William Smith has been eating oatmeal every morning of his life, so when the 80-year-old Massachusetts man saw a Quaker Oats "best recipe" contest, he was quick to mail in his favourite: oats topped with brown sugar, pineapple and coconut flakes. But Smith's "Hawaiian Special" recipe, which he wrote by hand on a piece of paper, was rejected and returned to him a few days later, with a letter accompanying it.
"Please be advised that your letter, with attachment, does not constitute a valid entry into the Contest in accordance with the Official Rules available at www.bringyourbestbowl.com," wrote a representative for PepsiCo, which owns Quaker Oats Company.
"The submissions are accepted through either the contest application on Quaker's website, select retailer websites, Twitter, or Facebook during the submission period," the letter read. "We will not accept entries via alternative methods of entry."
Smith, who doesn't own a computer, called the letter "discouraging" and a form of age discrimination.
"When I see corporate America and how they can't take a paper submission, I think it's ridiculous," Smith said from his home in Sturbridge. "They don't realise where they came from."
Smith decided to send in his "Best Bowl" recipe in late February after seeing an advertisement for the contest and its prize: $250,000.
On a piece of paper, he jotted down four ingredients in legible handwriting and including the bowl's name, "Hawaiian Special."
"I have been using your product since 1946," he wrote. "I am 80 years old."
A PepsiCo spokeswoman Jody Menaker said the company had apologised to Smith for the tone of the letter he received in response to his entry.
"For this specific contest, entries could only be accepted online," she said. "The intent behind that was not meant to make the promotion seem inaccessible, but rather to ensure a level playing field across all submissions."
Menaker added that PepsiCo greatly appreciated Smith’s enthusiasm and support of the contest, as well as his love for Quaker.
Smith knew that winning the money was a long shot but said he never expected to receive a rejection letter for his failure to submit his recipe electronically.
"I realise times have changed but I’m sure the man on the Quaker Oats box doesn’t recognise a computer either," he quipped.
"I think it’s age discrimination but I would never force the issue," he said. "When you reach a certain age, you have to let things go."