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?