Consumers Speak: Jimmy John’s Jimmies with Coupons

John B. writes:

I recently went in to Jimmy John’s (http://www.jimmyjohns.com/) in downtown Indianapolis. While some might consider them YASC (Yet Another Sandwich Chain), my wife and I love them. Their #6 is one of the few vegetarian items at a fast-food place I can order without changing the order. It is a delectable sandwich, and quite affordable. I walked in a few weeks ago to pick up dinner, greeted by the familiar wafting bread smell, anxiously awaiting my precious #6.

I had a legitimate buy-one-get-one-free coupon from a popular Indianapolis coupon book published annually by the city’s zoo. These have always worked, even though we only use one per book per year. But when I tried to redeem it, the worker refused to take the coupon. He said that someone had recently purchased the franchise chain to which that particular store belonged it, and that same person had suddenly decided to stop taking all coupons, no exceptions.

The corporate response after the jump.

I bought the sandwiches in spite of this disappointing news. They were delicious, as usual, but I doubt I’ll ever go back. I said as much in email to their corporate office. Someone contacted me the next day and was sympathetic and friendly, saying that sure enough this franchise owner had refused to take coupons. But after he said he would contact the franchise owner with my complaint, I never heard anything back. This is a shame, as we discovered Jimmy John’s precisely because we used a coupon from a previous year’s zoo book. It seems to me that coupons are one of the most effective forms of advertising. Yet, apparently someone disagrees.

I’m curious to know what the Consumerist’s readers would do next, aside from merely finding a new sandwich shoppe. What is the nature of the relationship between franchise and franchiser? And is a coupon a binding legal contract? Is it legal, or ethical, for a company to simply refuse to take coupons? How does one complain if the franchise owner just refuses to comply with the franchises’ orders? Finally, how do businesses perceive coupons? Are they a boon or a bolster?

Comments

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  1. DeeJayQueue says:

    Unfortunately, I think you’re pretty much SOL with your coupons. Some franchise owners just see them as ‘giving something away’ and especially when they just buy a chain or a store they have to make every penny count. In the short term that might work, but as you’ve said, you won’t be going there anymore, so in the long run it might lose some customers.
    I’m pretty sure that as long as it’s a franchise business and not a corporate run entity that it’s up to the owner to choose to take them or not, there isn’t much corporate can do. I’d read the fine print on the coupon to make sure. This is also a great illustration of that famous subliminal “prices and participation may vary” at the end of the fast food commercials. This gets them out of taking coupons or honoring sales or specials if they feel the need to annoy people.

    My advice would be to maybe try to find a different location of that restaurant to use your coupons, or maybe try to appeal to corporate for the coupon price.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’ve had similar experiences in local Quizno’s with some of the new BOGO and $2 off coupons they’ve been running lately. It seems these are pushed down on the franchisees from corporate, but they can indeed refuse to accept them. That’s why most include fine-print to the tune of “valid in participating stores only”.

  3. limiter says:

    Go to a different one. There have to be more in a big city like yours. East Lansing has three that I know of. If we have three Indianapolis must have at least one more.

  4. RowdyRoddyPiper says:

    I would write to the publishers of the coupon book as well. They should at least know that Jimmy John’s will refuse to honor coupons or that the franchisor (who presumably negotiated with them) will not hold the franchisees responsible to this agreement. The fact that the franchise has traded hands does not absolve the new owner of the existing responsibilities.

    Entertainment Publications, one of the largest marketers of these books, says on their website:

    http://www.entertainment.com/helpme/dsp/dsp_programrules.c

    “ENTERTAINMENT PUBLICATIONS, and/or its parent or subsidiaries, will not be responsible if any establishment breaches its contract or refuses to accept cards/coupons; however, we will attempt to secure compliance. “

    So they won’t give you any money, but they may browbeat the Jimmy…I’m sure that the publisher of your book has a similar stance. You may end up with free sandwiches for life out of this.

  5. Carlos Rodriguez says:

    The best thing for him to have done is not to have bought a sandwich there. Make it clear that he had discovered them because of the coupon, and on principle he was leaving without buying a sandwich, THEN write / call the corporate office. But I bet the sandwich was good. I miss Jimmy John’s.

  6. Michael A. B. says:

    Actually, with franchises, it is pretty much like getting Arby’s to honor a Wendy’s coupon. The coupon publishers normally only have an agreement with the original owner, which is often a negotiated agreement. Maybe the old owner’s kid LOVED pandas. Maybe the new owner was hit with monkey poo as a child. Whatever the reason, he is only liable for the debts he assumed when he purchased the chain. As coupons are non-negotiable, I believe (could be wrong here of course) that they do not constitute a debt in the legal sense of the word.

    I honestly would not be angry with that particular instance, especially if they had a sign out about it or something.

  7. Smoking Pope says:

    I used to live about 1 mile from Jimmy John Liataud when we were growing up, and from what I know of him if he heard about this, he’d go down to that store and kick the guy’s ass for being an idiot.

    Seriously, even if the coupon was the previous owner’s responsibility, you think that maybe you could honor it to get some good will/repeat business? How hard would this be? “You know, this franchise was recently sold and that coupon isn’t really valid, but I’ll honor it anyway because I appreciate your business.”

  8. Omaha says:

    You lost me at “vegetarian”. Try mixing in some brain food every now and then. You don’t go to JJ for a salad. I just finished off a Gargantuan. Yummy!