A Hooters waitress says a promised Toyota prize turned out to be a green subcompact - Yoda.
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 28, 2001
PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Oh, what a feeling. Toy Yoda!
A former Hooters waitress has sued the restaurant where she worked, saying she was promised a new Toyota for winning a beer sales contest.
Instead she won a new toy Yoda -- the little green Jedi master from Star Wars.
Jodee Berry, 26, then a waitress at the Hooters in Panama City Beach, won a contest to see who could sell the most beer in April.
Manager Jared Blair told waitresses that the contest was a regional promotion, according to the lawsuit, and that the top 10 waitresses from each restaurant would be entered in a drawing. The person whose name was drawn would win a "new Toyota automobile," the lawsuit says Blair told them.
In early May, Berry said, Blair told her she had won.
"I couldn't believe that out of all the girls who were entered, I was the winner," Berry said.
She was blindfolded and led to the restaurant parking lot. When the blindfold was removed, Berry wasn't looking at a new car, but a Yoda doll.
Berry said she looked beyond the $40 toy, hoping to see the car driving around the corner. Blair, she said, was inside the restaurant laughing. But she wasn't.
"A corporation can't lead their employees on like that," Berry said. "It's not good business ethics. They can't do that to people."
Berry quit the restaurant a week later.
She sued Gulf Coast Wings, owners of the restaurant, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. She is seeking as compensation, the cost of a new Toyota -- the car.
Her lawyer, Stephen West of Pensacola, said he was also looking at false advertising statutes.
West said one other Hooters waitress verified Berry's story.
Berry said Blair knowingly misled them through the course of the contest by telling the employees he didn't know what kind of Toyota it would be -- whether a car, truck or van. The suit contends that he also told them the winner would be responsible for the tax on the new automobile.
West said those statements would go a long way toward defeating any defense argument that Berry misunderstood Blair.
The restaurant regularly had contests where management would come through with the promised prize, said Berry, who worked at Hooters for about a year before quitting.
Stuart Houston, a spokesman for the company, said it had not been served with the lawsuit yet and he would not comment.
- Information from the News Herald in Panama City was used in this report.