Re: The Bleat (A Subway post)

I’ve been meaning to write more here, instead of just pre-scheduling videos to show up every day (with triple features on Fridays!). I was thinking of writing about TF2 until I realized it should really go in the Orange Box Manifesto which I should also finish writing and finally post. And then I saw this essay on The Bleat via a link from Twenty Sided.

I can explain the exact problem James Lileks encountered as it’s something I have to deal with all the time: Management bending the rules a bit. Often customers are completely wrong (more on that in a bit), but in this case the manager had set a policy in place that technically is not what they were supposed to do. The reason is explained in the article: it’s to avoid headaches that “Corporate” (as we call them in our store) doesn’t have to deal with but the people actually running the store do.

In the case of the free 6″ sub, it’s intended purpose is for a customer to come back and maybe pay for soda and chips on another visit. Customers can’t use more than one free coupon at a time, and (although I don’t know for sure if this is the case in absolutely every store) discounts never ever stack. It literally is impossible to stack discounts on the cash register, and that’s deliberate*. Therefore if a customer wants a free sandwich right then there’s no contest rule in the way as long as there aren’t any other discounts invovled. But even if there’s not contest rule against such a thing, it’s entirely possible that the manager put the policy in place to avoid headaches.

For example, let’s say that someone used a free soda coupon and paid for a six inch sub and got a free six inch coupon. If they get another six inch right there, they essentially get a free soda and a free six inch. Now what if they used a free six inch coupon in the first place? Now what if they didn’t use any coupons at first, but then they did redeem a free six inch right away, and then the next guy tries to redeem a free six inch right after getting a free six inch?

Now what if there’s a line and explaining the actual details of the situation will just result in more pissed-off customers? Of course there’s nothing in the rules about “visits”, but allowing orders of free food to potentially stack is asking for trouble because there are enough customers who deserve a beating as it is. Hence management bending the rules.

(Incidentally, if the belligerent guy I served a few months back happens to be reading this: the no-discount-stacking is the same reason why I didn’t charge you exactly 7.35 for a “five dollar foot long meal deal”. Such a thing does not exist. Meal Deals are a discount and so are Five Dollar Footlongs. Your math wasn’t off, but your willingness to listen to my explanation was. That’s why I clammed up when it was obvious that trying to give you a satisfactory explanation was going to hold up the line.)

I’ll repost the last paragraph in that essay here:

“To be fair: being a Sandwich Artist would drive anyone insane. Not the job itself, but the strange fog of confusion and indecision that seems to fall over some people when presented with the topping options. Onions? Oh, I just don’t know. If employees designed the store there would be a giant metal fist that came from the ceiling about two-thirds of the way down the line, and it would either be deployed to put the customer out of their misery or encourage the halt and lame to pick up the pace a little. Because it only gets worse after you’ve chosen the type of bread. There are seven bottles of sauce at the end. You’ll have to choose. It’s all leading up to that. Bring your A game.”

Dude, you have no idea. It’s not the indecisive customers that bother me at all though. In fact, I’d say I’m genuinely happy to serve a good 80% of our customers and 99% are no significant trouble at all. But multiply that last 1% by how many customers I’ve served in the last (holy crap it has been that long, hasn’t it?) six years and you get quite a few people that really do deserve the crushing fist of death.

“Being a sandwich artist would drive anyone insane.” you say, James? Yeah, you’re right. I don’t think my recent depression and emotional instability and sleeping problems and occasional hallucinations are entirely because I’ve been stuck in an entry-level job for six years and it seems no one wants to reply to my employment applications no matter how many I send out. But I do think that it may be a significant factor, and not just because you point it out.

But it’s okay because September is it. Oh wait, I’ve written about quitting before, right? Well this time it’s for real. The store is moved. Boss finally doesn’t really need me anymore. I don’t need a salary as much as I need sanity. At the end of September I’m out. Daijobu! 😉

Now, dear reader, since this is the Internet and you may not be someone I know in real life, you may be scratching your head right now and wondering why my Boss kept me on minimum wage for so long when I’ve mentioned in passing that I’m his best worker. Six years as a Sandwich Artist with no promotion? And he likes me? How does that happen? Trust me: that’s another discussion for another day and one I’ll never post here, but I’m perfectly willing to explain in person.

*”Why?” you ask? Because it would lead to people exploiting the system and Subway stores going out of business, that’s why. Sometimes the customer is not only wrong, but completely ridiculously incompetent or worse: actively trying to commit fraud. On a sandwich store. Truly I have witnessed the best and worst of humanity.

EDIT: Of course I didn’t end up quitting quite as much as I had intended at the time I originally wrote this. But those reasons are a subject for another post.

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