I’m not sure if art imitates life or life imitates art but I’m certain that a quick lunch at Chipotle can teach you everything you need to know about human behavior. When you first walk in you realize you’re in a microcosm of the modern condition and a perfect analogy of the way life’s choices get more complicated as we move through the time continuum.
First, you’re faced with a very simply choice. Do you want your ingredients wrapped safely in a warm tortilla or do you want to experience the chaotic, no-boundary-free-for-all of a burrito bowl? This separates the anarchists from the suits, the fit from the diet conscience, the controlled from the addictive.
Next you’re given a warm up series of binary choices that have come to represent the best of pavlovian response conditioning and our mind numbing acquiescence to advertising. White or brown rice? Pinto or black beans? As we move down the Tex-Mex zombie chow line with increased velocity, we become seemingly more confident with every decision. This false sense of control leads us to the next critical personality divider… meat selection. This is where demographic segmenting is on displayed for all to see. Chicken, for the passive lemmings, beef for the old-world-incumbent-patriarchal-planet-killers who deny global climate change, tofu for the rudderless souls who shouldn’t be at Chipotle in first place and finally pulled pork for those who have no faith in an afterlife.
Having made the hard or merely instinctive choice of the main ingredient, a confusing array of creams, salsas and cheeses awaits the senses and weakens our resolve with Chipotle’s final goal in mind…. to get us to convert on the guacamole upgrade. Every moment thus far has been leading up to 8 out of 10 Chipotlians spending an extra $2.50 on one heaping spoonful of this heavenly, hearty and slightly salty delight. It sits there at the end of the line under well appointed lighting like Mexican pixie dust. When you see it you can’t help but to say, “aaaaand guacamole please.” At that moment, when the server replies, “It’s extra, is that ok?”, your status as an overpaying consumptionist is put squarely up for challenge. For if you say “no”, all those in line and those newly green-carded behind the counter, will know that you denied yourself a simple super-sizing and you will be judged harshly for it. The only thing more damaging to your reputation than saying “no” is asking “how much?”. This only serves to pour hot sauce in an already gaping wound. I can’t stress it enough. This is not advisable path, even if your the only one in line…. which never happens at Chipotle.
At this point, you are invited to partake in a high margin beverage or chips with (you guessed it) guacamole. You then pay somewhere between 13-16 dollars for the entire package and feel a twinge of stupidity followed by the guilty pang of fiscal responsibility. However, those feelings quickly fade as you pick up the weighty bag and realize you’ve just received incredible value from a cost per pound analysis. I hope this helps everyone understand why Chipotle is one of the most profitable chains in the history of fast food and as a by-product, is a source of endless psychological reflection, whether you like it or not.