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Sleight of Hand / February 26, 2004

They say, "When it rains, it pours," but I think that's just something I read off of a salt container...

I was never naive enough to believe that I could escape the torrential rains of the Northwest or the oppressive snows of Alaska, but I was hoping for better weather here in California. In what would seem like an apology to all those unfortunate souls who must suffer through the heavy precipitation, Subway has a special offer when it rains at a particular Subway location:

Buy one 6 inch sub and a 21oz drink or larger and get another 6 inch sub FREE!

It's raining, I'm hungry, and my friend is over looking to grab a bite to eat, so I suggest going to Subway. I used this deal on Friday, I used it on Sunday, and I thought it would be okay yesterday. Obviously, this didn't happen since I'm sitting here writing this rant.

I ordered a foot-long meatball sub and asked for the "rainy-day deal". As I've mentioned in a previous rant before, I always total the bill in my head in case something goes wrong (math is useful), and again, something went wrong. A 6 inch meatball sub costs $2.59, and a 21oz drink costs $1.29; if we add these two and tack on tax (8.25%) the total should be $4.20. So I pull out a $5 bill and get ready to pay, confident in my arithmetic. At this point, the cashier pulls out a cup, one size larger than I usually get, and says that $5.74 is the total.

Of course, this is pretty shocking since the total is way off from what I thought. I pull out another dollar and give it to her and she gives me the change. I ask her if that cup is a "medium" since it's bigger than the one I got last time. She assures me that's the one for the deal, so I drop that line of thought and move onto the more obvious discrepancy - the price of a Meatball sub. I ask her if the 6 inch Meatball sub costs $2.59, and she replies, "No, it costs $3.89 - it's what the register says." I then look up and point to the sign that says it costs $2.59 and ask why there's such a huge difference. She just shrugs and repeats, like a broken record, "It's what the register says." I'm not into harassing people who work at fast food restaurants, but I'm not about to forgive such a glaring error.

I insist that something went horribly wrong and that she needs to fix it. I pointed out that $3.89 for a Meatball sub is ridiculous since that would mean it's one of the most expensive subs on the menu. Fortunately, a woman who seemed to be in charge came by and to helped her out with the register. It took about 5 minutes for them to work out the error, during which several people in the line seemed to be upset that I was arguing over the total. I was felt righteous in my cause against pulling one over on the average joe (who happened to be me at the moment) so I crossed my arms and put on a neutral look. The total came to $4.42. I knew that the drink was larger than needed (32oz) for the deal, but I figured I embarrased her enough, and 22 cents is a small price to pay to exercise my right to call people on their mistakes.

This whole affair makes me wonder if the people working at fast food places are simply making mistakes, or if the management is telling them to "convince" customers to order more than what they ask for. About a year ago, I ordered a "Classic Double Combo" at Wendy's about a year ago, and the cashier asked me if I wanted a "Medium Combo". I thought that "Medium" meant "Regular" but was proven wrong when I saw the words "Upsize" appear on the register. Of course, I questioned her why she charged me more, and she said that I "asked for it". Luckily, I was able to change it to a "Regular" since they didn't start working on the meal yet.

Apparently, the relative sizes of soft drinks had changed, and what used to be called a "Medium" is now called "Regular", a "Large" is a "Medium", and a "Super-Size" is a "Large". I can only theorize that the whole idea of cashiers asking if people wanted to "Super-size their meal" didn't work too well, so they conspired to subtly shift the sizes over a notch, tricking the public into buying one size larger than before. Sure this may be profitable in the short run, but isn't America already fat enough? Perhaps there is an even more subtle conspiracy going on to make Americans obese so that in the future we will depend on the medical and pharmeceutical industries to help sustain our bloated existence. Hmm...

After all of this, I learned two very important lessons:

  1. Always check the receipt.
  2. Read the fine print.

I should probably avoid going to that particular Subway for the next month too...

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