Taco Bell Cantina Menu: Social Media Fail

“You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” That’s what a Taco Bell employee said to me when I flashed their Facebook offer on my smart phone, refusing to honor the July 4th weekend BOGOF promotion for their new Cantina Bowl.

Like many other food bloggers, I rarely ever eat fast food. Created by Chef Lorena Garcia, Taco Bell’s new Cantina menu seems to be different. The upscale menu comes with guacamole, cilantro rice and charred corn salsa and protein of your choice, and is under 600 calories. The price point makes it a poor man’s Chipotle.

Between the television commercials and consistent Facebook ads, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing about the deal. Interested in seeing how well the Cantina Bell menu lives up to its claims, I decided to give it a try. Plus, I like to participate in social media promotions just to see how well they play out in the real world.

Trying to keep printing to a minimum, I was pleased to see that Taco Bell’s offer allows users to simply show the promo on their smart phone and still claim the offer. Nice green initiative, or so I thought. However, I was told by the cashier at Taco Bell, I would have to print the deal out (as the person in line behind me did) to use it. Her recommendation was that I go to the library (cause libraries are open at 7 pm on Saturday, right?) and print it out.

I did try to go back to their page and take a screen shot of their response but my comment had been removed from their Facebook page before I could.

After Taco Bell refused to honor the deal, I tweeted to them. No response. I then went on Facebook the next day and recounted my experience. Their response was “Not all stores participated in the promotion.” Um, if they honored it for the person in line behind me, that is still participating, no? Who is running their social media accounts? Was that the standard response to anyone who had a problem using the deal that weekend?

Besides the deplorable handling of this social media initiative from every angle possible, it was rather sad that the store manager hid in the back and made his or her subordinate tell me he or she had chosen not to accept the Facebook promotion via mobile.

I even went back and read the rules of the promotion: Basically unrestricted use throughout the entire weekend. So, Taco Bell really, really, wants everyone to try their new menu. Why then the refusal to honor a mobile deal? Why kill trees unnecessarily?

If this happened to me, I’m sure it happened to many others as well. It is always a shame when a neat concept flops because of lack of proper company communication. Clearly, marketing came up with a great promotion but failed to properly communicate it down to the store level. They certainly spent enough money on it between advertising and media events.

Even more of a shame is I really did want to like the Cantina bowl. I really did want to believe Taco Bell had come up with a good concept. Provided the food lives up to how tasty they claim it is, they had an opportunity to win me and many others over who had sworn off their food. If only they had handled any part of the social media right. Unfortunately, they botched it up pretty good. No quiero Taco Bell.

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