Should They? Chipotle On Montague Offers Cops A 50% Discount

While the north side of Montague Street, between Clinton and Court, has been obstructed with scaffolding for what feels like forever, it seems that a bargain cannot be hidden. According to a story in The New York Times, “At Chipotle, an Unofficial and Prohibited Discount for Officers” that talks specifically about the Brooklyn Heights locale, uniformed police officers are offered a 50% discount. 

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The article notes that “the Police Department’s lengthy Patrol Guide does not specifically refer to free, or steeply discounted, food. But officers are taught that food is covered under the Patrol Guide’s prohibition against accepting gratuities ‘or other compensation for any service performed as a result of or in conjunction with their duties as a public servant.'” A commander told the Times, “That policy covers the food issue. There should be no discount—heavy or light—whatsoever.”

The general manager of Chipotle Mexican Grill, however, characterizes the discount as a “courtesy.” What say you?

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  • PJL

    @WillowtownCop: Not blaming anyone, I’m admittedly envious.

    If I knew then what I know now, I would have skipped grad school and law school and almost have my 20 years in with the city by now… with plenty of time to spare to start my second career while collecting my pension as a second income and having my health insurance covered….

    A lot of young cops, firemen and teachers I know complain about their low salaries, but as you mention they’ll make up for it in benefits (though I think some don’t actually realize it)….

    My intended point primarily was that for every cop and fireman, there are 5 (maybe 10?) city workers who do neither difficult nor dangerous jobs and are entitled to retirement benefits similar to yours… we all should have an issue with that….

  • Mr. Crusty

    willowtowncop please don’t suggest that I approve of the money/benefits that are given to politicians. I think we have a political system that is built on corruption. Many (but not all) people donate to politicians for the same reason they give cops discounts (albeit on a much smaller scale). They are hoping that it will benefit them down the line. Not a quid pro quo perhaps, and therefore not a bribe, but a corrupting influence none the less.

    To your example about firefighters, no of course they would not respond any quicker to a business that gave them freebies. But that is a life and death situation. But if you don’t think that they might not give a ‘friendly” business owner a bit more time to correct a fire violation than they normally would then you are being naive. It is human nature.

    Thought experiment: two identical restaurants. One gives discounts to police officers and the other doesn’t. As a result the one restaurant always has cops in it (read the NY Times story and see what I mean about Chipotle). Both of these restaurants pay the same amount of taxes for police services yet one is getting an inordinate amount of police attention. (restaurants love cops to be in their establishment for the security they provide).

    Is that fair? Does restaurant #2 have to give gratuities as well to get the same level of service?

    So where should it end. Half priced meals ok. Free coffee ok. Free brake job for cop’s car? Free hotel room at the Marriott? How about a car dealer letting a cop have a vehicle to drive around for a little “extra attention”? At what point does a nice gesture turn into something more? You can’t quantify that, that is why all gratuities have to be prohibited even the seemingly innocent ones. The slippery slope is a very real concern. Cops get paid for doing their job. That should be enough.

  • Mr. Crusty

    The IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) have a code of ethics for Police Officers.

    A police officer will not engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will an officer condone such acts by other police officers.

    The public demands that the integrity of police officers be above reproach. Police officers must, therefore, avoid any conduct that might compromise integrity and thus undercut the public confidence in a law enforcement agency. Officers will refuse to accept any gifts, presents, subscriptions, favors, gratuities, and promises that could be interpreted as seeking to cause the officer to refrain from performing official responsibilities honestly and within the law. Police officers must not receive private or special advantage from their official status, Respect from the public cannot be bought; it can only be earned and cultivated.

  • willowtowncop

    @ Mr. Crusty – do you think cops should be able to take advantage of discounts for city workers? For example, a government worker discount offered by a giant international phone company to all government employees everywhere? Or military discounts if they were in the military? Or a plate of cookies baked by a member of the community and dropped off at the precinct on a holiday? Obviously there is a line but I guess we just disagree where exactly it is.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Yes, I think that cops should be able to take advantage of discounts to all city workers. That is different. It is a benefit not to curry favor but rather to market to a demographic. Government workers are desirable customers for all sorts of reasons. Giving special deals to all city workers is not intended to receive receive preferential treatment.

    The back pages of Ny police department’s PBA magazine has scores of services which claim they giving a discount to their members, “20% of our best mattress for all PBA members”. But they do that to all sorts of groups and I don’t think any cop believes he has a special relationship with that mattress store.

    So if that helps you with where I draw the line. It is more about the discount giver’s intent. If it is to get more business. – marketing for example it’s ok with me. If the purpose is to receive a non-financial benefit in return (extra police coverage in establishment, preferential treatment, etc.) it is not ok with me.

  • willowtowncop

    @ Mr. Crusty – Chipotle gives the same discount to firefighters and EMTs – all first responders. Their intent is clearly not the same as the intent of the diner owner in your story.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Your a moving target WTC.

    How about this for a reason. Receiving gratuities violates police department policy (righty or wrongly) and arguably violates the law. What favor is Chipotle doing for the cops by putting them in that position for a few bucks of saving? Chipotle isnt doing them a favor they are doing themselves a favor.

    The perfect example of that is the NY Times article. It didn’t put the cops in a very good light did it? It was a negative article. Bad puplicity for police officers. The officers paid a price for those discounted burritos as demonstrated by the fact we are having this very discussion.

    Chipotle won’t suffer any consequences. They look like the good guys giving a break to our brave officers. Chipotle wins, officers lose, and you defend this? I dont get it. I am against gratuities in order to protect cops, not because I am against them.

    We can agree to disagree.

  • Lori

    Seems it should be illegal to give discounts to Jehovah’s witnesses? How can businesses single out one religious group like that?

  • Gerry

    @ Lori – as I undersatnd it the Jehovah Witnesses do not buy so much as a cup of coffee in our community — ocasionally a few JW rebels will go to Teresas and stiff the waiter not leave a tip otherwise the JW’s dont buy anything here in Brooklyn Heights.

  • Mr. Crusty

    How about discounts for senior citizens? Is that age discrimination against young people?

  • Peter

    >Seems it should be illegal to give discounts to Jehovah’s witnesses? >How can businesses single out one religious group like that?

    That would be illegal if done on the basis of their religion. If it was done on the basis of their being an organization, I don’t think so.

    I presume they get a discount on the basis of showing an employment card – not a religious affiliation card.

  • Peter

    >how about discounts for senior citizens? Is that age discrimination against young people?

    Not illegal. Typically, age discrimination laws apply to employment and housing. Not shopping.

  • BH’er

    on the one hand… a business with 50+ restaurants around the city and a police ( & fire?) customer base of thousands… pretty good way to drum up business – sounds like a good plan

    on the other hand… 50% sounds like a pretty steep discount (assuming their margins can support it) – unless they’re laundering money or involved in some massive fraud scheme – i don’t see much conflict

    it’s not like there are huge volumes of after-hours brawls taking place in Chipotle restaurants around the city that need biased police action

    a more modest discount would seem more appropriate, but for NYPD/FDNY/first responders on the night shift, I don’t see a problem – 50% adds up to about $4/meal at Chipotle – seems like the least they could – this is a big to do over $2 off a burrito

  • David on Middagh

    “… – 50% adds up to about $4/meal at Chipotle – seems like the least they could – this is a big to do over $2 off a burrito”

    BH’er, I think a real Chipotle meal costs more than eight bucks. From the NYT article:

    “A chicken burrito bowl, tortilla chips and bottled water cost one sergeant $6, although the menu price for the burrito bowl alone was $7.45. ”

    Eating out every day is expensive. I sympathize with on-site and on-the-go workers who can’t retreat to a company cafeteria or their own cubicle, especially when the weather’s not nice.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Interesting editorial in a Baltimore Sun on this very subject and why it is wrong for cops to take freebies:

    “Some Bel Air firefighters recently got in trouble for posting comments on Facebook that expressed disappointment that a local fast food restaurant had failed to extend them a discount routinely offered police and military personnel. The comments included a snide suggestion that the owner might feel differently if he found his dumpster set on fire or if the volunteers declined to respond to a fire on the premises.

    This is not to suggest firefighters and police don’t deserve a free cup of coffee or doughnut or a discount on their meals. They do and much more. But in accepting a gratuity, no matter how innocently intended, the public servant is headed toward a slippery slope of ethical entanglements.

    One day it’s coffee and the next it might be a “tip” for steering business toward a particular towing or private ambulance service. Meanwhile, the public is left to wonder if public servants will respond with the same enthusiasm to their emergencies as those involving the businesses that give them discounts, free food and other perks.’

    Read the whole editorial and see why a simple thing like discounted meals is a bad idea for the police officers themselves.

  • Heather

    Wait. What is the point here? I am more concerned about their receiving a “C” grade! This is my go-to place once a week. If I see one more Japanese place open up I will start forcing them to wrap their fish and rice in corn tortillas!

    Cops save lives. They make next to nothing risking their lives on the daily. Let them eat where they want, and drink what they want (alcohol-free) gratis. It is ridiculous that this is even a debate. I dare anyone on here to give up their desk job, typing, evaluating, micromanaging, or creating t shirts to become a cop. The training alone will make you return to your desk.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Heather you miss the point entirely. And this is coming from someone that was a cop for 20 years. The only ridiculous thing here is your superficial understanding off the issue.

  • T.K. Small

    Slow down Crusty. Heather is one of the good guys and used to write everyone’s favorite police blotter. I am sure that she has witnessed up close the hard work of the police (not that you haven’t). I think her main point is that she doesn’t want to eat at a restaurant with a “C” rating, which is not a ridiculous statement.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Yes, I know who Heather is but she is dead wrong to suggest that merchants should offer police officers free merchandise. It is against police department policy for the officers to receive those gratuities and it would put the officers not only in violation of their Department’s regulations but also puts them in a compromising position.

    I know she thinks she is doing the officers a favor but she is unintentionally doing the direct opposite. It is a bit more complicated than her comment would suggest.

  • David on Middagh

    Oh, Mr. Crusty. We all fall into the trap.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Guilty as charged

  • PB

    Agreed with a few other commenters… discounts for cops is a fair debate and while I have no problem with it, I do have a BIG problem with the C grade from the Dept of Sanitation. I’ve been a loyal patron once a week for over a year… when I saw that C grade I felt like I’d just been given a wedgie and stuffed in a locker.

    Come on Chipotle, get in there and fix it. Would love to see BHB cover the evolution of this story…

  • Knight

    @PB: Department of Sanitation? Where have you been living?



    Out of curiosity, do you not see a marked difference in the proprietor of a business offering a discount and a corporate policy offering a discount? Im the first to admit, I dont like getting comp’ed in uniform when I go to a small business or diner. To the point that I’ll tally my bill and give them full price anyway, saying put the rest in the tip jar. Had it been a single location, I might – MIGHT – be inclined to agree with you. As a company policy however I just fail to see the injustice. I see myself as a restaurant owner someday after retirement and couldnt fathom not taking care of officers.

    In addition, you made a claim about us getting paid well and this being a good job and all that. What department do you work for, and do they take laterals?! We do not get paid enough to deal with the hordes of people who hate us, the supervisors who belittle our work, and the department who comes down on white shields like the hand of God, leaving you with the proverbial hat in your hand wondering what the hell just happened.

    I dont even need to ask to know you retired as a boss, and one who drank his fair share of the koolade.

    @ those who would bring our 20 year retirement under scrutiny: I dont see you running into harm’s way to help people and save lives. Ive walked a beat on blocks in this city that you wouldnt go down for a small fortune. I dare anyone to put on this uniform and stand a solo post on a corner on mandatory overtime after 8:35 – with possibly no lunch break because in the department meal is a PRIVELEGE, not a right – after a drug dealer was just shot to prevent a retaliation killing, and having to tell your family you dont know when you’ll be home and trying to spare them the stress of knowing where you are and what youre doing. One busy night in a rough command and youd see were not gaining anything on early retirement, especially when it comes all too often at the cost of marriages, your health, time with your family, and – increasingly – our very lives – none of which you can get back. And dont forget about how we often die within 10-20 years of retirement. I was personally on the funeral detail of a PO who died ONE MONTH into retirement, and was the fourth officer that I knew of to die within a year of his retirement ALL IN THE BEGINNING OF 2012 ALONE! One was the coordinator of the explorers program which you may or may not know is a program for designed for children who want to be cops one day. The day after his funeral a kid walked up to me after answering a job and asked hey how’s Officer So and So. I had to tell this poor kid, “Sorry, buddy… he had a heart attack last week. He’s dead.”

    All that we go through and +45% of you think a discount for some food is wrong? Kill yourselves. There is absolutely no hope for the human race. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

  • Mr. Crusty

    “There is absolutely no hope for the human race. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

    Really? The fact that an officer might not get $4.50 off of his burrito lunch causes you to not want to live on this planet? Rather low threshold of despair.

    I’ve said my piece about gratuities and how they undermine the police themselves and i’m not going to rehash it again.

    Police Officers indeed have a difficult job but every one of them volunteered . They werent drafted or pressed into service. In fact many wanted nothing more than to be a cop their entire lives. Whenever they give a test tens of thousands of hopefulls apply.

    Those critics that minimize the stresses and negative aspects of the job are dead wrong but it is equally wrong to portray all officers as hating their jobs in the way you apparently do. I feel bad for you that you obviously despise what many others love to do. Some personalities are just not suited for the job. Unfortunately there is no way to tell if in advance until you pin on your shield and walk a beat. For the record, I loved being a cop.