Last month, Chipotle was caught with its hands in the proverbial salsa jar when it was discovered that “…the Mexican fast food restaurant has been rounding up bills to the nearest nickel in high-volume locations like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts,” according to news reports.

Chipotle, a national chain of casual Mexican restaurants on both the east and west coasts, has a “quirky” corporate culture with a down-home website that showcases the now popular chain’s humble beginnings. The website also emphasizes that it operates with “integrity,” but some customers did not feel the love or trust at the checkout counter.

One New Jersey-based resident, realized that three of his receipts were rounded “up,” costing him a penny more than what the total should have been. Annoyed, he sent the Newark Star-Ledger the information. The Star Ledger investigated and found that Chipotle registers in the tri-state area were “typically” rounding the bills up or down – a policy that was not shared with the general public.

In today’s challenging economy, where there is a prevailing mood of mistrust for big businesses and franchises, this was not a good time for Chipotle to be charging more – even by a few pennies.

The Star-Ledger quoted Chipotle spokesperson, Chris Arnold: ”The idea is simply to limit the possible combinations of change on cash transactions to keep the lines moving quickly in high volume areas,” he said.

In a penny-wise effort at corporate reputation management, Chipotle has changed its policy to round “down” the bills versus “up” — saving customers time and money and helping Chipotle’s media relations team swallow less damaging news coverage along with their fajita.