Soda Pop Terrorist Warning
By David Emery
Netlore Archive: In these variants of The Grateful Terrorist, an 'Arab' or 'Muslim-looking' stranger repays someone's kindness by warning his benefactor not to drink Coke (or Pepsi) after a certain date.
Description: Urban legend
Circulating since: Oct. 2001
Status: False (see details below)
Email example contributed by H. Trull, July 2, 2002:
Subject: FW: BE CAREFUL!!!!
Don't know how much is factual, but better safe than sorry.
THIS WAS SENT TO ME...THOUGHT YOU GUYS MIGHT WANTED TO READ....
Subject: FW: BE CAREFUL!!!!
ANYWAY SHE JUST IGNORED THE COMMENT BUT WHEN SHE LEFT OUT OF THE GROCERY STORE HE WAS WAITING FOR HER IN THE PARKING LOT. HE CAME UP TO HER AND AGAIN ASKED HER WHY DID SHE GIVE HIM THE MONEY. SHE STATED THAT SHE WOULD HAVE DONE IT FOR ANYONE. HE REPLIED I CANNOT REPAY YOU BUT I WILL TELL YOU THIS DO NOT DRINK ANY COCA COLA PRODUCTS AFTER JULY 3RD. THIS IS VERY SCARY SO PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL. AFTER 9/11 WE CAN'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED.
Email example contributed by E. Cepero, Aug. 15, 2002:
Subject: FW: Believe or not to believe...up to you
Sad but True, be safe they're not done yet
I'm sending this to all my family & friends, those whom I cherish and love.
My friend Victoria's son was in a neighborhood corner store making a purchase. A man of Arab decent was in line in front of him, according to her son the man was short a dollar, the African American woman working behind the counter asked him how much was he short, he told her and she said it was okay and let him go. According to her son the man thanked her and said now I'll do something for you, don't drink Pepsi in September and he walked out of the store.
I can't verify if this is true or not, and it's not meant to scare anyone, only to make sure you are all safe. I have suggested she tell somebody (besides me) about this, but just in case she don't I want to inform you to be careful. I'll continue to pray for your safety and that of others, please do the same, it's our only hope.
Love: Mae ( N.Y. )
Analysis: These are variations on the theme of "The Grateful Terrorist," an urban legend that began making the rounds via both word of mouth and email almost immediately after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
As the story goes, an "Arab," "Middle Eastern" or "Muslim-looking" man repays the kindness of a stranger with a solemn warning not to visit a particular place (e.g., Baltimore), engage in a particular activity (e.g., board an airliner) or, in this case, consume a particular product on or after a certain date. The obvious implication is that the man is a terrorist or associates with terrorists and is privy to secret information about an impending attack. Moved by the stranger's generosity, he spontaneously offers up the information to spare the person's life (very unterrorist-like behavior, needless to say).
Not one of the plethora of rumors circulated in this form has, as yet, proven valid or true. No official alerts have been issued warning the public to beware of contaminated soft drinks. "The Grateful Terrorist" is pure folklore an expression of the post-9/11 fears and suspicions of a populace that perceives itself under constant threat of attack from an insidious and all-but-invisible enemy.
The sentiments are real; the story is not.
The Coca-Cola Company's response:
Several variations of the "grateful stranger rewarding a helpful citizen with a warning about impending attack" rumor have existed over the years. The people involved and details of the rumor vary, depending upon the political climate of the day.
A recent version involves a grocery stock person warning a customer not to buy Coca-Cola after June 1, 2002, while another version claims a waiter was given similar "helpful advice" by a Middle Eastern customer as a tip for prompt service. Another version involves a tip given after someone assists a person who is short of cash. Naturally, after 9/11 everyone is extremely cautious about any "terrorist threat."
Our Response: These rumors are absolutely false and are causing needless worry. The Coca-Cola Company has an uncompromising commitment to product safety, and our products are produced and distributed through secure facilities. We use a number of processes to assure the safety and quality of the water and ingredients used to make products of The Coca-Cola Company. To ensure the effectiveness of our safeguards, we do not discuss the details of these processes.
We always take reports of this nature seriously. You should know that investigations to date, conducted by Federal and local officials, as well as The Coca-Cola Company, have concluded that these rumors have no merit.
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The Grateful Terrorist
In this urban legend, a person identified only as an "Arab" or "Muslim" repays a stranger's act of kindness with a cryptic warning not to go to a specific place at a specific time, thereby supposedly saving them from a planned terrorist attack.
Gallery of Variants: 'The Grateful Terrorist'
Specimens collected since September 11, 2001
Coca-Cola Statement: Middle East Rumors
The Coca-Cola Company's response to rumors associating its products with terrorism
Don't Believe Cola Rumor
Cincinnati Enquirer, 27 August 2002
Coke Says Soda Plot Nothing but Fizz
Morning Journal, 24 August 2002
Rumors About Coke Threat Debunked as Urban Legend
Waco Tribune-Herald, 28 August 2002
Last updated: 07/15/11