Sunday, January 16, 2022

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Wings

I was never planning on writing this post. People turn to TikTok for fast food reviews and honestly, I don't blame them, it’s the perfect format. Quick, concise, visual, AND has sound? Only way it can be topped is when they finally make those TV screens you can start licking. Or would it be more like a VR headset for your tongue? Whatever the case may be, long format fast food reviews are dying. But here I am, it’s 5am, I’m holding a baby, and typing my words into a note on my phone.

Taco Bell has mastered the rules of supply and demand and it is infuriating how effective it is on me. Before I get into the wings, the pandemic has really made me come to terms with who I am: I am an aggressive collector who needs to complete lists. A brewery releases 6 beers all vaguely themed? I’m buying all 6. I enjoyed one video game in a series? Gotta play all 6 main series and the 11 spin-offs. I think it all stems from the fact I was never able to get all of the original Pokémon cards. Charizard obviously was elusive but fucking Clefable was impossible for me to find. As an adult it got worse when I got into sneakers. Thankfully, I fell in love with SB Dunks before Travis Scott inflated the price everywhere. I could keep going but this whole paragraph is long winded way to say, I am easily influenced by hype culture.

Which brings me to another big influencer in my life: Taco Bell. I’m a big fan of when they take the same 4 ingredients and morph them into something new and exciting (see this breakfast review that’s almost 8 years old). It appeals to my creative side: you’re in a box with 3 tools, what can you do? Whenever the new item drops, as much as my waistline can afford, I give it a shot. When the wings popped up, I was intrigued but didn’t feel a need to go out of my way to get them. But Taco Bell ensured I went out of my way to get them by making them extra elusive.


I’m a man that needs to research everything before walking in. I’m looking at the menu online before I ever step into a restaurant. Shit, I likely already know my starter and drink. So researching the wings, I was shocked to learn there were so many rules. First rule wasn’t too surprising: wings had to be ordered in the app. Multiple items in the past have been app only but it does create another barrier to entry aka scarcity. The second rule felt like a real punch in the nads: order has to be placed after 2pm. I assume this is to prevent the fryer issues during lunch but this creates double scarcity. Final rule: the wings are only available for a short time, January 6-12, triple scarcity. We are reaching Clefable levels here. This false scarcity took me from mildly intrigued to absolutely need to get them no matter what. Taco Bell is the master of supply and demand and I am easily influenced.

Attempt 1:

January 9th, I finally decide to give the wings a shot. Place an order online, the wings are there, everything is a go; winner winner, chicken dinner or so I thought. Roll up to the drive through window to a line of 7 cars. No biggie, I’ve got some podcasts to catch up. But then I see it, a small piece of paper flapping in the unusually breezy day in Houston. It’s flipped upside down but the permanent marker bled through, you can make out the big NO before two smaller words. My heart sinks, surely those smaller words can’t be chicken wings. I decide to just wait in line and pretend I never saw anything. Huge mistake. Get up to the speaker, give them my name, get told they are out of wings and they will sub it for a box. Seems like they may have dealt with this one or two times. Went home and ate my tasty albeit extremely sad Chalupa box.

Attempt 2:

Instead of feeling frustrated or discouraged, the lack of wings just fueled my fire. Decided to try again with a different Taco Bell and ordered earlier, this time at 4pm. I figured, who wants wings on a Monday at 4pm. Turns out it’s Houston, Houston wants Taco Bell wings at 4pm. I pull up and they apologize and say they will refund my order. I return home just to see in the app my order was marked complete, not cancelled or refunded. I call Taco Bell to see what’s going on. There hold system is designed to make you irate. They play an awful mix of music that is interrupted every 30 seconds by a recording thanking me for holding. Every 30 seconds I think I’ve finally gotten through but nope, just the recording. This went on for 30 minutes. Long story short, it’s a week later and I still haven’t gotten my refund.

Attempt 3:

At this point, I should be done. I would argue there are no chicken wings worth this much effort but Taco Bell wings specifically? This feigned scarcity is just making me more ravenous for these stupid fried chicken pieces. Hype absolutely kills.

I decide this is my last attempt. I scheme up my plan. Clearly the app has zero feedback from the store to alert them the wings are sold out. I am not ordering anything until it has been confirmed they have wings. I am trying a Taco Bell outside of Beltway 8, maybe it will be less busy with the wing vultures. Show up to the drive through, no line, I barely get the question out if they have the wings. Over the broken intercom I hear a glorious “yes.” I immediately order and pull out of the drive through and try to take a picture in the dark parking lot (this picture brought to you by the iPhone XR). Look at them. They are… something.

I wait to get home to dig in. Guess what? They are not good. They are not even close to worth this amount of effort. I should have stopped at the first try. Starting with the good, the exterior is very crunchy, has a fried bread crumb like texture; similar to schnitzel. And that’s where the good stops. They are very bland somehow. It’s not that lack salt, they just lack any flavor. They are extremely small wings and they are awful quality chicken. This has to be the reason these wings are only $5.99 for 5 during a worldwide wing shortage. They barely look like wings. They remind of the time I bought frozen Walmart Great Value wings, never again. The real star of the experience is the spicy ranch. It is not spicy but is a kicked up version of ranch. You can add this to any Taco Bell order for $0.35 and I plan on it.

At the end of the day, the only good part about this experience was being able to check a box on a mental to do list. Does this say more about my psyche or how awful these wings are? I'm not sure, but I am sure this won't be the last time I am fooled by Taco Bell.

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