Subway’s “Free Cookie for a Survey” Is Not Worth It. It Comes With A Bad Surprise.

On the other side of your Subway receipt, there’s sometimes an offer to fill out a survey online for a free cookie. Sounds simple and harmless, right? Wrong.

My first bad encounter of this happened on a visit to a city. I filled out the survey instantly on my phone and returned the receipt with the numbers they have you write on the receipt.

The Indian man behind the counter blew up at me. He aggressively said some phrases that I couldn’t make out. But I understood his body language. He didn’t like the ratings I gave his Subway. Apparently, the numbers are a code that can be deciphered by Subway franchise owners.

He kept yelling at me aggressively, asking me why I rated him so low. The worse part was that I didn’t even rate him low. I thought I gave above average, but not perfect, ratings.

I thought to myself that this was a horrible way to actually improve the quality of your restaurant and service. Violently surprising your customer with outrage and revealing that the anonymous survey they took wasn’t anonymous only makes them feel worse. And pressuring them to rate you higher doesn’t truly improve the value you deliver.

But who am I to give business advice? Plus, he was reacting out of natural human emotion. The laws of business success don’t matter. Welcome to the real world.

I pretended I didn’t know what he was on about (because I was confused). He begrudgingly ended up handing me a cookie and a face of disgust. I rushed out, still confused about the whole experience since my ratings were what I’d put for a decent but not over-the-top experience. I rarely give ratings below 5 out of 10 to anyone or anything. And I didn’t for this Subway.

Surely, this wouldn’t happen again, right? A few months later, the same thing happened again at a local location.

The instant I handed my receipt over, this new Indian man started giving a similar response. Before he finished his second sentence asking why I gave an overall rating of 7, I interrupted and told him, “But that wouldn’t be honest if you pressured me to change my rating. It’s supposed to be an honest survey.”

I shouldn’t have said that.

This added oil to the fire. The man got more heated with his words.

The theme he kept repeating was that he just wanted to know why my overall ratings were not 10’s and 9’s out of 10’s. He said that this is what everyone else rated the restaurant as. He wanted to know what was wrong.

This all made logical sense (except for the fact that I would have already explained this in the online survey), but his body language and tone told a different story. He was getting louder and I was getting uneasy.

Eventually, he handed me a cookie. I kept explaining to him that I thought that 10 out of 10’s require everything to be above and beyond. Even 5 star restaurants would have a hard time getting that. 5 out of 10 for me was average. But apparently, based off his feedback, his boss didn’t think that way.

It’s funny because I don’t think I’m different with my ratings. Check out this Buzzfeed video and how they rate the world’s most popular fried chicken. 5 to 8 out of 10’s are fairly common.

I kept going on with my explanation and lucked out because he started calming down (though I was doing a horrible job trying to calm him down). He cut me off with a “THANK YOU” and I walked quickly out of the Subway.

This was surprising because I had ordered from this Subway numerous times over the years and had been on friendly terms with this gentleman. We wouldn’t talk much but we were fairly friendly. Maybe he didn’t recognize me. Maybe he did.

I don’t think I will be going back to that location for a while even though it’s close by. I feel like he would treat me poorly and show his dislike if I did.

The craziest part is that I thought I gave pretty decent ratings both times. But I guess it wasn’t enough.

Obviously, I wish Subway would change this so we don’t have to be attacked for a free cookie. I doubt they know that their franchise owners can decipher the codes. It’s most likely an unpredicted side effect.

But I know their company has gotten so big that this issue may never be solved. They have too many other things to do to be monitoring the web thoroughly and noticing stuff like this. I guess that’s one of the issues with big companies; if you try to get as large as possible, you also have more low-wage employees to juggle, which lowers the average competency, quality, and control.

Of course, they could have behaved better. I could have behaved better too. I reacted out of emotion the second time. I should have just apologized and avoided a scene. It cost me too much time and emotion reacting how I did.

The whole time, I didn’t mean to offend, anger, or make anyone’s day worse. I just gave some constructive criticism for a free cookie.

What do you think?