Skip to content

This Move Is Making America's Biggest Sandwich Chain Lose Favor With Customers

Here's what's likely behind the major customer nuisance.
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Ever plan a fast-food order around a discount coupon, only to discover that the coupon recently expired? Few experiences are more frustrating.

But what about planning your order around a perfectly valid, up-to-date coupon—only to discover that the store refuses to accept it? That's been the reality for Subway customers for the past couple of weeks, as Subway restaurants across the U.S.—from Indiana and Michigan, to Arizona and the Pacific Northwest, and across three boroughs of New York City—refuse to honor discount coupons.

And don't miss 9 Secrets America's Most Controversial Fast-Food Chain Doesn't Want You To Know.

Customers have been taking to Twitter to air their grievances. Some have complained of receiving coupons directly in the mail, only to have them rejected at their local store. Others have shared stories of traveling to multiple Subways in their area—finding success at none of them. Deal-hunting customers have felt especially cheated, paying full price for the food they would not have otherwise purchased.

Subway has responded to some of the complaints, agreeing with its customers that the situation is "weird" and inviting them to continue the conversation in the DMs—where, we can only believe, everything gets straightened out.

Far from a fluke, though, some customers have speculated that Subway's coupon program is little more than a bait-and-switch—a cheap way to get consumers into stores in the hopes they'll make the purchase anyway once they're already there.

But according to an insider who spoke to Eat This, Not That! under conditions of anonymity, the recent spate of rejected Subway coupons isn't a bait-and-switch for customers, but only the latest development in a years-long conflict between the company and its franchisees.

According to information he shared, Subway runs discounts without much input from franchisees, which often ends up being to their detriment. Whether or not a certain promotion makes financial sense for individual stores, Subway will print and distribute the coupons anyway. For this reason, many operators simply refuse to accept them.

"It would be one thing if corporate was subsidizing the promotions with kickbacks to the franchisees but they are not," he explains. "They expect franchisees to sell $16-worth of product for $8. That is not a sustainable business model. All so that Subway can boost their gross sales and increase royalty payments."

The chain has a long history of mistreating its store operators, and their revolt against money-losing discounts and menu decisions has been well-recorded. In 2020, the North American Association of Subway Franchisees stood up against the chain's most popular promotion, the $5 Footlong, saying the deal hasn't been profitable in years.

So if you happen to have a Subway coupon and are planning a trip to your local store, you may want to adjust your plans. There's a good chance your local Subway won't honor the deal. And all things considered, can you blame them?

Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more