Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Admit you have a problem, Steve."

It is not a shock that Chipotle CEO Steve Ells has not responded to, much less accepted, the "Chipotle Challenge." When long-time ally of the CIW Sean Sellers dared Ells to a head-to-head debate to publicly defend his weak excuses for refusing to join in agreement with the CIW, I suspected that Ells would not have the integrity to stand behind his words and would opt instead for ignoring Sean.

Fortunately, at least one of Chipotle's most loyal customers doesn't want to let Ells hide from his problems. In an excellent post titled "Chipotle Doesn't Support Florida's Tomato Pickers? Say it ain't so, Steve." from the Simple Good and Tasty blog, Shari Danielson - a consumer who "trully cares" about the chain - encourages us to:

"Try to imagine a situation in which someone whom you deeply care about -- a friend, a family member, a co-worker -- is doing something wrong and totally out of character, say cheating on his wife, gambling away his children's college funds, stealing from his employer. Now, imagine how you would react to his bad behavior. Chances are, if you really care about this person, you wouldn’t ignore it; you would confront him about it, right? You would probably tell him how much he means to you, and that you don’t want to see him or the people in his life get hurt as a result of his actions. Maybe you would even organize an intervention."

She then explains, "I feel this way about Chipotle now." She goes on to summarize Sean Sellers' documentation of Chipotle's "silence, evasion and cyncial spin" in the face of farmworkers' just demands.

She ends with these tough questions and strong advise for Ells:

"So, my first question to Steve Ells would simply be, why?

"Question #2 would be this: Are you willing to tarnish the reputation of your company over this seemingly no-brainer issue? How could you possible object to doing everything you can to improve the plight of poor and powerless farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields? (That would be question #3.)

"And, finally, do you know how much you are hurting the people who care about you, who have held you in such high esteem, who depend on you to provide inexpensive, convenient, delicious, nutritious and sustainably sourced food that appeals to practically everyone?

"Admit you have a problem, Steve. That’s the first step. Now solve it. Pledge your full and unconditional support to CIW and Florida’s tomato pickers. Do it for them. Do it for your customers. Do it for your investors. Do it for your friends and family. Do it, because, as you say on your website, you can always 'do better.' Prove it. Thank you."

I can't claim to share Shari's high opinion of Chipotle. I've had too much experience with Chipotle to not conclude that "Food With Integrity" is more a marketing ploy intended to exploit our dreams of a fair and sustainable food system than a true desire to "do better." Steve, it can't be too long 'til your most loyal customers start to come to the same conclusions. If you want to "do better," than the task in front of you is simple: "Prove it. Thank you."

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