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Sandwich deal goes stale after coupon confusion

(ran East, South editions)

When a pair of well-dressed women approached John Prokop on Oct. 19 with a deal to buy coupons for Quiznos sandwiches, the Jungle Terrace resident couldn't resist.

"They sounded very convincing," Prokop said. The submarine sandwich store at 3790 Tyrone Blvd. was a favorite lunch spot, so he didn't mind shelling out $21.99 for a sheet of 45 coupons the sales people told him were worth at least $200.

What began as a great deal snowballed on the neighborhood grapevine as a scam, and is ending as a misunderstanding. A Tampa promotions company listed several Quiznos stores in the Tampa Bay area, from Brandon to St. Petersburg, as participating in the deal. But only some were. The company is now offering refunds.

Some of the coupons, with the Quiznos label on the front and a list of participating stores on the back, offered free small subs, a value of $4.29 to $4.99. Others allowed a variety of buy-one-get-one-free options, and a large sub free on your birthday.

Two women and a man had canvassed Prokop's neighborhood on 30th Avenue N that Sunday afternoon, Prokop said. From Oct. 16-19, the store accepted the coupons, said manager Justin Wilber.

But on Monday, a day later, when the franchise owner came in, that stopped. The owner knew nothing of the coupons. The store had lost more than $400 by honoring them.

Prokop showed up Monday with an office buddy, planning to buy two sandwiches for the price of one. "I said, "Looks like I got ripped here.' "

Prokop posted a warning on Jungle Terrace's electronic message board, advising neighbors that the coupon sales were a scam.

Ben Lensink, a customer service representative for Quiznos Classic Subs at the company's headquarters in Denver, said he has fielded complaints from coupon buyers since Oct. 20 but disavowed any knowledge of the promotion. Any arrangement with stores would have to be made individually and not at a corporate level anyway, Lensink said. All Quiznos stores are run by franchisees.

Vic Sandre, who directed the promotion for Granton Marketing, said confusion had resulted from failure to understand the nature of Quiznos franchise arrangements, meaning one store cannot sign an agreement for another. The company has stopped the coupons for now, removed the names of stores incorrectly listed, and given refunds to at least 20 customers.

Refunds are available by calling Granton Marketing toll-free at 1-800-775-1975.

"It does send up a red flag for us," said Camila Kucharczuka, Granton's chief operating officer. Future promotions will require each owner of a franchise to sign agreements individually, she said.

"For the people who bought the coupons, I kind of feel sorry for them," said Wilber, 30, of the Tyrone Boulevard store, which was offering $1 off any sandwich, with a coupon, as a consolation prize.

The Quiznos at 6804 22nd Ave. N did not participate in the promotion but is honoring the coupons in full until Nov. 20.

"We like our customers and we want them to keep coming here," said manager Marlin Otalvaro. "If we said we are not going to serve you because you have the wrong kind of coupon, that would not be fair."

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Arrests appear to have calmed a rash of burglaries in Old Southeast and Tropical Shores. Many of the incidents reported to police involved items left outside, but some entailed break-ins, Old Southeast president Karl Nurse said. The crimes lasted about a month.

"The neighborhood is usually quiet," Nurse said. But occasional burglaries disrupt the peace, he said.

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Historic Kenwood, home to one of the largest concentrations of Craftsman-style bungalows in Florida, stages its showcase event from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Bungalow Fest 2003 is a tour of 15 homes and gardens between Interstate 275 and 34th Street, and Central and Ninth Avenue N. The tours will run continuously out of Seminole Park, Third Avenue and 29th Street N.