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Preying on the Ignorant (with Extra Guac, Please)

Daniel Christensen

Cinnamon Roll Enthusiast, Idaho

22 March 2016

When I was selling pest control, we would take a break in the middle of the day for a lunch break. We would choose a restaurant where all of us could hang out for an hour or so and get some grub before starting to knock doors in the evening. At the beginning of the summer, I was pretty good at packing a lunch.

As July rolled around though, convenience and laziness set in (along with about 15 lbs) and I just opted to eat out most days. One restaurant that was always brought up was Chipotle. For creating a very average burrito, Chipotle carried with it an Apple-like set of fans. We ate there about three times a week, due to many requests from excited team members.

Then they started with the sayings.

All the “Chipotle-isms” that any marketer could identify from a mile away:

-it’s “organic”

-it’s all “non-GMO”

-”fresh”

-”farms not factories”

-”no artificial flavors or ingredients”

-“pasture-raised” or “grass-fed”

-”sustainably sourced”

-and other (now) meaningless buzzwords that prey on the ignorant/uninformed

As a farm boy turned marketer, I quickly cleared up all the misconceptions that my teammates had. I really wondered if this fast casual food behemoth actually believed all of this jargon, or if it was just based on cliche marketing tactics. So I decided on a small experiment to see how well they actually integrated their “philosophies”.

I decided that each time I ordered food I would ask a simple question to the person behind the counter. “Is all this food non-GMO?” I started this little experiment late in the summer so I only got to ask it six times. Five out of the six times the answer was, “I don’t know.”

Can you believe that?

It actually didn’t surprise me at all (and FYI, the sixth one said she’d check with the manager, who informed me that yes, in fact, it was). Then it was time for the follow up, “what’s a GMO?” None could tell me what it stood for. One attempted. “It’s like when they take all the bad stuff out.” I wanted to coax her a little more, trying to suppress a smile. “So that’s like organic or something?” I prodded.

“Exactly!”

For an organization so intent on offering a premium, healthy choice for consumers, they sure do a terrible job of educating their employees.

Now on to the topic of GMO’s. Recently Forbes published a study which debunked the most common myths and concluded (indisputably) that they were safe for consumption. In fact, over 2000 sources went into this research. Yet Chipotle stands by its mission to rid the world of all those evil farming practices- by creating another evil. The evil of taking advantage of people. It’s a tasty, evil, marketing wizard. Chipotle’s denial to face the facts brings up a few important (and problematic) questions about its so-called commitment to its customers:

– How do you guarantee that none of your food is GMO?

-How do you guarantee that the cow in the form of barbecued beef never ate GMO hay?

-Or the pig never ate GMO corn?

-And remember the fountain drinks there in the corner? Ever heard of corn syrup? For a burrito that easily could be over 1000 calories, one might as well down another thousand with sugary soda. So much for health, eh?

 

“It’s a tasty, evil, marketing wizard.”

I reflected on that simple experience as I was out knocking doors and was about to give up. Sure, it would be easier to make calls and sit in my car. It would be easier to accept every objection brought up and move on to the “easier” sales. It would be way easier to go home and hang out with my wife and watch The Office.

But the stump was still taunting me. I had to commit that I would work until I had accomplished what I set out to do. I would work the hours and focus on selling even the toughest prospects. Within three days from that decision, I had tripled what I did the entire previous week and was back on track for a successful summer.

Keeping commitments- especially the ones we make to ourselves- gives us power. It gives us focus. It helps us to see the end from the beginning.

So when that old stump starts taunting me again, I won’t quit ’til I kick its trash.

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