Home » Opinion » Letters to Editor » Letter to the editor: Chipotle lines represent inequality in American society

Letter to the editor: Chipotle lines represent inequality in American society

Please follow and like us:
People stand in line at Chipotle, located at 1726 N. High St. Credit: Alaina Bartel / Lantern reporter

People stand in line at Chipotle, located at 1726 N. High St.
Credit: Alaina Bartel / Lantern reporter

Letter to the editor:

Many of you reading this have stood in line at Chipotle Mexican Grill. We know that its lines are notably long and somewhat intimidating. But how can these long lines act as such vivid metaphors for the state of inequality in our “equal opportunity” American society?

The people at the front of the line who are close to getting, or have their burrito already, get cold when the doors are opened and a breeze rolls in. The breeze rolls in because the line stretches out the door and some waiting for a burrito in the back of the line are forced to stand outside.

The problems here are that because the line is so long, both the front of the line gets chilly from the breeze that rolls in, and the people in the back of the line are the front lines against the cold, suffering even more than the front of the line.

The front of the line now has two routes of action that could remedy this problem: First, it could scrunch closer together in the front and encourage the middle to follow suit, making room for everyone to stand indoors but losing a small amount of its respective personal space; second, the front of the line could continue to stand in front with no thought of adapting for the benefit of the whole line, because they are already being served or will be served imminently.

Only the first route of action would address the problem of the whole as well as the front’s vested interest to stop being cold from the incoming breeze.

Obviously in this micro-example, you can see the very front of the line where you receive a burrito represents success in America by acceptable means, or as some would call it, the “American Dream.” The relative front of the line represents the American elite, economically and socially. The back of the line represents low-income Americans struggling just to get out of the cold, where the inconceivable “American Dream” is the least of their worries. Everyone else in this line represents the American middle class.

This hypothetical situation in the line at Chipotle gives all the power to the front of the line to be as positively influential or as nonchalant toward societal headway as they want. The middle of the line has limited but burdensome choices, and the back of the line is left at the mercy of the rest, simply present, but in no way a player.

It is worth noting that the difference between a Chipotle line and real American class mobility is that in the Chipotle line, it is abundantly easier to move in the desired direction. Unfortunately, other than that key difference, this situation mirrors American society quite well.

So next time you are in line for your burrito, remember that a lot of micros can make a macro, and everyone wants a burrito.

Clayton Sharb
Second-year in political science


  1. If you really believe this then perhaps a college education is just not for you.

  2. What Did I Just Read

    “Chipotle lines keep moving forward. Whoever is in the back will, without a doubt, make it to the front in about 30 minutes. This analogy is stupid.” – Plato

  3. “the inconceivable “American Dream” is the least of their worries”


    “the inconceivable burrito is the least of their worries” really? Is that what your mindset is like at the end of a chipotle line? You can leave the line at any time. If you were worried more about the cold than the burrito then you wouldn’t even be there

  4. Unknown Arbiter of Justice

    A little constructive criticism. This is a very strained metaphor. You can’t just extrapolate minute daily problems into widespread societal phenomenons. Me falling down the stairs isn’t not symbolic of American decline. I don’t even see the point to the metaphor. What new does it add to the discussion on income inequality? Is this even a real concern about Chipotle lines or is it a minor inconvenience? Aren’t there a lot of people at the bottom or middle who can hardly even afford to eat Chipotle enough to notice this who would be grateful to wait any amount of time in cold to get a meal like that? This article really doesn’t make any sense, you’re diagnosing a non-existent problem at Chipotle and incoherently connecting it to income inequality. I wish you the very best, because you have a lot to work on. You have something to say about income inequality, but I don’t think the audience can really make any sense of it at all here.

  5. “Only the first route of action would address the problem of the whole as well as the front’s vested interest to stop being cold from the incoming breeze.”–no, actually this would: https://order.chipotle.com/

  6. Or you could just order online…

  7. I don’t think you truly understand what inequality is. Inequality stems from a structure, not from people. There is nothing about the structure of a chipotle line that is limiting or dividing anyone into “upper, middle and low”classes. Actually, the Chipotle line represents the OPPOSITE of inequality in that everyone HAS to deal with the cold at some point but through investment(of time) they eventually will be rewarded. Inequality is where those at the top NEVER have to deal with the same limiting circumstances and even minimal investment garners incredibly positive results. While contrasting these “upper class” people, the “lower class” people are stuck in a cycle of infliction and no matter their investment, is nearly impossible to move up. I’m very surprised that your piece was not critiqued earlier but I think that you may want to thin of a more stratified example in the future.

  8. I think its really hard to portray a complicated and imaginative analogy in 500 words when my original piece was 1500 words. I also think that digging at literal points of this is very small minded as it is a metaphor not literal comparison. This isn’t really about inequality and I didn’t come up with this title ( the lantern did), it is about the human inclinations in a chipotle line which also show up and effect class mobility in America. This has nothing to do with income inequality. It is about class mobility and the descisions people have or don’t have in the real world which effect their respective levels of economic/social vulnerability. The only way to get people thinking about the causes of big problems in society is to start a dialogue and the easiest way to start a dialogue is to relate it to their lives. That was my goal. I really don’t need a lecture about my lack of understanding regarding this or anything by people who don’t try to open any dialogue other than one of criticism.

  9. Why did you feel the need to publish this

  10. this is bad. i can’t believe the author’s comment that this was originally 1500 words either. yuck. you poor editors.

  11. Lighten up people, I thought it was funny.

  12. Is this a Fake Lantern article?

  13. Pursue another degree because you aren’t getting a job writing for anyone anytime soon. Awful article, trying to stretch something way too far.

  14. This was awful. Might want to change majors because you’re never getting a job writing for anyone. Stretched that way too far to the point it didn’t make sense.

  15. If I’m at the front of the line you better believe I’m not sacrificing my personal space so more people can come in out of the cold. I did my time. Those people at the back of the line should’ve walked a little faster if they wanted to be at the front of the line. It’s not my fault they’re lazy and slow.

  16. …this is satire, right?

  17. Burritos of the World, Unite!

    Our Proletariat brothers at the front and and the end of the line are held captive by the burrito making Bourgeoisie! Instead, let the Worker in the line control his own destiny and work for a greater Socialist Burrito by cooking one at home!

  18. This has to be satire.

  19. Tl;dr: some poor overprivileged white guy wants to complain about inequality so he has to dig deep to find a piss poor metaphor to express how much he’s oppressed

  20. Whats sad is that the people who write these articles are the same people who will get to decide on public policy. In America the line is not stationary, you can cut the line and get in front. This was a very hollow analogy, and honestly the fake lantern has much better articles… and they are satire

  21. Clay, please post the entirety of your article in the comments, I am very worried for your mental health, specifically the amount of acid you consume on a daily basis.

  22. I think real problem is that you are not in Best Korea. We don’t have capitalist Chipotle establishments that feed into American pigs’ bank accounts. Great Leader Kim make sure to provide everyone with abundant food and he also make sure Sun keeps revolving around Earth.

  23. This reminds me of an old analogy I used to make between a beagle puppy and an olive tree because the two aren’t comparable and have no connection to the American Dream.

  24. Please tell us where the homeless people that sit outside of the doors in the freezing cold fit in these groundbreaking musings.

  25. Another way that it’s like the American Dream: Chipotle burritos also often exploit the labor of Mexican workers.

  26. LOL I thought this was The Onion for a second.

  27. How high were you when you wrote this Clay? Only a stoner could come up with this connections while standing in line for a dank burrito at Chipotle. I feel you dog, but this should have been on The Fake Lantern.

  28. LOL it is amazing how critical people become when they can hide behind “anonymous”.

    “Whats sad is that the people who write these articles are the same people who will get to decide on public policy. In America the line is not stationary, you can cut the line and get in front. This was a very hollow analogy, and honestly the fake lantern has much better articles… and they are satire”

    Ummm nice try, but journalists =/= politicians.

  29. America could easily solve income inequality by adding a drive-thru (à la Taco Bell perhaps?). You’re a jabroni. Get bent, nerd.

  30. You’re so deep.

  31. Clay, you’re an idiot. This is America. Land of the Free. That means I have the freedom to stand in line for Chipotle however I want. That means that I have the freedom to choose to wait outside when the line stretches outside so I don’t make everyone inside fucking cold so I can feel a little warmth. The end of the line has a lot of choices but you ignored them, you damn liberal. This freedom also means when I’m inside I can wait in line like a goddam American, that is to say I have no obligation to hump the person in front of me in hopes that the idiot who decided to wait in the doorway can scooch forward and now be inside.

    Finally, its Chipotle. The length of the line controls itself. You can tell us to line up dick to ass, as is common practice in India, but then more people are gonna get in line and extend it out the door. Then who are you gonna blame for the idiots who wait in the doorway with the door open?

    And frankly, if someone gets all up in my business at chipotle, I ask them to leave me a little space. I don’t get up in people’s business, how about people stay out of mine. I’ve waited outside for a burrito before. It built character, and frankly, its a fucking burrito line, not genocide.

  32. Jacob nailed it.

    Don’t let these anonymous common taters harsh your mellow, Clay.

    Keep on keepin’ on!


  33. If Chipotle lines actually represented inequality you’d have a group of people at the front of the line and a group of people at the back of the line with mid-line people slowly shifting towards one direction or the other.


  34. Wow, what a sad attempt to gather support for the false premise that upward mobility in American society is an impossibility. It’s truly disgusting that cut-rate writers like this feel so justified in trashing one of the few economic systems on this planet that has created so much prosperity from so little. Should we expect anything else from a publication distributed on a college campus in America though?

  35. Yikes… This reminds me of every English class I took in college. There’s always someone looking to pull a metaphor out of a hat to sound insightful, deep, and interesting.

  36. I think this is funny! Sorry about the people that previously commented who seem to have zero sense of humor. Entertaining article, you rock.

  37. This article and its premise could have only been imagined by a person high on marijuana.

  38. Random OSU Student

    You take a few Poli Sci classes, and claim to know the problems of the world. Like a psych student knows how to psychoanalysis after one psych class

  39. Criticism is not considered an approach to a discussion?
    You write an article that is posted on the web and you cry foul when people question the need to use chipotle as an example of inequality.
    Your approach is just that of a still scene of a Chipotle line. Every situation can be visualized as something else, but why make it more complicated?
    First come, first serve. A person is at the front of the line and another person comes 30mins later. When will the person that comes later be served? Your approach to such a specific detail of a chipotle line begs for logical reasoning. The people in the back are definitely not at any mercy, they have the choice to leave. Inequality can be seen in various lights, both positive and negative. This begs for criticism. The attempt of trying to be out of the box, just didn’t work.

    A better analogy would be to not focus on a named brand/business and work from there. Too many extraneous variables make this analogy a bad one. Locke, Hobbes, Descartes, Kant, didn’t become notable based off a stupid analogy of a corporate franchise store line.

    You should probably discuss your ideas with some other people before posting an article that you believe to be a master piece. Not every idea is going to be your brightest, and the Lantern is definitely not the source for a philosophical analogy. A closed mind is great for politics, since nothing gets done with such greedy parties.

  40. A lot of criticism from people who have probably never even written a political science article or a published letter. At least he took a creative idea, ran with it, and then put it out there. If you have opinions or answers (which these anonymous comments show that you do), write a letter to the editor or publish an article. Criticism can help our society but not in this way. So either do it the right way, like Clay, or shut your mouth.

    “I wish I could make a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and we’d all eat it and be happy.”

  41. The criticism is comparable to people who received poor service at Chipotle and are complaining how their service was to management.

    Did I do it right?

  42. People please, it’s satire

  43. This was hilarious, I wish everyone wrote articles like this. It would definitely make reading the news more appealing to us normal people. Sorry that some people don’t have a sense of humor, Clay! The Fake Lantern will be happy to have you

  44. You over thought things here

    It is just a long line at Chipotle. It isn’t a metaphor for anything unless you are a college student with limited thinking skills.

  45. Disrespect is unacceptable

    Okay everyone, if you disagree with his analogy why not post about your own ideas instead of calling him names and insinuating he is on drugs?!?!? There are respectful ways to disagree with someone’s opinion and about 90% of you haven’t figured that out. It is sad to think that people feel it is okay to say such terrible things over the net:(:( But hell will most likely freeze over before one of you “Anonymous” posters comes up with a rebuttal to his argument that uses logic or statistics.

  46. Oh boy…I’m on this site because I seriously love OSU sports especially wrestling. Aft reading this I’m now concerned that the academics might not be at anywhere near the level of the sports. How could you possibly write this?

  47. An interesting way of looking at it. Good article.

  48. Oh, to be young…and stupid.

  49. Now, it the setting had been a soup line…

  50. The two analogies that make sense are that we are equal because we all have to get in the same line, first come first served. Then the “privileged elite” at the front of the line weren’t born there or bought that position, they got up earlier, finished their work before you did, and set their sights on a goal – a burrito – before you did. If you believe you should have what the guy at the front of the line has, then stop grousing and get there earlier.

  51. I never wait in line at chipotle. I have an app on my phone, I order online, when I arrive at chipotle, I walk straight up to the register, and pick up my order.

  52. I see this story being made into a show about nothing.

  53. Hello –

    I like these types of jobs. I just read this and am in the hopes that something might help here:

    There are phones these days. How about leaving a phone number, and they can call you in your car? It seems like someone made some type of comment about a phone.

    I like to read or study sometimes in line.

    Have something to do when in line when it’s cold? A group game of some sort to keep your mind off of it.

    Take a picture if you wanted to – are you with friends even or out of town? (With permission) How many pictures of each other do you have? This is a tip – some gloves have holes in the fingertips that can be covered again. Either that or have an extra pair where you can do it yourself.

    Make a winter fashion statement. (without being mean to other people)
    – personally, I’d like to know what an Alaskan or Washington or New York coat looks like.

    See how big you can make a snowperson or save that for the kids and think of your own creation.

    Plan conversation ideas – how often do you get to see your friends

    See if you can have permission to bring some type of warm drink (and make sure to use the trash can if need be.

    I think someone mentioned this, but show up at a different time. Even better plan someplace to go as friends before the restaurant. There’s an adage, though – to never go to the grocery store when you are hungry (you might buy more than you need).

    Oh the phone game – someone at the beginning of the line says a phrase, and then that person passes it to the one behind them, and so on to the end (if the line stops for awhile). See if it’s the same phrase? (This used to be a lesson on communication for kids.)

    Who has political pull for this one – a freebie for a customer waiting in line drawing.

    Sometimes if it’s really cold, I’ll shift my feet from side to side to move a little – I wouldn’t want to be rude to the Chipotle staff, though and make them nervous while trying to work.

    I just thought of this one. Group order – I mean bigger. Maybe bring paper, create categories (sandwich, dessert, etc.) on the paper to make it easier on the staff? Some people do that when they order from work or something, then they have time to pick it up. I don’t know how much this would help the line, though – there isn’t much space for the cashiers to help with orders at the food prep line once their cash duties are finished, also it might be more frustrating if you though you were stuck there and waiting (and hungry on top of it). I wouldn’t completely like this one as a cashier for that reason – I would like to keep busy if I saw a line. Maybe some type of equipment to be put on wheels so that the cashier could help prep the food? There usually isn’t a bunch of space – it’s designed to try to make things faster.

    Is it in the Short North Area? It used to be that if someone wanted to put up an art table, if they could get a Gallery to sponsor it during the Gallery Hop, one could pay a small fee to put up an art table. Any ideas from this one?

    Trade places? It could be turned into a custom if someone wanted. I’ve seen this happen when someone isn’t ready to order yet.

    Surprise people by taking a couple of orders from the back of the line. (Just don’t make someone mad)

    Some type of heating device that doesn’t take too much energy. How difficult would it be to make a wall or something into the sidewalk (probably a building code). Years ago I saw a rope put up by the campus bars to keep people from falling into the street.

    Is there parking nearby? People have all kinds of computer gadgets these days – what about picking a short movie or something.

    I don’t know how to stop the hunger pangs – maybe something to hold the appetite? I worked for a Valet company before, and they accepted dollar bills without a register when they got busy. I don’t know how to stop the hunger pangs.

    Hm. Maybe some people have more of a tolerance for cold than others? Maybe those with a higher tolerance can stand in the back and still be served as if in a line.

    I don’t have political pull, and there are keeping a business running issues, coupons?

    I’ve worked retail and actually like the lines as a cashier until someone gets mean on me – it’s a sign of good business.

    I don’t know if any of this helps, but…

  54. Real Americans don’t going around looking for excuses. They look for opportunities. They are everywhere. You get what you focus on. If it’s lack and a cold burrito – that’s what you’ll find. Clayton will always end up in the back of the line.

  55. Or, they could deregulate and remove the zoning ordinances that constrict Chipotle from building a larger store to serve customers faster or another location to handle the overflow.

  56. Pass my weed, douche.

  57. Clays says, “This isn’t really about inequality and I didn’t come up with this title ( the lantern did)”

    And his topic sentence is, “But how can these long lines act as such vivid metaphors for the state of inequality in our “equal opportunity” American society?”


    Clay says, “The only way to get people thinking about the causes of big problems in society is to start a dialogue and the easiest way to start a dialogue is to relate it to their lives. That was my goal.”

    Then Clay cries when someone dialogues in a way he didn’t want.


    Clay sucks.

  58. Based on the language, someone is wrapping up a mid-level economics class and thinks they have it all figured out.

  59. another young liberal mind finding victimhood every hour, every minute he can. Evolve… order online. Stop complaining and find a better way. The poor in America have free cable, cell phones, food stamps and a free education. And if they don’t take advantage of that, they get a welfare for life without forced labor or community service. People around the world would jump at the chance to this chance. Yet we find a way to complain

  60. Oh yeah, totally. I never thought about it that way before.

    Can I publish the longer version on my cilantro blog? Link below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.