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Congratulations, You’ve (Not) Won Free Chipotle for a Year

Last Friday (the 13th) was MrConsumer’s lucky day. He got an email from Chipotle, the Mexican fast-food chain, congratulating him on winning “free Chipotle for a year.” Opening the message revealed a celebratory animated graphic raining down burritos.

Chipotle email heaader
Chipotle raining burritos

There was no fine print. Clicking the link in the email brought me to my Chipotle rewards account, but the only things there were two offers to get free guacamole or a side and chips if I made separate $5 purchases.

Chipotle w $5 purchase rewards

That’s it? That’s their idea of free Chipotle for a year, a promotion they launched last week?

To claim my prize, I looked for and found the sweepstakes official rules online. It appeared to have two parts. In one part, over 3000 rewards members would be chosen to win free Chipotle for a year, and in the other, the company would spin some type of wheel of fortune and select members to win the free year’s worth of food. I assumed that that must have been how I won.

In reading the rules further, the company defined exactly what they meant by the “Chipotle for a Year Prize” — and it wasn’t just free guac and chips.


Chipotle prize

So, how do I collect the prize? Going to Instagram and sending a message to @Chipotle seemed to do nothing. So, I sent a message via Twitter to the company and they quickly replied.


That’s it? We goofed. We’re sorry?

So we wrote to the PR folks and the chief marketing officer at Chipotle asking what happened, how many customers were affected, and what they were going to do for those people to make up for misleading them into thinking they had won the big prize. The company did not respond despite multiple inquiries.

Online buzz, however, suggests what actually happened. It appears that Chipotle mixed up their mailing lists and offers. On January 13, those reward members whose birthday was January 12 were slated to receive a birthday message offering free chips and a side, but instead they were sent the free Chipotle for a year winners’ notification.

Some five hours after the errant email was sent, a new one from the company arrived apologizing for the error and offering one free entrée as a goodwill gesture.

Chipotle apology

What do you think? Should Chipotle provide a little more than a single burrito to these disappointed customers or was that really enough?

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16 thoughts on “Congratulations, You’ve (<i>Not</i>) Won Free Chipotle for a Year”

  1. I can appreciate the disappointment however I think the appropriate apology and free entree would make me happy. It is reasonable to assume that you
    may not benefit from someone’s error.

  2. To be honest, I think this was handled really well. Better than most companies would handle it. If it was a honest mistake, which it appears to be, giving everyone who got the email a free entree every week for a year is a bit extreme. Most companies probably would have just sent an apology and maybe a coupon for free guac, so to get a free entree out of the deal is pretty good.

    • I agree with you, Dave. It’s called “fast” food for a reason. All that received that email in error should now count themselves very fortunate.

  3. This is a tough one, but I think Chipotle acted honestly and fairly. I know everyone wants to get free stuff, but at a time when our economy is struggling, we can’t expect this company to take a gigantic hit and stay in business.

    Wouldn’t you rather get something for free and have the company stay around?

  4. Chipotle should definitely be responsible for this error. Even if an employee made an error – whatever happened to proofreading before sending!???! Probably the free entree ticket is enough(add a free side or soda though, for good customer service)!

  5. I see these errors quite often.

    One example: I check my Wheel of Fortune SpinID number daily. One day, I saw the message that my ID had won. I’m a skeptic, so I checked online and found that other people also got the winning message that morning. Later, an explanation and apology was posted on their website. I felt that was sufficient.

    I think Chipotle handled this appropriately.

  6. So they screwed up. As a token of apology they offer you a product for which you must visit the store and pay for the rest of a typical order. Knowing the stats, they plan to make money on your visit to pick up your freebie by selling you a beverage, an already high-profit item. Rather like Disney’s comp passes — must pay exorbitant parking fee and have to eat sometime during the day, so they actually make money be giving a comp pass (I was a sports volunteer for a long time). I’m still waiting for a business to truly offer a meaningful gift, apology or not.

  7. Tentatively, their response seems reasonable to me.

    It would help to know how many rewards members there are, since if, say, there are 1,000,000 members, then this would mean 1,000,000/365 ~= 2,740 members received this erroneous email. Not a lot, yet that practically doubles Chipotle’s expenditure for the top award (supposed to be 3,100 grand prizes), which is a big difference for them. An extra $517 times 2,740 ~= $1.4m, which is tiny compared to their 2021 net income of $356M. However, that $517 is retail value, not their cost, and assumes all awards are claimed, so if they honored the erroneous awards, it probably dings their bottom line by much less than $1M, a hit that they could easily absorb, and maybe even make PR hay out of. But I digress.

    Edgar, I think you have a mistake. That graphic isn’t raining down burritos. It’s raining down suppositories, which will be needed for treating the consequences for eating free Chipotle for a year.

    • Alan… as of 2022, Chipotle says they had 28 million rewards members worldwide. That comes out to a bit over 75,000 members with January 12th birthdays. But, this is probably a US-only sweepstakes, so the number of affected people is less. And the total is really less if they realized their mistake before all those celebrating January 12th birthday members go the email.

  8. I am usually very suspicious of anything that comes to my email saying I won something. I am surprised that Chipotle tried to make it right. Most companies, it seems, won’t make amends for their mistakes. I don’t believe that a free burrito is enough but, it’s better than what many companies would do.

  9. If you value your health, don’t eat food from Chipotle. The have a history of being the source for getting people sick from eating their contaminated food.

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