Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rounding totals at Chipotle

Okay, I have to chime in on this article about rounding off to the nearest nickel or quarter. Apparently some restaurants have cash registers that are programmed to automatically round some totals up or down by a couple of cents to make a nice round total, like rounding $9.24 to $9.25 or $16.02 to $16.00 as this receipt shows. Perhaps it would be more ethical to only round down but I think the line item on the receipt in the previous link should suffice. At most, a sign next to the register that says “Totals may be rounded up or down by up to 2 cents to reduce the use of pennies” should be adequate.
I have been to over 40 Chipotle restaurants across the country and have not personally seen any of this rounding (and I do check the receipts every time). I suspect this is because I almost always pay with a credit card, where the whole point of rounding becomes moot because there’s no cash exchange.
My stance is that this is a perfectly sound and acceptable business practice as long as it rounds down as much as it rounds up. More places need to implement systems like this to cut down on time spent searching for and counting pennies. But really, instead of rounding, there is a better way to do this – just make the menu prices such that the totals come out to nice numbers. This is yet another way the Europeans are ahead of the Americans. They include tax in the listed menu prices so when something costs 6.50 Euros, it is 6.50 Euros, not 5.99 + 8% tax = 6.47. That surely means food lines move faster, at least at the cashier point.
As long as the USA continues to use this silly method of not including tax in listed menu prices, let’s look at the Chipotle menu and see how I would price these items.
The vast majority of my Chipotle receipts are $6.69, the price for a chicken or veggie burrito in Atlanta, where there is 7% tax. Charging $6.26 instead of $6.25 would make the total be and even $6.70.
For the steak or carnitas eaters, the $6.65 burrito comes to $7.12 with tax. Let’s change that to $6.54 to make it an even $7.
Soft drinks cost $1.60, or $1.71 with tax. Let’s change that to $1.64 so it will be a nice $1.75 with tax.
Chips and salsa: currently $1.75. Make that price be $1.775. Yes, use the thousandths place because $1.78 yields a $1.9046 total, which makes it fairly likely that the total will have a penny when combined with other items.
Guacamole: currently $1.80. Let’s adjust that down 2.5 cents to be the same chips and salsa.

Since I have some time, let me list the Chipotles I have been to:
Atlanta (13): Ponce, Lenox, Toco Hills, Emory, Northlake, Pleasant Hill, Lawrenceville, Mall of GA, Perimeter Mall, Windward Pkwy, Roswell Rd, Cobb Pkwy, Alpharetta Hwy
Jacksonville (2)
Tallahasee (2)
Columbia (2)
Greenville SC
Washington DC (2)
Philadelphia (2)
NYC and Long Island (3)
Las Vegas
Seattle (2)
San Jose
Ann Arbor

Friday, August 17, 2012

Various Regional Scheduling Rants

I haven’t had too many thoughts about actual bridge hands lately but I think it’s time for another rant about tournament schedules.
I personally am not a fan of the 2 session flight A Swiss/flight B bracketed round robin that many tournaments are having on Thursdays now. But I am generally against Swisses and this rarely impacts me because I rarely am at a tournament on a Thursday. If you play pairs that day, it’s tiny and the open game doesn’t get “credit” for the Gold Rush or flight B game. I think a decent argument can be made for including the flight B Swiss tables in the MP calculation for the open pairs, much like they do when they have a 0-750 pair game alongside the open pairs. Why should the Open Swiss get credit for the tables in the 0-3000 Round Robin but the Open Pairs not get credit for the 0-3000 round robin? This flighting of pair games has done wonders for reviving the open pairs and sort of curtailing the KO fever. However, these tournaments that have gone to having 0-750 games Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday have skewed the MP awards for the open pairs. Let’s take a look at the recent Chattanooga regional, which used this schedule.
Tuesday open pairs: 8 tables, 19.95 MP for first (39 tables in 0-750 pairs included for MP awards)
Wednesday open pairs: 13 tables, 24.50 MP for first (47 tables in 0-750 included)
Thursday open pairs: 11.5 tables, 7.70 MP for first (76 tables in 0-3000 Bracketed Round Robin, about 36 of which were eligible for 0-750, not included in MP awards for open pairs)
Friday open pairs: 12 tables, 18.55 MP for first (31 tables in 0-750)
Saturday open pairs: 9 tables, 14 MP for first (21 tables in 0-750)
Doesn’t it seem wrong for the Thursday open pairs to pay far fewer points despite that specific event being close to the same size every day?

Another thing I’d like to rant about today is the scheduling of BAM and Swisses for the evening side team game. Personally, I’d prefer BAM every night but that’s not going to happen except at the few tournaments big enough to support both so having some of each is almost a necessity. In Chattanooga (and at the upcoming Augusta and Macon regionals), BAMs are on Tuesday and Thursday nights with Swisses Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. BAMs and compact KOs are restricted to exactly 4-person teams while KOs and Swisses allow 4, 5 or 6 person teams. Therefore, to avoid making some team reorganize and rearrange themselves within the same day, when the main event is a compact KO, the evening event should be a BAM. Otherwise, when the main event allows 5 or 6 person teams, the side event that evening should also allow 5 or 6 person teams. So this scheduling doesn’t make sense in that regard either because Saturday is the one evening that should definitely have a BAM because the main team event of the day is a compact KO so teams are already grouped into exactly 4.

My last rant about tournament schedules for the day concerns KOs near the end of the tournament. I love the avoid-the-swiss KO – the one that starts Sunday afternoon of a tournament ending on a Monday holiday (or starts at 1pm Saturday and continues at 10am Sunday of a normal week). Attendance for this KO, however, has been substantially lower than for other Kos almost to the point of it not being worth scheduling. At the Raleigh regional, which ended Memorial Day, they had the traditional avoid-the-swiss KO that I entered but the event was delayed because teams had tried to enter that event AND the morning KO, both of which continued Monday at 10am. The Atlanta regional coming up is introducing a similar schedule for the first time – the normal Sunday-Monday KO exists but also a Saturday-Monday morning KO, both of which have semifinals Monday. I'm afraid that, while the knockouts during the week might be 7 or 8 brackets, these 2 events will be 1 bracket events.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Round robins/group play to qualify for KO

So, I think tournaments that have a round robin to qualify for a knockout are generally a good format for an event. Several big events in bridge use this format. This format ensures that every team plays a significant amount before being declared out of the competition. It also prevents a top team from being knocked out very early due to one bad day. However, as we’ve seen (or mostly read about) from badminton at the Olympics, this round robin format can lead to some tanking in the latter stages of the round robin. Sure, things like this have happened before but usually they did it for a healthy sum of money.
It seems that there was no monetary motive for the badminton players who intentionally lost their last round robin match to get what they perceived to be a better draw in the KO stage. The Chinese pair of Xiaoli and Yu were the first to be accused of intentionally losing their final group stage match yesterday. They were already assured of qualifying for the KO but thought they if they were the #2 seed from their group, it would yield an easier path to the final than if they were the #1 seed. With the #1 seed, they would play in the first round of the KO another Chinese team who they perceived as being the best team. I can’t blame them for trying to get out of that match. Is this really any different than a 13-2 NFL team resting their starting quarterback the last regular season game or a baseball team who has clinched the division title playing mostly reserves the last week of the regular season? It’s not their fault that the format of the tournament is that way and they already knew who they would draw in the next round depending on their outcome. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
I’m kind of hoping some allegations about these badminton players were being paid $100,000 to lose the match but that seems pretty unlikely. That would justify them being disqualified. Who benefited from them losing? No one. All it did was swap the seeds of the 2 qualifying teams from the group.
When money is the primary motivation (theoretically some third party paying to get a team to lose), it is clearly wrong and everyone involved should be punished. When aiding another team’s chances of winning the event is the motivation, that is also wrong, but this part can be virtually eliminated by having teams who might have that sort of motivation play each other in the first round or two of the round robin, before one team gets essentially eliminated. However, when a team’s match-throwing is solely in an effort to improve one’s own chances of winning the event, I think it is not inherently wrong. Yes, it’s not ideal and doesn’t make for a very fun match to watch, but they’re still trying to win in the grand scheme of things, and they shouldn’t be punished for that. I assume we all agree that winning the entire event, not just one’s group in the round robin, is or should be the goal of every team or individual or pair in an event.