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An Ode to the Footlong

Subway, the struggling fast-casual sandwich chain that’s always going to smell like that, shocked the restaurant world this week by announcing a wind-down of their most successful promotion ever: the $5 footlong. After complaints from cash-strapped franchisees upon the deal’s revival last winter, the company has decided to let each one decide whether their location will continue offering 12 inches for five Washingtons. For the most part, though, the bargain will disappear — with only a jingle to remember it by.

A deeply annoying jingle.

The $5 footlong — cheap, large and theoretically not unhealthy — became “the sandwich of the recession” and triggered an aggressive Subway expansion that left the country oversaturated with green-and-yellow storefronts. Except… when did you ever get a $5 footlong? As everyone was quick to point out when this news dropped, the entire premise was kind of suspect from the beginning. It felt more like a trap than an enticement. Because when you actually showed up at Subway, you always paid more.

Now, I’m not really sure how they pulled this one over on us. Maybe whenever we got into a Subway, we were too rushed and hungry to think about the scam, preoccupied with remembering which ingredients we wanted on our Italian BMTs, or wondering if anyone actually likes the honey oat bread. Maybe they counted on people forgetting they’d been swindled as soon as they got a hit of that sweet onion teriyaki sauce.

At any rate, people did notice — the deal was all but extinct years ago. “WTF happened to the $5 footlongs @Subway?” a redditor fumed back in 2015. A franchisee piped up in the thread to explain that a healthier economy, more competition and an excess of shops meant that “as far as corporate is concerned, $5 footlongs are gone forever.” The brand had blown up so fast on the strength of this marketing masterstroke, they said, that the company cut corners to keep it viable — by using lower-quality meats, for example. Success was Subway’s ruin.

And so, like the promise of equal opportunity and freedom for all Americans, the $5 footlong turned out to be a beautiful myth, something that gave people a sense of hope only to dash it against a sneeze guard.

Also, the sandwiches weren’t really a foot long.

Does this mean you’ll stop going to Subway? Don’t make me laugh. You’re not better than Subway, bitch — and you never will be. Still, the official death of an advertising play that never quite squared with lunchtime reality means that one of the greatest lies ever sold can haunt our consciousness no more. No longer will we feel like idiots for somehow spending twice as much on cold cuts and banana peppers as we were told they would cost. Let a new era of transparency begin today. Just tell us that the footlong Big Philly Cheesesteak is $8.95 before tax. We can handle it. We’re used to getting screwed over these days. It’s not as catchy, sure, but it’s the honest, ugly truth.

And could you please stock any chips besides baked Lay’s?

Goddamn.