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Taco Bell helicopters 10,000 tacos to Bethel, Alaska after hoax

As far as customer service stunts go, this one was pretty epic: A helicopter sent to a remote Alaska town bearing a Taco Bell truck, itself bearing ingredients for 10,000 Doritos Locos tacos.

The 6,200 townspeople of Bethel in the distant western stretches of the state got the long-distance delivery after the Irvine-based fast-food company took pity on them.

Last month, fliers trumpeting the chain’s debut in Bethel got residents salivating. After all, cheap Mexican-style food in the land of sled dogs and sub-zero temperatures isn’t exactly easy to come by. The nearest Taco Bell is some 400 miles away in Anchorage.

But instead of seasoned beef, Bethel citizens ended up with the taste of dust when the promise of Taco Bell turned out to be a hoax.

When Taco Bell executives learned of the cruel joke, they sent a free consolation package on Sunday bearing 950 pounds of beef, 500 pounds of sour cream, 300 pounds of tomatoes, 300 pounds of lettuce and 150 pounds of cheddar cheese.

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The effort, which Taco Bell dubbed “Operation Alaska,” was hugely popular – both in Bethel and on social media, garnering thousands of Facebook likes. On Twitter, the company posted a series of photos as its helicopter skimmed snow-capped peaks en route to the town. One woman told servers it was the first time she had eaten Taco Bell in more than two decades.

No word yet on whether Bethel should expect a more permanent Taco Bell in the future.

[UPDATED, 10:50 a.m.: Taco Bell says it currently doesn't have plans to set up a Bethel store.]

Ulterior motives? Not necessarily – Taco Bell Chief Executive Greg Creed told the Associated Press that “if we can feed people in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can feed people in Bethel.”

But chances are that the show of good will won’t hurt the chain’s ongoing revamp strategy, which includes Thursday launch of its new Cantina Bell menu.

Watch a video of the Taco Bell helicopter touching down:

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