How Hank Levine Went Viral After a Chipotle Burrito Giveaway Caused Him to Receive Hundreds of Texts
Hank Levine didn't have a good reason to develop a presence on the Internet. But then he became a viral sensation, beating out Kim Kardashian on Facebook for 15 minutes. The middle-aged lawyer from Bethesda, Md., didn’t even need to take his shirt off (in all fairness, the Internet might not have wanted him too).
It all changed for Levine early February, when a Chipotle burrito giveaway led to his phone blowing up with hundreds of texts with the word "raincheck" after people in his area added an extra number to the promotional code 888-222.
He could have been angry. He could have ignored the texts. Levine didn't do either. He actually took the time to respond to the texts, explaining to people they had the wrong number.
“I learned a lot about people,” Levine told Entrepreneur a month removed from the event.
Throughout the cycle, Levine received hundreds of texts. Weeks later, he still gets the occasional message or two. Thankfully, he didn’t end up with a huge phone bill, nor did he have to change his number.
He didn’t make any longtime friends, but he did have a few conversations. At first, Levine tried to help by pointing out the problem. Once the news got out, the nature of the incoming messages developed a wide range, from sympathizers, drunk 20-somethings and even a few angered individuals snubbed and burrito-less.
A couple of women hit on him, others yelled at him, some just asked him to tell Chipotle to make its guacamole free.
“That’s extremely important,” he says. “People really hate paying extra for guac.”
Though Levine’s certainly no luddite, he’s not exactly the most tech savvy (he only had a LinkedIn page prior to the text bomb). He doesn’t live for likes or text constantly. For example, his daughter-in-law Dorry Levine had to teach him how to take a screenshot after he called to tell her about the slew of texts blowing up his phone. She also helped him create a Twitter page.
Ironically, Dorry, a digital-media strategist at ReThink Media, had just tweeted about Chipotle’s promotion that morning, praising the company for making a positive spin on a rough situation as it closed stores nationwide to address a series of E. coli outbreaks affecting more than 100 people in locations across the country.
“I found [the confusion] absolutely hilarious,” she says.
It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what Dorry did next:
Dorry also wrote a Linkedin post about the experience. Still, she didn’t expect the story to go viral in a matter of days. It was so popular, not only was it featured on Entrepreneur, but also Mashable, Eater and a myriad of national publications as well as The Today Show.
An outgoing guy with a good sense of humor, Hank figures the experience was his “15 minutes of fame.”
The people who mistakenly texted Hank Levine never got their burritos, but the lawyer did receive 25 gift cards from Chipotle after he and his good attitude did the beleaguered burrito chain a considerable solid in free press coverage and public relations.
Rather than reap the benefits himself, he’s giving out the cards to the worthy (or folks that like Chipotle more than he does).
But the biggest victory for Levine through all this is that Chipotle has agreed to serve as a sponsor for the Fiesta 5K run, an event run by The Packard Center at Johns Hopkins each year, where Levine serves on the board.
“It’s a great example of what good can come out of the Internet,” he says.
It’s not yet determined what exactly the sponsorship would entail, but it looks like Levine’s not the only one to end up with a burrito or two and the possibility of coining a new hashtag: #NoExtraforGuac.