My love of Taco Bell goes back to 1984, when I was introduced to the restaurant (that had just opened up in southwest Largo) by my Dad, who brought home some Nachos BellGrande for us to snack on. It was the night of my last day of school for the calendar year, December 21st, 1984. Dad wanted to watch the BYU-Michigan Holiday Bowl that would likely give the Cougars the national college football title if they won. (Brigham Young did win the bowl game, and the title was theirs a couple of weeks later. Yes, this is how I remember things, cross-referencing them televised to sporting events.)
There was also a Taco Bell at the time by Largo High School, at the corner of Missouri Avenue and West Bay Drive, which is now a CVS Pharmacy. This was more a less my social hangout back then if hanging around school was an option. If I went to a football game in the fall or a soccer game in the winter, I’d stop in at “The Bell” and get a bite to eat beforehand, or bring it to the stadium with me, which made me look like a glutton to everybody. And yes, my food of choice was usually a Nachos Bellgrande, with plenty of napkins.
I hadn’t eaten at a Taco Bell since my trip to Orlando in April of 2014 at the Florida Mall, which connects to the Florida Hotel I was staying at. There had been allegations in recent years that the beef the fast food chain uses is actually horse meat, and that soured me on them for a while.
A couple of days ago, I thought I’d pay the Taco Bell in Pinellas Park a visit, as they’re about a 15 minute drive from where I live. Before leaving, I checked their online menu to see if anything had changed, and a lot had. According to the site, you can now order what you want online, then go to the store and get it, kind of like Papa John’s except you travel to their store, they don’t travel to you. As a bonus, they had an offer where if you buy $10 or more, they’d knock $2 off the price.
I was suspicious that a fast food chain could do this, so I brought my patience with me when I bellied up to the drive-thru. Sure enough, when I explained I had ordered online, I can hear the hesitation in their voices right away. The online order had never reached them.
I asked, handing my printout over to them: “Well, can I give you the order to make? I have cash on me.”
They agreed, with the general manager, a redhead I’d guess to be in her mid-20’s, explaining to me that next time I should just come in to place the order, and not do so online. I could appreciate her position, and we were both nice about it all, but…HUH?
Back when I lived in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, they had a Taco Bell off of Cobb Parkway where you pushed buttons on a computer monitor to get the food you want, kind of a higher-tech automat. At my local Taco Bell 19 years and change later, they can’t even accept an online order?
Is technology making progress go forward, or is it making it go backward?