The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 30, 2007

Mike Pound: Why take one free taco when you can get eight?

By Mike Pound

Globe columnist

It was a plan devised by young men with the sort of determination and guile that made this country what it is today.

It was daring, yet simple. Devious, yet harmless. Tricky, yet obvious.

The four Webb City High School students’ plan was rooted in your basic teenage constant need for fast food on a budget. The guys, who figured it was better that their names not be used, were on a mission to garner as many free Taco Bell tacos as they could.

I mentioned in this column Tuesday that as part of a World Series promotion, Taco Bell would be giving away a crunchy beef taco between 2 and 5 p.m. Tuesday to anyone who wanted one.

The taco giveaway was well under way when I visited the four Joplin-area Taco Bells. All four restaurants were doing a pretty brisk free-taco business. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it wasn’t underwhelming. Folks starting showing up for their free tacos right at 2 p.m. One guy behind the counter at the Taco Bell at 2315 W. Seventh St. said a few folks showed up before 2 p.m. When the guy told the folks that they had to wait until 2 for their tacos, they went and sat in their cars and waited.

I also mentioned Tuesday that several people had speculated that it might be possible for people to visit multiple Taco Bell locations and score multiple free tacos, if they were so inclined.

Consider the four Webb City kids so inclined.

What the four, who said I could call them “Taco Bell: Sticking it to the Man,” or TBSM, planned was to visit all four Joplin-area Taco Bells. When I caught up with them, they were sitting in the Taco Bell at 1706 S. Madison St. in Webb City. They were getting on the outside of their first free tacos. One of the TBSM guys was also eating a burrito. He and another kid were drinking sodas; the other two guys were drinking water.

“Did they charge you for the water?” I asked one kid.

“Nope,” he said with a sly smile.

I asked the guys which Taco Bell they planned to hit next. They told me they were thinking they would drive up the road and stop at the Taco Bell at 1029 S. Range Line Road. But first they had to do something else: “We’re going to get in our car and go through the drive-through here,” one of the kids told me.

See, the guys figured that since they ordered their first free tacos from a guy working the front counter, the girl working the drive-through wouldn’t recognize them.

I told you, it was a brilliant plan.

The guys said they were going to repeat the eat-in, eat-out taco plan at all the Taco Bells they visited.

I pointed out to the guys that meant they would have to eat eight tacos. They told me they thought they could handle that. I told them I thought they were right.

The things is, talk of taco scammers made Kerry Quattlebaum smile. Kerry is the manager of the Taco Bell at 2315 W. Seventh St., and she was OK with folks grabbing an extra free taco or eight.

“If they do, power to them,” she said.

Kerry did say that if she saw someone order a free taco, get in his car, drive around the parking lot and come back in for a second one, she might have to refuse the second request, but other than that, she wasn’t going to lose sleep over handing out a few extra tacos.

I think that’s smart. I mean, if a company is going to give away a few million tacos, it’s probably not going to sweat the occasional Taco Bell customers intent on “sticking it to the man.”

In fact, I’m thinking Taco Bell should hire the four Webb City kids. They have management material written all over them.

Or maybe that was taco sauce.