If Chipotle Is Going To Round Numbers On Your Bill, It Should Only Round Down — From Now On

Have you looked at your Chipotle receipt recently? Some customers noticed a bit of funky math going on after paying for their burritos, tacos and various items from the chain, where totals seemed to mysteriously shift so as to not get pennies involved in the equation. Rounding off a bill is fine — unless of course, the bill gets rounded up.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger‘s Bamboozled blog followed up on some of its readers complaints that the restaurant had been rounding bills up in order to not deal with pennies.

According to a customer’s receipts:

On the first, dated July 13, the nine items added up to $32.93. There was $2.31 in tax. The total should have been $35.24, but next to the “total” line on the receipt, it said $35.25.

The next receipt, with the same sale date, showed a subtotal of $8.64. The tax was $0.60, so the grand total should have been $9.24. But no. With Chipotle-style math, the total was $9.25.

The third receipt, dated July 17, had a subtotal of $17.75 and tax of $1.24. The total? $19.00, but elementary school students would have come up with $18.99.

The paper asked for more receipts from around the country and got them. Some were rounded up, some were down, with apparently no consistent method on behalf of Chipotle. Then Chipotle started whistling a different tune, one that included a bit more information on receipts. A customer submitted an example where the location had a new line after the subtotal and tax: “Round -0.02.,” making the total an even $19.00.

Chipotle clarified its rounding policy, saying that it will not be rounding any totals up in the future (at least in New Jersey), only down as of Aug. 1 — and not every customer will experience rounding, either.

“It’s something we do in some high volume markets, including New Jersey,” said a spokesman.”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.”

“It was never our intention to have a policy that was confusing or misleading,” he added.

The rounding policy put forth by Chipotle in this case might just be New Jersey specific, so keep an eye out for any rounding shenanigans in your state and let us know if your bill is inflated in Chipotle’s favor.

UPDATE: Consumerist reader H.C. sent in his receipt from a meal he purchased this very day from a Chipotle in New Jersey with evidence of rounding down, writing:

“I was at a Chipotle today, and my wife noticed, on the receipt, an entry for “rounding.” They took off 2 cents, and charged us $16.”


Bamboozled: Chipotle receipts finally start making sense [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

Comments

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  1. RenegadePlatypus says:

    “It was never our intention to have a policy that was confusing or misleading”.

    I don’t know how confusing the policy is…. I think people are irked for a different reason.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    To the nearest QUARTER?

    • mikedt says:

      That was my reaction as well. Taking quite a liberty by rounding to the nearest quarter. I can almost understand rounding off the pennies (most people probably don’t care) but to the nearest quarter is just not right.

      • Applekid says:

        When the half penny was eliminated, it had more purchasing power than the current penny, nickel, AND dime.

        • teatree says:

          The most entertaining argument (from my point of view,) for elimination of the penny is that it is literally a waste of time: From wiki article, “Penny debate in the United States:”

          “With the median wage in the U.S. being about $17 per hour in 2011, it takes about two seconds to earn one cent. Thus, it is not worthwhile for most people to deal with a penny. If it takes only two seconds extra for each transaction that uses a penny, the cost of time wasted in the U.S. is about $3.65 per person annually, about $1 billion for all of the USA.”

          • dush says:

            So every person who supposedly hates pennies should just deposit all of theirs into my bank account.

          • RandomHookup says:

            Which isn’t really a very good economic argument. Does that additional time cost the employer money? That’s the real economic argument. Does someone need to be hired to roll & manage the pennies? Do customers leave because the line has backed up because of giving penny change? Are there willing customers available if you speed up the process because you don’t take pennies? What is the cost of delivery/deposit for having pennies? Those are economic costs.

            Otherwise, it’s just a mental exercise to prove a point.

      • Chuft-Captain says:

        There’s no issue there though, if you look at the examples. It seems clear that their prices are structured so as to come very close to quarter increments anyway. And every example of rounding is rounded properly, to the nearest five cent mark.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      My exact thought, with the all-caps “quarter” and everything.

  3. Banished to the Corner says:

    I don’t eat at Chipotle, but if I see this happening at any other place, I’d be tempted to pay with lots of small change. :-)

    If Chipotle finds pennies too difficult to work with, they should adjust their menu prices in such a way that the total always ends up in non-penny numbers. I’ve seen other companies do this, but I admit, they tend to be very small businesses.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      You can’t really do that…you never know what combinations of things people will order, and the tax will ultimately foil your plans.

      You can do that with a single item easy enough…but that’s about it.

      • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

        Unless they list a price like $7.50 and say that the cost includes all taxes.

        • Rebecca K-S says:

          Yeah, this is really the only way to do it – basically calculating taxes backwards. It’s what I did when I was running sales trying to keep everything nice and round.

        • scoutermac says:

          I always thought it would be better if restaurants and retail stores handled tax the way gas stations do. When you go to the pump it says “Price includes all applicable taxes.”

          • KnightCrusader says:

            Yeah, I agree. I worked at McDonald’s and when I was a manager I had a qualm with the owner (or owner’s son, can’t remember) about just including tax in the price so people can figure out what their total is easier.

            Of course, I would told to pound dirt.

            • spartan says:

              Ironically one reason we see prices with round numbers harken back to the pre-sales tax days. The store owners wanted to have to make change.

              If something was exactly a dollar, it was too easy for the customer who hand the clerk the exact amount and have it wind up in the clerks pocket.

              If it was 99 cents, the customer would stand at the register as it was rung up and he recieved his change.

      • Damage Incorporated says:

        Single item or a lot of items, if each item with tax adds up to a round number (in this case to the quarter) the total bill is still going to add up to a round number…

        • Rebecca K-S says:

          That’s not necessarily accurate. Once you get into bigger orders, those rounding errors will get you away from the “exact” amounts you’re looking for. If I get one item that costs $4.98, and the tax is 10.5%, my cost is $5.50. But if I even get two of those items, the cost is actually $11.01. Bye bye round number!

          • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

            But the point is, no item would ever be priced $4.98. It would be $5.00. Every single item on your menu would be a round number. So say you have 10 menu items. They’d be priced, for example, $5.00, $6.50, $10.75, $12.00, $12.50, $12.50, $13.00. $13.50, $14.00 and $15.00. Each item would already have the tax included in the price. There is no possible way any combination of these items will result in change less than quarters. Even if it were bigger orders.

            • dangermike says:

              Actually, that’s a pretty amusing example. To reach an even $5 with a 10.5% sales tax, it would have to be priced at about $4.52 1/2. An even $4.52 would come out to $4.99 and $4.53 would push it up to $5.01.

          • dangermike says:

            Suppose tax is 7.75% (the value local to me). With an item priced 7.29 (one of the lower prices I could find to maximize rounding error) the tax comes out to 56.4975 cents. If a million of these are sold and the tax based on the rounded price of a single unit, that’s $7,290,000 in sales revenue and $560,000 in collected sales tax. If an audit shows that 7.29 million is collected in revenue, multiplying out the tax rate says $564,975 should have been collected. I’m honestly curious if the various franchise tax boards around the country would be very aggressive about collecting such an amount. It still seems like small peanuts.

    • JJFIII says:

      nearly impossible to do with sales tax and the number of combinations of ordering available.

      • spartan says:

        Some states allow you to tax the items individually so (and I am making up numbers rather than doing the math) the item actually costs $5.07 3/10 so the tax is always $5.50 add a drink that that costs $2.02 4/10 ($2.25) and you are always dealing in prices that are increments of a quarter.

        One Los Angeles burger chain (Tommy’s) used to do this, but suddenly stopped. They didn’t have to change the menu board but effectively raised their prices 8.75% as they switched over to the normal way.

    • cromartie says:

      State and local sales tax rates aren’t always conducive to this type of rounding. Factor in the 1/4 and 1/2% rounding for the locals and changing menu prices doesn’t really do a lot of good.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        But you figure the price of the item this way. Say your item sells for around $10.00. Say your local sales tax is 8%. So you make the item 9.92 and the tax is 8 cents. You charge the customer $10, say the tax is included, and send the 8 cents on to the government. Now say the tax was 7.25%. Now you make the price of that menu item $9.9225. The customer pays $10, tax included, you send the 7.25 cents on. Because you aren’t sending it for that one item, but for all the items you send. You figure all your sales tax, even the weird little .25 cents, and then round the total and send it to the government. It is completely possible to do.

        • Kisses4Katie says:

          It’s just that the 8% would be off every dollar. In florida a 10 purchase is 10.65 at 7% tax. A dollar purchase is taxed at 1.07.

  4. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “It was never our intention to have a policy that was confusing or misleading,”

    No one’s confused. The issue is that, even if it’s just a penny, it’s illegal to charge people more for a product than the posted price. Granted that it probably all washed out in the end, the fact of the matter is you were overcharging ~50% of your customers.

    • spartan says:

      40%.

      If the bill ended in 3, 4, 8, or 9 the customer lost
      if the bill ended in 1, 2, 6, or 7 the customer won

      and if it ended in 5 or 0, no change was made either way.

      • msbaskx2 says:

        That depends. Before they were ‘caught’, if the bill was $18.46 were they rounding DOWN to $18.45 or UP to $18.50?

  5. GJaunts says:

    Didn’t they do this in Superman III?

    • teatree says:

      RIGHT. All their PR aside, this is money for nuthin for Chipotle. I am betting, just betting that the “round downs” don’t even out the “round ups.”

      “High volume markets,” indeed. They mean, “where the suckers are in too much of a hurry to notice.”

  6. Tim says:

    I’ve been to some Chipotles where every price (after tax) is a multiple of 25 cents. Seems to make more sense than rounding after the fact.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Is this something they do for online orders or orders using the app, where people pay by credit and there are no pennies to deal with? Cause that’s the only way I order at Chipotle now. The lines are usually too long.

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    I would like the people who want to get rid of the cent to read this article.

    • Marlin says:

      Well that was a quick and easy read. Got nothing out of it though. ;)

    • jawbone says:

      Read it, and it doesn’t change my opinion at all. The majority of the U.S. military overseas has lived without pennies in commissaries and PX/BXs since before the 1990s. In my three years using their system in Germany, I never missed pennies and never heard anyone complain about getting ripped off – not even guys living on a private’s pay in Europe.

      Chipotle’s method is whacked out, but if they used basic 2nd grade rounding rules the +2/-2 pennies effect washes out over the course of a few transactions, and you just get on with your life, forgetting pennies the way we’ve forgotten half cents today. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_cent_(United_States_coin)

      • Draw2much says:

        Preach it! :D I lived without pennies for 4 yrs while overseas. I much preferred not having pennies and was annoyed at having to deal with them again when I got back state-side.

  9. fsnuffer says:

    Round up all purchases and apply the difference to the national debt.

  10. kjherron says:

    See, this is why it’s going to take the US so long to stop using pennies. Even if the merchant rounds its retail prices to a $0.05 amount, the state sales tax can add some odd amount to the final price which has to be rounded. Then the public will scream bloody murder if a merchant dares to charge $0.02 extra by rounding up.

    • Marlin says:

      Just require all prices to include tax, like how Gas is sold.

    • Mambru says:

      You need to look at the bigger picture. How many people eat chipotle daily would you say AVG of 150? those are 3 extra dollars a day, now on a month that is 90 dollars extra, in a year 1080. if yotake a look on wiki it says chipotle has over 1200 stores nationwide that is 1,296,000 extra a year chipotle pockets with two bloody cents

      • Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

        And? They have equally as many times that they round down, so they would be losing out on pretty much the same amount by charging people /less/ than the list price. It equals out in the end. It’s really not a big deal.

    • ahecht says:

      Most stores already are rounding up. If I buy something for $.99 and tax is 5%, almost any store would charge $1.04, rounding up from $1.0395.

  11. Press1forDialTone says:

    “It was never our intention to have a policy that was confusing or misleading,” he added.

    No, it was out policy to try to suck more money out of you.
    Imagine the “big” numbers if you figure in the amount of
    money across all restaurants. Digusting, infantile, tactic.

    If that ever happened to me, the fit I would through would make
    sure that everyone in the restaurant knew about it right then and
    there.

    Rounding down or up is BS. But rounding up is stealing.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Chipotle recently experienced a forced increase in its labor budget in many markets. They have to make up the money somehow.

    • Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

      Oh, you’d make a fit over a couple cents, huh? Yeah, if I were a customer behind you, I’d tell you to move the hell along so I can buy my damn burrito. I’ll even pay the two extra cents for you so your jack-ass can save those precious pennies.

  12. Starfury says:

    It’s simple. Get rid of pennies, and use standard rounding to get to the nearest .05 on the charge.

  13. dulcinea47 says:

    How many people even pay in cash at Chipotle? It sounds like they’re doing this to everyone, regardless of method of payment, and it makes not one bit of sense to do this if you’re paying with a credit/debit card.

  14. rdm says:

    Are that many people still using cash that it makes a difference at all to eliminate the penny?

  15. LogicalOne says:

    Well, now that we’ve gotten that all straightened out, what about gas stations rounding UP from the nearest tenth of a cent?

  16. lobsterssss says:

    I don’t always complain about bill rounding, but when I do, I do it over a penny.

  17. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Surely most customers pay with debit or credit.

  18. RenegadePlatypus says:

    It seems that the people at Chipotle were watching ‘Office Space’ when the penny-stealing plan was being rationalized and they thought “Ohmygod, we could totally do that.”

    • Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

      Really…are you that paranoid that you really think they’re doing this to somehow make more of a profit?

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Are you that paranoid that you can’t see a funny joke when it pops up?

        (Just kidding. Nobody can be mean to that adorable kitty!)

      • RenegadePlatypus says:

        It reminded me of something funny from Office Space. I’ll bet you’re a lot of fun at parties, by the way.

  19. jeepguy57 says:

    Am I the only person ok with this? I mean as long as they round down when appropriate, I don’t mind paying an extra cent or two. To be fair, the should round down at .x3. Under those circumstances, I’m ok with it.

    I get a coffee every morning from 7-11 and total is $1.92. If I get the manager, he gives me a dime back on my $2. Any of the employees give me $.08 back. I usually drop the pennies in the penny tray. Though I am getting better are remembering to bring two pennies in from the car.

    • The Colonel says:

      I’m with yo

      • The Colonel says:

        Yikes. I hate key

        • The Colonel says:

          –board short cuts.

          Anyway, I was trying to say, I’m with you. I usually just drop that penny in the tray anyway. A 1 cent fee is worth it to me to speed things up a bit.

          • dwtomek says:

            This seems kind of like getting rid of the penny tray to the business’s benefit. I am okay with that. I save the rest of my change and it usually comes out to around $200 annually. If I were to save pennies I would wager that might change to som where around 205. Not worth it to me. Then again I don’t have sales tax so nice round totals are far more common.

    • DonnieZ says:

      I’m with you. As long as there’s even a semi-equal amount of rounding up and down, I’m OK with this.

      Not that many people pay in cash, but if it speeds up the chow line at Chipotle at all, Im for this 100%.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      I’m totally with you. Everyone in this thread complaining that this is ripping them off somehow apparently missed the day of school when the law of averages was taught.

  20. axolotl says:

    You’re buying a seven dollar burrito. Why are you concerned that the “secret” price is 1/700th higher than you expected? There are plenty more important things to get upset about in this country.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Because, given the increasing tendency of businesses to rip off consumers in every way imaginable, if we don’t resist, we are screwed, that’s why.

      • Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

        Oh my god, do you seriously think they’re doing it to “screw you?” They simply don’t want to deal with pennies and are rounding down or up depending on which is closer to a 5 or zero.

  21. hugothebear says:

    17.75 x 1.07 is 18.9925.

    Stop the press! I was robbed 3/4 of 1/100 of $1.00!

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Many stores won’t let you buy something of you are a penny short.
      Shoe. Other. Foot.

      • axolotl says:

        Yeah, I really doubt that.
        I’ve never been 1 penny short being able to afford something, but I’ve had plenty of instances where store clerks have rounded up to the next nickel when they gave me my change, which is the same net effect as letting me buy something for $1.00 when the total is $1.01.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Most stores I’ve been in, the cashier would either pull a penny from the “need a penny, take a penny, have a penny, leave a penny” bin, or from his or her own pocket. I know I did that more than once when I worked at Sears. Nobody’s gonna send a customer away over a penny, seriously.

        Well, maybe some of the zombie teens in fast food joints.*

        *Disclaimer: not all teens are zombies, and not all fast food workers are teens.

  22. axolotl says:

    Let’s say you bought a burrito and some chips and they just happened to charge you the exact amount to the penny that they’re supposed to. The clerk hands you your change, but you accidentally leave a penny on the counter without noticing. As you walk away, you see the customer in line behind you sneak up to the counter, cackling wildly and twisting his long handlebar mustache as he steals the penny from the counter, keeping it for himself.

    Would you care?

    • dwtomek says:

      I intentionally leave pennies behind. Whether the cashier, the business, or the next in line gets it, I couldn’t possibly care less.

  23. azntg says:

    Well, I can tell you that this rounding practice is also taking place in New York City as well.

    My brother and I had lunch at the Chipotle near the Empire State Building last week. In our particular case, our order total came out to $19.01. They rounded down, took off a penny and charged us $19.00.

    C’mon Chipotle! If you’re going to round, round down!

    Anything I’ve learned in life, it’s this: People will happily pay one cent less than one cent more, even if the value is negligible in the long run. And there are always people who will get eternally pissed over a small (possibly trivial) detail.

  24. Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

    Oh my god, seriously? Complaining about a few freaking cents? Just deal with it! I’d rather have this than have to deal with pennies anymore.

  25. ahecht says:

    Is this really all that different from the sub-cent rounding that everyone already does? If I buy something for $.99 and tax is 5%, almost any store would charge $1.04, rounding up from $1.0395.

  26. Dustbunny says:

    Would this be a good time to smugly mention that we don’t have sales tax in Oregon?

  27. TripHammer says:

    Rounding up or down to the nearest nickel is fine with me…using standard rounding of course. And as far as sales tax goes….doesn’t matter. It will still be what it was before the rounding and the company doing the rounding will probably get the same amount of money at the end of the day, as if they didn’t round. Statistically speaking.

  28. Professor59 says:

    I was wondering why the folks at my Chipotle were always so bad at math. There has never been any adjustment on my receipt, but yes, they won’t deal in pennies. Unless you pay in pennies, I guess.
    Today I was asked for 6.84 for my burrito. When I paid 6.85, I was given back a nickel. OK, I guess.
    I think the issue is that not all Chiptles interpret the “no pennies” policy the same way, that’s all.

  29. Harry says:

    Anyone notice that the small soda is $1.87. This could be part of the problem.
    How about meals that are $8.99, $9.99, etc. etc

  30. yankinwaoz says:

    In Australia, where they no longer have 1 cent coins, they round 4 cents up to 5, and 1,2,3 cents down to 0 for cash purchases.

  31. nodaybuttoday says:

    Is the rounding only true in cases of paying with cash or is it all transactions? Like I don’t care if it’s rounded on my credit card…

  32. consumerd says:

    I don’t think I would mind a penny or two in either direction. Most small food outlets won’t screw with pennies anyway making their items cost right at say $2.25 or $2.50 so they don’t have to screw with the pennies. After all my incumbent water company (illinois american water) rips me off of $40 a month for what they call “water service” to my house and I can complain about them all day and they don’t care. Same with Waste Management, they seem to rip me off of $41 every 3 months yet I still have to pick up trash they spill!

  33. HogwartsProfessor says:

    For those saying you don’t mind losing a penny here or there, remember that they did this BEHIND YOUR BACK. They’re basically stealing your money. Pennies add up!

    If they want to save time in the lines, hire more damn cashiers. I’m not going back to them now until they stop doing it all together. Wallet vote.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      Are you serious? This loses you at most $0.02 per transaction. Do you really care about $0.02 that much?

      Plus, it averages out. Chipotle is not screwing anyone out of any money. If you go enough times, it will even out for you, individually, as well.

    • AngryBaby says:

      Seriously, haven’t you people ever seen The Office? Federal Pound You In The Ass prison indeed.

  34. tgauchsin says:

    If this happened to me, the next time I visited, I’d bring plenty of pennies to count out slowly one by one as I pay for my order with exact change.

  35. muzicman82 says:

    Seriously, why is this a big deal? I kind of wish more places would round, as long as it is fair.

    Let’s face it. Chipotle is pretty inexpensive and damn tasty. People go back because it is good. Nothing on the menu costs more than $7 around here (NJ/DE). They have a menu of about 4-5 things. Sometimes the line puts a lot on your dish. Sometimes they skimp on rice or meat. Every location is slightly different too.

    It’s not the kind of place that you walk down the line adding things to your bowl or burrito and mentally calculate what every add is going bring your total to. I generally walk in, order, and know my total shouldn’t be over $10 for my item and drink. Besides that, I’m going to pay, eat, and be happy.

  36. Sleestak says:

    Enter text…Rounding up a penny here and there isn’t much to an individual person, but multiply it times thousands of customers nation wide…that’s a lot of profit. The same principle works for check stand charities, collectively it adds up to millions in donations (several million for the company I work for)