Flashback to when a San Antonio TV reporter bought over 100 cases of Coke

Coca Cola billboard for the short-lived New Coke. (Photo by © Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Coca Cola billboard for the short-lived New Coke. (Photo by © Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Todd Gipstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Last weekend I was putting away my laundry while a YouTube video about the history of New Coke played in the background. While it was playing, I heard something that made me do a double-take. A San Antonio man "stockpiled 110 cases" of Coca-Cola. 

That man was a San Antonio TV reporter, Dan Lauck, who had worked for KMOL-TV (now absorbed into WOAI) until 1994. I had to know more about this Coca-Cola fan who purchased almost $1,000 of the world-renowned soda. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much in the Express-News archives other than an article about him being fired from KMOL in 1994. We'll get to that later. 

I surprisingly found old articles from the New York Times and Chicago Tribune that spoke to Lauck about his wild purchase.

This man grabbed national attention. But first, we have to understand why he went out and bought so much Coke. 

The Coca-Cola Company claimed New Coke was "it." Only it wasn't.

The Coca-Cola Company claimed New Coke was "it." Only it wasn't.

Courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company

Blame New Coke

New Coke was an attempt to fight back at Pepsi, which was chipping away at Coca-Cola's market in the mid-80s, according to the New York Times article. Coca-Cola decided to take a gamble and do away with the 136-year-old formula invented by John Stith Pemberton in 1886. 

It was a risky gamble, to say the least. New Coke's marketing blasted off, with one commercial directly comparing the new formula to Pepsi, saying the results from an "independent research firm" proved more people preferred the taste of New Coke to its competitor.

They went as far as to make commercials with Bill Cosby, a household name at the time whose word literally helped popularize Jell-O pudding. Not the best decision in hindsight. Not only because of his 2018 sexual assault conviction, but he later left Coca-Cola believing the ads hurt his credibility.

Still, marketing claimed "It's a hit! Coke is it!"

But it wasn't. At least New Coke wasn't it. Especially in the South.

Outside a Alpha XR, Karen Wilson gathers signatures on a petition to the Coca-Cola Company expressing dissatisfaction with its "New Coke" formula.

Outside a Alpha XR, Karen Wilson gathers signatures on a petition to the Coca-Cola Company expressing dissatisfaction with its "New Coke" formula.

Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

"You don't change water"

People in the South were not ecstatic about New Coke's flavor, according to the Chicago Tribune. Coke, which was founded in Georgia, was everywhere in the South.

Really.

One Atlanta drive-in restaurant owner, Nancy Sims, told the Tribune, "Coke is everywhere here, like water . . . and you don't change water.''

But the Coca-Cola company did, and people were worried that they weren't ever going to get that old taste back. That's where Lauck comes in. 

The New York Times reported in June 1985 that Lauck spent $972 for 110 cases of 6 1/2 ounce bottles of Coca-Cola from a bottling facility in San Antonio. Lauck hadn't even tried New Coke, but told the Times that taste buds of people he trusted said it tasted like "Pepsi that's been opened and left lying in the refrigerator." Ouch.

The Tribune had a deeper conversation with Lauck about his purchase. He said that he was a "10-bottle-a-day drinker" of Coke.  He didn't like coffee, tea, milk, juices, beer, or alcohol.

''And I don't particularly like water,'' he told the Tribune. 

Coca-Cola, which also admits that New Coke was a marketing blunder, didn't last long under the criticism. It was announced in July 1985 that Coca-Cola "classic" would return. 

That was probably good news for Lauck, whose second love was Coca-Cola, according to his obituary. 

Dan eventually moved to Houston station KHOU. 

Dan eventually moved to Houston station KHOU. 

Courtesy of KHOU

Lauck's second love

Lauck was eventually fired KMOL in 1994, according to an old Express-News article. It was a story that allegedly linked San Antonio engineering firm Raba Kistner to controversy surrounding contaminated dirt that was dumped in low-income areas during construction of the Alamodome. 

Raba Kistner would claim in fax sent to its clients that the story was untrue, and KMOL leadership agreed the story ran using inaccurate information. KMOL aired a retraction and apology. 

But it was Lauck's refusal to read a statement prepared by Raba Kistner about the story that led to his termination. He told the Express-News that Raba Kistner's statement claimed he intentionally misled the public. 

"That simply is not true," Lauck said. "I had never intentionally misled the public and I never will, and I could not do so tonight even in an apology. Even to save my job."

Lauck, a father of three daughters, said he was probably going to be doing a lot of babysitting until he found a new spot. He would join Houston station KHOU the same year he was let go from KMOL. 

But Lauck was praised for his work at KHOU. He told one story about a mother's emotional reunion with her children after 16 years after she lost them while fighting addiction. 

Lauck's reporting and writing earned him the Edward R. Murrow Award in 2001. He worked at KHOU until 2007, when Parkinson's Disease made it harder for him meet deadlines, KHOU reported

Lauck passed away on December 31, 2020. He left behind his wife Meg, his three daughters, and his love for Coca-Cola. 

As for New Coke, the drink made a brief return in 2019 to promote Netflix's Stranger Things, a supernatural thriller following the adventures of teens in 80s. But now it's just been relegated to novelty, nostalgia, and selling for $100 on ebay