Ray Camden posted last week about the ethics of blogs and paid reviews. He asked some good questions about Internet services, revenues, and how the two are tied together when the service is a blog. Can the blogger be trusted? Can it affect the blogger’s reputation? Their objectivity? I happen to believe that it’s inevitable that banner ads (even as targeted as the Google ads are) will eventually go the way of the dodo, to be replaced by more subtle and intentional partnerships and mutual back-scratching. However, there are a good number of people that call shenanigans on the whole idea, and are willing to desert bloggers for such an atrocity. (Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit here.)
This post will not be about that.
Really, I just wanted to share two stories that happened to me at the local Chipotle Mexican Grill. However, from my stories it may appear that my motivations are less than altruistic. I can assure you that Chipotle has not in any way paid me for this placement, and unless their cilantro-lime rice has some sort of mind-reading nanite swarm technology, they are unaware that I’m even posting here. I just think the stories are interesting and the food was great. That’s it. Moving on.
Two weeks ago, our entire Info Systems department was tied up with a consultant doing some training for our mainframe. As is usually the case, my stomach was the first to start growling, so I suggested to get some food. My boss suggested Chipotle, and I pointed out that we could use Don’t Stand in Line, their online ordering service. Everyone was able to sit down at the Flash widget and punch in their order, ’cause it’s just a cool system like that.
The deal with Chipotle DSL is that you place the order online, call a few minutes later to confirm it, then skip straight to the register when you get there. We only have the one Chipotle close to us, so it is hella busy from 11:15am until about 1:45pm. It was now 12:15pm — right in the middle of the lunch rush when the lines would easily be 15-20 minutes long. What’s most impressive is that those people are fast on the line. There’s really just that many customers.
I called and got no answer. I waited, called again, still no answer. I knew they wouldn’t start making the order without the phoned-in confirmation, so I gave it another 15 minutes or so, then gave up and just drove over there. Sure enough, it was packed. I looked for our order, but could tell it hadn’t been made yet. Not one to make a stink, I just got in line.
About a third of the way through the line, roughly 5 minutes later, I was close enough to the cash register (the line twists around) that I could catch one of the employees who was restocking the island. I asked her to grab the printout of the order for me, as I hadn’t written down what everyone had wanted, and would need the listing to tell the line-workers what to make. She hunted around underneath the counter for a moment, which attracted the attention of the manager. She explained that she was looking for the printout, which he then found and proceeded to walk to the front of the line.
The manager then came over to me and asked what it was on the order that I wanted changed. I explained that it wasn’t that I had wanted to change anything, just that I had seen that they were swamped and was going to wait through the line like everyone else. He wouldn’t hear of it, handed me a drink cup, and told me to have a seat – he’d bring my order out in a few minutes when they had finished making it. I did so, but paid attention to the line and walked up to the cashier when I saw it was complete. I paid, thanking the manager again, and walked out.
Pretty sweet, right? But wait, there’s more!
Once outside, I was juggling several large bags and large drinks. (I should have made multiple trips, but I am, as my wife puts it, the dumbest smart person on the planet.) Some random guy walked up to me and started talking:
Him: Excuse me, can I ask you something?
Me: Um, sure. What’s up? (I figured he needed directions or something. This is Orlando — tourist central.)
Him: That didn’t seem right to me.
Him: Well, I just gave up and walked out of there because of you. The line was too long, and I’m not going to wait that long, but then you jump right from the middle of the line to the front. Does that seem fair to you?
Me: Actually, sir, I had placed my order online about 45 minutes ago.
Me: Yes sir. They have a system, called “Don’t Stand in Line” where if you order online you can go straight to the register. But I wasn’t sure if they had gotten my order, so I just waited anyway.
Him: Okay, but I’m hungry, too. And I was waiting in line, too. But to see you jump ahead like that, that’s just not right.
Me: But sir, as I said, I placed my order 45 minutes ago. So, really, I’ve been waiting for my food longer than you have.
Him: Right, but I was in line. That’s just not fair!
Me: Sir, let me ask you a question: when orangutans sleep in trees and I sleep in my nice, warm bed, is it that that isn’t fair, or that I’m smarter than they are?
Yeah, I really need to learn to hold my tongue. And blame my wife, the orangutan keeper, that my similies and metaphors all come out with orangutans in them.
The second story is much nicer and much shorter.
I end up at Chipotle more often than I should admit. I mean, far more often than I should admit. Like, a ratio of visits to days would be so close to 1:1 as to be negligible. It’s fast, healthy, great-tasting food; the managers don’t mind if I whip out my laptop and camp for four hours; and there’s no WiFi to distract me while I’m writing. I’ve even gone so far to just buy a gift card and fill it up, thus guaranteeing that I’ll always have money for food, even if I don’t have cash on hand. Point being, most of the line workers recognize me, and many of them have my order down so that I don’t even have to tell them what I want.
I was in there on Tuesday evening, and a manager and a single employee were working the line. The manager was a different one than before, and this employee was normally on the grill, not the line. The manager half-recognized me.
Manager: Hello, again. I’ve seen you a few times, right?
Employee: He’s in here almost every day!
Manager: What can I get for you?
Employee: (looking at me) Bol for here, right? He normally sits over by the wall.
Me: Normally, yeah, but today I’m just getting it to go.
Employee: That’s cool. He gets both beans and chicken.
Manager: And salsa?
Employee: All three. And cheese and sour cream.
Me: Actually, cheese and lettuce.
Manager: Ha! You were wrong!
Me: Yeah, but for a guy that normally works the grill, he was really close. He should get at least half-credit or something.
Employee: Yeah! See? And a large drink. He always gets a large drink.
Manager: That’ll be $3.88.
Me: Umm … really?
Manager: I gave you a discount. Because you eat here so much.
So, yeah. I wasn’t compensated by Chipotle for this post, but I thought I’d spread the word that I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them whenever I go there.