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Chipotle cheating on pennies – or just saving time?

Chipotle: cheating charges force the chain of Mexican restaurants to change policy. In high-traffic restaurants, it had been rounding customers' tabs up or down to the nearest nickel. Saving time? Because some customers complained of Chipotle cheating, it now only rounds down.

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A Chipotle billboard is shown in this promotional photo celebrating its 18th anniversary. Charges of Chipotle cheating customers for pennies have caused the chain of Mexican restaurants to only round down customer bills.

Business Wire

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Is there a more maligned piece of currency than the puny penny? Rejected by vending machines, left in that little tray at the gas station, phased out by Canada, the little copper pieces get no respect and very little notice.

Until they’re taken away, that is. Chipotle, the Mexican food restaurant chain, found that out the hard way this week. Karin Price Mueller from the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported Monday that customers at several locations were noticing Chipotle cheating on their bills – namely, that check totals were being rounded to the nearest nickel with no explanation (so a bill that should add up to $8.99, for instance, would be rounded up to an even $9.00).   

The rounding goes both ways, often working in favor of the customer (so a hypothetical bill of $12.41 would get a surprise discount, down to $12.40). According to Chipotle, the practice is a matter of efficiency.

"It’s something we do in some high volume markets, including New Jersey," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told the Star-Ledger. "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.”

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