This brilliant engineer smartly accumulated 1.25 million air miles by buying a truckload of chocolate pudding. While he donated the pudding cups to charity, he and his family traveled the world for free.

Image - Snopes

Reading the fine print can make you well-informed, but it turned facilities services civil engineer David Phillips into an international legend nearly 25 years ago. He became as sensational as the internet itself as the ‘Pudding Guy.’ He was featured in every major publication like Wall Street Journal, the London Times, the “Today Show,” and even on radio shows worldwide. His claim to fame was $3,140 worth of chocolate pudding cups from Healthy Choice, which translated into 1.25 million frequent-flier miles. “I’ve done similar things in the past but nothing that’s worked out this well,” Phillips said.

David had become a local celeb and appeared on multiple news channels. Image – Youtube / Screengrab

As sharp as he was, he was an equally keen learner, and it went beyond engineering books. From acing blackjack and mastering card-counting techniques, Phillips would’ve made an incredible card player if the smell of cigarette smoke casinos didn’t disgust him. Let’s learn in detail about how pudding cups changed the life of this civil engineer teaching at the University of California around-

Image – David with thousands of pudding cups. Image – Insider.

Six weeks of pudding work helped David accumulate 1.25 million frequent-flier miles-
The liaison with reading fine print wasn’t new, but when Healthy Choice launched a promotion in 1999, 500 Air Miles for every 10 bar codes, Phillips knew he had hit the jackpot. There was one catch- the company had an early bird stipulation that awarded people double the air miles within the first month of the competition. David left no stone unturned to receive 1000 Air Miles for buying just 10 of their pudding cups. On scouring local supermarkets, the father of two discovered a discount grocery chain selling individual chocolate pudding cups for 25 cents each. A nominal investment of $2.50 got the teacher a fabulous 1000 Air Miles. He purchased 12,000 cups of the treat after traveling 200 miles to 10 different stores.

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Davids daughter helping him peel the pudding cup packaging.Via Youtube / @Insider Business

To avoid suspicion, David told the stores he was stocking on chocolate pudding for the impending Y2K crisis.
David regularly met with surprise, suspicion, and curiosity at grocery counters. Why would anyone in their right mind buy hundreds of pudding cups? And then there was the possibility that someone else would get a whiff of the idea and start chasing the stock of Healthy Choice pudding. Not one to get bogged down, David played smartly and told people he was stocking up for Y2K, just around the corner.

By the end of the year 1999, a majority of the corporations and governments were petrified of the year changing to 2000.

The Y2K hysteria was a computer programming shortcut expected to cause mayhem as the year changed from 1999 to 2000. It was supposed to bring down computer systems infrastructures, cause massive power outages, and result in sheer chaos. David spent just over $3140 on pudding. The total dollar value of the miles he received in exchange was well over $150,000. However, one crucial prerequisite was sending off all of the bar codes before May 31st, 1999.

His family pitched in.
It was a race against time. The deadline was set, and there were many labels to deal with. This tedious act led to David huddling up with his family and friends. By the end, there were blisters on the hands of David, his wife, kids, and co-workers, along with an irrevocable disgust for chocolate pudding, thanks to the overdose. Despite their hard work, they were lagging in qualifying for the early bird part of the promotion. To speed things up, David approached the local Salvation Army. He decided to donate the pudding to them in exchange for the help of a bunch of volunteers to peel off all the bar codes. The great thing about a good deed is it always comes back. Phillips could claim over $800 back in tax deductions at the end of the year.

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He made it to the coveted American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Club –
With over a million miles in his pocket, David Phillip automatically gained lifelong access to the “American Airlines AAdvantage Gold club.” being part of this club resulted in the family enjoying a slew of awesome flying-related perks for the rest of their lives. What Davis pulled off gave him and his family plenty of benefits and a lifetime of memories. “We did a lot of family trips to Europe, to the Caribbean, and I did a lot of crazy guy trips, trips with work colleagues where we would fly to Korea for the weekend and go kind of the wrong way via Amsterdam.” He added, ‘It took me probably seven years to burn through all the miles from the pudding project.”

David Phillips is the Associate Vice President – Capital Programs, Energy & Sustainability at University of California Office of the President. Image – Linkedin

What does the Pudding Guy do?
Still reeling from being the Pudding Guy, David has traveled to over 40 countries. He shares his knowledge and experiences and gives one or two talks yearly to travel industry groups and frequent flier fanatics. The UC Davis alumnus highlights how people can travel more and spend less. “I run through about 10 different promotions I’ve taken advantage of, and use these examples to provide tips about how others can take advantage in the future,” Phillips said. “Good deals continue to pop up all the time,” he added. “I’ve already helped quite a few people become mileage millionaires.”

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With over 15 years of experience in luxury journalism, Neha Tandon Sharma is a notable senior writer at Luxurylaunches. Her expertise spans luxury yachts, high-end fashion, and celebrity culture. Beyond writing, her passion for fantasy series is evident. Beginning with articles on women-centric gadgets, she's now a leading voice in luxury, with a fondness for opulent superyachts. To date, her portfolio boasts more than 2 million words, often penned alongside a cappuccino.