DENVER Quiznos gave away more than a million coupons for a free sandwich in three days during a promotion aimed at increasing traffic to its stores, but the campaign also inadvertently increased the frustration levels of some customers and franchisees.
Because not all of Quiznos' nearly 4,500 franchised U.S. locations honored the coupons, some customers were forced to visit several stores in their communities to find a participating restaurant. Several also vented their frustration in blog postings.
Such snafus highlight both the difficulties of executing the numerous giveaway deals now offered by foodservice operators and their popularity among cash-strapped consumers looking for freebies.
Quiznos launched the campaign Monday and by Wednesday had given away more than a million coupons for free sandwiches to customers who visited www.millionsubs.com. At one point Quiznos was forced to close down the website because of the overwhelming response, said Rebecca Steinfort, executive vice president of marketing for the Denver-based sandwich chain.
“Because they came in so quickly, it has been overwhelming for franchise owners, in terms of the volume in those stores,” Steinfort said.
Most Quiznos franchisees participated in the promotion and were pleased with the traffic increases they saw, she said.
“The majority [of franchisees] had taken advantage of it, and we’ll see some benefit going forward,” Steinfort said. She declined to specify participation rates, but she noted that franchisees are independent operators who have the right to choose whether to participate.
Still, several stories surfaced of customers thwarted in their efforts to redeem the coupons, which were good for a small sub. Quiznos' small subs sell for about $4.39. Quiznos also had lowered the prices on 37 of its sandwiches and entrees in January, including 20 toasted subs that now sell for less than $5.
Customers in New York City were told by some franchisees the coupons were only good for 20 percent off of the purchase price.
Three stores in Grapevine, Texas, offered various ways of dealing with the free-sub coupons on Wednesday. One store had a letter-sized computer printout sign taped to the glass near the cash register that read, “We accept no coupons.” Employees at another store in the food court of the Grapevine Mills Mall said they were not participating in the promotion because the unit was owned by the mall. They directed a coupon-holder to a store about a half mile away. At that unit, the manager said he was accepting the coupons, but that it was good for a limited number of sandwiches.
Quiznos is reimbursing the costs of all franchisees who participated in the promotion and will try to compensate customers who e-mail their complaints and concerns to [email protected], which has been set up to handle any problems from the giveaway, Steinfort said.
“We’re very committed to make it right with the customer,” Steinfort said. “From a franchise owners’ perspective, at the end of the day, we’re doing it for them. We’re trying to get them more loyalty from customers and bring new people in.”
NRN's Southwest bureau chief Ron Ruggless contributed to this report.