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Site posts low-tech hack for iTunes giveaway

By Paulo Nogueira


Thursday, February 19, 2004 Posted: 8:50 PM EST (0150 GMT)



Looking under the cap, the word "again" means you have a losing cap.

(CNN) -- Sharp eyes and a bit of patience paid off Thursday for iTunes fans who figured out a way to "hack" the popular music download service's Pepsi promotion.


Jon Gales, who runs Macintosh-user site MacMerc.com, posted instructions this week on how to look into sealed Pepsi bottles and figure out which ones carry winning iTunes codes in their caps.


"With luck, you should be able to see under the cap," said Gales, 19, a college student who discovered the trick by chance. "It takes a few minutes to get used to the angle... and you may have to twist the bottle."


Apple Computer's iTunes service is giving away 100 million songs, a promotion that was launched with splashy Super Bowl TV ads featuring people sued for illegally sharing music online. One in three bottles is a winner, according to the rules. And the 10-digit code on a winning cap can be used to download a free song on iTunes.com.


But when Gales discovered that by tilting the bottles he could beat the system, he was eager to share the trick. News of his Web site's illustrations and step-by-step instructions spread quickly on the Internet, which prompted his domain to crash briefly from the onslaught of visitors.


"I was surprised the kind of traffic and the responses that it got," Gales said Thursday from his home in Tampa, Florida. "We were getting 30 hits a second and the database couldn't keep up."


It takes a bit of squinting and some persistence, but Gales' suggestions work. Those who see the word "again" after tilting the bottle have a losing cap. But random letters and numbers means you have a winner.



Jon Gales said discovering the Pepsi cap trick was easy: "I just looked."

Pepsi-Cola spokesman Dave DeCecco said he wasn't aware of the trick until a reporter called him.


"We always put redemption limits for promotions like these," he said. "But we've found that most consumers play by the rules."


Apple's iTunes store, the most popular online music retailer, offers more than 500,000 songs for 99 cents each. Pepsi promotion winners can claim up to 10 songs per day and 200 tunes total during the giveaway, which ends March 31. But "you can sign up for another account," Gales said.



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