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Is Chipotle’s Change-Rounding Frugal or Sneaky?

Popular chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, which touts its organic ingredients and claims to follow a rough approximation of fair trade policies (though it was once owned by McDonald’s), found itself in a bit of hot water this week.

The issue? A story first broken by the New Jersey Star-Ledger revealed that the chain has adopted a computer program that rounds customers’ bills up or down to the nickel. Spokespeople claim that the practice helps save time wasted by counting worthless pennies, but some diners are seeing red.

While the literal pennies involved in each transaction don’t amount to much, they do build over time–and the practice may rub against certain rules established by Consumer Affairs that require retailers to be very clear about how much they’re charging and why. The company now claims that it has ceased rounding up and will only round down–and it has also apparently begun printing the difference on some of its receipts.

What do you think? Should diners applaud Chipotle’s frugality? Was the chain caught red-handed taking shortcuts that would only add to customers’ totals, or should others follow its lead to spare us the time wasted on all those stupid pennies?

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