Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat, Chipotle?

Tonight, you may have noticed, is Halloween. This haunted holiday includes cherished traditions like dressing up, getting candy, and (if you live in Colorado), slipping on ice and being glad the pillows in your baked potato costume helped cushion the fall (true story). One of the more cultish traditions is going to the mecca of efficient fresh-mex, Chipotle, for a free burrito. Dress like a burrito, eat one for free has been the time-honored tradition of starving college students for awhile now. Being the generous, wonderful place it is, usually you can wear minimal amounts of foil (a hat, bowtie, or bracelet tends to suffice), and still enjoy piping hot Chipotle for free. This year, unfortunately, Chipotle sold out.

Typically when a sentence includes "company name" and "sold out," it is followed by a bleeding heart sob story of how another honest mom & pop was run over by Wal-Mart, or how children's programming sold its soul to the devil of sugary cereal commercials (egad! Elmo and Tony the Tiger together? The horror!). Here however, Chipotle sold out to the regulatory health freaks themselves (in happier news, Michael Moore hasn't made a documentary about them yet).

Trying to support Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Chipotle raised the price from $0 to $2 (for you mathletes out there, he multiplied the cost infinitely). They're donating this money to the Food Revolution (which will go to regulating food more heavily, increasing the amount of food-related propaganda, and limiting your choices to those deemed "healthful" by the nutrition nazis). Oh, and to top it off, you couldn't dress like a burrito, but had to dress like a "horrifying processed food product" instead of a burrito.

(If you weren't personally harmed by this, let me put it into perspective. I had to have snarky parenthetical commentary on four out of five of the sentences in that last paragraph.)

Shockingly enough, there were logistical problems with Chipotle's new plan:

1. No one informed employees what counted as a "horrifying processed food product." One cashier thought Chipotle burritos counted. I hope he stays away from marketing.

2. Instead of cheerily handing out free healthy food (to combat the evils of processed food), trying to get your costume to count was like going through the Clinton impeachment hearings (except there were no arguments about blue dresses). You had to defend your costume, sometimes forcibly, and even then the employees were grouchy.

3. It wasn't free. If all this were happening and were free, you could say "you get what you pay for" and move on. Unfortunately, it was very much not free. I don't like paying for the privilege of explaining that I'm a Blue Raspberry AirHead, and that the first three ingredients are various forms of mutilated sugar, and that the foil on my wrists are for shackles because I'm "a slave to sugar." That's too much explaining for a Sunday night.

Chipotle is known for doing nice free giveaways, and for generally being a pretty pleasant place. Your tortilla tore? Lemme grab you a new one. Student ID? Have a free drink. You want the lid off the guac for maximum avocadoness? Right on, man. They have witty advertising on their cups, their store architecture screams "cool," and they're healthy, generally affordable "fast" food.

Tonight, instead of leaving Chipotle with a big smile, I left pretty frustrated. I had had to explain my costume to three employees before they gave me the deal, I had to pay $2 that went to an organization I don't support, and they were stingy on everything because the man making my burrito wasn't watching it at all. I'm admittedly grateful for $2 burritos, but it's a little hard to swallow after the glory days.

I'd also like to point out that McDonald's (a bastion of "horrifying processed food products") used to own a majority share in Chipotle. Maybe it's more like the Clinton impeachment hearings than we thought — everyone has some dirty laundry, in more ways than one.

I still love you, Chipotle. But next year can you go back to being the treat, instead of the trick, in my Halloween?

I was a blue raspberry AirHead, a slave to sugar, in:

Teal skinny jeans, teal cowl neck short-sleeved babydoll sweater, two foil bracelets/shackles, and purple suede boots (I stepped in grape jellybeans, alright?).