Monday, April 14, 2008

Five-Dollar Subs

So, a funny thing happened today. I'm testing out some mailing list software, and I wanted to see how the HTML features work in it. I downloaded the latest version of Mozilla Thunderbird and fired it up. When I did, it had remembered all of my old account information for e-mail accounts that are still valid, but that I don't use.

In my inbox, I see a few very recent e-mails saying that my blog had comments on it. Comments? On a blog I haven't maintained for, wow, over a year? Sure enough, I saw where several people had commented on my Stamped or Metered? post. I couldn't help but start browsing around a bit more to see what else people have been saying. I deleted a few spam comments, and saw where one guy (I see you, Danny!) asked when I was coming back.

Well, I don't know if Danny is still out there, but I am.

I try to start posting again. After all, it's not like I've stopped observing stuff...

Say, that reminds me of something that I've been dealing with lately that has me scratching my head. Some of you might have noticed that Subway, one of my favorite restaurants, has a promotion going on right now where you can get any footlong sub for just $5.

Now normally, I just get one of the combos. A footlong sub, chips, and a drink for some slightly discounted rate than buying them all separately. But now, with $5 footlong subs, it throws a bit of a kink in the works. Which is financially better? Getting a footlong sub for $5 plus chips and a drink, or getting all three at a discounted price? I love Subway, but whenever I have to make a choice like that, I always have the unsettling feeling like they're out to confuse me with the options, and some guy is in the back room giggling with glee, saying "Look! We got another one!"

One day, while standing in line to order some vittles at the Varsity in downtown Atlanta, I noticed that they have combos consisting of various food items--a hamburger, two chili dogs, two slaw dogs, etc.--plus fries or onion rings and a Coke. Being pretty handy at math, I calculated how much the discount was for ordering a combo. I was sorely disappointed when I learned that the discount was exactly zero. If you ordered a number one combo (two chili dogs, fries, and a Coke), it costs exactly the same as if you order two chili dogs, fries, and a Coke, all separately.

So today, I went to Subway determined to get to the bottom of their pricing scandal. Here's what I came up with:

$5.99 for a BMT
$0.89 for a bag of chips
$1.29 for a small Coke
$1.49 for a large Coke
$2.20 to make a sandwich order into a combo with chips and a large Coke

Well, that's interesting! They don't post prices for combos like most fast food restaurants do. Instead, it's just a fixed add-on price. Separately, the chips and Coke will cost you $2.38, which means that by ordering the combo, you're saving a grand total of $0.18, no matter which sandwich you order.

So how do you come out better? By ordering the combo, or by taking the any sub for $5 deal?

Well, since a BMT is normally $5.99, you save $0.99 by getting it for $5. This is more than the $0.18 you save by getting the combo, so it's better to take them up on the promotion. All of the sandwich prices I was looking at are over $5.18 except for the Veggie sandwich ($4.99), so this is true in general as well.


All of this is assuming that you want a large Coke. What if a small is good enough? In that case, you can really rack up the savings! Note that the savings of a small Coke over a large Coke is $0.20, which is two pennies more than the savings of the combo. This means that even under normal circumstances, you save a couple of pennies if you forego the combo completely and buy the small Coke instead of the large. If you're actually eating in the store, this is a no-brainer. Besides, Jared didn't get svelte by being too lazy to walk over to the machine and get a refill. With the any sub for $5 promotion, you save those two pennies plus the $0.99 (for a BMT; your sandwich may vary).

So boiling it all down, here's how much your food will cost by ordering it various ways:

$7.18 for a $5 BMT, chips, and small Coke
$7.38 for a $5 BMT, chips, and large Coke
$8.17 for a normal-price BMT, chips, and small Coke
$8.19 for a BMT, chips, and large Coke combo

One final note just for fun. Next time you're in your local Subway, ask the person who rings up your food what BMT stands for. If they actually know the answer, leave your change in the tip bucket.


You know, I can't help but wonder if it's all worth it. Sometimes, I honestly believe that there's a market out there for a restaurant--or any type of retail store, really--that advertises that they will never have any coupons, specials, combos, or any other type of deals. The prices posted are exactly what you'll pay each and every time, no more, no less.