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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.'"
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Toyota Claims Woman "Opted In" To Faux Email Stalking

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  • I'm over 35 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoYob ( 1630681 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:43PM (#29762061)

    Saatchi & Saatchi told the marketing magazine OMMA last year that it had developed the campaign to target men under 35 who hate advertising.

    I'm over 35 and I really hate advertising now. If I did something like this, I'd be in jail awaiting trial, my name would be smeared all over the place, and my life as I know it would be over - even Saatchi & Saatchi wouldn't hire me.

    Toyota? Nothing.

    Saatchi & Saatchi? They'll probably get more business because the dipshit MBAs will think that "there's no such thing as bad publicity."


    • by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:48PM (#29762129)
      Lawyers are suing marketers for trying to out-douche them.
      • by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) * on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:48PM (#29763101) Journal
        $_EVIL_RANT = "true"

        When I first read the article, it made me realize that my least-favorite people were neatly represented here; a gold-digger playing "Lawsuit Lotto", brainless marketing drones, and two sets of evil lawyers; a) the lawyers who wrote a shitty, incomprehensible opt-in, and b) the ambulance-chasing losers inciting this woman to get every penny she thinks she deserves.

        What I propose is simple. Arm them all with machetes, and drop them in a pit. Last one standing get lifted out, bandaged, and after convalescence is put to work earning a modest but honest living for the rest of their life.

        Within 1 year, I predict that frivolous lawsuits would mostly cease to exist, legalese would become plainer, and slimy marketing campaigns would become scarce.

        $_EVIL_RANT = "false"

        The preceding text may contain hyperbole and derision, substances which the State of California has determined can cause cancer and advanced stages of whining. By reading this post, you agree to the following:
        a) you are opting in to reading it, you agree not to hold the writer responsible for your personal wretchedness,
        b) you agree not to take the writer literally, and/or post responses implying the above proposal was in any way serious (unless you are a television producer, and are willing to pay me lots of money to produce this as a prime-time sporting event),
        c) you agree that if you have mod points, you will award the writer +1 (of any positive category of moderation),
        d) and most importantly, you agree not to sue the writer in an attempt to pay off the credit cards you maxed out a couple years ago. Plus, I have no money, so suing me won't do you a damn bit of good anyway.
    • Re:I'm over 35 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:57PM (#29762293) Journal

      Saatchi & Saatchi? They'll probably get more business because the dipshit MBAs will think that "there's no such thing as bad publicity."

      I had forgotten the existence of the Toyota Matrix until I read this article.

      When it comes to brand recognition, there IS no such thing as bad publicity. Brand association, on the other hand...

      I'll be buying a commuter car in the next year. I was leaning toward a small Honda anyway -- but this gives me one more reason to not buy a Toyota.

      That said, when it comes down to it, it'll be about prices and reviews anyway. And if this article helped me remember that Toyota offers a commuter car, then the PR campaign worked.

      • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:34PM (#29762917) Homepage

        I was leaning toward a small Honda anyway

        Would that be the Honda Fit? It's a small, 5-door competitor to the Toyota Matrix which outperforms it in all customer satisfaction metrics, as well as fuel efficiency and crash safety. Plus, instead of steel, it's made of chocolate. Delicious AND biodegradable.

        Don't tell anyone that we're 'turfing for Honda's PR company!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think Toyota should be issued a restraining order to never contact this person again. Next time a flyer with a Toyota ad in it arrives at her door...jail time for the execs.

      Seriously though, people in the company need to be held personally accountable. As you pointed out, litigation clearly isn't effective to prevent companies from doing things like this.

      The Toyota and Saatchi marketing directors really should be dealt with as if they had stalked this woman. Similarly, those responsible for IKEA's "let's

    • Re:I'm over 35 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stonecypher ( 118140 ) <stonecypher@gma i l . c om> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#29763375) Homepage Journal

      There is such a thing as bad publicity, and you can very easily help end this.

      Call your local dealerships and tell them that though you're a loyal Toyota customer, as a result of the Amber Duick situation and the way corporate has pretended there's nothing wrong with the situation, you apologize, but you cannot in good conscience remain a Toyota customer. Be polite, and be prepared to explain and to provide reference.

      Then call Toyota and do the same. Toyota's toll free is 800-331-4331, and extension 5 is specifically dedicated to telling Toyota about experiences you've had with their company.

      Tie up each call with "if Toyota were to publically apologize, release Saatchi and Saatchi from advertising and release Chad Harp from spokesmanship, I would be able to believe that this was a temporary oversight. As long as the company and individual who allowed this to happen retain their positions, I must conclude that Toyota believes that fake stalking by a man on the run from the law claiming to be ready to show up at the customer's home is an appropriate marketing behavior, and I cannot do business with you again."

      Ask that the dealerships contact corporate and explain that they're losing customers as a result of Toyota believing that it's appropriate to pretend to stalk their customers.

      They'll listen if they think their bottom line is at risk.

    • by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @04:45AM (#29766599)
      I've actually found out details of what the campaign involved.

      It is designed as a prank to pull on someone else. What happens is you gave the email of someone you want to prank and it sent them a fake personality where they'd fill out their personal details and give consent to receive further emails.

      You were then sent a schedule (or one was presented before you agreed to prank them) of exactly what they would receive.

      This is not nearly as sinister as the money grabbing woman filing the lawsuit made out to be. Not only does it require someone you know to initially set up the prank, it describes the nature of the prank to whoever sets it up and, through the fake survey, it ensures that you have to actively take action for it to start and you are unlikely to be targetted by strangers.

      If you sue anyone, sue the friend who not only started the prank, but didn't tell you about it when you were apparently being so traumatised.
  • Opted In (Score:5, Funny)

    by inglishmayjer ( 1417713 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:45PM (#29762083)
    Yes! I'd like to receive death threats, disturbing messages, and other items of a stalking nature from Toyota Motor Corporation.
  • 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 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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Xmastrspy ( 1170381 )
        I agree. I can't imagine how the meeting at Toyota went when they came up with this idea...

        Boss) We need to come up with an edgy new marketing scheme...
        Guy 1) Hey, let scare the shit out of some lady.
        Guy 2) Yeah, Lets make up a fake stalker!!!
        Guy 1) Sweet... Lets make him a criminal too!
        Guy 2) Serial Killer?
        Guy 1) Naw, Just a regular criminal.. Maybe petty theft?
        Guy 2) From a different country?
        Guy 1) Oh I like the way you think!!!
        Boss) This is a GREAT idea, nothing can possibly go wrong! We will have people
  • by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:49PM (#29762137)

    How does this in any way make anyone want to buy a Toyota?

    I get that companies all want to 'push the envelope' these days so you see them over the competition, but this is just ridiculous.

    I guess that's another benefit to marking every email I don't recognise as spam.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:50PM (#29762167)
    Not to be pedantic, but it's all right there in the EULA. See below (emphasis mine):

    Limitation on Scope of Content
    The Toyota Web site,, contains information regarding Toyota and its products and promotional programs. The Toyota vehicles described on this site contain uniquely American specifications and equipment and are offered for sale only in the continental U.S.A. The promotional programs described on this site are only available in the continental US and may be limited to particular states as described by the program. All pricing information referred to on this site is in U.S. dollars.

    No Representation or Warranty
    Toyota reserves the right to modify the information contained on this site at any time without notice. While Toyota makes all reasonable efforts to ensure that all material on this site is correct, accuracy cannot be guaranteed and Toyota does not assume any responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or authenticity of any information contained on this site. By viewing this site, you agree to release and indemnify Toyota from all legal responsibility arising from sending you emails, hiding in bushes outside your house, picking through your trash and dry-humping your dog, cat and/or hamster(s). This site and all information and materials contained herein, is provided to you as is without warranty of any kind.
    • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:37PM (#29762951)

      And once again for those of you who are incredible dense ...


      We've been over this, it in fact was one of the factors that lead to the civil war, after which we (the USA) made efforts to make it so a bullshit contract could no longer be considered valid.

      The right to freedom in America should only be given to those who care enough to understand what having and protecting that right means, your right to freedom would most certainly be revoked.

  • 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 martyros ( 588782 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @01:28AM (#29766009)

      Unless they got really creative with the opt-in...

      That's exactly what happened. She didn't purposely sign up to be stalked. One of her friends signed her up. To get her to "opt-in", she was sent an online quiz, and as part of the quiz she "signed" an EULA opting in to the "marketing campaign".

      Her lawyer's point is that she didn't realize she was opting into being stalked; she thought she was opting in to take a stupid online quiz. You can't pretend that signing the thing is "informed consent", when the whole point of the quiz was to hide the fact that you were about to sign up for this "marketing campaign".

      I think this comment [] demonstrates the principle pretty well.

  • by jim_v2000 ( 818799 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#29762281)
    What the fuck?
  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:01PM (#29762357) Homepage
    Tell that to people who pull out a fake gun when robbing a bank, or when confronted by a cop.
  • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:03PM (#29762387)

    she suffered sleeplessness, poor work performance...

    Unanswered question: how was her work performance before the emails? Was it really that much worse?

  • by gpronger ( 1142181 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:05PM (#29762433) Journal
    I'm not quite sure how you'd word an "Op-In" agreement that would effectively cover this; "I consent to receive life threatening emails, harassed, etc."?

    In other words anything that would, in plain English, explain what you were agreeing to, no one would sign.

    And regarding $10M, though this may seem like a lot of money, the point to this type of suit is deterrent, and at $10M, I doubt that it is.
  • 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?

  • Safe word? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:46PM (#29763707)
    What was the Safe Word, Toyota? If she really opted in, there was one. I bet you they'll say next that when she said "no", she really meant "yes", so it was consensual.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus