T-Shirt Makers Must Make Good on $39,000 Offer

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The popular t-shirt company TenBills.com recently emerged from a legal battle over a promotional loophole. An e-mail sendout to TenBills shoppers in 2007 announced the release of airplane keychains that would be included with the purchase of three $10 t-shirts. The declaration read, "Free Airplane with Purchase of $30!" One TenBills fan, however, expected a full-sized airplane and filed a lawsuit to get it.

The popular t-shirt company TenBills.com recently emerged from a legal battle over a promotional loophole.

An e-mail sendout to TenBills shoppers in 2007 announced the release of airplane keychains that would be included with the purchase of three $10 t-shirts. The declaration read, "Free Airplane with Purchase of $30!" One TenBills fan, however, expected a full-sized airplane and filed a lawsuit to get it.

The buyer, whose name has been witheld upon request, stated recently, "I knew they could not have meant an actual airplane, but there was nothing in the e-mail that said they wouldn't. The more I read, the more I was convinced. I decided it was worth a shot."

The shot paid off. An e-mail to TenBills.com requesting the airplane went unanswered, but a contract lawyer was brought in to file a class-action lawsuit against the founders of TenBills.com, citing false advertising and a deliberate attempt to mislead buyers in order to inflate sales. The wording of the original offer left TenBills.com susceptible to prosecution, and there is legal precedent for false advertising online, most commonly with coupon and promotional materials being falsely suggested and unsubstantiated.

The offer was swiftly reworded, and within two weeks TenBills.com began talks of a settlement. A TenBills.com spokesperson was quoted as saying, "Our lawyers agreed that the offer was poorly worded, and that this buyer had a legitimate case. The cost of a trial would not have been worth the aggravation and potential outcome."

TenBills agreed to a Consent Order to pay $39,000 toward the purchase of an airplane, with $2,000 suspended. The sum was negotiated based on the current asking price of a 1972 Cessna 172.

"The purchase of the airplane was a requirement of the settlement. We couldn't just give this buyer the cash," said a TenBills spokesperson.

The airplane title was established in the buyer's name in November 2008, and TenBills is looking to put this event behind them.

"All of our promotions are now fully vetted by legal consultants. This was a steep price to pay for a lesson in the importance of proper wording," said the spokesman.

The TenBills founders have declined to comment on the lawsuit, but internet buzz suggests that a line of airplane-themed t-shirts is already in the works.

Case number: 10-S-07-0811-CV-07232

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William Hunter
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