Chipotle restaurants in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have been caught nickel-and-diming customers by rounding up bills to the nearest nickel, according to a recent report from the Star-Ledger.
The discovery was made by an astute customer who noticed his bills just weren’t adding up.
"The receipts at the Chipotle in West Caldwell don't add up when there are odd amounts involved," Jayson Greenberg of New Jersey told the Star Ledger.
And to prove his point, Greenberg saved his receipts and documented the oddity:
- July 13: Purchased nine items totaling $32.93. Tax was $2.31. Total should have been $35.24, but was $35.25 instead.
- July 13: Total purchase was $8.64. Tax was $0.60. Total should have been $9.24, but was $9.25 instead.
- July 17: Total purchase was $17.75. Tax was $1.24. Total should have been 18.99 but was $19.00 instead.
So what’s the deal?
"Greenberg figured this was a company policy that had to do with getting people in and out as fast as possible. Makes sense," Karin Price Mueller writes for the Ledger.
"But at this store, when transactions are completed, the change is automatically distributed from registers that spit out the coins, rather than by a cashier counting coins by hand. With a cashier, the time-saving theory would make sense. Not so much with the machines," she adds.
Plus, there were no signs notifying customers of the practice. And sure, some may say it’s just a penny -- but it’s the principle, right? Greenberg decided to ask one of the chain’s managers about the company’s accounting practices.
“Oh, it’s a computer program. It is just rounding numbers. It takes a little from certain receipts and gives a little to others. What do you want? A few pennies?" one manager apparently told Greenberg.
Understandably unimpressed with this response, Greenberg contacted Bamboozled to see if they would help him expose the practice. They took him up on his offer.
“Bamboozled made two purchases at the Freehold location, and our purchases were added correctly, with totals of $8.00 and $7.50. We noticed the prices in that store were odd, but we figured that was so that when the tax was added, the final bill would end in a zero or a five to avoid the dreaded pennies,” the Ledger reports.
When asked about the policy, a Chipotle spokesman responded:
It’s something we do in some high volume markets, including New Jersey. 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 in high volume areas.
After the rounding policy was reported by Bamboozled, Consumer Affairs got involved and, as of this month, its now Chipotle policy to round down.
“Instead of rounding up, the chain now rounds down, which means sometimes putting a few extra pennies in customers' pockets rather than taking one out,” Business Insider reports. “There's something new about receipts as far as we can tell -- a rounding line, which tells customers exactly how much the register rounded down their total.”
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(H/T: The Daily Mail)