatchi), not the events it relates. Why else would the marketing company put an actual sales blurb into the article?

    It's a reverse psych-out, and we're the ones they're trying to punk

  • by V for Vendetta ( 1204898 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:17PM (#29763415)

    Given the weird minds of marketeers these days, I really wouldn't be surprised if that "victim sueing Toyota for email ad campaign" is in reality part of that campaign. Because otherwise that ad wouldn't have made it to the frontpage(s).

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:21PM (#29763445)

    Last one standing get lifted out,

    Piffle. This here is Thunderdome. They leave under their own power or not at all. :-P

  • Re:Yep (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bai jie ( 653604 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:46PM (#29763709)
    I've had a similar idea. Inflate the stock as part of the settlement. When a corporation is sued (by an individual or in a class action) determine the damages as additional stock in the company and distribute that stock to the winners of the suit. This deflates the value of the current stock witch will upset any current stock holders. If a company continues to screw up and gets continually sued then you can bet that the primary stock controllers are going to either pull out or get rid of the dumb execs that are making their stocks take a nose dive.
  • Re:Yep (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cassius Corodes ( 1084513 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:45PM (#29764267)
    Because ill-informed rage is so much easier. Is it not "common sense" to read a bit about something before you criticise it eh gp?
  • by rpervinking ( 1090995 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:49PM (#29764309)
    If you rob somebody, and anybody sees something that looks anything like a gun, you get charged with armed robbery. Proving that you committed the robbery is the prosecution's problem, but proving that the gun wasn't loaded is yours. If it wasn't a real gun, proving that is your problem. It's called an affirmative defense. IANAL, but this is what I was told, more than once, while serving on a grand jury. The lesson: if you get caught, you better prey that you still have the unloaded plastic toy on you and that the 7-11 videotape is good enough to clearly show that it's the same thing that you were waving around while in the store.
  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:03PM (#29764415)

    Why sit cowering in your home for FIVE DAYS then claim you were unable to live your life for MONTHS, when a quick three-digit phone call ("911", in case anyone has forgotten the number) would have started an investigation that would have rapidly debunked it in a hurry?

    Three reasons:

    1. The law of averages. If you email credible threats to enough people (and when I say credible, I mean to say that since her "friends" colluded with Toyota, that's what made the threats credible to her, I don't mean to say that those threats would have necessarily been credible to the police), so let's say if you email credible threats to two or three thousand people, you are bound to hit a few disturbed individuals (or if not disturbed yet, just at the brink). Plus, I should also say that since those targets were not chosen at random, they were chosen by their so-called "friends", so it would make sense that some of those "friends" would pick the most paranoid and the most emotionally immature persons they know. When it comes to annoyingly paranoid and emotionally immature people, I believe that many of us have the capacity to prey on that weakness and give those types of people a very hard time (that's what some call bullying, notice that strong people and/or emotionally mature people rarely get bullied themselves. I'm not saying that it never happens, just that it rarely does).

    2. I don't believe you know 911 very well. 911 is for *immediate* life-threatening emergencies only (at least, in California it is). I've called 911 myself (from my landline) to report a drunk driver that had hit several cars and had driven away just as recklessly (that was before CHP had those signs on the freeway that now tell us to do just that), but at the time, the 911 operator told me very rudely that this wasn't a life-threatening emergency, to call the police instead on their regular line, and to hang up the phone right now! Also, you said "hardened and probably ARMED criminal", good luck saying that to the 911 operator: "W: He's probably armed.", "911: Probably!!? Is he? Or isn't he *ARMED*?", "W: Well, he's probably armed. I haven't seen a weapon yet.", "911: Where is the suspect right now?", "I don't really know. Last time he contacted me, he said he was in Florida, but he said he's coming over. If he's prompt, he's due any minute now. If the guy is a flake, I can't really know for sure."

    3. And last but not least, city police departments are not all funded equally. When I lived in Oakland, and there was a trespasser in my backyard, the police didn't (or couldn't) come. And when I made the same call when I lived in Alameda, the police came absolutely right away, and in full force. I should also say, that in places like in Berkeley or Alameda, the police usually swarms suspects just like they do on TV. In Oakland, I've witnessed several instances of cops fighting suspects with their battons, losing to them, and the suspects successfully running away, because in all these cases, the cop was alone, and he was against one or more suspects (and also the city cops in Oakland are instructed not to use their use their guns unless their lives are absolutely in danger). And it doesn't stop there, in cities like San Francisco and Oakland, the police will purposefully downplay any crimes that are committed against you, and they'll do everything they can to dissuade you from even filing a police report or starting a formal investigation (because if it gets reported, it goes in their statistics, and if it goes in their statistics, it makes their city look bad). So if you live in a city like that, and have any experience with the police, you come to learn that you can't really depend on the police, especially for something as trivial such as threats made over email -- made by an unknown person (who's not even in their jurisdiction yet according to his own emails/mailed hotel invoices).

  • Re:Yep (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 16, 2009 @01:23AM (#29765983)

    One Cup of Boiling hot water please!

    Here you go!

    OMG I spilled it on myself and it burnt me!!!! This BOILING HOT WATER that I ordered is dangerous! I'm suing you!!!!!!

    If I dump boiling water on myself at home can I sue the kettle manufacturer too? Because to me it sounds like the same thing.

    1. You order a product that may be dangerous if you're not careful with it.
    2. You are not careful with the product
    3. PROFIT

  • Death threat as scam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @04:26AM (#29766537)

    Sadly the 'death threat' I received via email wasn't some kind of advertisement and merely an attempt to scam me out of money:

    Look here you bastard. You think i have time for this your stupid talk, i just
    inform you that some one paid me to kill you and you are
    here talking no sence to me. this is like the same warning pass on to the
    america government when they ignore it and it became and ignorance to
    them, and this is the same warning also pass to the most polular MUSICIAN WHO
    WAS SHORT DEAD IN SOUTH AFRICA. am also passing this
    warning to you so if you want to ignore it then you too will face in hell and
    join the devil.

    If you do not comply and cooperate with me in your reply to this email, you
    will leave me no option as to instruct my Boys to get you shot, for your
    informations you are to Pay the sum of $3,500 Usd to live your life as a free
    Citizen, but if you ignore.... As a matter of fact the person whom insructed me
    to get you killed is waiting for your Funeral news. [] []

    Noordin Mohammed.

    Oddly enough that email cheered me up when I received it.

  • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @09:35AM (#29767875) Journal

    If Toyota wants to argue that the fine print spelled it out and it's her fault she didn't read it carefully enough, maybe they can win the case through legalistic hairsplitting. But if they buried it in fine print and incomprehensible language, they're jerks no matter what.

    If I give someone my email address and at the same time click a checkbox that says subscribe to correspondence, then it's as informed as you get. Result: I get emails. Maybe the fineprint deep in there somewhere states what will and what won't be sent, but as far as I am concerned, anything is fair game. "Here's my email address, send me stuff." If I end up with too much crap that's rubbish, I click the unsubscribe bit and be done with it. That's it. No silly $10 million dollar goldmine.

    Except it doesn't sound like the E-mails came from Toyota, but appeared to come from an individual, one that she didn't know. If the E-mails all were from then you have a point, but if they didn't, and it wasn't blindingly obvious that they were Toyota marketing E-mails, then your point's no good. I haven't seen the E-mails in question, but given that this was a viral marketing campaign, I'm betting they weren't obviously from Toyota.