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 | https://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.

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.