Would You Feel Cheated if Your Check Was Rounded Up?

BlogHer Original Post

If you went to a store and your total bill was rounded up without your knowing it, would you feel cheated?

That's what some Chipotle customers are feeling after the company's "rounding in the name of efficiency" practice was exposed. Jason Greenberg of West Caldwell, New Jersey was wondering why his Chipotle Grill receipts weren't adding up. For example, if the items ordered plus tax added up to $13.24, the receipt total said $13.25. According to the New Jersey Star Ledger article "Bamboozled: Chipotle receipts finally start making sense":

Greenberg’s not worried about pennies, but the principle. The right and wrong.

So Greenberg asked a manager about the rounding, and he received a less-than-satisfactory response.

"He said, ‘Oh, it’s a computer program. It is just rounding numbers. It takes a little from certain receipts and gives a little to others. What do you want? A few pennies?’ " Greenberg said.

No signs were posted in the store alerting customers to (or giving them a choice) about the rounding.

Chipotle Grill Rounding Price

Credit Image: © Tom Wallace/ZUMAPRESS.com

Apparently this computer program that automatically executed the rounding was put into place to help speed up the often long lines at Chipotle. As someone who goes to absolutely zero fast food restaurants (except for Chipotle), I can attest to the fact that even in small locations, the lines are healthy and long. No one likes to wait in line longer than they have to. Yet, would you feel duped or cheated if your bill was rounded up without your knowledge?

According to The New York Times article "Is a Penny Rounded a Penny Lost? Ask Chipotle":

I called a Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold, who said the chain uses rounding in a few “high volume” markets,  including New York, New Jersey and some locations in Boston. The idea is to reduce the time cashiers spend doling out pennies, to keep the lines moving quickly. (In some locations, he said, “there are lines out the door as soon as we open.”) The total, he said, was previously rounded either up or down, to the “nearest nickel.” The result generally was a wash for the restaurant, he said. And for most customers, he said, “I think generally it’s been a nonissue.”

So, is the problem the rounding? Not letting customers know? Or the fact that a penny is not very useful these days (unless you're feeding 50 of them to a penny machine in Vegas)? Even Canada got rid of the penny back in March.

Chipotle's response to the complaints has been to continue the practice of rounding, but only rounding down (to customer's benefit). They have also included a line item on the receipt to indicate the amount rounded down.

So, what do you think? Is rounding an acceptable form of business practice?

And, if so, how much disclosure would you want to see in order to not feel cheated?

Please share your take on this story and the practice of rounding in the comments below.


Paula Gregorowicz plucks women off the hamster wheel of overwhelm, struggle, and self-doubt and guides them to a purposeful path of building authentic and successful businesses.

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