Chad Ochocinco cereal box connects with sex line
September 30, 2010
CINCINNATI - Boxes of Chad Ochocinco cereal are being removed from Kroger store shelves after a phone number on the package meant to direct consumers to a children’s charity connects callers to an explicit phone sex line.
The number on the boxes, 1-800-HELP-FTC, connects callers to a seductive-sounding woman’s voice and music. She teases in shocking detail and then asks for a debit or credit card number: “You must be 18 or older to get into this party, baby!”
A portion of proceeds from the official, limited edition cereal of the Bengals wide receiver goes to Feed The Children organization. According to their website, the correct number is 1-888-HELP-FTC.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma City-based Feed The Children conceded the error appears to be the organization's mistake, one they are working to fix.
"We didn't even know the other number existed," said Tony Sellars, company spokesman.
Robert Bailey, president of Rosenhaus Sports, which represents Ochocinco, said Ochocinco expects the correct number will appear on new cereal boxes.
"We greatly regret the mistake and the trouble it has caused, but Chad himself was in no way involved in this error,'' Bailey said.
In the Bengals locker room on Thursday with a box of the cereal still featured prominently in his locker, Ochocinco apologized over the flap and called it “an honest mistake” while hoping some good could come out of it.
“I’ve been part of the organization and been doing things to help bring awareness to the causes. Having the cereal was another way,” Ochocinco said. “Anyone I’ve affected I really do apologize. Some people got a laugh out of it, others are upset.
“It’s a little bit of a negative but it sheds a positive light on what I’m doing. They have to get the right number 1-888-Help FTC. Not 800. If you dial 800 you’re on your own.”
Ochocinco also said he would take the blame for not noticing the wrong number and also said that it probably had not been noticed until now because people were donating online instead of using the toll-free number.
“In a positive light, it’s bringing more attention not just to Feed the Children and the cereal but also myself. I hope people do understand it’s something good,” he said.
Kroger workers began pulling the boxes of Ochocincos from shelves Thursday morning and were trying to reach the supplier, PLB Sports of Pittsburgh.
“Of course, we don’t want the message to get lost. The idea was to support the children,” said James Avant, an assistant advertising manager and a company spokesman. “(But) with that mistake, the wrong number, it’s just in the best interests to pull the boxes.”
Tara Sand of Reading said her family made the discovery Wednesday night when her sister-in-law called the number on speaker phone. The family was interested in perhaps donating to the children’s charity.
“That’s when we heard the lovely sex line that was on there,” Sand, 28, said sarcastically Thursday. “Needless to say, I thought she had dialed the wrong number. We quickly turned it off because our daughter, Lexi, who is 9, was looking at us with lots of questions on her face.”
Sand said her husband redialed the number to make sure – and came up with the sex line again. So she called her mother – and her mother said her cereal box also listed the same wrong number. “We were quite astonished,” Sand said.
She hopes the incident won’t negatively reflect on the Cincinnati Bengals, or Ochocinco.
“The thing that is most disappointing about this is nobody wants bad press,” she said. “(Ochocinco) may be a celebrity, but he’s obviously endorsing Feed the Children. I imagine he would have no idea this happened. It looks bad. It looks bad for the Bengals. It looks bad for Chad. It looks bad for Feed the Children. People calling to make a donation getting a sex line, that’s not the greatest thing in the world.”
The low fat, honey nut, toasted oat cereal -- called Ochocincos -- went on sale earlier this month at the Newport Kroger store.
The store manager at the Newport Kroger store was horrified when an Enquirer reporter notified him of the mix-up Thursday morning.
“What! Are you kidding?” responded manager Eric Harmon. “We have a huge display of that.”
Ochocinco did put a funny spin on the situation, saying: “Remember, this was made in Pittsburgh. Something isn’t right.”
Joe Reedy contributed to this report.
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