Subway Won't Take My Credit Card, But I Want My Sandwich

What do you do when Subway has prepared your delicious sandwich, and then the only credit card you’re carrying with you doesn’t work in the machine? Do you leave the poor, innocent sandwich behind? Do you leave your poor, innocent credit card number behind? Or do you take this as a cautionary tale about always carrying emergency cash?

Reader Eric writes that this happened to him, and he now wonders whether this was wise, or he was the victim of an incredibly unsophisticated phishing scheme.

Today I went to Subway for lunch; I eat at this particular location a
few times each month and I always use my American Express card. Today
my Amex was the only form of payment I was carrying (no other cards,
no cash.) When I handed it to the cashier, she immediately asked if I
had a different card — even before swiping it. I said ‘no’, and she
swiped it. Apparently after two attempts in their credit card
machine, the cashier could not get the transaction to go through. I
use this card almost daily, and I’m nowhere near my credit limit.

The cashier was flummoxed that I had no other form of payment
available, and she had no recommendation for how to proceed. I
explained to her that their non-functional credit card machine wasn’t
my fault. Subway’s solution was to give me a piece of paper on which
to write down my credit card number, expiration date, 4-digit security
code and signature. This didn’t seem completely unreasonable, but I’m
now watching my credit card closely online to make sure that nothing
suspicious shows up.

Should I have just given the sandwich back to her and walked away?

First, Eric should take this as a life lesson to always carry a backup payment method. I only have one debit card, so I make sure that I’m always carrying enough cash to buy a few gallons of gas and/or my lunch in an emergency.

Back in the present, the best option would have been to ask the store to hold the sandwich for five or ten minutes, and check the neighborhood for an ATM. I would rather eat the fees than have all of that information floating around on a piece of paper that’s out of my control. It’s probably destined for the trash, not a cross-cut shredder, and could end up in anyone’s hands from there.

That’s what I’ve done in a similar situation. What would you do?