We need to taco ‘bout Healthyhorns Torchy’s Gift Card Giveaway

Dex Parra

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 16 issue of The Daily Texan.

Annie Lyons has texted “TXTACOS” to HealthyhornsTXT every single Tuesday since her freshman year at UT in 2016. In her third year, she finally won the $10 Torchy’s Tacos gift card.

When she arrived at the Torchy’s restaurant on Guadalupe Street to buy a green chile pork taco and Hillbilly queso, the gift card was declined — there was no money on it.

“I was like, ‘No, that can’t be right. This is the Healthyhorns card,’” said Lyons, who graduated last December. “I was crushed, obviously. I went from the highest high to the lowest low in a matter of days.”

Healthy Horns, a brand that includes the Longhorn Wellness Center, University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center, launched an initiative in 2015 called HealthyhornsTXT. Students who subscribe to the text message list receive several general health tips each week related to stress, substance use and nutrition.

Every “Taco Tuesday,” Healthyhorns invites students to respond with the phrase “TXTACOS.” Within seconds after pressing send, they receive a text back confirming they have entered the weekly giveaway of a Torchy’s gift card.

“When this program was initially being designed, we knew that there was an intrinsic motivation to get health and wellness tips,” said Katherine Protil, who coordinates the HealthyhornsTXT program. “But we also knew that an incentive would give a little extra push for students to stay in the program.”

Protil said that about 4,000 students participate in the giveaway each week. Only one winner is selected every Wednesday, and many students don’t know of anyone who has previously won.

Because of this, students, such as public relations sophomore Logan Ulery, wonder if the program is a scam.

“I enter (the contest) every week, and I’m in group chats with tons of other people that go to UT,” Ulery said. “Every week, someone will say, ‘It’s TXTACOS time.’ I’ve just always been curious about who the winners are.”

Protil, aware of the students’ concern, said she can “confirm this is not a scam.”

“There really are thousands of entries,” Protil said. “When you’re entering a contest, it always feels like this is (the) lucky time, but there’s a lot of students that also want the gift card and also feel like, ‘This is the week.’”

Lyons, who won the contest in March 2019, received a text at 1:52 p.m. the day after she entered that read, “Congrats! You’ve just won a $10 gift card to Torchy’s Tacos.” The message told her to pick up the card from the Students Services Building before the following Monday.

“I, like a lot of people, thought it was a bit of a myth,” Lyons said. “I had never met anybody who had won. I really could not believe my eyes when they sent the little, ‘You won!’ text, and I remember it had ‘Yay!’ at the end. I kind of thought it was fake.”

When the card was declined at the register, Lyons tweeted about the frustrating situation. Although Healthyhorns staff replaced the card immediately, Lyons said the “whole thing was a whirlwind.”

“I graduated in December, and I still haven’t unsubscribed from the messages,” Lyons said. “My phone is literally trained. If I type in a capital T, it will (suggest) ‘TXTACOS.’”

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Healthyhorns is a a brand that includes the Longhorn Wellness Center, University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center, not a program under University Health Services. The spelling of Healthyhorns has also been corrected. The Texan regrets this error.