Earlier this week, MainStreet caught wind of a new Quiznos coupon redeemable for one free sub at all their restaurants. In the interest of further expanding the scope of our Free Stuff department, we posted a link to the coupon, along with the pertinent details. I then printed one out and made haste to the closest Quiznos to sample the goods.

As conventional wisdom claims, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The Quiznos closest to MainStreet’s global headquarters in Manhattan had a sign on their door claiming customers were only permitted to redeem free sub coupons between the off-peak dining hours of 3 to 5 p.m. Not exactly an ideal situation for a hungry and frugal customer, especially given the coupon’s lack of specific details.
I wasn’t the only one disappointed.  Consumerist.com documented a number of frustrated sub-seekers:

  • John from Rockville, Md., told a tale of a rude cashier who inexplicably claimed the coupon was only redeemable for $1 off the regular purchase price.
  • Others, including Evan B., explained that they were forced to purchase a bag of chips and a drink in order to get their free sub.
  • Frank had reservations about allowing a store employee to write down and save his driver’s license number after checking his ID with the coupon.
  • Jay of Palm Desert, Calif., had one of the strangest ordeals when he encountered a sign posted on the counter’s sneeze guard reading, “We do not except coupon in this store (sic).”

More and more anecdotes of outrage began to emerge across the country about local Quiznos restaurants rudely refusing to honor the free sandwich coupon. There appears to be some miscommunication between the Quiznos marketing department responsible for the campaign and the franchise owners manning the registers and interacting with customers.

When an individual store manager’s policy differs from the official Quiznos advertising line, questions arise as to whether the entire promotion was a traffic-driving ploy. An every man for himself approach to fast food giveaways probably doesn’t translate to a positive image from your customers.

Coincidentally, Quiznos CEO Dave Deno officially resigned from his position for personal reasons one day into the Million Sub Giveaway promotion. Additionally, Advertising Age magazine reported earlier this month that Quiznos will not be extending its contract with advertising agency Cliff Freeman & Partners. Perhaps these shakeups at the top of the Quiznos corporate empire are to blame for the botched promotion?

There are still as many unanswered questions as there were hungry and dejected people walking around with free sub coupons. Why were some local stores so vehemently against honoring the coupon? Were they being reimbursed from corporate HQ for the million free subs? Were individual stores only required to fulfill a preset but undisclosed quota of free subs? Can a consumer believe any advertising that uses the “valid only at participating locations” clause?

A Quiznos spokesperson responded with the following statement:

  • “The response to the Quiznos Millions Subs Giveaway has been nothing short of overwhelming. That’s great, right? Right... but given that we have had over a million consumers respond in only three days, there are a handful of people who have reported some problem redeeming their free sandwich. If you’re one of them, please let us know right away by emailing millionsubs@quiznos.com. We’re working hard to address every issue very quickly....And, if you weren’t quite fast enough the first time around, there’s still a chance to win a free-subs-for-a-year gift card through our Hometown Heroes promotion throughout the month of March.”

    From the reader responses gathered on blogs, message boards and in the comments section, it appears the problem affected more than “a handful of people.” If you feel as if you were scammed by this promotion, please contact Quiznos and let us know what kind of response, if any, you receive.

    However, it looks like Subway, archenemy to Quiznos in the sub sandwich world, may be profiting off their competitor’s misfortunes. One employee at a Subway restaurant within walking distance of the aforementioned Quiznos in NYC remarked that he had seen an influx of customers to his business claiming they were denied their free sub at Quiznos. A commenter on our original post about the coupon even went so far as to claim, “My local Quiznos would not honor my coupon. Subway will get my business from now on.”