The next time you get that chicken burrito at Chipotle, you'd better check your receipt. The Mexican food chain restaurant has been accused of rounding up its prices to the nearest nickel and keeping the change.
The company says it has been using this method to speed up long lines in some of its stores, since doling out exact change, according to the restaurant, is unnecessarily time consuming. So a meal that would cost say $7.36 would be rounded off to $7.40, and the company keeps the change.
Chipotle has since claimed this practice does not enhance company profits, and insists it was only done to decrease the customer's wait time.
“The idea is simply to limit the possible combination of change on cash transactions to keep the lines moving quickly in high volume areas, said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold in a published interview. “It was never our intention to have a policy that was confusing or misleading.”
The story was first broken by a reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger after many customers took notice of getting short-changed, especially in Chipotle’s New Jersey and New York locations. The chain restaurant also chose to round down too. So if one's total was $7.42 for example, they actually paid $7.40.
Not too forthcoming
Some have accused the company of being non-forthcoming, since Chipotle never made this practice widely known to its customers. In its defense the company said the rounding up and down is indicated on each receipt, although this part of the receipt was only added earlier this summer.
Chipotle also emphasizes that time saving, not profit, is the only reason it chose to round off.
“It's something we do in some high-volume markets, including New Jersey,” said Arnold. “The way it works is that prices auto-round to the nearest quarter and that's indicated on the receipt. The idea is simply to limit the possible combinations of change on cash transactions to keep the lines moving quickly.”
But the question is would you rather save a little time or get your accurate amount of change? Some may say it’s not up to a company to decide, which has seemed to be the majority consumer opinion as the restaurant has announced it will no longer be rounding costs up, just down.
Although Chipotle has denied using this practice to pad its pockets, Chipotle has seen a 23.2 percent profit increase in the first six months of 2012 compared to last year.
Time is money, but whose?
Whether the company was being deceptive or not is arguable, but it makes one think what others chains are doing the same thing in an effort to “save time.”
In the course of consumers' lunch hour, when they're trying to get a quick bite, the receipt or exact change is usually the last thing on their mind. Sure a few pennies may not make or break you, and in fact, places like Canada have stopped using the penny altogether. But at the end of it all — it's still your money, no?
Be sure to take a second or two to read each receipt, as each consumer deserves to be in the know if a company decides to keep your change by rounding up the cost.