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Did Chipotle Pay Best-Selling Authors $25K Each for Its 'Thought' Campaign?

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How much did the chain shell out for its "literary" cups?

How much is copy by Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, and George Saunders worth? Gawker floats a rumor that Chipotle Mexican Grill shelled out as much as $25,000-30,000 to some of America's best-selling authors for its "Cultivate Thought" campaign, which added the celebrity-written essays and short stories to Chipotle cups and take-out bags. Earlier this week, in response to a New York Times story about the highbrow campaign, Gawker solicited anonymous tips from its readers asking for inside information about the writers' payday. (Writer Michael Lewis, who contributed a short story called "The Two-Minute Minute," told Conan O'Brien that "it pays very well to write a Chipotle cup," adding "my greatest fear is that this is what I'm going to be remembered for.")

Gawker has collected numerous figures suggesting a ballpark payday of around $25,000 to each writer (one of its sources is "a New York Times best-selling novelist, and positioned to know one way or the other"). In a confirmed, on-the-record payment, each writer also received a year's worth of free Chipotle food for their efforts.

In May, a Chipotle rep told Eater that the campaign hoped to "allow people to connect with the musings of these writers, with whom they may or may not be familiar, and create a moment of analog pause in a digital world, providing introspection or inspiration, and maybe a little laughter." Some folks may be laughing all the way to the bank.

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