Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dear Chipotle

If you've ever taken any sort of Psychology 101 class, then you've heard the "nature versus nurture debate." You could argue until you're blue in the face over whether we are the way we are due to genetics (nature) or due to the way your parents raised you (nurture). Personally, I think it's a mix of both.

In this particular instance, who knows if there is some genetic predisposition involved, but I certainly learned this through observation at a young age.

I can remember waaaaay back... I know I was either in first or second grade because we were in Chula Vista (San Diego suburbs) riding in our old sky-blue station-wagon, so it had to be before we moved to San Pedro at the beginning of 3rd grade. My dad drove us into a Long John Silver drive-through to get some dinner. I don't remember why we were out so late or exactly what time it was. I just remember the guy on the drive-through speaker saying, "I'll be right with you."

Then we sat.

And we waited.

It seemed like an eternity to a 7 year old, but it was probably only a few minutes. When my dad's patience had been exhausted, he honked the horn and said, "Hellooooo?"

The response from the drive-through speaker?

"Sorry, man, we're closed."


Everyone in my family ducked for cover because we thought my dad's head was gonna explode. There were steam plumes shooting out both of his ears as he threw the car into gear and peeled out of the Long John Silver parking lot.

Ya know what?

We NEVER went back to Long John Silver. Lord help the business that pissed my dad off like that, because our family would not set one foot in that establishment EVER again. Indeed, about twenty-five years later when I set foot in a Long John Silver for the first time since that fateful night in our old blue station wagon, I felt guilty... like I was being disobedient and challenging my dad's authority to visit a place he had declared off limits.

That's the earliest and most vivid example that comes to my mind, but it's a classic tale of how I learned to never give a business a second chance once they've pissed me off.

Fast forward thirty years.

Now, in the age of the internet, most business websites offer a very quick and easy means of providing feedback. As a result, I usually don't shun a business based on one experience. Most businesses will thank you for your feedback on their website and ask you to please give them a second chance.

That being said, I have news for the management of Chipotle.


For those of you who know me, this will come as quite a shock. I LOVE Chipotle and eat there on a regular basis. Scrolling back through my Facebook posts, you will see regular status updates about getting my Chipotle fix. Chipotle was one of my reasons for wanting to move back to Virginia from Hawaii.

On 11 January 2010, I stopped at Chipotle here in Ashburn to grab some dinner after a late night at work. I ordered my burrito. I handed the cashier, Jose Antonio, my debit card. He rang it up. He handed me a receipt. I walked out the door.

Before I even got to my car, Jose chased me down in the parking lot and said that my card was turned down and I needed to come back in and pay. I said no, I have a receipt right here, see? He insisted that it didn't go through and he needed to swipe my card again. I went back into the store with him and let him swipe my card again.

I now have two receipts - order #441 and #442, receipt #10344 and #10345, one at 8:07 p.m. and one at 8:08 p.m., and both for $8.51. When I got home, my online banking showed that, sure-enough, Chipotle had charged me twice for my dinner.
Strike 1 Chipotle.

So I picked up the phone and called the Ashburn Chipotle. While annoyed, I figured it would be a quick fix for them to look at the receipts and refund one. The guy who answered the phone wasn't Jose, but yelled something to Jose off in the background. He flipped through the receipts and said he couldn't find anything matching my order. I told him the receipt numbers for crying out loud! He started jibber-jabbering away at Jose in the background, and then he hung up on me.
Strike 2 Chipotle.

Alright, I could not get the store to admit and fix their mistake, so I submitted a complaint on the Chipotle.com website citing the receipt numbers, order numbers, times, amounts, server name, and everything. I did this the same night - 11 January. I expected to hear some sort of apology from Chipotle within a day or two.

Two weeks later...

Not. A. Peep.

Yes, I even checked my email's spam folder to make sure it didn't get filtered out as junk mail. No response from Chipotle whatsoever.
Strike 3 Chipotle.

I called my bank and placed a fraud report on one of the two charges from Chipotle. My bank immediately refunded one of the two $8.51 charges. Thumbs-up for USAA.

It's not like $8.51 is some huge or significant sum of money.

It's the principle of the matter.

I tried to tell Chipotle about the error three times: when it happened at the store, via phone when I got home and confirmed they charged me twice on my online banking, and via the corporate website. The initial mistake doesn't bother me so much as the inability to get Chipotle to fix the mistake and that I had to go through my bank to get my money back.

So there you have it, Chipotle. While I have been tempted several times in the past couple of weeks to go back, I have intentionally NOT gone to Chipotle since then.

I wonder what sort of guilt my sons will feel the next time they walk into a Chipotle 25 years from now?


Sagey said...

That LJS in CV was my favorite place to go to eat when you were out to sea! Sorry to your dad! :-) But to answer your question, that is a nature that was nurtured in you! Let's not nurture it in our kids, ok? :-)

Ruth said...

Oh, no, it's genetic. I can remember Mom (Blunose's grandmother) doing same to a business and this auntie's latest is Applebee's, especially the one here in Warrensburg. The service was awful and the food not much better. The first time I got a call from corporate and local management, but then similar situation has happened, so I figure it's endemic. Then I learned from a friend that she was served a salad a la roach in the Sedalia Applebees. Management there didn't even so much as apologize, acted as if it were an everyday occurrence. So I've crossed them off the list, a mighty short list here in the 'Burg.

So you see it's a family thing and, Sagey, I'm afraid your offspring are doomed.

USAA said...

That sounds really frustrating. I'm glad to hear that we were able to make things a little bit easier for you.

If you need us in the future, give us a call at 1-800-531-USAA or #USAA from your cellphone.

Cedar said...

I think your Dad and my Dad may have been seperated at birth.

Call the bank or go back to Chipotle jump over the counter and take 8.51 worth of food..if you don't want to go that far...go back and take all their napkins, spoons, forks and straws...if you need help...call me I have a coat with big pockets...I however am too old to jump over any counters.

Anonymous said...

A) I'm completely shocked at your abandonment of Chipotle.

b) May I suggest Moe's Southwestern Grill. I like their burritos better than Chipotle's :)

reddog said...

I like McDonalds food OK but I don't go there. They have no soul. Chipotle was birthed by McDonalds. Even though they are no longer affiliated, I will never go there. Just the way it is. A man's gotta have principles to live by, even if a fella's not quite sure why he has them.

Every Long John Silvers is a total clusterhug. The people that work there are hopeless. There is always a problem. They are all 40 years old and the fixtures and furniture are all original. The food is exactly the same as it was 40 years ago and it wasn't that good then. It's not even that cheap anymore. I love it there. I always have. There's just something about it. Maybe its the all you can pump little paper cups of tarter and cocktail sauce.

The closest one to me is several miles away, in a part of town I never go to, in a very congested traffic area. I go at least once a month. I always get the same fish, fries and fritters basket/with drink, that used to cost me a dollar. I always ring the bell when I leave. It's like going home, if I had liked it when I went home.