My two interview subjects focused primarily on unrelated but similar incidents involving cheap late night dining institutions, which for college students is a a category rife with brand betrayals and transgression, and thus worth exploring.
Interview I: white female, age 21
The first incident occurred in the early morning hours around a year ago at the venerable fast food Mexican establishment, Taco Cabana, at the Nueces and Martin Luther King St. location in Austin, Texas. A little backstory: my subject was new to Austin at the time and had never previously dined at a Taco Cabana restaurant, as her hometown did not yet have the privilege of having one. Furthermore, she had been an avid fan of its competitor Taco Bell for most of her life and was content to leave it as such. Despite this, she was excited at the prospect of sampling some of Taco Cabana’s esteemed dishes, including but not limited to their famed Cabana Bowl. The establishment had been heavily recommended for its fast tasty vittles and its 24 hour availability since her move to Austin, and was conveniently located directly across the street from where she had just moved in. It was a more innocent age, and she and her best friend were out on the town in a new city, where the air tasted sweeter and the possibilities seemed endless.
Then came the staple. It was a large, industrial type staple, with one of the sides broken off so that it was rather sharp at one end, and it was in her food. “It could have like pierced my gums or something. I was afraid for my mouth,” she said. The fact that it did reach her mouth was a natural consequence of her eagerness in finally getting so savour this highly-vaunted delicacy, but also a dealbreaker in terms of building a lasting relationship with the brand. She could not finish her food. To top it off, the staple wasn’t the only let-down. Her order, a simple steak fajita taco, was just that: steak wrapped in a fajita, with none of the typical extras she was used to have accompanying her food at Taco Bell. In a word, she felt betrayed.
“Who doesn’t feel betrayed when they get a shard of metal in their food?” she said. “That would make me feel betrayed anytime.” Her response was to first call their complaint number, and after receiving an unsatisfying and automated response, she banished Taco Cabana from her life altogether.