Hank Levine, a 64-year-old Bethesda, Md., lawyer, received more than 300 text messages Monday containing just one word: raincheck.
The presumably disappointed texters were attempting to claim a free burrito from Chipotle, which was running a promotion while it shuttered its 2,000 stores for an all-staff meeting to address food-safety issues that caused food poisoning outbreaks.
Chipotle fans just had to text 888-222 saying “raincheck” between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to snag the free burrito. The only problem? It seems people are so accustomed to dialing seven-digit numbers that they added an extra digit to the phone number. If they dialed that extra number and had a 240 area code (which includes Washington’s Maryland suburbs), the text was sent to Levine’s cell phone.
Levine wrote the first texter back saying that he or she had the wrong number, and the person explained the promotion to him. Then more and more texts started flooding in. As of now, his inbox has 245 unread messages.
“The first thing I did was get my free burrito, because I don’t dislike burritos,” said Levine, explaining that soon after he learned what was going on, he dialed the correct number to participate in the promotion.
Levine, who occasionally eats at Chipotle, quickly learned how deep some people’s loyalty to the chain runs.
“Some people texted five or six times, almost in despair, so I responded to them,” said Levine, who is a telecommunications lawyer and understands the technicalities of why the texts were directed to him even though people didn’t put in an area code. “The range of responses is enormous.”
Some people seemed sympathetic to Levine’s Chipotle predicament. Others were frustrated that Levine couldn’t give them a free burrito.
“This isn’t fit to print, but the text was essentially ‘Get me my bleeping burrito you bleeping burrito, or I’ll bleepity bleep you,’ ” he said. “You learn what people are really like when you become a social media mistake.”
Levine says he tried to do right by these burrito lovers and contacted Chipotle about his predicament in the hopes that the people who texted him would still be able to get a free burrito. He said Chipotle did not tell him if that would happen, but the company did say it was sending him coupons for four free meals for the trouble.
Chipotle didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Although the promotion has ended, Levine says he’s still receiving “raincheck” texts. He even went to his neighborhood Chipotle to show them his phone inbox, but the employees there said there was not much they could do. For now, he’s having fun with it all. His story was first spotted by Tech Insider, which prompted him to create a Twitter account Monday night. He sent his first tweet, and has been fielding media requests ever since.
“Frankly, the only really bad thing for me is that it’s draining my phone battery,” Levine said. “But I can deal with that. That problem has been overcome.”