How Much are Three Slices of an Olive Worth?

Objects in this photo may appear larger then they actually are.

Objects in photo are larger than they appear.

Years ago I began a weekly post titled, “Winner or Wiener.”  It was written to encourage companies that practiced excellent customer service and to encourage change in businesses that practiced poor service.  I stopped writing the post because I was too tempted to make it a rant against poor service I had  experienced.

Today I gave into that temptation.  I couldn’t help it.  This experience was too hilarious not to pass along.  I know you will think I made this up, but it actually happened.  I have witnesses who had to restrain me.  At the end of the post you can answer the question, what are three slices of an olive worth.

The old axiom,  “The Customer is Always Right “  is wrong –  at least when it comes to olives and sandwiches. I visited a sandwich place recently. I won’t tell you the name of the place, because it will make you think badly about underground trains.  I placed an order for a six inch, toasted Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich on a Honey Oat bun with lettuce, tomatoes and olives. I had no idea that in only a few seconds it would be I who would be toasted.

When my sandwich was ready the young woman behind the counter asked,

“What would you like on your sandwich?”

“Lettuce,” I said and then watched incredulously as she sprinkled a “fairy dusting” of lettuce on my sandwich.

I smiled, “No seriously, I want more than just the essence of lettuce, I would like to have a small mound of lettuce on my sandwich.  You know, like in the pictures.”  I pointed to the pictures of overstuffed sandwiches on the wall.

She fixed me with an icy stare as she sprinkled another dusting of  lettuce on the bread.

“Anything else?” she snapped.

“Yes. Olives please.”

My mouth dropped open as I watched her deposit three tiny slices of Olive on top of the scattered lettuce.

Three slices of an olive!!!

I didn’t even need to count. The number just registered automatically.  You shouldn’t be able to glance at a sandwich and know exactly how many olive slices are on it. A serving of olive slices should be innumerable. There should be enough so some of the slices are hidden underneath.  I shouldn’t know the precise total, unless I’m Rainman.

“Anything else?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said still smiling. “Please put some olives on there!”

This is the gospel truth…..  She carefully reached into the bin with her plastic gloved hand and added one more olive slice. Bringing the total number of olive slices to four.

“Anything else?”

My smile disappeared, I was more intense now.  “Olives! More Olives! And oh yes, Olives would be nice.”

“I did already,” she scolded. “We’re only supposed to give you three olive slices.”

I suppose I should have gotten the point.  We gotta conserve for sandwiches of future generations. It’s not like olives grow on trees. While I was trying to figure my next move, she pointed at a hidden sticky note on her side of the counter.

“The sign says only three slices per customer.” As if that scrap of paper was the final authority. A sacred parchment revealing the timeless, irrefutable truth of sandwich construction.

“And after the third olive slice, you shall proclaim ‘It is finished!’” 

No wonder that guy Jared lost so much weight eating at this place.  A slice of bread, a fleck of lettuce and three olive slices.  My guess is he had to sneak out to McDonald’s just to survive.

The note thing sent me over the edge.  I made a proclamation!  “If there actually is a paper back there that says the customer is only allowed three olive slices, I promise I will never set foot in this establishment again.”  Before I could vault the counter to see if the sign actually existed another employee came out to explain that three olive slices was only the recommended dose.  If the customer asked for more they could have more, evidently in increments of one slice at a time.

I didn’t want to create a scene so I just relaxed….. as my travel companions dragged me kicking and screaming from the unnamed establishment.

Here are some facts to consider.

This was not a unique experience, it was just the most uniquely bizarre experience.  I have been treated like an inconvenience to the people who operate this chain for a long time and have considered taking my business elsewhere for  years.  My friend, the one who encouraged me to leave, (read: dragged me out) told me his wife had once been told not to come back because she had the audacity to request visible amounts of food on her sandwich.

I am not one to jump on a boycott bandwagon.  I don’t care if some of the ingredients in this establishment’s  sandwiches are used to make yoga mats.  At least you can see a yoga mat.

In all fairness, in a few of these franchises I have seen some amazing exceptions to the rule.  In the mountains of Colorado and in Brentwood, Tennessee you will find cheerful people with smiling faces dispensing reasonable servings of food.  In those establishments the employees actually look up and avoid yawning as they say, Welcome to “the underground railway.”

HOWEVER good friendly service should be the NORM, not the EXCEPTION.

By contrast, I pulled into a fast food establishment not long ago only to discover a young man standing beside my car with an umbrella.  It seemed a little strange.  “Can I help you?”  I said as I opened my car door to a steady rain.  “No,” the young man responded, “it is my pleasure to help you.”  On that day, the restaurant had assigned several people to help customers get into the building without getting wet.  The name of the restaurant will go unnamed but it rhymes with chik filet.  These people are the flagship for over the top, extra mile service. 

It’s my pleasure to help you!

Is there anything else I can do for you?

Enjoy your olives!

Let’s do a little math.  I travel 150 days a year.  I like the sandwiches at the unnamed restaurant and like the convenience of their locations. If  I eat at “unspoken underground railway,” two thirds of the time I am on the road, I will spend approximately 800 to 1000 dollars a year. So will the people who travel with me.  That adds up to more than 3000 dollars a year. 

After the accumulative affect of consistent poor service, all of us are considering avoiding the hassle of surly faces and having to beg for food, even if the begging location is convenient. If we decide to go elsewhere, I am sure our 3000 dollars will not be missed, but the company will save on olives.  But back to the original question.

How much are a few slices of olive worth?
What experience have you had with good service?
Have you ever had a funny, bad service experience?



  1. During a recent trip on I-75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville I stopped at a fast food restaurant started by someone named “Dave” and ordered a burger with lettuce, tomato and onion. The lettuce and tomato could have been hidden under a silver dollar. The onion could easily fit into my dental floss container. This had to be the local management. Other restaurants from this chain have produced good service as a whole.

    1. Reminds me of a chain that recently advertised a burger with french fries sticking out from all edges of the burger. My husband ordered one and thought they had forgotten the French fries! But upon closer examination (very close) he removed the top of the bun and noticed three 2 inch long french fries on top of the burger. Needless to say, we will not be ordering that one again.

  2. I like Subway’s food, too. But I have had the same 3-olive quota fight with them, several times. So, now I like Pita Pit where the pita makers jam your pita full of fresh assorted veggies, including olives, and they smile while jamming.

  3. I remember several years ago I was out Christmas Shopping with the wife. (I hate shopping, and I hate the whole consumer rush of Christmas). This was back when people still went to malls and we were at a major retailer (I don’t remember which one). At check out I gave the cashier my credit card. She swiped the card but it failed to read. She swiped it again and again and again and again. I asked her to put the number in manually but she said she did not know how to do it so she continued to swipe the card. Soon there was a line of customers behind us. All I could hear was my wife telling me to calm down. The manager finally arrived and she proceeded to swipe my card ten more times before manually putting in the numbers. Let’s just say the wife prefers to leave me at home when she goes out shopping.

    1. I love your screen name. It made me laugh. I would forward, but I am not sure they care. Thank you for your comment.

  4. Ken I have had the same type of experience at that chain . . . I only get lettuce and onions on my 6-inch cold cut sub on whole wheat bread but I have to beg them over and over to put enough on for me to see it with the naked eye. On the other hand, I get excellent service at the place that helped you out of the car with the umbrella. Without exception they meet my quirky requests with a smile and a thank you.

  5. Jared gave you away but anyhow I had a “bad” time one day at this restaurant. It was about 1:30 p.m. The first thing I heard when I entered were two people in the back arguing in Spanish. I waited and waited for someone to finally come out and when they did, no apology for the delay plus I asked them why were all of the vegetables uncovered. She said because they had been busy with the lunch hour which to me is more around 12:00 noon. I told her that I would never come to that particular place again. Since they claim that a certain ingredient in their bread is bad (some day they plan to delete that ingredient) I think it is just as well that I don’t go to any of them.

  6. In the area where i live we all know that there is one of those sandwich restaurants that is way better than any others in the area. When you go to that place you have enough toppings on your sandwich that fall off on to the papers that you can save for a second meal later! So it sounds like we really do have the best place in the country!

  7. Hilarious, Ken. Thanks for the view from our side of the counter. Here in little ole BV, you know they treat us well . . . most of the time . . . though they do look at me funny when I want both lettuce AND spinach. Hope you guys will be out this summer! Give a holler. 😀

    1. We got treated so bad there we never returned. Perhaps management has change. May have to give em a another try.

  8. I was in Walmart last month looking for a specific item in the housewares department when an employee from the auto department was walking by, (I think he was on break), and he stopped to ask me if he could help me. He spent 5 minutes looking until he finally found it – I would have given up before then! I sent a kudos for him to his manager.

  9. I believe the customer service almost everywhere (with the possible exception of Chick-Fil-A) is based on the individual employee. The underground railroad locations are franchised. You cannot even compare two separate stores. Ridiculous!

  10. Funny … I usually have to ask that they not put so much lettuce on the sandwich so that I can enjoy the rest of the veggies! Maybe I’ve been lucky?

  11. We were invited to an upscale Mexican restaurant. Our colleagues said that the place was told about my not so unique seating requirements. When we arrived we found out that the reserved table required me to drive up a step. the sad part was that the people who invited us out nor the staff, multiple people, couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be shoehorned into the area that they set up for us. Another time we went to a down under themed restaurant. after being told of the 20 minute wait we decided that for a Friday evening that wouldn’t be too bad. At the 1 hour mark the staff advised that we still had to wait. We brought up the fact that others that had came in after us were already seated. That is when we, along with 4 other couples, noticed that the hostess refused to seat anybody with a disability. After writing a not so nice email to the home office the manager did send us a gift certificate and then blamed us for the problem, because although healthy people could come in without a reservation, handicapped patrons are required to give them at least a 1 hour notice in order to be served. Needless to say we have never been back to either of these places and neither have any of our disabled friends. We have also decided that since those colleagues couldn’t understand the problem with the step that we would have to decline all further dinner invitations.

      1. Be careful what you say Cindy wants an elk for the freezer this year.

  12. I’ve never posted a response to anything on the web before, but I had to join Disqus so I could tell my Subway experience, it effected me so. I used to pick up Subway every Friday night on the way home for my wife and I, spending $15 every time for the same order (we are creatures of habit). So approx $750 a year – we were very loyal, and addicted to our pattern. My event happened on Sept 5th, 2010. I had my wife and kids (1 and 3 at the time) in the van on the way to the park for a play day. I stopped by Subway to pick up some food, paying $19.00 total. I was in a very happy mood going in. When they were toasting my sandwich, the chicken breast fell out onto the toaster element, burning, and the cheese completely fell off, but I just went with it because I knew they were busy, telling them no worries with a smile. She did not voluntarily put a new slice of cheese on, but whatever, I was in a good mood. Paid for my order, got a cup of water for the kids to drink in the car. I asked for a lid for the cup. They said no. I was surprised – it’s just a lid for a cup. They said they are counted and would not give me one. I asked how my 3 year old was going to take it in the car without spilling, and I had just spent $19 – they didn’t care. Indignant in fact. I was surprised. I was a very loyal Subway customer. The most loyal! They dug their heels in and would not budge, even when I pleaded. Shaken, I asked for the corporate HQ phone number, which took them a few moments to find; I left the cup of water on the counter and walked out. That afternoon I called the HQ and left a message about what had happened to me, and where. The next day I received a message to contact the regional manager, which I promptly did. He seemed bothered by my call and emphasized that indeed employees were not allowed to give cup lids for water drinks. I was astounded – MackyD’s and Del Taco don’t even blink to help out weary parents, not to mention Chick-Filet and In-&-Out’s amazing service. He said I should come back to the same store and they would give us a free meal for our troubles. Okay I thought, that’s nice. I showed up that night to the same store, ordered a meal, and then was told to step out of line while they called the regional manger to verify. I waited, and waited, more than five minutes, family waiting for dinner. They came back and said that I COULD NOT HAVE the meal – only a six inch sub! Wait, wait – even by your own menu definition, a “meal” includes chips and a beverage. Nope – not a chance. Shaking and angry, I immediately called the manager back on my phone and asked what was going on. And do you know what – he yelled, nay, shrieked at me “stop calling me, you’re harassing me, if you call me again I’m telling the authorities!” I was stunned. I was calm and explained again who I was to make sure he understood. He said he knew who I was, told me to not call him again, and then hung up on me! Wow. How could this have gotten so far out of hand – IT’S JUST A LID! The next day I called back Subway HQ and told them about the incident; I never received any response of any kind. So, as Ken says above – I’ve never been one to play the boycott game, but Subway was my first. I’ve never been back, Ever. To any location. The kids beg – I will not go. Eat a burrito instead! They will never see one more dime of my money, and all because of a lid. A lid that was worth more than my business and treating me with respect.

    1. Wow! And I thought I had a story. BTW thank you for reading my blog and for your comment. My only hope is that the company sees some of this and makes some changes. I wonder if they care. Thanks again Patrick. If you ever need a lid, call, me! WE will send you one.

  13. Ken I used to work for a food service company and I was the sales rep for the “underground railway” sub shops, to this day the mere waft of the scent of that place makes me wish I had brought along an air sick bag from my last flight. If customers knew the horrible quality of their food, and the conditions of most of their restaurants they simply would never eat there again. I have 3 male family members who have all had food poisoning from their food, even after I warned them to never eat there. These sub shops have the cheapest franchisee fee known to man so anyone can own a location and they are simply not regulated well AT ALL…I can tell you the reason I no longer have that job is because I could no longer handle the horrible verbal harassment that I received from the franchisees. Let the boycott continue!

  14. I am an Aussie and I have never experienced customer service like I experienced at the restaurant that rhymes with chik filet when I visited Atlanta Georgia last year. The attitude they instill in the young people who work for them is incredible (i even had dinner with friends, and a young lady who was a senior in high school came along as well, she worked for them and she couldn’t help but have impeccable manners even on her own time).

    I ate there often, just for the service I would receive. I wish we had that establishment, and it’s work ethic here in Australia

  15. I had a friend that ordered a banana split and when we sat down to eat our tasty dessert to their surprise there was not banana. The ice cream shop is now out of business.

  16. While I’ve not had this particular experience at an “underground railway” restaurant, the employees at the local one tend to be sloppy in their sandwich making rather than negligent.

    To answer the question, though, I’m pretty sure three slices of olive is worth less than a penny.

  17. A few rambling comments. When I was a teen (more than a few years ago) a locally owned burger joint had a slogan on their sign-board “Lift the pickle to see the burger”. Good for a laugh but we never ate there. On a more current note: I give a big vote for Chipotle. I have never entered any of these restaurants without being greeted by multiple employees who then cheerfully and generously fill my order. The ingredients are fresh and tasty…but what is with those strange and uncomfortable chairs? I refuse to eat at Subway because the smell of the bread literally nauseates me. Your post gave me a chuckle and indigestion at the same time.

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