Oct 21, 2019, 9:35:51 AM10/21/19
Last May, a New Jersey couple caught a Taco Bell commercial on TV, and they
were excited enough by the chalupa-based combo that were being advertised
that they drove to the nearest 'Bell to get one. Although the TV spot said
that the Chalupa Cravings Box was 5 bucks, when Nelson Estrella-Rojas and
Joann Estrella each ordered one, they were charged $6.06 each, before tax.
Instead of just shrugging off the $2.18 difference and enjoying a shit-ton of
fast food, they decided to hire an attorney.
According to NJ.com, the couple was "taken aback" by the price of each
Chalupa Cravings Box, which contained one Chalupa Supreme, one 5-Layer
burrito, one crunchy taco, an order of cinnamon twists and a medium drink.
Because the Estrellas sound like loads of fun, they asked to speak to a
manager, who told them that the commercial in question did say that prices
That answer wasn't good enough, so they hired an attorney who was willing to
type out a complaint alleging that the couple "sustained an ascertainable
loss" with their slightly more expensive visit to Taco Bell, including their
"wasted time," the gas it took to make the six mile round trip, and that
crucial $2.18. They have filed a lawsuit against both Taco Bell and Yum!
Brands, its parent company. (And here's where it's worth noting that it costs
$250––the equivalent of roughly forty-one $6.06 Chalupa Cravings Boxes––to
file a civil lawsuit in a New Jersey state Superior Court.)
"You can’t tell someone you are going to charge them $5 in big bold print and
then take it away with a fine print disclaimer," their attorney, Douglas
Schwartz, said. "You can’t do that. It’s against the law.”
The lawsuit alleges that Taco Bell has violated the state's Consumer Fraud
Statute, which requires disclaimers to be printed onscreen "in a type size
and style that is clear and conspicuous relative to the other type sizes and
styles" used in the rest of the advertisement. In the :30 second commercial
that the Estrellas saw, one called "Librarian," the "prices may vary"
disclaimer was 1/16 the size of the text that announced the arrival of the $5
Chalupa Cravings Box. The lawsuit also says that the disclaimer was only
onscreen for three seconds.
"Defendants knew or should have known that the ‘Librarian’ television
advertising and other similar advertising would be viewed by members of the
public including the plaintiffs and/or other prospective purchasers,” the
lawsuit states, before adding “Defendants committed conduct likely to deceive
plaintiffs by engaging in acts and/or practices as aforesaid with the intent
to induce plaintiffs and other consumers to purchase its cravings boxes."
"It’s a classic bait and switch," Schwartz told NJ.com. "It’s consumer fraud
being perpetrated upon not only citizens of New Jersey, but all over the
country. Taco Bell has reaped huge profits from their false, misleading and
The Bridgewater Courier News reports that, although the lawsuit was initially
filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County, Taco Bell successfully had it
transferred to federal court, because neither the Taco Bell nor the Yum!
Brands headquarters are in New Jersey, and because there is the potential for
punitive damages of more than $75,000.
"Taco Bell and its franchisees are proud to provide millions of guests with
delicious, affordable food every day," the company told VICE in a statement.
"Our advertisements are truthful and accurate, and we will defend this case
Regardless of the outcome, it's gonna cost _somebody_ more than 2 bucks and a
handful of change.