What the Fork? Arby’s Freebie Fail

Susan says…

Our fellow foodaholics over at Grub Grade do an excellent job of reporting food deals.  They always know where to get cheap food, free food, limited time only offers and coupons.  All summer long, they have been posting the weekly Arby’s Freebies – each Wednesday, Arby’s offers a menu item for free, usually with the purchase of a soft drink.


This past Wednesday, the Arby’s Freebie was the Roast Chicken Club Sandwich.  Buy a drink, get the Sammie free. 

Using our sharp logic, we figured there would be a crowd.  After all, that’s a great deal!  We left for lunch a little early that day and had a VW full of hungry people.  No signs were visible advertising the special, but maybe they didn’t want to give away too many sandwiches.  Maybe it was semi-exclusive: you get the deal if you’re “in the know”, which thanks to Grub Grade, we were.

And then it happened: complete Freebie fail.  Misty was the first of our group at the counter.  (She elbows her way to the front of the line because she is sooooo hungry.)  She is told by the gal behind the cash register that they aren’t doing the Arby’s Freebies.  In an effort to jog their memory, I whipped out of my purse the printed copy with the complete Arby’s Freebies schedule: four full months of summer specials.  Cash Register then announces to Shift Manager that “they have a piece of paper”.  Shift manager takes a cursory glance at my evidence and replies, “We aren’t doing that. We are a franchise.”


I contend that if the restaurant sports the famous red hat Arby’s logo and serves up Arby’s food, then said restaurant, whether franchised or corporately-owned, should honor Arby’s advertised specials. 

Sure the fine print at the bottom of the ad says “participating locations only” but you have to call ahead or find out when you order whether they participate or not.  That’s not good customer service.  I feel participation should be manadatory also because the franchised location is benefitting from the corporate advertising.

Here’s what happens: Customer sees Arby’s ad for great deal.  Customer makes a trip to local Arby’s. Since there is no sign indicating ownership status of local Arby’s, customer believes great deal is available. Upon entering on limited time lunch hour, customer is told “no deal here”. Due to limited time situation, customer buys food anyway.  In fact, spends more money than planned because restaurant does not honor advertised deal.  Customer has diaper rash.  Arby’s reputation is tarnished.

Arby’s (and other chains like them) should require ALL locations honor their advertised specials.  Who’s with me?


11 responses to “What the Fork? Arby’s Freebie Fail

  1. It says right there on the image you posted (in not so tiny print) that it’s only valid in Texas, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and California.

  2. Skim reading…Got us again. Unfortunately, this happens to me ALL the time. One would just assume that a national chain would only advertise specials that are nationally recognized. Well, as the saying goes…you know what happens when you assume!

  3. I may be mistaken on this, but my understanding it that it is actually illegal for parent corporations to require participation in promotions and/or to dictate prices to franchise owners. Or at least that if a corporation tried to include pricing and promotions participation requirements in a franchise agreement that it wouldn’t hold up legally. This may not be statutory, but rather a precedent establish by the huge number of cases where franchisees sue franchisors and vice versa.

    In a past career working in fast food, I know that when we received information on upcoming promos from corporate it would say the suggested/corporate prices for various markets, but invariably add “as always, franchisees may price as they wish”. I worked for one of those franchisees that always priced way above corporate prices.

    I recall reading an article a couple of years ago about massive resistance to McDonald’s dollar menu from local owners when it was first introduced, and how McD corporate had to basically bribe franchisees to participate with things like credits towards fees and or grants/loans for upgrading stores and equipment.

    Also, many people don’t know, but in most fast food concepts, an overwhelming majority of sites are franchises rather than corporate owned. The parent company makes more money with far less operational hassles by selling franchises than they do selling food, and generally locally/regionally owned restaurants do a better job of managing and running a few dozen or fewer sites than a huge company would running thousands.

  4. Wow, that was long winded. Sorry about that.

  5. I should have given the link and graphic from Grub Grade, which is where we heard about the Freebies. Click here http://www.grubgrade.com/2009/05/12/food-news-arbys-wednesday-freebies/.

    The thing about the internet is: it transcends state lines. It has made the world a whole lot smaller. We read about the Arby’s deal online and naturally think we can get the deal at our local spot.

    Raging Red is right – I did not read everything on the picture I posted, but that’s not where we got the idea to go to Arby’s. As you can see, the graphic on Grub Grade included no such parameters.

    Still though, I agree with Misty. Arby’s is a national chain so you figure the promotion is nationwide. I understand that the price of a roast beef will be different in NYC than in Podunk, WV. This is a different situation.

    And thanks to specialed5000 for all the information.

    • Face it Susan…you forked up! Lead us to Kanawha City with promises of overpriced soft drinks and free sandwiches then didn’t deliver. I enjoyed my lunch with friends no matter the price.

  6. But really, it’s Arby’s. So how disappointed could you be?

  7. Good one…I did indeed Fork Up. But can’t I blame part of it on Ryan and crew?

    Raging Red- my disappointment was that I had to PAY for Arby’s food. I tried to get the chicken fajita melt but it’s no longer offered. I even said out loud “I am having a bad Arby’s experience today”. Cash Register didn’t know how to respond to that. So I got curly fries to make me feel better.

  8. Curly fries do fix everything. 🙂

  9. Eewwww, Arby’s.
    They have been making Carl Buddig’s paper thin sliced meats famous for how long now?

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