Tag Archives: Yum! Brands

So, is Taco Bell in on the joke, or not?


The other day I made a Facebook post about Taco Bell‘s commercials.  It got people excited, and it got me thinking.  Are Taco Bell’s commercials purposely aiming at stoners?  I would say yes, but maybe I’m over-thinking it.  Maybe it’s a humorous accident.  Maybe I just really want to try that Dorito taco shell.

Eric Carroll | Why doesn't Taco Bell just give up on "4th meal" and "late night munchies" and this Doritos shell business and just say "Taco Bell, get high and come to the border!" That "bawww" in their commercials might as well say "bong". Cheech & Chong would probably do their commercials. They reunited & probably could use some cash.  _____  Guy Montag | i have no idea what you're talking about  Jocelyn Sunder | double like!  Eric Carroll | I may have to blog about this.  Mike Copen | When are we getting the taco bell breakfast that cali gets?  Eric Carroll | When our stoners learn to stay up that late?  Jocelyn Sunder | will never happen dude, they're too tired  Jocelyn Sunder | stoners are anti-morning  Eric Carroll | Damn dirty hippies.  Jocelyn Sunder | hey man that's racist.  Jocelyn Sunder | you don't have to be a dirty hippie to be a stoner and the anti-pot dirty hippies probably don't appreciate your stereotypes lol  Eric Carroll | Wait, what?  Jocelyn Sunder | has anyone actually tried the dorito shell taco? just out of curiosity cause it looks gross to me but... you never know.  Eric Carroll | Ha ha. Pot smokers don't have any reading comprehension unless they're high... so they won't care when they're able to understand my statements, and won't understand my statements when they'd care.  Eric Carroll | The Dorito shell kind of scares me.  Eric Carroll ‎| ...And Taco Bell is starting to have the Pizza Hut effect on me.  Eric Carroll | http://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/wald-maze-letter-for-pizza-hut/  Eric Yanyo | I dunno but I'm getting awful sick of that stupid commercial where the dude drove 900 miles to get a stupid dorito taco. More like, he drove 900 seconds to the local 7-11 to get a bag of taco flavored doritoes and then take a nap.  Eric Carroll | Ha. He drove 3 miles and forgot where he was going. That's how he ended up 900 miles away.  Chuck Adams | They should stop marketing their laxatives as food...  Eric Carroll | Late night trotskis...  Kyle Healy | That's my bronco berry you're hating on pal  Andrew Welsh | The Doritos shell is amazing. I love them and wish I could eat one every day.  Eric Carroll | I'm not hating on it, I'm just saying stop hinting... and just say it.

♫♬ Late night munchies... ♫♬

I (of course) decided to write to Taco Bell and ask them about it.  Here’s what I sent…

⌓⌓⌓

From: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
To: Rob.Poetsch@yum.com
Cc: Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012
Subject:
⌓ Taco Bell’s Drug Culture Advertising?

¡Hola, hombres from the border!

I’ve been wondering about your advertising for quite some time.  With phrases like “late night munchies” and “fourth meal”, are you actively trying to evoke a connection to pot smokers?  That “baaaawww” yell in you jingle might as well be the word “bong”.  Now with this Dorito taco shell and the kid that drove 900 miles to get one, it’s just pushing it over the edge.  Are you planning a film for it in the vein of Harold & Kumar go to White Castle?  If not, maybe you should.

I just can’t tell if you’re aware of it or not.  It’s genius either way.

If you are aware of it, wow.  Way to straddle the subculture line while subliminally (or not so) appealing to what has to be a core makeup of your consumer base.  If you’re not aware of it, then… well, maybe you ought to talk to your advertising agency or marketing department or whoever handles such campaigns.  They are the true geniuses to behold here.

Maybe I’m just hyper-aware of nonsense or trying to make correlations where there are none… and you really see no connection or intend one with your commercials and stoner culture.  I mean, I don’t partake… but consider myself well informed as I have seen Friday, Half Baked, and several Cheech & Chong movies.  I refuse to think I’m the only one that sees it.

If I see it, surely you see it too?  Why don’t you just come out & say it?  I have some possible new slogans for you…

“Cure the munchies with our crunchies!”
“Get baked at the Bell!”
“Fishbowl then drive thru!”
“Open late with a well lit parking lot for shady deals!”

Well, that last one needs some work.  I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the whole thing.  Thank you for your time.

Inquisitively,
-Waldo
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

⌓⌓⌓

TACO BELL | LEGALIZE POT OUR MENU IS FOR STONERS

At least the employees here agree (if this is indeed real).

I’m anxious to see what they send back.  Will they acknowledge it?  Will they be shocked?  Will they act surprised?

Did they give that kid enough coupons to equal 55½¢ per mile?  That’s $500 in Taco Bell Bucks… and depending on the year of that Volvo, he might not be getting that good of a deal on the gas milage.

I know, I’m over-analyzing the thing… but that’s what makes my blog fun.

I feel like they know exactly what they’re doing, but I guess there’s a fine line between finding your market & making overt marijuana references.  Perhaps the latter would get some people up in arms.  Has weed not become that acceptable yet?  I know functioning contributing members of society that smoke… but then again I have seen some people that are consumed by it.

TACO BELL | WE SUPPORT PROPOSITION 19 ~LOL~

They don't really make tilde characters for those signs, do they?

I guess it’s still illegal… so they can’t tell you to bake up & amble slowly to the border.  Actually, a string of “get high responsibly & feed yourself at Taco Bell” ads would be really really funny… or a play on the medical/medicinal angle.  Health food to go with your special green medicine & help with that nasty glaucoma?

Do you feel like Taco Bell knows what they’re doing, or do you think it’s a string of coincidence?

Are they advertising to stoners and dirty pot smoking hippies (I use that term with affection), or am I thinking too much?

Would you drive 900 miles for a Dorito shell taco?  Would you do it if Taco Bell footed the bill?  Have you tried one?  Did you like it?

Do you get late night munchies?  Do you enjoy a fourth meal?  Are you a dirty pot smoking hippie?  Do you work at Taco Bell’s ad agency?

Thank You, Taco Bell.


OK, so I’ve messed with Taco Bell in the past with my Death Taco rant.  They actually sent me $25 in Taco Bell Bucks.  Today, strapped for cash, I used the last $5 taco bell certificate in my wallet.  I realized, you can get a ridiculous amount of food for $5 at Taco Bell.  (Or in today’s case, a KFC/Taco Bell.)

Check out my receipt…

#233 OUT
World Hunger – Now only $1!

I got change back, after using at $5 gift certificate, and $1 of Taco Bell’s money was used to donate to world hunger.  (Although, it looks like I bought world hunger for $1.)

It broke down like this…  There as a $2 meal that included a Double-Decker taco, a bag of Doritos, and a medium drink.  I added another Double-Decker taco (because I’m fat) for $1.59, & the girl asked if I’d like to donate $1 to world hunger, so I did… well, Taco Bell did.  It was their $1 in the first place.  Add in the tax, and I still got back 19¢… from money that I never had in the 1st place.  I know, little things amuse me.

Taco Bell has earned my respect, while their goofy cousin Pizza Hut (while also moving to lower menu prices) has not.  Where is my answer, Pizza Hut?

So Taco Bell, I would like to thank you for lunch, and world hunger would like to thank you for the dollar.

May the Schwartz be with you, always.


Well, I still haven’t gotten around to sending the snail mail version of my Spaceballs Special Edition in 3D idea… but I did pop it off to a few other email addresses.  Of those, they did go to the dudes at Spaceballs: The Prequel.  Sadly, as I write this, that site is no more.  They seem so share my affinity for the odd, as illustrated by this excellent response…

from Aaron Dietz <aarondietz@gmail.com>
to Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>
cc slave2moonlight@yahoo.com
subject Re: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?

Friends and mighty allies,

It gives me great pain to share that Dark Quino and I (Dark Aaron) will be closing down spaceballstheprequel.com within a month. We thought a lot about the decision and ultimately decided to move on to other projects. This is not because a prequel or other way of furthering the Spaceballs franchise is not merit-worthy! On the contrary, it’s still a fine idea, and it should be done.

However, after many years of fighting the fight, we have agreed to let the project rest.

Sadly, Arik, we were never able to get a personal reply from Mel Brooks, or even anything substantial from his studio. We do take partial credit in promoting Spaceballs enough that they created an animated series for it, but that’s as far as we got.

I wish you the best of luck with your idea, Arik. It is worthy of many exclamation points!!!!!

Love the R2D2 parody-character–yes, let’s put the soul back into the franchise with the most important piece! And Argbar–oh my, there’s no way that wouldn’t be on YouTube, and in people’s heads, and everywhere. Argbar is my new favorite uncreated character. Nice work!

Best to you all. And keep in touch about Spaceballs news at my other e-mail address: aarondietz@gmail.com (darkaaron@spaceballstheprequel.com will soon be going away).

May the Schwartz be with you, always.

Aaron (no longer Dark Aaron)

Heh.  That’s by far the best reply!  Although, the letter from Michael Winslow’s agent saying that Michale would be involved is funny on a whole different level…

Just in case you forgot….

Spacesalls Special Edition in 3D Character Designs

Spacesalls Special Edition in 3D Character Designs

I also wrote back to Rebecca Thornsberry at Chick-fil-A, you may remember that she suggested that I call corporate

Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>  wrote:

Hello Rebecca,

Thank you for the quick & informative reply, even though this doesn’t have much to do with you!  Have you ever seen Spaceballs?  Are you a Mel Brooks fan?

I really appreciate the corporate phone number, but do you have an email contact there?  I prefer to communicate by email, as I have an intense fear of the telephone.

Good luck with your local Chick-fil-A, you’re consistently the most polite fast food chain, even via email!

Dink Dink, Dink Dink Dink… Dink. Dink. Dink,
Arik

And got another reply…

from Chick-fil-A South Hills  <cfasouthhills@gmail.com>
to Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>
subject Re: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?

Hello Arik.  I do not have an email address for anyone because I am not sure who to send you to.  Just call that 1-800-CFA-CARE number and ask for someone in the marketing department.  That is what i would start with or they might be able to give you an email address. Since you are calling the corporate office, I was suggest actually calling at first.

Good luck,
Rebecca Thornsberry
Marketing Director

Chick-fil-A at South Hills
1620 Washington Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15241
Store- 412-833-1165
Cell- 412-443-5534
www.chick-fil-a.com/southhills

They’re so polite, even in their replies to obviously insane emails.

Spaceballs Special Edition in 3D


So, if you’ve been following the Yum! Brands saga, you know that I’ve been messing with them for a while on both legitimate and goofy levels, and that I had this idea a while ago.  I finally acted upon it.  I had to set up an alias to do it, as I’m sure most of my contacts just cringe when email from me hits their inbox.  Mel Brooks either doesn’t have an email address, or it’s a closely guarded one… as it’s very difficult to find anything for him.  I may have to print this out & snail mail it.  I’m sure it has the potential to get a funny reply.

I see, your Shwatrz is as big as mine…

from: Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>
to: [All kinds of people]
subject: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?
mailed-by: gmail.com

Hello my friends,

At last we meet again for the first time for the last time.

I write to you today with a revelation regarding Spaceballs. It is my belief that something needs to be done before George Lucas releases Star Wars in 3D, Spaceballs needs to have a re-vamped special edition (like the Star Wars ones released in 1997), possibly even jumping in to 3D before Star Wars.

The reason that I’m writing to both “Yum! Brands” and MGM employees is because I can’t find a good email address for Mel Brooks. Does Mel have an email address?

MGM still owns the rights to the movie, correct? Also, I address “Yum!” because, as you well know, two characters that are parodies of “Yum! Brands” brands appear quite prominently in the Spaceballs saga. If you don’t know, here’s some help from Wikipedia:

  • Pizza the Hutt, named after the pizza restaurant chain, is a half-man, half-Pizza Mafioso and a parody of Jabba the Hutt. He forces Lone Starr to pay one million credits to him. By the end of the film, however, a “news segment” watched by Lone Starr and Barf reveals that Pizza got locked in his limo and ate himself to death, thus meaning Lone Starr and Barf won’t have to pay anymore. The voice of Pizza the Hutt is performed by Dom DeLuise.
  • Colonel Sandurz[8] is a parody of the leading Imperial Officers from Star Wars, such as Veers and Piett or Grand Moff Tarkin. ‘Colonel’ is his rank; however, ‘Kernel’ is his real name. His name is a pun on KFC‘s founder Colonel Sanders. (At one point, Dark Helmet taunts him into action, saying, “What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?“)

I believe that the Schwartz has aligned because at the time of the filming of Spaceballs, these were parodies of two wholly separate fast food companies. (Or were PepsiCo or TriCon in control at that point?) Now, they are just two of many systems in the “Yum!” galaxy, if you will.

The opportunity exists to film news scenes and digitally insert new characters… and in the spirit of the original; “Moichandizing! Moichandizing! Moichandizing!” I still never did get Spaceballs, the flamethrower. We are at a point in time with advertising and merchandising where a once preposterously offensive idea would now be considered almost normal.

This could be a huge cross-promotional tie-in empire, and may even save MGM from its current financial woes. I propose a set of new characters, new scenes, and new toys/products…

New Characters:

  • AN-UU (pronounced “Ay – en – double – you”), the fearless side-kick to Dot Matrix. After all, this is the most obvious glaring omission from the original Spaceballs movie. Yeah, you can combine Luke & Han, but you can’t drop R2-D2! He is the undeniable (albeit mechanical) heart of the Star Wars franchise. Imagine, he could be like a little root-beer bottle or vending machine shaped droid.
  • Tako Juan Bellobi, Lone Star’s other mentor, who gives him the Schwartz ring saying it was his father’s, then sends him to Yogurt to learn how to use it. Living in a desert, the Mexican tie-in, a colorful Mexican-styled blanket instead of the Jedi robe… a “Stinking Badges” Blazing Saddles reference, a cojones joke or two, this could be a comedic gold mine.
  • Long Jon Argbar, arguably one of the most recognizable internet memes of all time would be Admiral Ackbar’s “It’s a Trap!”. This simply cannot be ignored. Long John Silver and Admiral Ackbar would be a perfect mix given their similar aquatic nature. I see the character almost like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Also, if we want to get super nerdy, I have derived the name Argbar from (obviously) Ackbar and the Latin for silver, argentum. Tie in fictional pirates’ proclivity to exclaim “Argh” or “Arg” or “Arrrr”, and we have a win-win-win situation.
  • The Wing Fleet – Not a character per-say… but a play on Tie-fighters and X-Wings, a rebel alliance and empire (“Yum!”-pire?) ought to be created… legions of the Spaceballs’ fighters could be shaped like chicken wings and fly out of a large bucket on top of the ship.

(Please see my character design concepts in the attached *.jpg)

New Scenes/Bits/Gags:

  • To parody the interrogation scene from Star Wars: A New Hope and to tie into KFC’s new healthier image… Colonel Sandurz could “grill” Princess Vespa much like the “comb the desert” scene. Can you see the giant grill now? The lines on her back? Perhaps a smells/tastes like chicken joke?
  • In the “It’s a Trap” spirit… Long Jon Argbar’s shtick could be to exclaim “It’s a ___!” over & over again, perhaps stopping all the action and looking at the camera after a particularly bad one… and shrugging his shoulders before moving on with it. The blank could be many different things; Tap (in reference to AN-UU’s root beer tap perhaps?), Carp (an aquatic fish reference), frap (Mr. Coffee/Mr. Radar joke), or many, many more things… like Tarp, Part, Wrap, Crap, etc.

New Products & Tie Ins:

  • Yogurt – Perhaps most obviously, yogurt ought to be offered as a dessert item on all “Yum! Brands” restaurants’ menus… perhaps in collectible cups? Everyone’s into this health-food malarkey these days. Perhaps even frozen yogurt, as to not be so disgusting?
  • Toys – Obviously the toys associated with kids meals would be big hits with kids & collectors alike. The toys from all the chains could represent their parodied character and a few of his friends… needing to visit all of the chains to complete your collection… possibly even getting a part of the Spaceballs ship (Mega-Maid) at each chain that are all put together Voltron-style, much like the Transformers reference in the Spaceballs movie?
  • If you guys want to get crazy, we could reach out to Starbucks and infuse them into the Mr. Coffee scene, and replace all references to “spacebucks” as “starbucks”. Perhaps “Yum!” could acquire them before the release of the film?

As you can see, this is a no-brainer, and once you have had the time to review my email, and perhaps forward it to Mel Brooks and/or Brooksfilms Ltd., you will most assuredly be prepared to move along at ludicrous speed. There is no way to not make money with this.  Star Wars fans will rabidly go after anything remotely associated to the movie, and most are geeks who love Mr. Brooks’ style of humor.

If new scenes need to be filmed, I’m sure Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, George Wyner, Daphne Zungia, and the others would appreciate the work. Perhaps Barf could be wholly replaced by new hot funnyman Zach Galifianakis, as John Candy would be currently unavailable due to his deceased nature. You wouldn’t even need to add much fake fur to the costume. Have you seen the guy?

As far as my involvement, I expect nothing other than to be credited with the inception/inspiration of the project. I would just like to see it happen; perhaps a producer credit? From what I understand, those are mostly meaningless anyway.

I’d like to thank you for your time, and I’m sure you’re as excited about this as I am. These are the droids you’re looking for.

May the Schwartz be with you!
Arik

And, this was the attached photo…

Spaceballs 3D Special Edition Character Designs by Arik Cearbhall

I know, I have mad photo-editing skills.  You don’t have to tell me.

As an afterthought, I felt that all of the other fast food chains out there shouldn’t be denied, so… I re-sent the message with this as a forward:

Hello friends,

I write to you to present an opportunity that may titillate your funny bone.  I have recently written to Mel Brooks, MGM, and your competitor, “Yum! Brands” in the interest of putting together a “Special Edition” version of Spaceballs (perhaps in 3D) featuring new Fast Food related characters.  I have not yet received a reply, but after it was sent, I felt that I had been leaving out many other fine establishments.  Would you have any interest in participating in such a project?  I can certainly come up with new character designs as a parody of your brands.  I consider myself an expert on both Star Wars and fast food.

Please find my entire original message below, and see what you think as it pertains to you!

Hail Skroob!
Arik

Heh. This message actually got me the first few replies…

From a local Chick-fil-A:

from: Chick-fil-A South Hills  <cfasouthhills@gmail.com>
to: Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>
subject: Re: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?
mailed-by: gmail.com

Hello Arik.  My name is Rebecca Thornsberry and I am the Marketing Director for the Chick-fil-A at South Hills.  Each store is individually owned and operated, so this sounds like something that you would have to get permission from our Corporate Office in Atlanta to do.  If you feel like you’d like to pursue this, you could start with the 1-800-CFA-CORP.  Thanks for offering this to us, but I am sorry that I cannot help you with this.

Thanks,
Rebecca Thornsberry
Marketing Director

Chick-fil-A at South Hills
1620 Washington Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15241
Store- 412-833-1165
Cell- 412-443-5534
http://www.chick-fil-a.com/southhills

From an irritable Quiznos employee:

from: Creative Requests <creativerequests@quiznos.com>
to: Arik Cearbhall <arikcearbhall@gmail.com>
subject: RE: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?
mailed-by: quiznos.com

I’m only writing you back to say that it is very inappropriate to include all recipients in the “TO” field and not the “BCC”.  Not only is this SPAM mail – unwelcome and unsolicited – it allows anyone on this email to know the emails of all recipients.

Please DO NOT email this address again.

The first reply from anyone actually associated with the project:

from: roger paul <rogerpaulmgmt@aol.com>
to: arikcearbhall@gmail.com
subject: Re: Spaceballs 3D – featuring more Yum! Brands characters?
mailed-by: aol.com

My client Michael Winslow would be up for the challenge

Roger Paul
1650 Broadway
Suite 1105
NY NY 10019
212-262-0008 Phone
212-333-5180 Fax
347-993-0939 Cell

Yeah, that’s actually Michael Winslow‘s management.  He’s “that Police Academy guy” relevant here as the radar operator in Spaceballs.  Dude is awesome.

Then we have…  Silence from everyone else, so far.  I can’t wait to get some more replies.  I just may have to send out some snail mail on this one to the actors & studios.  It is still early, hopefully more responses will pour in!

Confused about Pizza Hut & Taco Bell?


The last post was going to have some explanation, but my dumb ass hit the “Publish” button instead of the “Save Draft” button.  Perhaps because the Publish button is blue and shiny, or perhaps because I have a problem actually reading the screen.

Some of you may have seen my blogs posts, and think I’m a little “off”.  Well, you’re right.  But, I do post these things with an odd sense of humor.  Sometimes I write serious complaint letters, sometimes I write ridiculous letters just to be ridiculous.  More often than not, the lines get blurred.  My guess is that you either get it, or you don’t.  If I have to remind you that I really don’t expect every restaurant out there to cater to my special dietary needs, it ceases being funny.  (If it ever was in the first place.)

If you’re not quite sure, or new to my insanity, I’m going to try to recap the latest ongoing saga involving Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.  I hope to intertwine this with some other chaos soon.

So, that brings us to our “what’s happening now is happening now” moment.

Pizza Hut Customer Satisfaction.


…Or not.

This recently dropped into my inbox:

from    Williams, Corey <Corey.Williams@yum.com>
to    <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
date    Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM
mailed-by    yum.com

Good morning Mr. Aixelsyd-
I was hoping to have heard from you regarding a telephone number by which I can contact you to discuss your concerns. I see that you have sent your questions to other individuals within our organization as well. I assure you that I am the appropriate person to respond to your concerns and hope to have the opportunity to speak with you soon regarding this topic.
The Allergies & Sensitivities Guide, available through the Pizza Hut web site, indicates products where an ingredient or product contains one of the 8 major allergens.  We maintain strict sanitation guidelines with our suppliers to ensure that this equipment goes through the appropriate cleaning prior to being used to prepare our ingredients.  Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, Pizza Hut takes the additional step to inform our customers about ingredients or products that are produced at a manufacturing facility on equipment that may also be used to produce other products or ingredients (for other restaurants and food companies) that contain the allergen.
I hope this sufficiently answers your questions. If you have additional questions concerning this topic please contact me, via telephone, to discuss.
Sincerely,
Corey Williams
Customer Satisfaction
Pizza Hut
972.338.7917
Corey.Williams@yum.com

Well, it seems like I’ve ruffled a feather or two.  Not sure how much more clear I can be regarding not wanting to speak via telephone.  I’m not a phone person, I never have been… and most important of all, I wouldn’t be able to share my correspondence here.

I’m sure this is spurred by my new friend, Rob Poetsch, at Taco Bell.  What does this have to do with Taco Bell?  Yum! Brands.

Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


Death Taco


Death Taco. No, that’s not the coolest new metal or grindcore band, although maybe it should be.  It’s what I’m (of course) calling the newest Taco Bell menu item.  I have had some inquires as to why I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Well, I did make a faint mention via Facebook or Twitter a while ago, but had declined to rant here as I’ve been relentlessly trying to contact Taco Bell.  You know how successful webforms are, so of course I got no answer from that, then I fished around for email addresses to send a full email, bugged them via Twitter for an address, and even posted an Ask Yahoo! question.  Out of nowhere, I finally received a reply, and I have no idea if it was in reply to the webform, my emails to random Yum! Brands and Taco Bell email addresses, or some other forum.

I’d like to share my original messages with you.  First the one via webform:

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco! Firstly, this isn’t about an incident at a specific Taco Bell, but the form didn’t allow room for general inquiries. I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.  I don’t think I can express my thoughts in a box with a mere 500-character limit. Do you have an actual email address where I can contact someone?

…And this was to some email addresses that I found after some Googling.

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Taco Fail
To: webmaster@tacobell.com (and a bunch of other addresses)

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco!

I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.

I have a severe shellfish allergy, and Taco Bell has been a shellfish-free dining safe haven for me for years.  It’s one of the few places where I never had to worry about shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc. ending up in my food, or worse yet… crossing paths in the kitchen somewhere.

I will sadly have to cross Taco Bell off of my list of places to dine… but I’d like you to know that there are many of us out here with severe shellfish allergies who have an increasingly difficult time finding safe places to dine out.  Fast food joints have long been a safe-haven for those of us with a shellfish allergy… as most fine dining and now even chain family style restaurants have several shellfish dishes prepared on multiple kitchen surfaces.  Formerly, as long as I stayed away from Long John Silver’s, I was OK.  Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, …were all safe places.

I guess I’ll now have to get my quick Mexican fix at Qdoba or Chipotle.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to dine out with a shellfish allergy, please read this blog post.

Here’s an excerpt…

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue…

I hope that this helps explain what people like me go through, and I hope that you re-consider selling death-filled tacos!

Running from the border,

-Eric

And, this is the reply, although I’m not sure if it’s the reply to one of the above messages, or in poking around on Twitter:

From: Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations) <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Subject: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com” <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Dear Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Shellfish allergens concerning our new Pacific Shrimp Tacos.  We want you to know that we take these matters very seriously and that the business of our customers is our top priority.  We value loyal customers such as yourself and would like to take the opportunity to win your business back.

To ,  to our customers who might have Shellfish allergens, we have displayed information at multiple locations in our fish.  These include Shrimp allergen signs that are placed on our window and door clings as well as in our ads where orders are taken.  While the Pacific Shrimp Tacos are offered for a limited time only, all Taco Bell employees have been trained and certified to not have any food products come in contact with Fish and Shellfish during cooking and/or serving.

We would like to send you some Taco Bell Bucks as a token of our thanks, so please email me back with your mailing address.  We hope you will continue to “Think Outside the Bun” at Taco Bell, and appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,
Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Public Relations

Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Corp.
One Glen Bell Way
Irvine, CA 92618
O: 949-863-3915
F: 949-863-2252
rob.poetsch@tacobell.com

Of course, I needed to reply:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations)” <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the reply!  I was beginning to wonder if Taco Bell has a stand on the issue.  While I am pleased to hear about the allergen warning signs along with the employee training and certification, I must say that I still have some reservations about safety.  I am relieved to hear that the shrimp tacos are available for a limited time only.

It is great that you take responsibility in posting signs about allergy warnings.  Your fellow Yum! Brands organization, Pizza Hut, ought to take note.  They display allergen information on their website, noting that the pizza sauce may come into contact with shellfish… but there’s no shellfish on the menu.  When I asked where the contamination may occur (e.g. in the processing/canning facility?) they were unable (or I sadly suspect unwilling) to provide a detailed response.

Back to the subject of Taco Bell… the giant window-clings showing what I’m sure to many is a succulent appetizing piece of shrimp spilling out of a lovely soft taco shell looks to me like a giant Mr. Yuck sticker or the old-time skull & cross-bones “poison” logo that you’d see in cartoons.  They serve as an effective if not spine-chilling reminder as to the presence of shellfish allergens on the premises.  They would also kick my survival instincts into gear, not even letting me enter the presence.  Seriously.  I would wager that right now, it would be pretty difficult to physically get me into a Taco Bell restaurant. My Eustachian tubes are starting to itch just thinking about it.  I realize that this is also a highly personal mental health issue, but one that ought not be taken lightly, as it’s grounded in a very real fear.

Recently I read the blog of a man who almost died when he ordered a vegetarian Indian potato curry dish that he was assured was safe.  Apparently the dish was flavored with a shrimp brine… which ought to be disturbing to vegetarians, vegans, kosher folks, and people with shellfish allergies.  This is alarming to say the least.  I realize that simple cross-contamination may not seem as serious as flavoring an entire dish with shrimp-juice, but I can assure you that it is indeed just as deadly.  Our friends with wheat/gluten and peanut allergies seem to get a lot of attention lately, hopefully it will spill over to the rest of us with the “big 8″ and those who aren’t even covered by that umbrella.

Have you taken the allergen training, or do you know what’s involved?  I am finding it hard to tactfully express my concerns about the way that the message was conveyed to Taco Bell employees and the actual willingness of the employees to understand and comply.  We’ve all watched training videos on various subjects and rolled our eyes, promptly taken pamphlets and placed them in the trash, or been angered when someone who doesn’t do our job gives us a new or added process that we must adhere to when we’re sure that the person suggesting the changes has never been in our shoes.

While I mean no disrespect to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurant, have you been to a Taco Bell lately?  Sometimes I am concerned about the personal hygiene and motivation of the employees let alone the cleanliness and efficiency of the kitchen.  Sadly, the low quality and poor service of fast food establishments has become a passively accepted facet of 21st Century life in the United States.  For evidence, I give you the term “McJob“.

I have a theory that for so long now, it has been expressed to kids everywhere to get higher education so you don’t end up as a laborer, janitor, or fast food employee… that fast food jobs have garnered such a negative connotation, the only people left willing to take the jobs are the highly unmotivated individuals, people with no other options, or people using the part time jobs for extra cash with no real pride in their work since there’s no real fear of losing the job or striving to move up the chain of command.

I would invite you to imagine that in the Taco Bell kitchen where you are about to dine there are the standard (and innovative!) sour cream and cheese caulking-gun looking dispensers all loaded on the food preparation area… along side a caulking-gun-looking dispenser filled with a highly toxic pest-control chemical that looks interestingly enough like cheese or sour cream.  Would you still feel safe in eating there?  Sure.  The employees can read.  Sure, they know the difference.  Are they ever rushed in a fast food kitchen?  Do mistakes ever happen?  Of course.  I’m guessing you would at least think twice or watch closely before you dine.

I understand that this scenario is preposterous because I would hope that some sort of federal regulations would forbid any toxic chemicals from being stored in a food preparation area.  No such federal regulations exist for people like me, although Massachusetts is moving forward with this type of thing.

While I trust that your training an certification was put forth with the best of intentions, you must understand that I question its implementation, practicality, and how it’s received and practiced by what amounts to be the first line of contact with your customers… the Taco Bell team member.  What exactly does the certification say?  Does each employee have it, or does a certification apply to an entire restaurant or shift?

I challenge you to quiz the workers at Taco Bells in various locations… inner city, suburbs, malls, and the combo units, and see how much the workers really know about cross-contamination and allergy issues and how they’re observed in a Taco Bell kitchen.  (Hopefully, they fare better than Subway employees.)

All that said, I appreciate and applaud the considerable thought and effort that has already gone into allergen awareness.  Spreading knowledge is the first step.  Did you know that May 9th-15th 2002 is the thirteenth annual Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Now is the time to act and inform, my friend!

I would certainly appreciate some Taco Bell Bucks, if you’ll understand that I may hold on to them until well after the current Pacific Shrimp Taco promotion is over. (Pending reviews, it may not last all that long, eh?) Taco Bell had previously been a shellfish-free Mexican-ish fast food haven for me for many many years.  I can’t tell you how many tacos I ate at the mall nearby to where I grew up when I was a teenager.  A dollar went much further at Taco Bell than it did at McDonald’s, Burger King or anywhere else in the food court.

My address is…

Eric Aixelsyd
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX-XXXX

I would like to thank you once again for your time and the thoughtful informative reply.  I look forward to perhaps what may be a continued dialog about allergy awareness issues in the fast food industry, and more specifically relating to Taco Bell and other Yum! Brands.

-Eric

Wow, do I hope they write back.

A barrage of emails from Pizza Hut


After getting no response to my last message, I decided to try again.  I re-sent the message, this time to a bunch of email addresses that I obtained upon a quick Google search or two, and added this little forward…

Hello,

Recently, I’ve been trying to obtain some more specific allergen information on some Pizza Hut products to no avail. I’ve sent the message(s) below, and as of yet haven’t had a real reply. Are you able to help pass this along to an individual who would be able to provide answers in writing, or even better yet… provide some answers yourself?

I thank you in advance for your time & help!

-Eric

Oh boy, did that work.  Mr. Williams’ latest message almost made me title this blog “Pissy Hut”, but I eventually decided against it.  Perhaps I’m reading too much into it… it is nearly impossible to pick up inflection via email.  I’ll let you make your own inferences.

from Williams, Corey Corey.Williams@yum.com
to “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com”
date Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Mr. Aixelsyd-

We’ve provided you all the information we have available regarding your inquiry. If you’d like to discuss further, please provide your phone number and a customer support representative will contact you. Otherwise, we’ll consider your question resolved. Additionally, correspondences sent to multiple e-mail addresses at Pizza Hut can actually slow us down in responding to you. Please send your messages directly to me so that we may best address your concerns.

Thank you,
Corey Williams
Customer Service
Pizza Hut

Passive aggressive emails?  I’m guessing “correspondences sent to multiple e-mail addresses at Pizza Hut” is the only thing that prompted a response this time.  Again, my concerns were clearly laid out in my original response, and re-forwarded and included in its entirety with the last message.  They have yet to be addressed.

This is where we begin passing the buck.

Below, Ed is agreeable to some sort of feedback, and wishes to remain in the loop, but is clearly unable to answer any of my inquiries with any sort of direct response.  I’m guessing this cross-contamination stuff is just not common knowledge within the Pizza Hut organization.  He signed his name in large bold text.  There’s no point to pointing that out I guess, I just found it interesting.

from Ed Holt edholt@aurorahuts.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by Ed.

Mr. Aixelsyd,

Your questions have been elevated to Pizza Hut Inc. With your very specific requests, they are best capable of providing the information requested and have committed to assisting you.

I am the best contact locally and will continue to be in the communication loop. I have asked for an update to your request.

Ed

Next, Susan offers a solution, and says that she forwarded the message to the appropriate parties.  The only problem is that I still have no contact information for those parties, and I sure hope it’s not Mr. Williams or Mr. Holt.

from Burton, Susan Susan.Burton@yum.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 8:51 AM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Eric,

Unfortunately, I am the contact for KFC Franchising. I will forward your request to my counterpart in Pizza Hut hoping that she will be able to identify who would best answer your questions.

Thank you and have a great day!

Susan Burton
KFC Franchise Recruiting
KFC Franchise On Boarding

1900 Colonel Sanders Lane
Louisville, KY 40213
Office: 502-874-8201
Fax: 502-874-8848

What is “Franchise On Boarding”, I wonder?  Should there be a “-” in there?  As in getting someone on-board?  There is hope in her counterpart being a “she” that it’s definitely not Mr. Williams… so we may yet one day have a resolution to all of this madness.

Not even sure where or how I got the next email address, but it seems to be the one that holds the most promise.  Perhaps this is Ms. Burton’s Pizza Hut counterpart.  If so, is KFC the “evil” alternate universe?  I can only assume so, as Colonel Sanders has a goatee (and was never really a Colonel).

from Hiring Zone Candidate sites HZAdministrator@yum.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Hi, Eric –

Thank you for your email. I am sorry that you’ve had so much trouble getting in touch with the right person to handle your inquiry. Unfortunately, I’m not that person either; however, I have forwarded your question to one of the brand leads for Pizza Hut as a way to get in touch with the person who has this information to answer your questions. If/when I hear anything back from them, I will let you know, unless they confirm that they will be getting in touch with you directly.

Thanks,
Amanda E. Herde
Hiring Zone System Administrator
Yum! Global Talent Management
100% Customer Mania … It Starts With Me!

Maybe it’s the positive attitude and non-condescending tone, maybe it’s the exclamation point, maybe it’s the bold + italics power punch, maybe it’s the “100% Customer Mania” tag-line… I want to believe our friend Amanda.  Global Talent Management sounds impressive… much more impressive than Area Coach or , Region Coach.  Perhaps we shall have some answers!

To recap, this is what I’m asking…

from ERiC AiXeLsyD
to Dave Kronenwetter
cc Ed Holt
date Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 2:17 PM
subject Re: Pizza Hut Incident Eric Aixelsyd
mailed-by gmail.com

Thank you Mr. Kronenwetter,

You are, as of yet, the only representative from Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands that has answered my original query.  I applaud your dedication to service and customer satisfaction.  I used the contact form on the website, and acquired some email addresses from around the web when I discovered that was to no avail.

I am interested in the linked allergen information though.  I do have a severe shellfish allergy, and it concerns me that items with an “•” are notated with the ominous “products are prepared in common equipment and therefore may contain allergen” warning.

More interesting to me are the items marked…

  • SAUCES; All-Natural Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Sweet Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Old World Pizza Sauce
  • TUSCANI PASTAS; Lasagna, Chicken Alfredo, Meaty Marinara
  • APPETIZERS Served with dipping sauce; Breadsticks
  • WS Bone Out Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Crispy Bone In Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Traditional Wings; Garlic Parmesan

I see from the menu & nutritional info available online that there’s no shellfish available to order, so the “prepared in common equipment” line really really confuses me.  Am I to assume that the common equipment is in the manufacturing/processing/canning facility with the sauce?

Are the breadsticks & garlic Parmesan wings listed simply because they’re served with the sauce?  Are the wings breaded alongside shrimp at the factory?  Are the breadsticks marinated in butter beside lobster at the processing plant?

Are the pastas listed simply because they contain the sauce?  But then, there’s the Alfredo… which is a wholly different kind of sauce.  Are the noodles the culprit?  I must say that the whole thing has me befuddled.

Basically, you’re telling me that if I’m allergic to shellfish… I might want to avoid everything that contains pizza sauce …from a place called Pizza Hut?

Also, the text from the bottom may require a little clarification…

The allergen information displayed on this site is based on standard product formulations and is current as of March 2009. Variations may occur due to differences in suppliers, ingredient substitutions, recipe revisions, and/or product production at the restaurant.

Anchovies (Fish) are offered in many Pizza Hut restaurants. Shrimp (Shellfish) is offered in a very limited number of Pizza Hut restaurants. Customers with concerns should contact their restaurant directly to determine if these ingredients are handled in the restaurant.

Huh?  How is one to be made aware if there are different circumstances regarding  suppliers, ingredient substitutions, revisions, or product production?  I’ve never had a hostess seat me, list the specials, then divulge any information about new suppliers, possible substitutions, or about new preparation methods.  I’ve never seen it written on a dry-erase board inside the door, or in a menu insert.  How am I supposed to be sure that Pizza Hut isn’t going to inadvertently send me into Anaphylactic shock?

Does the second line about shrimp make all the above listed possible concerns no longer a concern… or is that in addition to already existing concerns?

Please, don’t take my questions as lashing out at you personally, but really… can you understand the frustration I have at learning of these menacing shellfish issues?  Certainly you can appreciate the humor of having to go to Pizza Hut only to avoid pizza sauce?  Perhaps the allergen information page needs updated and clarified?

I realize that I am sending a lot of questions your way at once.  I would like to thank you in advance for your time and I hope that you will give all of my concerns some serious contemplation, and perhaps pass it on to others at Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands for their additional input.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance website, “Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy. Food-induced anaphylaxis is believed to cause 50,000 emergency room visits and about 150 deaths annually.”  I really don’t want to be one of those 150, or even one of the 50,000 any time soon… but I would like to be able to enjoy some fantastic pizza (without the aforementioned disastrous after-effects).

I look forward to your thoughts!

Inquisitively,
-Eric
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

Yes, Mr. Williams, I have additional questions that have gone unanswered.  No, my issue is not resolved.  No, I do not wish to discuss this issue over the phone… as discussed in my original response to you.

I hope someone out there knows the answers to my questions!  At least we can amuse & confuse the companies responsible until I have a straight answer to this cross-contamination problem.