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Dear Matthew Alice:

Why do restaurants serve Diet Coke as their only diet soda? A lot of us prefer Pepsi (diet). Personally, I find Diet Coke rather gross tasting. Maybe it's easier to water down? Let me know.

-- Pepsi Lover in Vista

I can tell from the notebook paper this was written while some teacher was droning on about quadratic equations or what caused the Civil War or some other topic no good for attracting guys at the mall. Of course, if you pay attention and get good grades, you can go on to college and become a captain of industry. Then you get to dream up big business deals that will keep younger generations asking questions just like yours. Coke and Pepsi are like two rival gangs. They won't share turf, and they'll do whatever they can to control a new hangout. One of the ways they do that is by offering what they call "incentive programs" to restaurants, especially fast-food chains, in exchange for exclusive sales. Sell only Coke products, and we'll give you a better deal than Pepsi is how the sales pitch goes. Sometimes it's special promotions, deep discounts on fountain syrup, or even free syrup, depending on how tough the competition is and how desperate they are. A third competitor is Cadbury Schweppes, distributor of Dr. Pepper. They recently convinced thousands of McDonald's restaurants to boot Coke's Mr. Pibb and replace it with the Doc. So the fighting is fierce and has nothing to do with which soda is gross tasting or which one you'd prefer. But if you want to be guaranteed that you won't have to choke down Diet Coke, hang out at any Pizza Hut, KFC, or Taco Bell. To put an end to the soda wars in those places, Pepsi bought em.

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