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!

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.

Pizza Hut’s Intestinal Warfare


If you’ve ever heard me on the subject of Pizza Hut, it all boils down to this…  Pizza Hut = Gastrointestinal Distress.  I have no idea why.  I’ve heard the same thing from many other people when the subject is raised.  I know I’ve gotten into it on facebook not too long ago too.  I enjoy plenty of other pizzas from other chains & from the local shops, all with no digestional discomfort.

I wrote to Pizza Hut a long time ago… and this is all I had to say…

Hello Fine Friends at Pizza Hut,

Contrary to the belief held by your delicious pizzas, my intestines are not a waterslide.  Can you please instruct the   to not use my digestive system as a waterslide park?  It would be very much appreciated!

Gotta go!
-ERiC AiXeLsyD
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

Well, their answers back then were quite dissatisfying, and when I contacted them again via snail mail, my query went wholly unanswered.

Perhaps that’s why I waged another campaign of emails with a vengeance.  I looked up several Pizza Hut and Yum! Brands executives online, found the syntaxt of their respective companies’ email addresses, and fired off a few notes… as well as filled out the webform once or twice or so.

from ERiC AiXeLsyD world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
to Scott.Bergren@yum.com
date Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 8:28 AM
subject Intestinal Warfare?
mailed-by gmail.com

Hello,

This isn’t about a specific incident, but a general observation.  There was nowhere in the webform to indicate that, so I had to seek out some email addresses. I find it quite rude that there’s no general inquiry area, or a contact email address.

As for the purpose of my missive…

I would like to know why your pizza treats my intestines like a water park.  Every time I enjoy your delicious slices of pie, I feel like I have swallowed a hurricane that’s trying to escape via my …well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

I can assure you that I’m not lactose intolerant, but perhaps I’m allergic to something in your sauce or pie?  I don’t seem to have this problem with any other pizza places… chains or local.

Have any other customers written to you regarding gastrointestinal distress of any sort?  My cousin who works in a Pizza Hut in Ohio swears that they use a different sauce there, devoid of the same effects.

Thanks for your time!
-ERiC

Pizza Hut Allergen InformationThe email address experiment seemed to be to no avail.  I’ve either been blocked by IT, spam filters, or wholly ignored.  But, it looks like I did get a bite off of the webform…

from Dave Kronenwetter Davekronenwetter@aurorahuts.com
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
cc Ed Holt edholt@aurorahuts.com
date Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 9:16 AM
subject Pizza Hut Incident Eric Aixelsyd
mailed-by aurorahuts.com

Dear Mr. Aixelsyd,

I was sorry to hear about your experience at the local Pizza Hut. Let me assure you that the ingredients used here in Pennsylvania are the same quality ingredients that are used throughout the country. In most cases our ingredients come from the same suppliers. The following website lists possible allergen & sensitive ingredients : http://www.pizzahut.com/Files/pdf/Updated%20PH%20Allergen%20List%2004.17.09.pdf This website includes our nutritional information: http://www.pizzahut.com/Files/PDF/Pizza%20Hut%20Nutrition%20Info%2010.12.09.pdf. Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may have and I will handle them personally

Sincerely,
Dave Kronenwetter

Area Coach
Aurora Huts LLC
412-897-6775
davekronenwetter@aurorahuts.com

Interesting.  Well, at least now I have two good contacts… but perhaps my query will take a more serous and inquisitive turn.

Upon viewing the interesting pdf linked to by Mr. Kronenwetter, I see that a bunch of items there are marked “prepared in common equipment and therefore may contain allergens” in the shellfish column.  I’m not sure exactly why this is, because I don’t recall any shellfish on the Pizza Hut menu, and especially since the items marked are oddly random and specific…  Garlic Parmesan wings, and no others… three different pizza sauces… 3 of the 4 Tuscani pastas, and breadsticks.

I can only assume that these things arrive at Pizza Hut pre-made, and may come into contact with potential allergens at the manufacturing/processing/packaging facility?  Oh well, perhaps I can figure out a way to address this in a goofy manner, yet still yield some positive and enlightening results.  I know that many people suffer from the pizza hut digestion demon, and I really hope it’s not just some sanitary/kitchen issues.

Perhaps this too must move into snail mail territory.  For some reason, most companies seem to treat a real live letter with more respect than an email.

Yum!ballsI thought of Yum! Brands today as we watched Spaceballs…  In the characters Kernel Sandurz and Pizza the Hutt – both now Yum! Brands brands.  Would it be wrong of me to write to them and tell them that Mel Brooks is working on a new special edition of Spaceballs with more scenes, digitally inserted characters and creatures, and better re-vamped special effects… and that they’d like to include more Yum! Brands characters… like Captain Long John Silver and Taco Bell, and some droid sidekicks, A & W?