TVWeek Exclusive: Inventor for 3M Offers Physical Proof That Post-its Were Sold First, Meaning Couple on Fox Show ‘Million Dollar Money Drop’ Robbed of $800,000 [Article Now Updated Wt. Latest Show Statement, Issued Hours After This Story Was Published]

Dec 23, 2010  •  Post A Comment

By Chuck Ross

TVWeek has spoken to Arthur Fry, the retired 3M employee who is the co-inventor of the Post-it, and his history of the Post-it is in direct contradiction to the written statement made Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, by “Million Dollar Money Drop” executive producer Jeff Apploff that Post-its were first sold in 1980 and before that were only given away for free.

Apploff’s statement, according to Fox News’ Fox411 blog, was: “The integrity of the questions and answers on our show are our No. 1 priority. In this case, our research team spoke directly with 3M, and they confirmed that although they had given out free samples in test markets in 1977 and 1978, it wasn’t until 1980 that Post-its were sold in stores. ‘Million Dollar Money Drop’ stands behind the answer that was revealed on the show.”

Apploff’s statement was in response to a major brouhaha about the game show involving whether or not Post-its were sold before 1980. A couple said they were, and lost $800,000 when told that was the wrong answer.

However, according to Fry, that’s not true. And, in fact, he has proof beyond just his memory. There have been a number of other accounts, including an earlier interview with Fry, that Post-its, under the name “Press & Peel,” were test-marketed in 1977. But it’s unclear from those accounts whether or not the product was sold in those markets or given away for free, as Apploff claims.

Fry is unequivocal about that. He tells TVWeek, “In 1977 we went to four markets. Richmond, Virginia; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tampa, Florida; and Denver, Colorado. Salesmen in each market sold them and then they were sold to the public. We offered two sizes. The three-by-fives were a dollar. And the ones that were one and a half inch by two were 35 cents. That’s to the public. We sold them at wholesale. It was a 50 percent mark-up and then 10 percent for the distributors.”

Later Fry told TVWeek, “Could you hold on a minute? I have a framed copy of the first order. I’ll go get it and read it to you.”

When Fry returned to the phone he said, "May 26, 1977, in Denver." The order was to Kistler and Quill. According to the Rocky Mountain News of April 27, 1996, “The W.H. Kistler Stationery Co. was renowned through the Western states as a supplier of high-quality stationery and office supplies.” The story was written on the occasion of the company’s closing after 123 years in business.

Since sales in the test markets did not go well, 3M was not going to go ahead with the product, Fry said. He then convinced them to do another test–in 1978, he says, in Boise, Idaho. In that test the product was indeed given away, ensuring that lots and lots of people would try it. They did, and liked it.

Now Fry had shown 3M that perhaps the product could be successful.

Next, a slow roll-out of again sellling Post-its was planned, Fry said. “We started that in 1979 in the Western states–California, Oregon and Washington.” He said he wasn’t absolutely sure of the month, but he thought it was in April. Fry said some distributors on the East Coast started selling Post-its in 1979 as well. “It took off so well that we did a major national roll-out in United States and Canada in 1980,” Fry said.

As recounted by Fox411, here are the details of the controversy:

On Monday night’s episode of the show, a couple lost $800,000 when they answered a question about which item was sold in stores first: the Macintosh computer, the Sony Walkman or Post-it Notes.

Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayi bet their money on Post-its, but were told they lost $800,000 by host Kevin Pollack, who said the answer was incorrect. While Mayi initially argued it was the Walkman, which was the correct answer according to producers, Okoye convinced her to go with the Post-it notes answer.

Okoye was moved to tears when he was told he had given the wrong answer.

But on Wednesday, the website Gawker.com refuted claims that the Post-it answer was incorrect. The website linked to the Post-it Facebook page, which said Post-it Notes didn’t go on sale nationally until 1980, but were market tested in four cities back in 1977.

On the show, when the apparent correct answer was revealed to be the Sony Walkman, the show said the Walkman was first sold in 1979.

However, any reading of Fry’s chronology of the Post-it shows that at the least a major sales push for the product also took place in 1979, and that the product was indeed sold to the public in 1977.#

UPDATE: More than two hours after we published this story, on Dec.. 23, 2010,  Endemol USA released a second statement, again from “Million Dollar Money Drop” executive producer Jeff Apploff: “Unfortunately, the information our research department originally obtained from 3M regarding when Post-it notes were first sold was incomplete. As a result of new information we have received from 3M, we feel it is only fair to give our contestants, Gabe and Brittany, another shot to play ‘Million Dollar Money Drop’ even though this question was not the deciding question in their game. The revised information regarding the Post-it is as follows: the product was originally tested for sale in four cities under the name ‘Press ‘N Peel’ in 1977, sold as ‘Post-its’ in 1979 when the rollout introduction began and sold nationwide in 1980. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the viewers who brought this to our attention, and we’re thrilled to give Gabe and Brittany the opportunity to return to play the game."

23 Comments

  1. But according to his quote, salesmen were selling Post-Its in 1977. He didn’t specify whether or not they were sold in stores that year. According to what youq quoted from the Fox411 blog, the question specifically asked which product was sold in stores first, not sold to the public first.

  2. Now the question is, does ‘Million Dollar Money Drop’and Fox do the honest thing and give them the money they deserved or do they do something incredibly stupid, and alienate any viewer or potential viewer, and still say they stand by their initial answer. Do they win the battle and lose the war or lose the battle and win the war. Will be interesting to see what happens.

  3. The question was what was sold “IN STORES” first. Obvoiusly, tey meant it stores which means that post it notes weren’t sold until 1980!

  4. Hi Scott. Thanks for your comment. Mr. Fry made it very clear to TVWeek that the Post-its (then called Press & Peel) were indeed sold in stores to the public in the four test markets listed in the article in 1977.

    Chuck Ross
  5. At this point I don’t think that there is anything Fox can do to win. Whatever they do, no one will trust the integrity of their answers. On all future controversial questions, everyone will always say, “…it’s just like the ‘Post-it’ question. I might not be able to prove it, but I know they are wrong.”
    Every Jeopardy episode opens with the catch phrase, “This is Jeopardy”. Fox might want to take a page out of their book and close with, “Well, what were you expecting? This ain’t Jeopardy!”

  6. It seems to me that Press and Peel was sold and not post-its

  7. Give them the money they were right and the show was wrong! They should not have to start over! Scaming them out of what they have already won-Great Show!
    Come on people tell they need to give them what they already – not start over!

  8. The show is rigged. It’s Fox. Why is anyone surprised? They’re trying to drum up ratings during a deadly dull time of year. What better way than to rig a game show?
    Of course they should admit their error, give the contestants the $800K and call it a day. But noooooo! It’s Fox, home of the cheap shot and the low blow. So they invite them to come back and play again. And lose again on another rigged question.
    Par for the course.

  9. Sounds like Fox got screwed by bad info given to them by 3M. Millionaire and even Jeopardy have gotten Qs wrong, so MDMD probably won’t suffer as a show.
    Not sure why they’d have the contestants back. The Post-It Note question wasn’t the last question. They lost money on it, but not the game. The lost the game on the last question, so the outcome would have been the same even if they had gotten the Post-It Note question right. It’s just a difference of whether they lost $80,000 or $800,000 on the last question. Either way they lose it all.
    If anyone owes anyone $, it’s 3M that should pay Fox for damaging the show (and for all the free publicity!).

  10. People people people…they lost on the last question anyway….if they made it there with the whole million its still all or nothing….the would have lost anyway….facebook rigedy

  11. Folks, if I was producing the show, I would have relied on 3M to provide me accurate information (though I would have phrased the question, “According to the product’s manufacturers, which of the following was the first to go on sale to the general public.” The public relations person from 3M should have provided the background about the name change to the show, though it’s possible that information is buried deep somewhere at 3M, since failed test marketing isn’t normally newsworthy.
    Here’s the twofold problem. Number 1: The erroneous question just happened to appear on the premiere broadcast. If it turned up, say six weeks to two months into the show’s run, it would be less noteworthy, particularly if– Number 2: The show said, “Because of the concern about the information provided on the program, the research staff of ‘MDMD’ will investigate. If the findings of the investigation reveal our contestants were at any time disadvantaged by the question, IN question, we will invite those contestants back to compete again on the program.” The show did not take the high road, and immediately took a defensive position.
    I agree, the show did not handle the situation well. There are few quiz shows which have a completely error-free record. That does NOT mean a show is rigged, just that the research staff of MDMD is human, and relied on one source–albeit what looked like the best possible source–of information. I would have done the same, however I would have put that attribution IN the question, not as an aside by the host after the answer was revealed.
    The shows is doing the right thing in bringing back the contestants on the premiere episode. Here’s the reason they deserve another shot. Even though they eventually lost it all, you have to give the benefit of the doubt that had they not lost the megabux on the faulty question, they might have played the remainder of the game differently, and might have had a different mindset toward the subsequent questions. Yeah, it’s highly unlikely they would have answered differently, but it IS possible. And that’s the very same reasoning every other show uses in the case of a faulty question. I know from personal experience, that network Standards and Practices (I assume FOX has such a set of watchdogs looking over the show) keeps a close eye on productions of game and quiz shows. A technical glitch that had no impact on an end game in which I lost a car, was called into question on the spot by NBC’s Standards and Practices representative. I was given the opportunity to play another end game a few minutes later, and won the car.
    The bottom line is, even with FOX, a game/quiz show must be on the up-and-up. It’s a federal crime to tamper with a game/quiz show, and even a network like FOX isn’t going to risk the licenses of its O&O stations on a less-than-reputable game show.

  12. The show wants to give them a second chance?
    The first thing that they should do, is to pay them the $800k which they won fair and square, then give them an additional chance to play.
    How lame can FOX be. They are making several million each time that they air the show. The $800k is only a drop in the bucket.

  13. If you accept the notion that “press and peel” products are the same as “post it” products then you must accept the fact that the “Apple 1″ computer is the same as a “Macintosh computer”.
    The Apple 1 computer went on sale on April 1st 1976 predating both “press and peel” products AND the Sony Walkman…….which in following this logic would make “Macintosh computer” the correct answer and make me the winner of the $800,000.00 as I yelled that out to my TV instantly upon hearing the question.Now can we please get back to more important issues like Sarah Pallin
    eating smores with her kids to counteract the terrorist threat that is Michele Obama”s anti obesity in american children campaign?

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  17. Yes, totally I agree with you. I like your posting. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. Not entirely. Maybe if the show got the question right in the first place, and not unecesarily upset them, they would of been able to concentrate properly and ther’s a chance they would of got it right. They should of offered to reinstate them at the next question with $800,000. No person on this planet can concentrate properly when upset, not even me.

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