What do you do when your seller becomes the subject of a viral taco truck video in the wrong way — and your listing (with your sign) is the backdrop for that video?
One woman’s words with a taco truck owner have apparently cost her dearly — both in reputation and in potentially selling her house.
She was dubbed “Taco Truck Tammy” after a viral video showing her threatening to call ICE on the occupants of a food truck hit social media this week, and Dallas resident Valerie Jacobs’ appearance on the video has caused a monumental backlash from neighbors — and brought international attention to a recorded altercation between Jacobs and the food truck owners.
Jacobs asked to be called by her first name only in news interviews, but social media and other news outlets have repeatedly used her full name.
The incident also brought some attention to her Realtor as well — more on that in a minute.
The incident hit Twitter on April 5. By Monday, it was all over the country, and by Thursday night, it had 127,949 views on YouTube, where food truck owner Claudia Lopez had uploaded it.
“It was just a moment of a very bad choice of words,” Jacobs said in an interview with NBC 5. “I regret the comment at the end. It was a flippant comment. It doesn’t really reflect who I am. It reflects my frustration.”
Jacobs said that her block has seen a lot of home construction, and she was preparing her home for a showing when the food truck pulled up and honked.
However, when I talked to a few food truck operators and contractors, I learned that often general contractors actually arrange for the trucks to come by, and it’s standard for the truck to blow the horn when they first pull up, as sort of a modern-day lunch bell. Once they’ve served all the workers who queue up to buy, they leave — and the entire operation generally takes less than 20 minutes, because the money is in going from job site to job site.
Jacobs says the women in the truck threatened her with violence. Lopez told Telemundo that she did not.
“No, No it’s not true,” she said. “I swear on my life and on the life of my kids.” Lopez went on to say that since she was with her daughters, she was fearful as well.
It also appears that this food truck’s permit lapsed in March, but that the truck could easily get a new one by passing inspection again. So yes, Jacobs was right that they shouldn’t be there — but at that point, she couldn’t have known that. And she definitely could not know, just by looking, whether someone was an undocumented immigrant or not.
The maelstrom of attention — there is even talk of a taco and mariachi-fueled “Taco Tammy” gathering this Sunday — has also extended to Jacobs’ Realtor, after eagle-eyed social media users saw the for sale sign in her yard and began sleuthing.
It didn’t take long for someone to organize a social media campaign complete with comments, phone calls, and more to the Fathom Realty agent group that had the listing.
“The house is now terminated and we no longer represent her,” the agent told the Daily Mail Wednesday.
The listing on her home on Vickery Boulevard showed as canceled on MLS Thursday, just days before the listing instructions said showings could begin. We reached out to the agent on the listing, Jessica Kemp, who confirmed that the listing had been canceled.
But one expert I talked to, Boston-area Realtor Susan Kadilak, said she agreed with the decision to cancel the listing. Kadilak has been a Realtor for 15 years and teaches and mentors other agents frequently.
“I would have done the same thing,” she said. “If one of my clients did that I wouldn’t be able to properly represent him or her and I would cancel the listing contract.”
Kadilak said that sometimes it comes down to protecting yourself, and your reputation, too.
“Sometimes, as a Realtor, you’re like a criminal defense attorney. Your client may do something wrong or that you may not necessarily agree with, and it’s still your job to represent and defend their interests,” she said. “But there are just some things you just can’t defend, and this is one of them.”
“No commission or listing is worth allowing someone like this to ruin your good reputation.”
Kadilak said that she also would be worried about her safety as she showed the house as well in a case like this, since doxxing is not uncommon, and the home being listed for sale would make it even easier to do so.
“It would definitely cross my mind,” she said when asked if she would be worried. “Even though the Realtor didn’t do anything, keeping this listing could be perceived as an agreement with Taco Tammy’s terrible comments.”
Real estate expert Larry Easto gave some recommendations for how to end a relationship with a client. He recommends sticking to the facts, providing some options for other potential agents, pointing out the positives, and refraining from badmouthing the client.
“To keep the conversation as positive as possible, acknowledge the client’s positive characteristics, even if this characteristic caused the problem,” Easto recommends. “The challenge lies in extricating yourself from the relationship … without creating any bad press for yourself. It’s bad enough to lose a client without also losing your investment in building a relationship with the client.”
I don’t know what is in Valerie Jacobs’ heart. But I do know that I — full disclosure — have had my own social media interaction with her last year involving a meme she posted in a popular local Facebook group that depicted the murder of Heather Heyer and mocked the actual attack. It was the photo we’ve all seen, of the car at the moment it hit several protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
James Alex Fields Jr. was eventually found guilty of killing Heyer when he plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters at that “Unite the Right” rally.
I’m not going to post it in this column, because I find it stomach churning. But it’s readily available on the internet these days.
I don’t remember everything that happened that night when she shared that meme, but I do remember my comment — largely because it was the first one, and you can see it on the screen capture people are sharing now in conjunction with responses to the viral video.
“Someone died, Valerie,” I responded. Others shared my initial reaction and were flummoxed that someone would mock the violent death of a young woman. I do remember her saying she wasn’t aware of the circumstances behind the meme, but also insisted it was a joke.
I know (after all, as big as Dallas is, it can still be a small town where there is always a friend-of-a-friend that knows so-and-so, and in this age of social media, screen captures of comments are readily obtained and shared) that neighbors have had discussions with her about this latest incident, and that she feels she was in the right.
She said as much in her NBC 5 interview, saying that part of her frustration was with the construction workers on her street.
“She also admitted part of her threat was directed toward the construction workers around her,” the story says. “She questioned whether the workers are in the country legally.”
And it seems that for at least one contractor, the threat may be impacting business, WFAA reports.
“The guys called me, and they were like, ‘We’re leaving,'” said Gabriella Unger, who supervises some construction workers on the street.
Unger said some of her employees are immigrants from Mexico. She said they feared the neighbor was using the threat of calling I.C.E as intimidation.
“Well, it is very frustrating,” Unger said. “You know, nowadays, we know the situation. But, you know, I wish we were respected more.”
And, in fact, the construction workforce relies on immigrant labor, as Dallas Builders Association Executive Director Phil Crone wrote in 2017. At the time of his column, the construction industry in the Dallas area was undersupplied by 10,000 to 20,000 workers, adding two months and $4,000 on to each home they build.
In other words, creating fear at job sites on your street that annoy you will most definitely extend the life of that job site that annoys you.
Again, I don’t know what is in her heart, but I do know this: We live in Texas, and anyone who knows Texas history knows that for many of our neighbors, their families didn’t cross the border — the border crossed them. Even more migrated to Texas later to work hard and reach the same goals almost all of us have of home ownership, happy families, and a good life. Making assumptions based on language, culture, and skin color can backfire in spectacular fashion.
Just ask Valerie.
Bethany Erickson is the education and public policy writer for CandysDirt.com. She is also the Director of Audience Engagement for Candy’s Media. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists, and is the 2018 NAREE Gold winner for best series and a 2018 Dallas Press Club Hugh Aynsworth Award winner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.