Sunday, June 17, 2012

paying the price at taco bell

I do love me some Taco Bell.  Mostly because it's cheap, but in addition to that, the food is pretty good.   Okay, let's be real... its almost 99% because its cheap, and the other 1% or so is because of the food.  Its not that good, but the cheapness of it overrides the not good tasteness of it any day.  Why do you think I go to Krystal's sometimes?  Of course, Krystal's isn't cheap either, when you get more than one or two Krystal's, or toss in a Chik or even a Corn Dog Pup, but still...

Back to Taco Bell.

I'm a creature of frugal habit, and at Taco Bell, I dig on The Deal #4.  Its a burrito with a bag of Doritos and a drink for like, $2.39 or something.  I add on a 99 cent cheesy roll-up and up until recently, I'd add on a regular soft taco for 89 cents and my entire meal tops out at around 5 bucks, tax included.

Lately, however, I've been on this Doritos Locos Taco kick... if you don't know much about it, its simply a regular hard shell taco, yet the shell is made of an actual Dorito, all cheesy and greasy and fattening and everything else.  I'm personally a Cool Ranch Dorito guy myself, so the day they come out with that puppy will be the day I'll be living at Taco Bell, but I digress.

I also enjoy sour cream on my Mexican food, as my friend Hot Manager Melanie loves to tease me about.  Tacos are not any different, even when its fake Mexican like Taco Bell... the problem at The Bell, however, is sour cream comes at a premium.  Its 45 cents extra to get sour cream, and they essentially take what must be an actual tea spoon, scoop out a slight dot of sour cream and glop it right in the middle of your taco.  So for your 45 cents, you get two bites of your taco that taste normal, one glorious, sour cream filled bite in the middle, then two more regular, bland bites.  I must also tell you that I ask for no lettuce on my taco, so it really is just a meat and cheese experience.

So the first time I got my Deal #4 at Taco Bell, I added on my cheesy roll up, and decided to try the Doritos Locos Taco... the food was good, as usual, but the Doritos Locos Taco was marvelous.  So the next time, I figured I'd get the same thing, but added on the 45 cent sour cream.  Again, it was awesome, though that one single bite with the glop of sour cream right in the middle was marvelouser.  So, so good.

The next time I visited Taco Bell--mind you, this is over a matter of weeks, lest you think I'm just kicking it Bell School nine times per week--I did something a little different.  I noticed the price of the Doritos Locos Taco was $1.29.  The Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, however, was $1.49.  For you math scholars out there, that's a 20 cent different.  Add the 45 cents to the $1.29 price, and I'm paying $1.74 per taco...

however comma...

...the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme comes WITH the sour cream in that $1.49 price.  And they don't just drip it on in a minuscule amount... nay nay, since the sour cream is an actual ingredient in the recipe, they use that big sour cream tubey thing and smear it from one end of that crunchy Doritos shell to the other.  So this day, I ordered a Doritos Locos Taco Supreme with no lettuce or tomato for $1.49.  How smart am I, right?

Now, what kind of blog post would this be were there not some conflict?  And I'm not just talking internally with stomach issues later, 3 to 5 hours after dinner...

The view, standing at the middle register and
looking at the menus.
About a week ago, I went in with intentions on getting my Deal #4, and this time, skipping the cheesy roll up for two of the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, minus the lettuce and tomato.  I'm not going to give you the location (Highway 280) of the one I visited, but when you stand at the register, you can look up and dead center to you is a menu panel that says the words "FEATURED: DORITOS LOCOS TACOS", with pictures of the supreme and a few of the tacos in a box.  Below that are your options... the regular ($1.29), the supreme ($1.49) and the box ($5.00).  Its important to note that this is so plainly right in front of you, so remember this.

I don't remember the little 50-something white lady I talked to, but we'll call her Vivian...

Vivian:  What can we get for you?
Me: I want to get a Deal #4 please, and please add on two Doritos Locos Taco Supremes, minus the lettuce and tomato on both.
Vivian:  You know its the lettuce and tomato that make the supreme, right?
Me:  Yes, but it also has sour cream on it.  If I get the regular, its an additional 45 cents for a very small amount.  Or, I can pay only 20 cents more and get a larger amount included.
Vivian:  Oh, okay, I guess that makes sense.

She rings me up, I pay, and then stand off to the side with my receipt.  Had Vivian stopped there, I don't know that this post would exist, because I honestly can't tell you I'd be any the wiser... but she didn't stop there.

As I stood over to the side, she came over and said, "You know, if you wanted to, you could just get a 45 cup of sour cream on the side..." and I replied, "That's true, but then I'd have to put it on the taco myself, and its just easier to take off the lettuce and tomato from the supreme."  She then said, "Well, if you get a couple of them, it would be a little cheaper than the $1.69 price in the long run..." She pointed not to the Featured Doritos menu board, but to another menu board about two sections of the left of middle.

The board also had pictures of the Doritos Locos Taco with "$1.29" beside it, but then it had a Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, not priced at $1.49, but $1.69.

Wait... what?

I stared at this menu for several seconds, then took three or four steps to my right, back to the middle and stared at that board.  I looked down at my receipt, looked back up at both boards, stared again at the middle board searching for something that said "Offer good from -- to --", saw none, then looked back at the other board.  They were the exact same items offered for two different prices.

I looked again at my receipt, did the quick math and realized that I paid the $1.69 price, not the $1.49 price for both Doritos Locos Taco Supreme.

"Um," I asked, "can you tell me why you have the same item offered for two different prices?"

This was taken from the cafe, as they were suspiciously eyeing me after
I snapped the earlier photo.  You can't see the prices, but you can see on
the far left board in the pic, the fuzzy image of the Doritos Locos Tacos.
And on the far right, you can see part of the promo board.
Vivian, who was wiping the counter, looked up at me in confusion.  I continued, "Ma'am, I ordered the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, for $1.49 each, as you have on the menu.  But you charged me $1.69 for each one, the price on that menu board."

She stepped back and looked at both boards, then back at me.  "Well, how about that?  I guess that's a mistake.  We should probably pull this menu board [the cheaper one] down."

I chuckled, knowing this would be the response, and replied, "Maybe so, but you overcharged me."

Her smile faded slightly, and said, "Well, its $1.69 in the computer, and that's what I have to charge you."

Now, understand, this is not about the 38 cents I would save.  In fact, I told her that I didn't want a refund... but this is about the principle that I, as the consumer, am being overcharged for an item they are offering at a lower price.  Its also important to note I was being very respectful and kept my tone very light while saying all of this, so please don't think I was being a jerk.

"Well, ma'am, first, I've worked retail and fast food in my days, and can pretty much guarantee there is a function on that register to change an amount on an item," I said.  "Secondly, you overcharged me.  You are offering the same item for two different prices, and are charging me the higher price."

"You have a valid point, I'll definitely take it up with my manager."

"Understand, I don't want a refund, but I want you to see that its wrong to show an item for two different prices then charge the higher price.  If you went to a steakhouse and ordered a steak dinner for $12, then saw the same steak dinner on another page of the menu, you wouldn't be happy if they charged you $16 instead of the $12 you ordered."

"You have a valid point, I'll definitely take it up with my manager," she said again.

Knowing that she would forget this entire thing as soon as I was 10 feet from the counter, I said, "Well, may I say something to your manager?"

Her smile was now completely gone, as she walked over to a large black dude in the kitchen.  I heard her say something to the effect of, "I've shown him the price and he wants to pay a cheaper price...", which really annoyed me.

Big Manager Brother came over and asked me, "What's the problem, sir?"  I said, "Well, its not necessarily a problem, but I wanted you to know that you have a the same item for two different prices, and I don't think its right to charge me the higher price, especially when your promo menu doesn't have any sort of expiration date on it."

He looked carefully at both menus for a moment, and then said, "Wow, your right.  Same taco."

I said, "Yep."

He said, "We shoulda already taken this promo menu down."

I said, "Perhaps, but your failure to take it down isn't my fault.  Again, I don't want a refund, but if I come in again, I'll ask to pay the $1.49 price and expect you guys to honor it, if both menus are still up."

He said, "Oh, we will get this down tonight, cause we can't have both of these up..."

Vivian just smiled, somewhat fake, and waited for me to leave.  Yes, I had a valid point.

And I did go back in a few days later.  And here's what happened...

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