With more fervor than a 13-year-old trying to snag Justin Bieber concert tickets, Taco Bell fans rushed an online reservation system when the fast-food chain announced booking was open for its exclusive pop-up hotel, aptly named The Bell.
Taking over V Palm Springs, a hotel that describes its ambiance as a “fresh, chic vibe,” The Bell promised a fully immersive Taco Bell experience for its guests. The only problem is the pop-up was scheduled to be open for less than a week (August 8 to 12, 2019). With just 70 hotel rooms available each of the four nights, that didn’t provide enough rooms for the overwhelming demand The Bell received. In fact, The Bell reservations sold out in just two minutes. This did not make those who want to live and breath chalupas but couldn’t get a room very happy. After all, there are a million reasons to love Taco Bell, including that they are actually among the healthiest fast-food chains.
Still, for those lucky folks who did manage to score a reservation at The Bell, there were plenty of surprises in store and all very on-brand for Taco Bell.
A one-night stay isn’t cheap
Part of Taco Bell’s appeal is that when you’re hungry, an affordable meal is just a drive-through away. The 99¢ menu comes in very handy for folks on a budget. Yet a one-night stay at The Bell cost a Desert Sun reporter $250 and an Ad Age reporter $199. A quick gander at TripAdvisor shows rooms at V Palm Springs typically range from standard rooms starting at $99 to its Vibe Suite at $350. It’s safe to say some were paying at least a small premium to experience the “Live más” life for a night depending on your room. But, hey, at least they got to keep a free Taco Bell towel that came with each room. The next time you’re interested in booking a hotel room (at least one that isn’t an exclusive opportunity like The Bell), try these money-saving tips.
Hot sauce packets everywhere
Whether you like your sauce mild, hot, or diablo (really, really hot), employees had to get used to Taco Bell hot sauce packets appearing everywhere at The Bell. Social media posts showed sauce packet-themed pillows, pool floats, yoga mats, and bathing suits, not to mention flower arrangements made out of sauce packets. If you’re a hot sauce aficionado, you really need to check out this amazing chart which tells you how spicy your favorite is compared to other brands.
It was hot
And we’re not talking about the sauce this time. The Bell was located in Palm Springs, which despite its beautifully breezy-sounding name is in the desert. The desert in August is particularly blazing. Even with two pools and complimentary Pepsi products at the ready, guests and employees had to brace themselves for the extreme heat, upwards of 110 degrees each day of the pop-up experience. If you can stand the high temps, these desert escapes are breathtakingly beautiful.
And, yes, there were scalped reservations
The Bell was a project many years in the making, and, for what it’s worth, the general consensus online appears that it was well executed. Yet, still, there were room reservations that were scalped for far more than the initial price paid. According to LAist, one man paid $1,700 to take over a reservation from someone who had only paid $169 for the room. While the bookings were “non-refundable and non-transferable,” they found a loophole to make it work. The scalper flew into Palm Springs from another state just to check the man into the hotel. Given the money made on the (illegal) transaction, the seller told the LAist reporter that the cost of the flight was worth it.
Room service exists at The Bell (but with limits)
If you wanted to enjoy your Taco Bell breakfast in the comforts of a hotel bed, that wasn’t a problem. A spread of bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and tortillas were brought to guest rooms, as well as a side of Cinnabon Delights (cream-filled doughnut holes that are available at Taco Bell locations nationwide). We bet the people behind Taco Bell when it first opened had no idea there would one day be a themed hotel (if only for a few days), especially back when it looked like this.
The Freeze Lounge wasn’t particularly chilly
Die-hard Taco Bell fans know a thing or two about the chain’s beloved beverage, the Mountain Dew Baja Blast. In celebration of its 15th anniversary, a Birthday Freeze slushie was made available in a suite dubbed The Freeze Lounge. With silver-lined walls, it was made to feel like you were inside of a cooler, but some guests remarked that the room was anything but “freezy.” According to Los Angeles magazine, employees were incredibly apologetic about the technical difficulties involved in trying to keep the space cold. Remember, this whole operation did take place in the desert.
Poolside dining was a decidedly different affair
If you were looking for your value menu favorites, you may not have found them at The Bell. Taco Bell executive chef Rene Pisciotti crafted some dishes that were resort twists on the chain’s standard fare. We’re talking fish tacos, the Avocado Toast-ada, jalapeno popcorn chicken, and Fire Chip Chilaquiles. Fortunately, there were opportunities for traditionalists to enjoy some of their classic favorites. Hotel staff roamed the pool areas with trays of fan favorites, with fanny packs full of sauce packets for anyone in need of a little extra kick.
According to BuzzFeed, The Bell staff was actually trained on how to take the perfect photo for social media. Not surprising given the many brand experiences that were prime for posing. While hotels largely train their employees to have a warm attitude towards great customer service, how many know how to snap a picture at the perfect angle for Instagram?
Not your average hotel spa
No, there weren’t massages using hot sauce (although what a trip that would be), but beauty appointments were ripe for the booking at The Bell. There were four different options for Fades including one of the Taco Bell Logo and themed gel manicures (manicures and fades were $40 a pop). Dry styling for longer hair was also available, like braids and updos. Looking for more treatments and fewer tacos? These are the most luxurious resort spas in the world.