“A Lifetime of Food”

September 17, 2014

Taco Bell offers a chance to win a lifetime of food.

Not sure if you’ve followed the latest promotional effort from Taco Bell that is offering 11 people the opportunity to win “a lifetime of food?”

Certainly the chance of winning is low…the company is posting the serial numbers of 11 one dollar bills across 11 different cities across the country, and the rules state that the chances of winning are about one in 2,400,000,000. The promotion has warranted major stories in USA Today and online. The buzz is there. But is the “lifetime?"

Read the rules and you’ll find that “a lifetime of food” at Taco Bell is worth a total of $10,000 - that’s $500 a year for 20 years; or a little over $9.60 a week (the company is also including an additional $3,500 check to help defray any potential Income Tax liability on the $10,000). According to Pew Research, just forty-four percent of Americans visit a fast food restaurant every week…and six percent of us eat there every single day. So just how does this $9.60 per week for twenty years work out to be the lifetime of food?

Promotions need to be more than online gimmicks, which this one clearly seems to be. IF all 11 dollar bills are redeemed (BIG IF here) the company will be giving away $111,000 in Taco Bell gift cards…who’s value will undoubtedly be redeemed over time and perhaps not even in full. After all, can we only imagine the winners will be so overjoyed and visit Taco Bell many times at the outset…but may get bored after the first 20 or so visits? Or they could invite 50 of their closest friends to a Taco Bell party every three months and use up the entire lifetime in just one year?

It’s time to stop hiding behind the fine print. According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average individual consumer spent a total of $2,639.60 on food (both at home and away from home)  - that’s $7.23 per day at Taco Bell; but that lifetime spend will only last 3.8 years! But wait, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, who calculates population life expectancies around the world, the U.S. population life expectancy is 78.7 years old. And while we don’t know the average age of a Taco Bell (or fast food) customer, lets estimate it to be 27 years old. That leaves their "lifetime of food” at 51.7 years, or just over 50 cents a day (before calculating menu price increases or inflation). 

If we want consumers to get excited and participate in food promotions, perhaps it is time to once again call for a new definition… this time for the term “lifetime.”