The Taco Bell Love Spell: Chihuahuas, Chalupas and Co-Workers In Handcuffs
It was a dramatic romantic gesture. Jason Dean, an employee at the Ringgold Taco Bell in Georgia handcuffed himself to an 18-year-old co-worker in the food chain's parking lot on Monday night, reported the Chattanooga News.
For weeks, the woman had declined Dean's advances, even going so far as to change her shift to avoid him. But when girls say "no," they really mean, of course, please chain our bodies together against my will. And that's exactly what Dean did.
According to accounts of the incident: The woman screamed. Dean said that he just wanted to talk. Co-workers called the police. And Dean uncuffed the lady and split the scene -- to be later arrested on the felony charge of false imprisonment.
So it was dramatic, but maybe not so romantic. What went wrong? The timing? The fact that the 24-year-old Dean may be a very troubled young man? The Taco Bell setting?
It's definitely not the setting. The Mexican-inspired fast food chain has a long and storied history as a facilitator of love.
In 1999, Taco Bell launched a wacky wedding proposal competition. It asked customers to submit creative proposal videos to push its new Valentine's-themed Chihuahua toy, which had a voice chip programmed to croon "I think I'm in love" whenever someone squeezed its belly.
The restaurant received over 100 submissions from lovestruck suitors hoping to score the $10,000 engagement-ring prize. The winning Romeo flung himself out of an airplane with a stuffed Chihuahua in hand, landed on bended knee, asked for his beloved's hand in marriage, and caught it all on bird's-eye-view footage.
Some people fell a little bit in love with the doggie plush itself. The Chihuahuas are now selling for an average of $6 to $7 on eBay, double their original value.
In 2007, Taco Bell entered the romance market again to promote its 7-Layer Crunchwrap. The food chain offered one lucky-in-love sports fan the chance to propose during a nationally televised Major League Baseball game on 07/07/07, which they coined "the luckiest day of the century."
Two years later, two seemingly normal young lovers who met on the Internet even exchanged vows in an orange booth at a Normal, Ill., Taco Bell outlet, decorated with streamers, balloons, and hot sauce packets printed with the question, "Will you marry me?"
"It's appropriate," the groom said. "It's an offbeat relationship."
This past Valentine's Day, Taco Bell even billed itself as the perfect date spot, dressing up its plastic seating with tablecloths and candles.
Conan O'Brien also saw the aphrodisiac potential of cheap chalupa, when he offered couples the chance to eat a romantic meal on the TBS stage. Iron Chef's Michael Symon brought the winning duo of "Conan's VD Explosion" a Taco Party Pack, which they enjoyed while William Shatner read the lyrics to Rihanna's "Umbrella."
It seems that many costumers have fallen under Taco Bell's love spell. Of course, Taco Bell does this so successfully because apparently people really, really love Taco Bell. It also helps that scripting the "meat filling" in tortillas chain into your relationship story forever is really, really ridiculous.
Unfortunately, there's nothing ironic about falsely imprisoning the object of your unreciprocated affection. Maybe that was Dean's mistake.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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