For as much as I tend to brag about my Tex-Mex restaurant repertoire, I can count the number of times I’ve dined at Taco Bell — if you can call it dining — on one hand. At least four of those times I sought to secure the infamous Baja Blast, only for the drive-through attendant to apathetically inform me the machine had run out.
So when given the chance to immerse myself in a total Taco Bell experience through the courtesy of wireless carrier T-Mobile, my curiosity of the fast food’s cult culture brought me to the entrance of New York City’s Time Square T-Mobile Store.
Except what was there was not your small-town T-Mobile shop. The cellular store had completely transformed into a Taco Bell lover’s dream pop-up. T-Mobile’s signature magenta raveled with Taco Bell’s fluorescent purple to create an entirely new, iconic identity: T-MoBell (opens in new tab). Cellular service with a side of hot sauce, please.
“People love tacos. And they love their phones,’ said T-Mobile CEO John Legere about the pop-up event. “This the ultimate fusion of those two loves.”
Legere might be right — when I arrived well before the promotion’s 2 p.m. start time, the line was a full avenue’s length down 42nd Street. Here’s what happened once I made it inside.
How to get free tacos, blasts, and Taco Bell merch
FREE TACOS!? Now that we have your attention, we’re at the T-Mobile X Taco Bell pop-up (appropriately called #TMoBell) in NYC’s Time Square. Here’s a look inside pic.twitter.com/OmSkGJvIHgJuly 23, 2019
First, some crucial details if you care to experience this mind-bending synergy of brands yourself: T-MoBell is taking over T-Mobile stores in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles from 2-5 p.m. until July 25. Visitors will score free Taco Bell mobile merchandise, tacos, and the limited-edition T-MoBell Blast while supplies last.
Can't be in any of those three locations? Anyone nationwide could win a year of free tacos (via a $500 Taco Bell gift card) or the latest smartphone swag for summer. Just follow T-Mobile on Twitter and you could enter to win Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones, an Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 speaker and more.
Inside the Times Square T-MoBell
First stop: Photo booth. When you enter the converted T-Mobile store, you’re more or less corralled in front of a promotional backdrop, where you pose with a foam Taco Hat and snag some sweet Taco Bell X T-Mobile merch. My options were a phone wallet, high socks, or taco-themed sunglasses. I went with the sunglasses, seeing that I lost mine in the ocean this past weekend. They’re even the trendy mini-lens kind.
Through my new shades I spotted the slushie machines across the store and hustled over and around smartphone displays. My first Baja Blast, finally. The attendant splashed some sugary pink syrup into my cup, and voila: the T-MoBell Freeze. The limited-edition beverage was everything you could want in a slushie: refreshing, sweet, and secured by a magenta koozie. I gulped it down, endured brain freeze, and followed the smell of melted cheese toward the last leg of the T-MoBell adventure.
At the taco stand, every visitor receives one free taco of either the regular, vegetarian, or DLT (Doritos Locos Tacos) variety. I went with the latter. Free food draws every type of crowd, but Taco Bell-lovers knew where to be this Tuesday afternoon. Some shoppers literally jumped for joy upon acquiring their hard-shelled snack. I passed mine on to one of them.
With all the free goodies, I almost forgot I was in a phone store. As I made my way toward the exit, a store clerk stopped me to explain the sales element of the event. All accessories, excluding Apple and Beats products, are 20% off during the promotional hours. Popsockets, speakers, and headphones were laid out on a table outside the store’s door, with a convenient Square credit card reader ready to check you out.
T-MoBell: A blissful branding blast?
Fans of authentic Mexican cuisine — or anyone who fails to appreciate the delicacy of a Gordita — may stick up their noses at T-MoBell, but a fast food tie-in fits perfectly with T-Mobile’s marketing MO. (This is the smartphone provider that’s made a name for itself giving away free Wendy’s Frostys after all.)
For a brand partnership event, T-MoBell is a win. I transported to a faraway Tex-Mex mecca for the afternoon, which is no small feat for a Times Square locale. Taco Bell’s already found massive success with its Doritos Locos Taco collaboration with the Frito-Lay brand, but the T-MoBell pop-up proved a cor experiential branding event for both parties involved.
“T-MoBell adds a splash of serious fun to shopping inside,” T-Mobile Times Square general manager Ivan Beltran told me. And I had to agree. I found perusing smartphones and speakers marginally more pleasant with a blast in hand.
Before T-MoBell, I didn’t know T-Mobile customers already score free Taco Bell tacos every week (probably because I use Verizon); but if you’re a Taco Bell zealot T-Mobile Tuesdays are certainly a selling point if you’re shopping for cell providers.