Taco Bell workers protest 'painful and absurd' free taco deal that they say is causing customers to swarm to stores during the coronavirus pandemic

Taco Bell doritos locos taco

  • Taco Bell's Taco Tuesday deal is sparking backlash from workers, who are concerned that customers flooding drive-thrus could increase their likelihood of exposure to the coronavirus.
  • A petition against Taco Bell's response to the coronavirus calls out the deal for "literally encouraging people to come to their store in the midst of the pandemic."
  • A Taco Bell manager told Business Insider that traffic at his store doubled due to the deal, which he called "probably the most painful and absurd thing they could've done during this time."
  • "It's very important to us that Taco Bell remains the safest place to work and eat," said a Taco Bell representative. "We are also doing our part to provide safe meals that our fans know and love - and throwing in a free DLT to show our appreciation."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Taco Bell's Taco Tuesday deal is sparking backlash amongst workers.

Typically, any fast-food deal that brings in more customers is seen as a win. But, during the coronavirus pandemic, the situation can be a bit more complicated.
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On Tuesday, April 7, Taco Bell gave all customers who visited the chain via drive-thru a free Doritos Locos Taco. The giveaway followed another Taco Tuesday deal the week before.

According to workers, the deal brought more customers to the chain - potentially boosting sales, but also possibly increasing the likelihood of workers being exposed to the coronavirus. A Coworker.org petition addressed to Taco Bell regarding worker treatment during the coronavirus pandemic specifically called out the Taco Tuesday deal.

"Taco Bell recently had a 'Free taco for every customer (obviously in the car) WITHOUT PURCHASE NECESSARY,'" the petition reads. "Those of us that worked that day know it was the busiest we've seen the store since the Corona pandemic began."
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The petition argues that sales should be secondary to reducing employees' chance of exposure to the coronavirus.

"Corporate is literally encouraging people to come to their store in the midst of the pandemic!" the petition reads. A Taco Bell representative said in a comment to Business Insider that the chain is "very sensitive to our team members' feedback, and we want them to know that we hear their concerns."
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"It's very important to us that Taco Bell remains the safest place to work and eat," the representative said. "We are also doing our part to provide safe meals that our fans know and love - and throwing in a free DLT to show our appreciation. Even in tough times, restaurants are considered essential businesses because people will always need to eat. This offer is available via drive-thru and carry-out only, so person-to-person contact remains limited."

A 'painful and absurd' deal

taco bell Employees

A Taco Bell manager independently reached out to Business Insider to express concerns about Taco Tuesday.
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"If you ask me, I feel like the only thing the promotion did was cause one hundred extra customers to come in contact with us," the manager told Business Insider.

This employee and the two other Taco Bell employees who have spoken with Business Insider about the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks were granted anonymity in order to speak frankly about the situation; Business Insider verified their employment through pay stubs or other documentation.

The Taco Bell manager called the deal "probably the most painful and absurd thing they could've done during this time," saying that the deal caused nearly twice as many people to come through the drive-thru. While fast-food chains have argued they need to remain open to feed healthcare workers and truck drivers, the Taco Bell manager estimated that 95% of people cashing in the Taco Tuesday deal were not essential workers.
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"My franchise is failing to pay us any more than we're already making, however, they're finding ways to increase sales volume," the manager said. "It seems that this decision was not based on the Team Member experience, whatsoever."

Some Taco Bell workers are calling for locations to close

Taco Bell Crunchy Taco

In addition to calling out the Taco Tuesday deal, the Coworker.org Taco Bell petition calls for locations to close and continue to pay employees, provide paid sick leave that incentivizes concerned workers to stay home, and offer up to a month of paid sick leave for those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
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"I signed because I work for this company and I feel like they are not worried about anyone's health," reads a comment from one of the more than 300 people who have signed the petition.

"All they worried about is the money they can make and not about people's lives," the comment continues. "Which is more important? Keeping the business open to take lives or close the business to save lives?" A Taco Bell worker who spoke with Business Insider in late March said that his location was seeing more cars come through the drive-thru, exhausting workers as they tried to keep up and stay safe.
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"We are working ten times harder for no reason," the worker said. "We are human too, and yes, it's nice to have a job when so many are losing theirs, but it isn't worth the risk."

Another Taco Bell worker expressed similar concerns, saying that she believed all fast-food chains should be closed.

"I [would] rather not risk getting the virus and pass it to customers, or worse, my own children," the employee said. "Before children weren't at risk. Now that they are everyone needs to reevaluate."
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