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The 15 Emotional Stages of Taco Bell’s ‘Steal a Base, Steal a Taco’ Promo

The dizzyingly on-the-nose World Series promotion has sent me on a days-long quest to claim one measly free taco

Man in a Phillies uniform slides left foot first into second base, with #27 Houston Astro Altuve about to catch a ball thrown his way.
The Game 1 stolen base that should’ve earned me a free taco.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Missy Frederick is the Cities Director for Eater.

Sure, the Guardians are out of contention, but the World Series is here, and I’ve decided that I can totally justify becoming a bandwagon Phillies fan due to my husband’s mild allegiance to the team. Go Phils! But even as a baseball fan, the more exciting prospect of watching the series unfold is the return of Taco Bell’s erstwhile, dizzyingly on-the-nose “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promo. It’s exactly what it sounds like — as soon as a player manages a stolen base at any point during any game, Americans are owed a free taco. I’m playing ball, but the result so far has been an escalating affront to my emotional state.

Stage 1: Enthusiasm

Game 1 is on, and “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” is back! I irrationally love everything about this promo — the catchy slogan, the Overly Intense Graphics, the fact that announcers need to promote it approximately 47 times per game — despite never having actually redeemed my free taco before. I’ve decided that THIS IS THE YEAR that will change.

Stage 2: Euphoria

WE HAVE A STOLEN BASE!! I experience a genuine endorphin rush when Kyle Schwarber successfully makes it to second in the top of the seventh inning of Game 1. I text “STEAL A BASE STEAL A TACO” to two separate family text chains; the Taco Bell website christens Schwarber “America’s taco hero.” A free taco will be mine!

Stage 3: Surprise

Me to my husband: “It’s awesome we already have a stolen base in Game 1, because that means better odds for more free tacos as the series progresses!” My husband: “You realize you only get one, it doesn’t matter how many stolen bases there are.” Ew, really? Husband: “We definitely had this conversation the last time we watched the World Series.”

I’ve decided to ignore this unwelcome development, and focus my energy on figuring out how to get my free taco.

Stage 4: Mild Annoyance

Uggggggh, you have to download the Taco Bell app? My reaction is akin to Paul Rudd’s overdramatic sighing scene in Wet Hot American Summer. I also realize this is probably not new information to me, and deduce that this is probably the exact point where I’ve given up on redeeming a free taco in years past.

Stage 5: Determination

Whatever, I’m downloading the app. They’re not keeping my taco from me.

Stage 6: Frustration

Okay, I’ve downloaded the app, and I immediately receive a sign-up award for a free menu item, so maybe I can get behind the whole app thing if it results in multiple free tacos. But when I click on the “Steal a Base” promotion, the stolen base taco reward doesn’t show up. I decide that maybe there’s a time delay. The stolen base literally happened like five minutes ago; I guess I can give the taco gods some time.

Meanwhile, I get nothing short of three separate, unnecessary notifications from the app throughout the rest of the evening, and each one spikes my blood pressure just a little bit.

Stage 7: Patience

I wait several days for the reward to show up. Nothing’s happening (except several unrelated notifications that I’m maturely deciding to ignore without becoming emotionally involved).

Stage 8: Strategery

So I still have that free taco sign-up reward in this app. Maybe this is one of those things where they won’t give you a second freebie until you’ve redeemed the first? I’m gonna go pick up that initial free taco on the way home from the office, and see if it frees up a slot for the stolen base reward.

Stage 9: Suspicion

Okay, why do I have to input credit card information, as well as my phone number, when the total for my order is $0? I’m totally going to end up getting hacked from this, aren’t I.

Stage 10: Shame

I can choose between picking up my free taco from the drive-thru or the counter. Despite the drive-thru option appealing to my laziness, I have a feeling the counter pickup will not involve me having to interact with a human who can see I am making a trip to Taco Bell entirely to redeem a single free taco. Pickup it is. I skulk into Taco Bell and quickly grab my bagged taco, sight unseen.

A Doritos Locos taco, wrapped.
A taco, if not THE taco.
Missy Frederick/Eater

Stage 11: Temporary Satisfaction

Well, I housed a taco, and I’m no longer starving. Maybe the reward will now appear in my app since this initial one has been redeemed.

Spoiler alert: It does not.

Stage 12: Fixation

I’ve decided that I’m getting this taco by any means necessary. I click on the app’s FAQ to see if I can learn anything new about the promotion. It takes me to a blank page that doesn’t load. I actually laugh out loud.

Using a “contact us” button on the app, I fill out a message asking why I haven’t received the promo taco. As soon as I hit submit, the form gives me an error. Of course.

“The page you are looking for does not exist” message on the app.

I start Googling other ways to contact Taco Bell customer service and learn I’m basically going to have to DM @tacobellcare on Twitter and hope for the best. I send a DM asking about the promo and wait for a response.

Stage 13: Commiseration

Well, since I had to use my personal Twitter account for the first time in months to chase this elusive taco, I may as well search Twitter to see if others have had similar issues. I appear to not be alone in my journey.

Stage 14: Paranoia

Back on the couch, I yell something sarcastic at the screen when the promo gets another shoutout during Game 4. A minute later, Instagram feeds me an ad about it. They’re listening now.

Stage 15: Acceptance

Well, it’s the next day, and still no response from Taco Bell Twitter. My free taco may show up before the series ends, but I’m not holding my breath. The Phils had a rough night last night, and I need to concentrate on cheering them on to victory. And I did get a free taco even if I didn’t get the free taco. It’s time to give up the fight.

Update: On Nov. 4 at approximately 3 p.m., Missy received the Steal a Base promo reward in her Taco Bell app. Did it take an article published on a national website to make this happen, or just require a little more patience on her part? You be the judge.