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Chipotle, You Sadden Me

February 7, 2012
Halloween 2006

I dressed as a burrito for Halloween in 2006. This wasn't the only year I crafted such a fine costume.

It pains me to write this blog entry. It really does. Because at worst, Chipotle is a mistress I cannot escape. At best, it is my one true love.

I love Chipotle. There is really no other way around it. I still remember the first day that I had it. I am one of those notoriously picky eaters that whenever picky eating comes up in conversations, people say, “Oh you think YOU know a picky eater? Well let me tell you about Steve Murphy…” and then they demand that I list off the 10 foods I eat.

But yes, I remember that first day like it was yesterday. It was about eight years ago when I was out in Los Angeles with a group of my college friends and stomachs were rumbling. A brilliant voice declared: “Let’s go to Chipotle.”

I was immediately suspicious. I had never heard of this “Chipotle” and it sounded far from the Americana food that I had relied on in my first 18 years of life. But my friend Matt S. (who became a doctor, mind you, so you know he’s smart) said: “Steve, trust me on this. You’ll be able to eat there.”

So we went. The setting was peculiar, but satisfying – lots of steel and aluminum, a pleasant maroon décor. The smells were delightful. Matt, knowing exactly the limitations of my diet, ordered me a burrito with just white rice and double chicken in it.

It was love at first bite.

(Author’s Note: My longtime girlfriend still claims that she was the first person to take me to a Chipotle. She is wrong, but I can understand why she thinks that. The look of pure joy in my eyes every time I bite into a tasty burrito or quesadilla could easily be mistaken for a virgin voyage into the wondrous land of the fast casual restaurant industry.)

Since then, I have been a self-confessed Chipotle addict. Every time people were hungry, I had a suggestion. The Chipotle workers recognized me. I was THAT guy, and I wasn’t ashamed of it.

True Chipotle Facts:

  1. I lived in rural Oklahoma for about seven months in 2008. The nearest Chipotle was in Tulsa, nearly two and half hours away (each way). I made the drive several times.
  2. While living in Las Vegas, I lost over 25 pounds to get to the healthiest weight of my life on an almost exclusive diet of Chipotle and daily exercise.
  3. Every time I hire a new person, I treat them to lunch at – you guessed it – Chipotle.

This can go on for quite a while. The truth of the matter is that I have been an ardent and vocal supporter, often posting about Chipotle (and its pet projects, such as Food, Inc. and America’s Next Great Restaurant) on Facebook and Google Plus. I have blogged about the company multiple times.  My first Youtube video even featured it. A simple search for “Chipotle” in my email account shows up hundreds of results. I have G-chatted, AIMed, and even used the spoken word to promote Chipotle.

And now, I’m banned (from its official home on Facebook).

Dublin

Even my dog loves Chipotle.

Today, Chipotle blocked and banned me from its official social media page. I was not profane, derogatory, unruly, or rude. I was complimentary of the company’s food, but made a single valid critique on how it conducts business on its social media page. Insta-hammer-ban.

Let me explain.

A person commented on Chipotle’s official Facebook page, saying the following: “I wish you guys catered. I’d love to serve Chipotle to the guests at my wedding.”

Now many of you might think that’s absurd. I think it’s downright genius. In fact, when I was an adolescent, dragged to more weddings than I could count by my family, I always made a solemn pledge to myself – my wedding would have Pizza Hut, KFC, and all the other amazing fast food restaurants that a kid loves (keep in mind I hadn’t discovered Chipotle yet). I still just need to find a bride who will relent on this issue.

But anyway, my friend Ryan objected, saying (and I’m reciting from memory here, because the comment has since been deleted): “Chipotle at a wedding? Not exactly the classiest dinner.”

I responded (according to my memory): “Ryan, are you kidding? Chipotle at a wedding would be amazing.”

That is all. Nothing crazy, nothing outrageous, nothing absurd.

A few minutes later, Ryan posted on my wall that he had been banned by Chipotle’s Facebook moderator. As someone who thinks he knows at least basic social media principles (I have helped monitor a Facebook page with 50,000 users, and have hired a social media coordinator for my company), I posted the following on Chipotle’s wall (again, going off my memory here):

Stephen A. Murphy: “You really shouldn’t ban and block people who make slightly negative posts about your products. That’s so 2007. Sincerely, A Former CMG Stockholder”

(Author’s Note: The stockholder part is true, although I didn’t sell over this. I sold CMG at a nice profit because I didn’t think they could sustain their customer base with their rising prices. So far, I’ve been wrong about this.)

Orders

This is a screenshot of my recent orders from Chipotle on my mobile phone. Yes, it is disturbing.

Anyway, Chipotle’s Facebook moderator insta-banned me, removed me from the page, and deleted all my posts.

A bit of an overreaction, if you ask me.

Anyway, I’m not really sure what to say or think about all this. I feel like I’m too old to make such boastful claims of “I’ll never eat there again!” because I certainly don’t want a random social media admin affecting my day-to-day life. But for a company like Chipotle – that prides itself on transparency and honesty in the way it does business – it just seems like such a sharply hypocritical way to conduct its social media page. I get that it may save resources in the short-term to just have a blanket policy, but that’s the thing – it is incredibly shortsighted. Alienating your most loyal customers is not a “recipe” for success. (Zing.)

I’ve written to Chipotle’s headquarters to ask if it is the company’s official policy to remove most perceived negative comments, or if it was just a misstep by the social media moderator working today. I will update here if the company responds.

By the way, I have no personal vendetta against the social media moderator who banned me. Looking at the page, he’s busting his butt to respond to people in a timely and informative way. But man, oh man, did he get this one wrong… And if he was following Chipotle’s official protocol… well, that just sucks.

I’ve attached a number of images to this blog post that reiterate my love and admiration for Chipotle over the years (from literally hundreds to choose from). In summary, I have pretty much been the ideal customer – sharing and recruiting at every step of the way.

To enhance the irony of the timing of the ban, the three previous meals that I had eaten prior to the ban were of course from Chipotle. This week, for only the third time in my life, I will find a Qdoba and see what they can do for me.

All I have to say is this – Chipotle, you screwed up.

Love,

Your Boy

P.S. I don’t want a free burrito. I would just like a mea culpa.

P.P.S. Steve Ells, you remain my hero. But tighten things up over there.

P.P.P.S. Family and friends, let’s slow down all the Chipotle gift cards that you get me until we get this thing resolved.

P.P.P.P.S. Shout-out to Cindy Capitani, who immediately saw news value in my anecdotal tale and blogged about it.

Update (Feb.8, 8:25 a.m.): It is not their official policy to delete. The social media rep has apologized. Will post more later when I have time.

You can follow me on Twitter for the World Series of Poker

May 27, 2009

Nope. Not gonna apologize for never posting on my blog anymore. Because once I apologize and say I’m gonna write more, it never happens.

However, I will tell you that the very talented Manuel Reese of Stigler, Oklahoma is redesigning this bad boy. Might take a month or so before the new look is debuted.

The point of this post: some of you might be interested in following my progress at the World Series of Poker this year. The World Series is pretty much poker’s holy ground, where every dreamer who knows how to play cards puts down some cash in the hopes of winning a championship gold bracelet and some serious cash.

Follow my progress on Twitter (where I can update from the casino in real time on my phone); my Twitter name is stephenamurphy.

I am going to definitely play in three events (there are 57 in all), possibly four. The days I will play:

Saturday, May 30, $1,000 buy-in

Saturday, June 20, $1,500 buy-in

Saturday, June 27, $1,500 buy-in

And the iffy that I still haven’t made up my mind yet: The main event, Sunday, July 5, $10,000 buy-in.

Just so you all don’t think I lost my mind, all of the money that I am going to put up for the World Series is profit from my poker playing over the past six months. I’m not spending my lunch money on this. I’ve been successfully grinding out a profit in the past few months to allow me to take these chances in these big tourneys.

What’s at stake? Well, the winner of the $1,000 buy-in will probably get more than $800,000. The winner of the main event — $8.5 million. Of course, more than 5,000 players are likely to sign up for both, so there will be a lot of work to be done.

Anyway, hope all of you who still manage to check this stale site are doing well.

Vegas Living

January 8, 2009

That was my first video with my new Flip Video camcorder, a Christmas gift from my brother. It’s pretty sweet. Small and convenient. I might be able to keep it in my car and use it whenever the situation calls for it. I could be an iReporter for CNN… Wouldn’t that just complete my life?

Anyway, it’s a new year. I’ve got predictable resolutions — blog more, work out more, the usual.

My sister is in town, as I mentioned in the video, so I need to start cleaning up this place. Also, in case you forget Sally, here’s a little reminder.

Happy new year, everyone.

A Job in Poker — Working for Card Player

November 29, 2008

I have a new job.

As you might remember in a previous post, I was pretty “over” journalism when I left my last job. Even though the people I worked with were great and the actual job was pretty chill, I got burnt out on a lot of the details, most specifically the design aspect of the job. While I do have design skills, it’s not what I’m great at or at least not what I love doing.

I love letting pros do the work for me. For instance, look at this site. I can write the garbled mess that you see here, but I’d much rather let an established design artist like Ashlee Goodwin make it look pretty. By the way, Ashlee and I are in discussions to redesign the site with a more Las Vegas feel, so stay tuned.

I told myself when I left Stigler that I didn’t want to work in another journalism job, unless it was for a poker magazine. It was the only journalism job I could see myself truly loving. Writing and poker combined. It’s like adding salt to french fries. It just makes sense.

So a couple months into my stay in Vegas, supporting myself through modest earnings at the poker table and spending most of my time working for the Obama campaign, I was in the Venetian poker room and a very excited Texas businessman nudged me in the side and told me he just met the president and chief financial officer of Card Player magazine, arguably the most respected poker magazine in the billion-dollar business.

Needless to say, I was intrigued. I casually mentioned that I was a journalist, and the jolly Longhorn (who, despite disapproving of my politics) insisted that he introduce me to the Card Player people. He did, and a few emails and interviews later, I was Card Player‘s newest staff writer.

The job is great so far. With no design responsibilities, I can spend most of my time researching and writing. Plus, with a regular income, I can start saving my poker earnings instead of just putting them in my Bank of America account to make sure I could continue to pay the bills. I told myself when I took the “real job” that every penny I earned from the poker tables from then on would go toward World Series of Poker entries for next summer (there’s about 55 events, with the ‘cheapest’ events at $1,500 to enter).

Well, after a month of grinding it out, I hit my first big payday since taking the job. I made just shy of $10,000 today after coming in 2nd place in a $55-to-enter tournament that had about 1,900 entrants. It is my third biggest ‘cash’ to date — the $16,000 cash that helped finance my move from Oklahoma to Las Vegas and the $14,000 Aussie MIllions prize package in 2007 being the two bigger ones.

Anyway, the ten grand funds at least six $1,500 WSOP events, so I very excitedly can say that I will definitely play in the 2009 World Series of Poker. Hopefully, the tables will continue to be kind to me.

Reflection on the Obama campaign

November 11, 2008

My good friend Jenny Hubbell had this as her away message on GMail: Rosa sat so that Martin could walk.  Martin walked so that Barack could run.  Barack ran so that our children can fly.

I thought it was “cute.” I only put ‘cute’ in quotation marks so I don’t feel so emasculated saying it.

But anyway, a full week following Election Day, I feel like I can write down my thoughts. I wanted to do it sooner, but simply put, I was exhausted.

As many of you know, I had been interning with the campaign for the last two and a half months. Sometimes, I would work 20 hours a week. Other times, I would work more than 40 hours a week. In the final four days, I worked 20 hours a day.

I know I am only 23, but I don’t think there will ever be a bigger ground game than Barack Obama had this year. Usually, it is difficult to get to every house to let them know that election day is approaching. That was simply not the case this year in Nevada. On Nov. 4, when I knocked on someone’s door (and I knocked on a good number), I started out with an apology because I knew that someone from the Obama campaign had been there before. In fact, for most of these people, we knocked on their door three times in the final four days. And that doesn’t even begin to address the number of times we called them and knocked on their doors during the early vote period Nevada had in October.

I felt pretty good about Nevada going “blue” very early in the day. It just seemed inevitable. When grabbing a quick bite to eat that Tuesday, I passed a few African Americans and every single one was wearing some kind of shirt or some kind of ‘gear’ that showed the world she or he supported Obama. These were not volunteers (as far as I know). They were just supporters. You could almost feel their pride just by being near them.

Sure enough, Nevada — which was considered a toss-up less than two weeks before the election — went into the Obama column and it wasn’t even close. Fivethirtyeight.com, an electoral prediction web site, named Nevada as the biggest surprise state in that it went much more for Obama than it expected. Obama won the state by a comfortable 12%.

I couldn’t help but notice the remarkable difference of support he had here compared to the last state I resided in, Oklahoma. The Sooner State gave Sen. Obama less support (with only 34% of the state’s vote) than nearly any other state in the union — including even Sen. McCain’s home state of Arizona (46% for Obama) and  Gov. Palin’s home state of Alaska (36% for Obama). Only Utah had less support for him, giving him 33% of its vote.

Although I proudly and diligently campaigned for Obama, I think a logical case could’ve been made to vote for McCain so I certainly don’t judge anyone for it. That said, I was ecstatic that Obama won.

But those emotions didn’t come immediately in those early hours on Tuesday. In fact, it took me a while. Even as the early state returns came in, with Obama winning Pennsylvania and Ohio, I was paranoid as if somehow he would lose California. But sure enough, he won handily. It wasn’t until I saw Jesse Jackson crying on national TV that I truly felt moved. Granted, Jackson has said some regrettable things, but it still was a profound moment that has shown how far this country has come.

jackson1That was the first major moment that it hit me. The second major moment was when I entered the Rio, where the after party was. First off, the casino was packed for a Tuesday night. With the tough economic times, Vegas has been a little sluggish lately. But the Rio was hopping, with hundreds of people in the casino just chanting Barack’s name. Now, let’s face, the Democratic party is a, uh, welcoming party. And Vegas is a city of freaks, no offense to my lovable neighbors. So try to imagine what the Rio looked like that night. Every misfit in the world was celebrating.

As I made the long walk from the casino to the convention center, I must have looked more important than I am (I was wearing a nice long sleeve collared shirt, and for this crowd like I mentioned, I probably looked like gold) or maybe I have just forgotten the hundreds of volunteers I have interacted with who recognize me, but people kept stopping me as I walked to the party to thank me.

It was slightly uncomfortable (knowing what minuscule role I played), yet gratifying for the hundreds of hours I’ve invested. Over the last 2+ months, I have recruited hundreds of volunteers, knocked on thousands of doors, and called tens of thousands of people to try to get them to vote for Barack. Those numbers are not inflated. And I am just one man. Just an intern, at that. And there were tons of people who easily did more work than I did. That’s why I don’t think we’ll ever see another campaign like this one.

Inside the convention center, the mood was joyous and people were still a little bit stunned. I remember looking around, just seeing all these people crying happily, and trying to put into perspective the history I was witnessing.

I am glad I was part of this historic movement. But as Obama said in his first speech as president-elect, and as millions and millions of people will hold him to, this is just the beginning. Expectations are high, and the pressure is intense. Obama needs to get to work. But I have faith.

An attempt at a return to glory…

October 31, 2008

I am pretty much the runt of my family’s litter. I don’t say this to be self-deprecating or to get people to feel sorry for myself; it is just the truth. I am four inches shorter than my two older brothers, and while I was above average at most sports, I didn’t really excel at any. But don’t get me wrong. I love being the runt. Runts have spunk, they have personality. And, of course, every dog has his day.

My “day” happened in my senior year of high school. Like I mentioned, I wasn’t exactly an athletic machine. My two brothers were each captains of two varsity sports in high school (ranging from soccer to basketball to track); I was lucky just to make the teams I was on. But for my senior year, my soccer team badly needed a decent goalkeeper, so I trained the entire summer beforehand to take on the position.

And through a lot of hard work, I got pretty good. I wound up getting named to the All-City team in New York, was MVP of my squad, and led Regis High School to its first city championship and state tournament appearances in school history.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I started to get the itch to play again recently…

I didn’t play any college ball. I was recruited by a couple Division III schools, but playing a sport in college wasn’t really a big deal to me, so I went to Loyola Marymount, whose D-I team was ranked in the top 20 in the nation at the time — a place I had virtually no chance of walking on. I played a little soccer for LMU’s club team my freshman year, but I eventually got involved in other things, so I soon gave that up as well.

My college career was, as a whole, pretty unathletic. No offense to my friends there, but they too weren’t exactly athletic machines. They were mostly nerdy intellectuals. I remember a group of us decided to play intramural basketball one year. We played one game. We lost 72-10. (I think that was the score; it could’ve been worse.)

So anyway, just hanging out in Vegas, I got the itch again. I remember my brother John saying something about playing intramural sports while out in Austin, TX so I did a little research online and I found an email for intramural soccer leagues in Las Vegas. They looked like fun. They had men’s only, co-ed, etc. I emailed the head of the league, sold my soccer credentials, and I told them I would love to play at any level.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into…

I got an email earlier this week to come out to a practice for Tyneside United. I checked out the team’s web site, and immediately was pretty intimidated. That intimidation only grew when I was out on the field with them.

This wasn’t exactly the “intramural” experience I was expecting. These guys were athletes. Most of them were in their late 20s, in prime physical condition, just a couple years removed from the UNLV soccer team. I say that was “most” of them, because some of them were even better. A couple of them had actually played professionally.

So yeah, needless to say, I had gotten myself into a quandary. But what the heck, I figured, now is the time to see how I would’ve done had I ever played D-I ball. I told them I was a goalkeeper and after a sizable warm-up run and an extensive shooting drill that worked me to my core (I was seeing white spots, breathing like only an asthmatic could, and trying with all of my being not to pass out), we were ready to scrimmage.

I had done okay in the shooting drill. I was a little rusty, but I held my own. Still, these guys were nasty. Their shots were blurs into the far corners of the net.

In the scrimmage, I was much better. I didn’t have to worry about my endurance of keeping up with shot after shot, I just had to manage my defense and make the occasional save. I felt in control, and I felt good. And then my face exploded.

OK, I’m being dramatic. And usually I would add a, “well, my face didn’t really explode,” but honestly, it did. Let me explain…

In the scrimmage, the opposing team crossed it to a forward, all alone, at the edge of the six-yard box. I went out to confront him and cut off his shooting angle. I felt like I had the goal pretty well blocked when he rocketed off his shot. Now, as my high school teammates will attest, I have a history of making saves with virtually every part of my body. At Regis, I made dazzling saves with my feet, my forearms, even my chest.

Well on this night, under the Las Vegas moon, I made another dazzling save… with my face. The shot, which was probably sent off toward my nose at approximately 90 mph, was redirected back to the playing field by yours truly, and we continued on the game.

Needless to say, blood was everywhere. Coming from nose, from my lips, I looked pretty grotesque. But I didn’t want to be “that guy” who had to stop the game, so I waved it off, said I was all right, and tried to get the blood to stop by pinching my nose. When all was said and done, by the end of the game, I had gotten my face to stop bleeding but I looked like I was ready to go out for Halloween.

I’m pretty sure when I walked off that field at the end of the game covered in blood, the other players must have thought I was a bit of a lunatic. But no one has ever accused me of being normal.

When I was driving home, I realized I had run out of H20, so I made a pit stop at Wal-Mart to get a couple cases of water. I used what little water I had left in my car to clean off my face before I went in. I walked into the store, thinking I probably just looked a little disheveled, like anyone would look after a workout, but normal enough. Man was I wrong. I didn’t realize that dried blood was all over my shirt, arms, and legs. I probably looked like I had just murdered someone. Many strange looks later, I left the superstore with some water.

So yeah, that was my soccer experience. I actually do plan on going again, until they tell me my services are no longer needed. But I think I’m going to try to leave my face out of it from now on.

The deal with ACORN

October 16, 2008

Count me amongst the many who have had encounters with ACORN who were completely unsurprised the day the news broke that their Vegas office had been raided with evidence of wrongdoing.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I had never heard of anything illegal or illegitimate nor had anyone in the campaign around me. (For the record, I work for the ‘Campaign for Change,’ a Democratic organization whose purpose is to elect Obama and fellow Dems. It is technically separate than ‘Obama for America,’ but the goals are obviously the same.)

But ACORN is sketch, at least the Vegas branch. Technically, the organization is non-partisan but that hasn’t stopped them from endorsing Obama. They work to register and organize minorities and people of low income, demographics that tend to lean left on the political spectrum.

Why do I call them sketch? Based on the ecounters I had with them when I was out volunteering for the campaign. Every now and then, I would go out to the DMV and stand in the hot Vegas summer sun to register new voters. Even though ACORN was out there pretty much every day (in numbers, sometimes a few at a time), the campaign had its own independent system. Definitely a good thing seeing what has happened.

But yeah, I would stand there, baking, asking politely if people were registered. I wasn’t exactly putting on the “hard sell.” Either they were registered or they weren’t. Either they wanted to vote or they didn’t. But these ACORN guys were ferocious. They would practically hound people, and occasionally they would stand in front of me to try to prevent me from stealing some of “their” new registrations. (Ironically, it often backfired because people would see me, all relaxed and wearing official Obama stickers and gear, and walk around them to get to me.)

I understand why they are so intense. They are paid on commission. They have an invested interest in racking up as many voter registration forms as possible. I (and the other Obama people who are out there registering voters) am just a volunteer. I don’t get paid no matter how many forms I bring back. That’s why it didn’t surprise me at all to see that some workers made up fake names. I don’t believe at all it is part of conspiracy to actually gain more votes come election day; I believe it was done for the financial gain of specific workers.

It’s actually kind of amusing the Republican party is hammering the Obama campaign on this issue. Now, you all can draw your own conclusions in terms of Obama’s connection to the group in the mid-90s as well as his campaign’s contribution to the organization. I don’t love the association, but it’s far from a dealbreaker for me. I mean, I imagine the group does do a lot of good and I have no idea what the reputation of the non-Vegas branches are like.

But the reason why I’m amused by the right’s attack on the Democratic party is because I personally witnessed the friendly, cordial, and mutually beneficial relationship between people who worked for ACORN and people who worked for the Republican party.

Again, let me try to paint you a scene. It is a hot summer day in front of the Flamingo DMV in Vegas. There are very often three unique groups of people out there trying to register new voters (sometimes more, but the three groups that I will mention were the most prevalent). There is the Campaign for Change, people like me who are actually volunteering. So, they don’t get paid whether they get one form completed in two hours or forty forms completed. Then there’s ACORN, funded by your tax dollars as a non-partisan group, who get paid based on the amount of completed forms they bring in. Then there’s the Republican party, whose workers deal with a sliding scale. Technically, they can register anyone but they get positive points for every repub they register and negative points for every democat they register. So they have an invested interest in registering repubs as opposed to democrats.

Now, the Campaign for Change’s policy is to register anyone who wants to be registered. Part of me respects the Republican party’s cutthroat nature to do whatever it takes to help the cause while making sure that you don’t hurt it, but the democratic campaign likes to live by its crazy ideals. So, for volunteers of the campaign for change, you register everyone.

Because of the Republican party’s standards and ACORN’s standards, an odd alliance seemed to form between the employees of the two groups. ACORN people, when they encountered a rare minority who wanted to register repub (I only say ‘rare’ based on statistical demographics), they might point that person toward the republican employee with the acknowledgment that if a democrat who wanted to register came to the republican employee, they would point them toward ACORN. Again, they made for strange bedfellows.

But yeah, that’s my insight into ACORN. They’re sketch, but I don’t think it is evidence of an election day conspiracy nor do I believe the Obama campaign has much if any current connection to the group (I think there was a reason why we did our own voter registration).

Hope that gives you all some additional info that you might not have gotten on the major news networks…