Taco Bell Ethics: I’m Going To Go Out On A Limb Here And Say This Is Unethical

“You want your tacos? HERE’S what you can do with your #@!$%&@ tacos…!”

On February 24, a Taco Bell  in Philadelphia was having trouble living up to the definition of “fast food.” The store was filled with angry people loudly wondering where their orders were. Some had been waiting as long as 45 minutes. So the resourceful Taco Bell employees finally did what you might expect—if you were a psychopath. Several of them  jumped over the counter and began beating up customers.

This is unethical.

A 32-second cell phone clip shows customer Bryan Reese and his friend getting attacked by multiple employees outside of a Taco Bell in the Center City District of Philly. One employee is seen repeatedly punching Reese in the ribs while another holds him down.

Taco Bell released the following statement: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day : “Incident At Big Bowl”

John Billingsley has been participating here for less than two months, and this is his first Comment of the Day. He explores some of the broader labor, management and cultural  issues behind the curtain in my rueful account of  inept service at an airport fast food restaurant.

Here is John’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Incident at Big Bowl.”

I believe this is an issue that goes much deeper than it appears on the surface and Son of M and Tom M in their analyses have identified some of the issues at the root of the problem. Son of M said, “I don’t know that people at this level of employment have EVER cared or are ever going to.” There are some who care, and they can be identified when you are served by them, but I agree that most them appear not to. I think this is because our culture overall is not respectful of the people who do those jobs and so they have no reason to respect themselves as a person who performs that work.

I had the opportunity to live in Japan for about two years. That was over 40 years ago, and I still remember the complete professionalism of just about every service worker I encountered. Of course, it is a cultural thing. I wish people who provide services here could develop the attitude that it is not demeaning to be a service worker.

Tom asks, “Why is all of the blame on the employees?” Continue reading

Incident At Big Bowl

Am I the only one who has weird  encounters  every single time I travel? That can’t be. (Can it?)

This week, I had a quick trip to Boston (where my heart resides, so I have to visit it) to present a legal ethics program to recently minted lawyers. On the way, I tried to grab a meal at Reagan airport. The flight was at 6:30, and I wanted to eat before I had to get on the plane. I chose an allegedly fast food outpost near my gate, Big Bowl. It was not busy: maybe two people ahead of me, one behind. The order was simple: a “big bowl” of kung pao chicken with white rice, no drink. I paid, and got my slip with the number 555.

When they called 555, it wasn’t my order. They called 549 before that, and it wasn’t right either. All the numbers on all the orders were wrong, and the confusion added about 10 minutes to everyone’s wait, notably mine. Finally, they skipped the numbers entirely, and shouted out the contents of each order. My big bowl had been mislabeled 550, and for a while I had to argue with the customer who had the 550 ticket, until she realized she had ordered fried rice, not white rice.

Meanwhile the employees were just shrugging, giggling and smiling away. “You had the wrong number,” one said to me. “No, you had the wrong number on my order. Why?” She shrugged and smiled.

“That’s no answer, ” I said. “Do you have a system, or not?  Can’t you tell me what happened? I was inconvenienced. Part of what I’m paying for is service. Why did this happen?”

Another shrug. No acceptance of responsibility. No apology or anything remotely sounding like one.  At this point, a superannuated hippy who looked like she was ready to do a Joan Baez set intervened with a condescending, “They made a mistake. Mistakes happen.” Continue reading

Fast Food Ethics: Subway’s Chicken TASTES Like Chicken—Isn’t That Enough?

OK, what's in this Teriyaki Sweet Onion Chicken sandwich? (Hint: It's a trick question...)

OK, what’s in this  Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich? (Hint: It’s a trick question…)

DNA researcher Matt Harnden at Trent University’s Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory, working out of  Peterborough, Ontario, analyzed six popular chicken sandwiches served at various fast food chains. Unadulterated chicken should have 100% chicken DNA, or close to it. Seasoning, marinating or processing meat  bring that number down some , so fast food  wouldn’t be expected to have a perfect score.

The chicken in the following sandwiches were tested: McDonald’s Country Chicken – Grilled,Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich, A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe,Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap, Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich, and Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki, which is made with chicken strips.

The lab tested two samples of five of the chicken meat fillings, and one sample of the Subway strips. From each of those samples, the researchers isolated three smaller samples and tested each of those. The scores were then averaged for each sandwich. The results? Continue reading

From The “Why People Hate Lawyers” File: The Lawyer Who Bit Off More Than He Could Chew



Paul Newton Jr., a lawyer in Gulfport, Mississippi, sued Popeye’s after he required emergency surgery to remove a chunk of fried chicken from his throat last November. He claims the fast-food restaurant was negligent and caused his near fatal accident because it didn’t include a plastic knife along with the “spork” in his drive-through order.

Newton says he consumed  the meal (two chicken breasts, an order of red beans and rice, a biscuit and a soft drink…YUM!) in his office, and had to “hold a chicken breast in his hands and to tear off pieces thereof with his teeth.”In the  lawsuit , the lawyer maintains Popeyes had a duty to provide the appropriate utensils so customers will be able “to cut their purchased food orders into appropriate portions.”

Newton abandoned his chicken suit–well, not his chicken suit, but his chicken lawsuit— the Huffington Post reported, after receiving “extreme comments directed to me and my family.”

Like “Learn to eat!”, maybe? Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: A Taco Bell Employee



—-The Taco Bell employee who allegedly took the photo above of a colleague licking a stack of taco shells. The image was, naturally, posted by one of them on Facebook, and re-posted, with appropriate alarm, by Consumerist.

The runners-up for this quote of the day were several jaw-dropping comments on Facebook, such as…

  • Wes Abdi, who says: 1. I know the person in the photo, not just from work, but from school as well; and I know that he is not dumb enough to lick a stack of taco shells and then serve them to the public. 2. There is a 99% chance that stack of Tacos was getting thrown out, as in: getting thrown away, so it’s not as if they were going to be served to anyone. 3. This was obviously done out of humor. I know most of you don’t see it as this, but this is friggin hilarious, sit back and just laugh at it.

Uh, Wes….1. He was dumb enough to post the picture, causing a business crisis for his employer, causing Taco Bell to lose untold sales and presumably putting his job at risk. He’s pretty dumb. 2. You know, a 1% chance that I’m going to be buying and eating a taco that has been ore-licked by an idiot is still too high for me, and, I bet, the FDA. 3. Yeah, food adulteration and tampering is hilarious. Now we know why you and The Mad Licker are friends, you idiot. (By the way, over a hundred readers “liked” this fatuous comment. What does that tell us?)

  • Aj Hackett, one of the hundred plus who think Wes is brilliant, wrote: One reason why I dislike this post so much is that you don’t know any side of this story. You only have a picture and you’re reading too much into it. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? You talk of freedom of speech and differences of opinion, yet you ignore one of the nation’s founding creeds. I do believe that Wes Abdi is correct in saying that you…should be the one to prove that this employee was ignoring his duty in properly handling food items. Once again, “innocent until proven guilty.” So prove it.
What? There is a posted photo of a Taco Bell employee licking food! There aren’t two sides; there is only one that matters: the side of the tacos being licked. No one’s reading too much into the photo at all, A.J., and may I add, what the hell’s the matter with you? The picture is what the law calls res ipsa loquitur. It speaks for itself. The existence of such a photo is proof that an employee licked the food, thought it was funny, and posted it so everyone could see the care and professionalism of those entrusted with handling the meals of Taco Bell customers. It is also proof that Taco Bell has at least one irresponsible idiot handling food. Nobody is “reading too much into it.” Meanwhile, your reference to “one of the nation’s founding creeds” is ignorant, misplaced, and mistaken, and your high school needs to be torn down and its teachers sent off to work at Taco Bell. “Innocent until proven guilty” is not a founding creed in any way; it is a convention of the justice system, and simply establishes who has the burden of proof in criminal prosecutions by the government. It has absolutely no application to private or public conclusions about an individual’s guilt when evidence is overwhelming. Nor does criticism of the photo or subsequent negative consequences being inflicted on the Mad Licker and his accomplices in any way relate to free speech. He’s free to post the photo: it’s still up, in fact. Free speech means the government isn’t allowed to stop anyone from posting photos that prove they are mentally deficient and that Taco Bell’s food might have god-knows-what done to it before we eat it.

There is no reason to expound further on what is unethical about posting a photo of yourself licking food that may or may not have ended up in a customer’s lunch, to the detriment of your employer and horror of its customers. If that isn’t immediately apparent, you’re either beyond hope, like Rebekah, Wes, A.J., and the unidentified photographer, or you work at Taco Bell.______________Pointer: tgtFacts and Graphic: Consumerist



The FDA’s Disgust Offensive: Manipulative and Wrong

Why stop at this?

I’ve never smoked.  My wife is a smoker and I am worried about her; I also think the tobacco industry is more or less despicable. Nevertheless, I find the new disgust-initiative by the FDA on cigarette package labeling  troubling. If it’s ethical, it only passes muster in a utilitarian balancing formula, and even then I think it opens the door to government abuse.

Thanks to a 2009 law, cigarette makers must add large, graphic warning labels depicting diseased lungs, a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck, a baby near a cloud of smoke, a dead body, a man wearing a black t-shirt with “I Quit” written across the chest and three other ugly images to packaging and advertising in the U.S. by October 2012. These will be accompanied by warning labels with messages like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.” In full, stomach-turning color, the new labels must occupy the top half of the front and back of  cigarette packs, and 20% of any cigarette ad’s space. The labels must also include the number of a national quit line and the current warning labels.

All this, yet the government allows the stuff to be sold. I don’t get it, frankly. If cigarettes are so bad that the FDA feels it has to use tactics this extreme, then it should have the courage to just ban them, like they ban other harmful substances. Continue reading

Anatomy of an Unethical Class Action Lawsuit, Badly Reported, Exposed by a Blogger

Here is how the Washington Post begins its story about the most recent assault on McDonald’s by the people who want to control your eating and parenting habits:

“The D.C.-based nutrition watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest has helped a California mother file a class-action suit against McDonald’s, demanding that the burger chain stop marketing toys to children. The woman, Monet Parham of Sacramento, claims that the marketing of Happy Meal toys has interfered with her ability as a parent to provide her two children with a healthful diet. Here’s a quote:

“I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald’s should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience,” Parham said. “But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say ‘no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes it that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”

This is fairly typical of the hundreds of news stories on the web about the lawsuit. Over at Popehat, Patrick, the wittiest of the site’s witty staff, performs a crushing dissection of the lawsuit, the story, and the media’s incompetent reporting of it. You see, he writes..

“…Monet Parham is really Monet Parham-Lee.  Monet Parham-Lee is the name that Monet Parham uses professionally.  Monet Parham-Lee is represented in the suit by attorneys affiliated with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Meaning Ralph Nader.  Monet Parham-Lee is an employee of the California Department of Public Health. Monet Parham-Lee works in the “Cancer Prevention and Nutrition Section” of the California Department of Public Health. Meaning that Monet Parham-Lee is tasked, professionally, by the State of California with ensuring that Californians eat their vegetables.  The power that the State of California grants Monet Parham-Lee evidently is not enough.  Monet Parham-Lee is taking the law into her own hands, to ensure that not only her own children eat their vegetables, but that everyone else is forced to make their children eat vegetables.” Continue reading

Happy Meal Ethics and the Heart Attack Grill

The Heart Attack Grill, in Phoenix, Arizona, has a medical theme, in keeping with its name. Waitresses dress in skimpy nurses’ uniforms; customers, who come to gorge themselves on super-high calorie fare like Double Bypass Burgers and lard-fried french fries, wear hospital gowns over their clothes and are referred to as patients. The menu features no diet drinks. The new “model” for the Grill is Blair River, a former high school wrestler who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 600 pounds (he’s also a financial adviser at the University of Phoenix.) River now has a $100-an-hour contract to pose for ads and TV commercials for the establishment, including a recent YouTube video which invites anyone over 350 pounds to eat for free. And, apparently, if you are over 500 pounds, they pay you. Continue reading