National Origin Discrimination

Truth — does it always matter? We’re so obsessed with fake news and lying politicians and foreign and domestic manipulators of fact these days that it’s easy to forget that truth doesn’t always matter.

OK, it matters a lot, but not always. I know this — well, actually, I think this — because of a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles last week by three different law firms from around the country against Asahi Beer U.S.A., Inc., for allegedly misleading consumers.

It seems that Asahi sells Asahi Super Dry beer in packaging with Japanese references, words and characters.

But it’s brewed in Canada.

“Plaintiffs and other consumers have reasonably relied on defendant’s deceptive advertising in purchasing the product, believing that the product was brewed in Japan,” the suit said.

Imagine their disappointment when they tasted the beer and realized it was Canadian.

Really, try to imagine it, because I can’t.

It gets weirder. According to the complaint, someone recently conducted a national survey of more than 1,000 people that showed 86 percent of them thought the beer, based on the packaging, was brewed in Japan.

There’s no mention of what percentage of them cared.

Who would commission a survey to find this out?

Why would someone commission a survey to find this out?

Had they been heavily drinking before beginning the survey?

The lawsuit claims that if consumers had known the beer wasn’t brewed in Japan, they wouldn’t have bought it, or would have paid significantly less. The suit wants restitution of this unjust enrichment.

I like beer, but I have no idea whether there’s a premium on Japanese-brewed beer. So, naturally, I took to the internet to price beer. A six-pack of Asahi Super Dry goes for $8.99 at one popular liquor site. I guess that’s a bit high for a six-pack, but is the price for the quality of the contents or the nonexistent shipping from Japan?

Reviews online are decidedly mixed. Thisdrinkinglife.com, for example, said, “Generally tasteless, not great at all, actually feel cheated. It says on the label beer, but this tastes like bottled water.”

That might be because the stuff was made with Canadian water. According to the lawsuit, “the Osaka prefecture (where the Japanese version is made) is known for its good quality spring water, which is influential in the taste and quality of the beer.”

So maybe a class action should have been about the taste, but this one couldn’t have been because, the lawsuit said, one of the plaintiffs bought the beer at “multiple locations” around June through August of 2015. He didn’t stop buying it until he found out it wasn’t imported from Japan. The other named plaintiff bought his beer in 2016. Apparently, it takes a while to brew a good lawsuit.

Maybe this shouldn’t be so perplexing. After all, we’ve had lots of lawsuits over products labeled “Made in America” that contain parts made elsewhere. We should have the right to contribute to the economies of our choice.

I can’t help picturing the scene in a lawyer’s office one day when a distraught client came in with the stunning revelation that he’d been duped into drinking beer that was Canadian and not Japanese. The immediate reaction: Class action! Justice must be served!

Preferably ice cold.

Another white lie? A Michigan Court of Appeals panel last week issued a ruling on another test of the value of truth — this time in an employment case. This is what the ruling said: “In her application materials, Buol falsely represented that she had earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. Buol worked for defendant for the next 23 years, ultimately achieving the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO).”

The employer is now complaining, but how damaged was the employer by this lie?

Before you answer, consider how many people with legitimate degrees do terrible jobs and don’t end up as COOs. So what exactly are the damages to the company here?

The court, in case you’re wondering, didn’t have an answer and sent the question back down to the trial court to think about. Those of you interested in philosophy may want to follow this.

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