ordering a vegan subway
March 26, 2007 3:22 PM   Subscribe

1)Ordering a vegan subway. Due to religious reasons, when i eat at Subway restaurants, (in U.S.A) i prefer that while the subway is made, they use separate handcover while preparing my vegan order and not to intermix my order with other non-vegan orders. Is this something common/reasonable. Because whenever i say, the person who takes the order seems to get upset. 2)Any one liner message so that i can make them understand my preference. Sometimes they get confused. when i say please use separate handcover for my order.
posted by tom123 to Food & Drink (80 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be Subway?
posted by divabat at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2007

Have you tried asking them to 'change their gloves'? Because that sounds about 98 billion times less pretentious than 'use separate handcover'. They might still get cranky, but at least they'll know what you're talking about.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:32 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

They probably just think it's pointless since they don't take that care when they're doing the prep that you don't see before you get there.

Also, I would think "gloves" would be the term they know.
posted by smackfu at 3:32 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you order your sandwich when only one person is working, they will make one sandwich, take off their gloves to use the cash register, then put on a fresh pair of gloves to make the next sandwich. If they don't put on a fresh pair, I'm pretty sure they're violating store policy.

In other words, if you don't want to be an inconvenience to them, time your visit so that only one person is working (before 11:30 pm, in my experience).
posted by muddgirl at 3:36 PM on March 26, 2007

tom123 posted "Is this something common/reasonable."


posted by mr_roboto at 3:36 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I meant 11:30 am, of course.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on March 26, 2007

I worked at Subway when I was in college. We had 90 seconds to make and ring up a foot long sandwich and 45 seconds to make a 6". I imagine there's a little flexibility now, because of the toasting process. However, that was just 90 seconds to take an order, grab a bun, split it, take the fixings request, add fixings, wrap the sandwich, take drink order & etc, hand it to customer or bag it, ring up cash register, accept payment, return change/receipt. So, if you ask for gloves, you're probably sucking up 15 seconds. This might cost someone dearly, if they have the franchise owners I did.

Are you being unreasonable? Probably not. But do you also need a separate knife? Are you okay with the bread touching the board in front of the condiment/fixings tray? Will you be watching every move? Will you freak out if they touch the mustard container, which has previously been touched by omnivore gloves. This is probably what's going through the sandwich maker's head.

I remember regularly going through this painstaking process, only to have the customer request lots of mayo. Lots and lots of mayo. It boggled my mind. Other vegans got to the till and then said, "Hang on. Can you check to see if there are eggs in that bread?" And then I had to check the ingredients and throw away the order, for which I would be chastised by my boss. (I do not mean to suggest that you would be like this. But this may be what's going through the employee's head, especially in a nasty work environment.)

I can't speak for all Subway employees. But you might be able to try something like, "Hi. I have special dietary requirements. Before you make my order, could you please put on new gloves?" Outline any other special procedures. A plus to this is that they won't know whether it's that you're vegan, allergic, kosher or whatever. I find restaurant employees are much more sympathetic to religion, allergies and pregnancies than something they see as a personal choice. Not that some of those things aren't personal choice, but people seem to treat them differently, for reasons beyond me.
posted by acoutu at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2007 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry, I'm not meaning this to sound snarky, but isn't bread that's used at Subway pretty non-vegan?
posted by FlamingBore at 3:47 PM on March 26, 2007

Is this something common/reasonable.

Probably not. But if you need to ask you need to ask.

Also: Back when I was vegan I had several friends who worked at subway (and other fast food places) and they guaranteed me that nothing there was Really Vegan. So that might be something to consider, when going out of your way to assure your veganess.
posted by French Fry at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2007

I personally think you're being a bit of an unflexible dick. And not the good kind. Make life a bit easier on some poor teen working at subway, and either let them use the same glove or just don't eat there.

Why waste a glove? They have to throw away two gloves just to cater to your believes.

So my opinion is : No, this is not reasonable.
posted by markovich at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

I worked at Subway back in high school and I sure wouldn't have cared - I'd rate you well above the people who keep asking for more black olives. "I'm vegan, could you please use a different pair of gloves?" isn't bad at all. Subway isn't exactly known for their customer service, though.
posted by soma lkzx at 3:53 PM on March 26, 2007

In answer to your first question, this is not a "common/reasonable" thing to request. Not only is it difficult or stressful to the person making the sandwich, as acoutu mentioned, it's also very inconsiderate to the people behind you, who want to get their food fast, not wait for some extremely complicated transaction to take place. If you go to a nice restaurant, order all the modifications and special treatment you want. If the person whose making your meal is getting paid $6 bucks an hour to do it, I say cut them a break. At least that is my opinion.

Also, they may get confused because they don't know exactly what you mean by vegan, so if you mention that it could be confusing for them. I am sort of confused by it, because as FlamingBore mentioned, doesn't the bread have some sort of non-vegan product in it? On further reflection, I realize that a lot of bread is made with very simple ingredients, so possibly no. But I doubt that would be immediately clear to a Subway employee in the first 10 seconds of your interaction, further confusing the ordering process.
posted by crackingdes at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2007

To clear up one thing:

"Do your breads contain animal products?

SUBWAY® Italian bread contains no animal-derived ingredients."

(From their own site; disclaimers about certain specialty breads included therein)

Is this something common/reasonable.

No, and no. I've been a vegetarian since birth, and -- well, the answer here is "don't eat out" if you're at that level of worry about cross-contamination. It doesn't make much sense to want just the gloves changed, too -- you may as well ask for new chopping boards, knives, etc, etc, etc.

Which they're obviously not going to do, so...
posted by kmennie at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2007

I hate to say it, but, yeah, this is complete overkill. Food ends up touching. These guys are pushing sandwiches down the line like subway cars, you think a wee bit of roast beef doesn't get flung off and land in the green peppers? A bit of cheese doesn't fall in your spinach? Or that the last guy's sandwich didn't drag a flap of turkey across the very same space that your bread will now traverse? The gloves don't make a whit of difference.

I can understand not wanting to eat meat, for whatever reason, but if you're that sensitive to it, you will never want to eat out, again. Or you'll want to end up in Howard Hughes territory. And, yeah, the guys working the line will end up hating you pretty quickly.
posted by adipocere at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Nb: I was working at a Subway outside the US about 15 years ago. Just wanted to note that before people pile on to tell me about the current status of animal-derived ingredients.

I don't know if all employees get penalized the way we did. I was allowed to put two black olive slices on each 6" sandwich. If someone asked for more, I could put 2 more slices, then I had to apply a surcharge.

If not all Subways freak out over superfluous olives, perhaps not everyone gets threatened with fewer shifts or a firing for taking 105 seconds to process an order. Thus YMMV.
posted by acoutu at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2007

If your religion requires that you cannot eat the microscopic bits of meat that might be transferred between sandwiches via gloves, you simply cannot eat at a fast food restaurant of this sort. There just isn't any way for them to produce that level of cleanliness in a reasonable amount of time. See above comments about the knives, boards, condiment bins, etc.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:11 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest that if you're expressing yourself to them as clearly and concisely as you are to us... that could well be the core of your problem.

When you have requests like this with very clear, well-defined goals - use a new set of gloves - you should simply and succinctly ask for it. You don't need to get into a dialog or provide backstory, just make your request. "I'll have a PDQZYZ, and could I ask you please to put on a new set of gloves to prepare my order, please?"

If they ask you can say "it's necessary for my religious observation." If they press you simply say "it's got a complicated basis - is it a problem?"

Will someone be a crank about it? Sometimes, probably. Will they think you're weird? Well, I do, so odds are good some of them will too. Will most of them probably just do it because that's quicker than arguing? Probably.

All assuming, of course, this isn't just a troll question.
posted by phearlez at 4:11 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

soma lkzx: Side issue, but what's so bad about people who ask for more black olives?

(Full disclosure: I'm someone who usually asks for more black olives, and now I'm wondering if I've been pissing off tons of Subway employees...)
posted by limeonaire at 4:12 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is this something common/reasonable.

Everyone else says "no," but maybe where you live affects the answer? In Portland it seems pretty common. I live in an area with lots of vegetarians, and when I get a veggie sub they often actually ask me if I would prefer that they change their gloves. I don't usually care, but it suggests that some people do care and that they get lots of requests.

"Gloves," incidentally, is the standard term for "hand cover." Perhaps that would get a better response?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:13 PM on March 26, 2007

Here's a tip. I have a pathological aversion to flake tuna and tuna salad. As in shaking and bazooka barfing if I smell it or even think too hard about it touching me. If I decide to go to Subway I ask the server to change gloves and wash the knife. And I explain it's because I'm mental. I never use pretentious shit like "handcover" or anything else that reeks of employee manuals or legalese. And I get my sandwich apparently tuna-free every time, which is all that really matters. Which leads me to:

Due to religious reasons ...

You really mean a combination of "due to my self-imposed dietary restrictions" and "they can't tell me to fuck off if I say it's religious" right? Because I'm sure that someone who keeps kosher/halal and thinks it matters wouldn't actually eat at a place like Subway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:14 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Note that tom123 says he is doing this for religious reasons. Perhaps the word "vegan" is the best way to get across what the dietary restrictions might be.

tom123, I agree that you should consider the fact that new gloves won't ensure that the food you are eating hasn't come into contact with anything you find problematic. The cutting board, condiment bottles, paper wrappers, knives, etc etc etc have all been in use all day. This is probably why Subway employees don't see the point in changing their gloves specifically for you. I'd relax your standards/expectations to accommodate that fact or don't eat at fast food restaurants that can't guarantee your requirements will be met.
posted by juliplease at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2007

You're going to get looks when you ask for this, because it's not logical. When the haul all the stuff out in the morning, they don't change gloves when they handle the meat ingredients versus the non-meat ones; they don't use different knives to cut a sandwich with bologna in it versus one that's all-veg (at least I don't think); they don't use separate cutting boards.

In short, it's not a place that really discriminates between "stuff that has meat in it" and "stuff that doesn't." It's not a vegan or kosher restaurant (although, maybe in some places there are kosher/halal shops, but not in most of the U.S.).

So basically, you're not really accomplishing anything by asking them to change gloves. It's not really preventing any cross-contamination -- they're still dragging the sandwich down the same cutting-board that they just dragged the other guy's turkey-and-swiss down -- it's just your personal idiosyncrasy.

So you can definitely ask, but be ready for them to either refuse, or more likely, just give you the Look Of Death and talk about how much of an OCD asshole you are, after you go out the door. Should they be more accepting of various people's personal preferences? Sure. But they're not paid enough to give a crap.

If you go to the same Subway, time after time, you might be able to get better service if you tip them heavily (realizing the first time, they're going to still glare at you) for their trouble, but unless you're going to slip them at least a $5 every time, they're probably still going to think that you're more trouble than you're worth.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I see nothing wrong with being a vegan, it's probably healthy, but when it gets to this degree of pickyness, you need to start makeing your own sandwiches.
posted by Chessbum at 4:18 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think that if this is something that's important to you, you're just going to have to stop worrying about whether it's common or reasonable, and just accept that annoying them and witnessing said annoyance is a necessary consequence to getting what you want here.

While I do think that saying something like "I'm so sorry--would you mind using new gloves for my order? I have a really restrictive diet" would probably go over much better than "please use separate handcover," the fact is that it is annoying and always will be. It's up to you to decide whether it's worth it, or whether you'd rather just make your own sandwich. We all annoy each other sometimes, but we all have to draw a line as well. It's your choice where that line falls for you on this issue.
posted by lampoil at 4:26 PM on March 26, 2007

I did read alot of the comments, but as a vegan that managed a subway for awhile years ago, I want to reiterate that the non vegan stuff on those gloves is better than what falls in the lettuce and other toppings, so if you are going to be that particular I would not eat out.

Beyond that, asking is not a big deal, for health reasons they should really be changing those gloves a lot, and with food allergies at an all time high, you are not asking the worst requests.

Then again, its fast food, you aren't paying for nice service, expect to get sneered at.
posted by trishthedish at 4:26 PM on March 26, 2007

I worked at a subway 15 years ago, and can report that myself, and the rest of my co-workers, would have likely been very annoyed by such a request. Furthermore, depending on the requestor's demeanor, we would go as far as to make sure we did the exact opposite, just for a private laugh. Anything to do with religion would only reinforce this behavior.

I'm not saying this was a good thing, or that I think it is right or respectful, but that's what you get when you make special requests of aimless stoner teenagers working at minimum wage. As a matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say you've eaten much worse than meat residue at your local schlubway.

It's why I avoid fast food at all costs.

I'd make a vegan sandwich at home.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2007

Completely reasonable. If they don't like you asking it repeatedly, then they can have their manager say something to you about it. Try to go at an off-peak time.

I have a friend who's allergic to poultry, so he regularly asks for favors like this. Is he a dick because he just wants to eat the same place as everyone else? There are different levels of being an observant vegan, and tom123 has decided that he's willing to risk Subway if the gloves are swapped. If they won't make that concession, he can decide whether it's worth the marginal meat exposure.
posted by mikeh at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2007

I'm guessing it is (who calls a sub a subway?) but he has a point -- I wish we could ban those damn handcovers -- who knows what filth builds up on 'em? Kitchen folk should be washing their hands, often, not wearing gloves while preparing food.
posted by Rash at 4:32 PM on March 26, 2007

mikeh, well your friend's allergies are a physical phenomena and tom's problem is one of a more existential variety. As others have pointed out, changing gloves is quite silly as food contamination is inherent at places like Subway. If your friend is so allergic to poultry that indirect and infinitesimal contamination is a problem, then yes it is unreasonable to eat at a place like Subway.

I do think that changing gloves is an inconvenient degree of neurosis far from societal norms, give the surrounding facts that it is rather unavoidable to avoid contamination, gloves are far from the only point of contact.

If, for whatever reason, the changing of gloves is all you need to keep your moral and religious guidelines in check, by all means ask for it -- it is not such an inconvenience that it cannot be done reasonably. You should, however, tip heavily each and every time you do it. If I make any special request I always make a point to tip at least $5 (as percentage-base tipping falls apart on the low-end of the spectrum). Not doing so is just rude.
posted by geoff. at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Changing gloves? Reasonable. I am frankly a little astounded at the pile-on.

Look: I worked in a buffet when I was in high school. I was a meatcarver. We used the same knife for ham and roast beef. One day a customer kindly asked if I could wipe off the knife before carving him some beef. I presume it was for religious reasons—he looked Iranian, and we were four blocks from the mosque. Sure, I said, not a problem. Considering him obnoxious or too-picky never even crossed my mind. And that was when I was in high school, and didn't have the social grace that God gave an alfalfa sprout. People have a right to choose what they won't eat.

And, as pointed out, they ought to be maintaining normal sanitation anyway, shouldn't they? That means frequent changes of gloves. Because people, religious or not, have a right not to get very much food poisoning with their sandwich.

That said, people don't have a right to presume that whatever they choose not to eat will be absent from a fast-food place, even Subway. You may be confident that place is a mess of meat traces. Sorry. Changing gloves is reasonable, but getting perfect meatlessness at Subway is not. Judge for yourself whether that meets your religious standards.
posted by eritain at 5:23 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Because I'm sure that someone who keeps kosher/halal and thinks it matters wouldn't actually eat at a place like Subway.

Yeah, Subway isn't anywhere near the strictest form of kosher

Also, it's no wonder that your request for "separate handcover" confuses them, because that appears to be a term that exactly nobody (other than you) uses. (As of when this comment was posted, that search turns up no results.)
posted by oaf at 5:37 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not common, not reasonable, but if you ask them to "please change their gloves" and give a $ 5 tip you will be joyfully accomodated next time you go to that store.

Now, if the trouble is that you can't eat anything that has been touched by something that touched meat, you probably should not be eating in any chain fast food restaurant in the US, ever. Buy you own sandwich stuff at the grocery store or find a restaurant that caters to people who follow your dietary path. Most restaurants employees are under terrible pressure to work as fast as possible, and not waste any food. When some cooked meat falls in the bin of cut up veggies, it just gets plucked out later, if it doesn't make it's way into your sandwich in the meantime.
posted by yohko at 5:41 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Side issue, but what's so bad about people who ask for more black olives?

they're relatively expensive. every once in a while a franchise owner will look at his expenses and decide they need to cut back and will set rules like the 2-olive one.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:52 PM on March 26, 2007

Four slices of black olive per footlong, two per 6". Period, no exceptions. At least according to my franchise owner 15+ years ago. The Subway documentation says (well, said) they're there solely for decorative purposes.
posted by kimota at 5:55 PM on March 26, 2007

I make a point of not eating at a chain that gives me food poisoning twice.

1. Subway
2. Little Chef (UK)
posted by unSane at 5:56 PM on March 26, 2007

Your best bet would be to go in during a slow time, make friends with the workers, butter them up with a $5 or something to make it work in the future. (I assume it's worth it to you.)

Every location has it's regulars - they tend to get special treatment.

I work with a few vegan hindus who shrug these sorts of cross-contamination off. It's the intent and practice that's important. You mean to have a vegan sub, you order one, you eat it with the understanding that you did as well as you could under the circumstances. The 'McDonalds Beef Tallow French Fries' fiasco was hardly a blip on their radar.
posted by unixrat at 6:01 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is entirely reasonable to ask them to minimize cross-contamination via changing gloves and using clean knives. I don't understand the pile-on, either. And I'm anti-vegan.

On the other hand, I guarantee that sometime in the last year that you've eaten what you thought was a vegan pastry that was actually made with lard or butter. You can't eliminate all animal products from your diet unless you make all your own food. As such, I would try to live with the minimal cross-contamination, even though your request is reasonable.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:06 PM on March 26, 2007

It is entirely reasonable to ask them to minimize cross-contamination via changing gloves and using clean knives.

What about the cutting board they slide the sandwiches down on? Should that have to be wiped down, too? Since it's mentioned above that they don't, should they have to handle all animal products separately, and with different gloves? Should there be splash guards to keep meat and cheese from falling into the bell peppers?

Asking for a new pair of gloves, even when combined with wiping the knife off, doesn't do very much to stop the meat/non-meat mixing that has occurred before you even enter the store.
posted by oaf at 6:21 PM on March 26, 2007

Say "gloves," not "handcover," and tip them for their trouble. Ask in a friendly way and don't bug them when it's busy. To be perfectly honest, I think you should listen to those reminding you that, even clean knives and new gloves, your vegan sandwich is going to have bits on non-vegany stuff on it.

Your request is not one arduous to carry out, but if non-vegany bits bother you, then don't eat at Subway.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:23 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

First up, unlike many of the other posters, I totally support your position. (Most people just don't think enough about the food they put in their mouth. It's good to see someone who's thinking about it.)

However, I think it's unreasonable to ask for something so specific in a fast food place. They don't have the time, training or interest to cope with your request.

I also think you're kidding yourself if you think cross-contamination from the gloves is your major concern in a place like Subway. Try asking in a forum for people with serious food allergies as to whether or not they would trust any fast food place to prevent cross-contamination. I would be mildy surpised if anyone with a life-threatening food allergy would even walk into a MacDonalds or Subway.
posted by krisjohn at 6:27 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's common but it's also not unreasonable from the perspective of the customer. However, from someone who works there and sees the shit the food goes thru, it's stupid. Sorry. (I worked in fast food when I was a kid.)

I'm a vegetarian (since 1990) and spent today making vegan apple cookies and sundried tomato romesco. I like vegans. But I gotta wonder why on earth you'd be concerned enough about your diet to go vegan and then eat at a fast food joint. That's a little mind-boggling to me--unless you're doing it only for the animals.
posted by dobbs at 6:30 PM on March 26, 2007

I have, on occasion, had to ask them to change the gloves because they were handling everyone's money and then making sandwiches without changing the gloves. That's not sanitary.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:44 PM on March 26, 2007

Seconding Mayor Curley's every word.
posted by ArchBr at 6:50 PM on March 26, 2007

As a life-long vegetarian, unixrat is dead-on. It's mental, and the best way to get accomodated is to be self-deprecating and generous. Otherwise, you'll be that goddamned vegan that makes 'em hate all other vegans for being picky pussies.
By way of anecdotes that may broaden the reference— I do say all of the above as someone who won't allow the half-meat solution often offered when ordering pizza. Makes me sick, meat juice drips, not gonna eat it. I'll insist, though I try not to be a dick about it. Push comes to shove, I'll eat something else.
But I also love ethnic restaurants, especially Mexican and Vietnamese (and Korean, etc.) ones. And that means that while I ask 'em if the beans have lard, or if they add fish sauce to everything, if they say no, I take 'em at their word. I know that means I've probably had lard, and as someone who has worked in restaurants, I know that all sorts of evil gets in there. But I don't let it bother me because, hey, what ya gonna do? Absolutism is only for the OCD. I mean, Christ, think about how many bug bits you've eaten in your life! If you can ignore those in your grains, you can ignore the Subway slop.
Or, as another illustration— it's only the hair in your food that you notice that's gross. The one you eat without any idea doesn't bother you.
posted by klangklangston at 6:57 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I'm an extra-olive guy and I've been to an embarrassingly large number of different Subways. I have never heard of the two-slice rule. That's pretty damn lame.

To the vegan guy, the place is a cesspool of cross-contamination. You might as well bite into a cow. Sorry.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:04 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's not uncommon for people to ask for special preparation, but it's always going to be responded to differently, each time. I don't think there's a magic set of words that will guarantee you a perfect outcome.

You have to overcome a communication barrier, which in your case, may be large judging by your post's grammar and syntax. If English is not your primary language, and if North American culture is not your native culture, there are many idioms and subtleties in phrasing, some of which boil down to things as minor as timing and inflection which can transform even the most wonderful request into something completely different from your intent.

It's worth considering that all food is suspect if you didn't grow it, process it, and prepare it yourself.

Your goal in your religious observance is valid, but modern society does not accomodate it well. ORDERING vegan meals is a statement and a reasonable attempt at observing your religious restrictions. Can you be content with that? If not, I agree with each poster who suggests that avoiding dining out is your safest bet.

The commercial food supply is ALWAYS suspect.
posted by FauxScot at 7:04 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I do (as someone who did my time in food service a real long time ago) have to agree with the majority pointing out that if you think you can avoid cross-contamination with meat and animal byproducts in any restaurant which is not pure vegan, you are deluding yourself.

That does not mean you do not have the right to make this request. You certainly do. But I think it unlikely you will find a way to frame it that will prevent service people being irritated with you. For one thing, no matter what you say I suspect many people will assume that you are basically questioning their hygiene. Moreover, jobs like assembling sandwiches for Subway are basically menial, low paid and unrewarding. The best you can hope for is to get into a repetitive groove and crank the product through. You are throwing a wrench in the works. A certain percentage of people are going to be less respectful of you because of your religious and dietary convictions. This is unfortunate but true. Finally, when you are working a job like that, you frankly often have an inclination to dislike customers. It doesn't take much justification to be irritated with someone. I imagine one controllable factor likely to have an impact would be whether the restaurant is busy or not.
posted by nanojath at 7:17 PM on March 26, 2007

It's not common and it is unreasonable.

It's unreasonable because you're asking not for something that truly makes any difference, but for a salve to your conscience. You know that you can't get a meal that has not been touched by animal products at Subway, but that doesn't matter to you. All that matters is that you control what you see, thereby placing the burden of compliance on some poor food service worker.

I write this as someone who was a vegan for a significant period of time, albeit not for religious reasons. Unless you're making your own, you're likely eating things touched by animal products. Subway guarantees that. (Which is not to say you shouldn't eat there. If you want to, do it, but don't make the server responsible for your lapse.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:27 PM on March 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I read once about the Dalai Lama, I think it was called "On Happiness". Of course the guy is a vegetarian, but he was talking about the cafeteria on his compound where he usually eats when he is at home, in Dharamsala, and how sometimes he would eat meat there. This is purely from memory, but the gist is correct.

He explained that vegetarianism is about happiness, the happiness of the animals that don't get killed, and his own happiness feeling good that he didn't make animals get killed. He then explained that sometimes, when the cooks made a non-veg meal, he also had to balance their happiness - that he didn't want to disappoint them, that they would be unhappy if they saw he didn't like their food, that it would make people unhappy to have to go to special effort for him.

I'd say if that's good enough for the Dalai Lama, it's good enough for you.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2007 [12 favorites]

The correct and reasonable way to do this is to offer a five dollar tip.
posted by LarryC at 7:36 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you should find a restaurant near you that serves vegetarian/vegan food.

A quick search for "vegetarian restaurant" found this link: Happy Cow. It depends on what city you live in, but even here in Pittsburgh there's four restaurants and a co-op grocery store that are strictly vegetarian, with 5 other restaurants and 2 other groceries being "vegetarian friendly."

Support businesses that will respect your dietary concerns, as Subway just won't cut it for your comfort level.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:06 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll just chime in as another vegan who thinks you should probably just not eat at fast food places if you're stressing about cross contamination. It's one of those icky things that we just have to live with.

But similar to Mayor Curly's suggestion, whenever I'm at restaurant that isn't explicitly vegetarian, I use the handy one-line message "I'm really allergic to meat/dairy/eggs, is there any way those can be avoided in this dish". People are usually pretty sympathetic if I put it that way.
posted by cmonkey at 8:39 PM on March 26, 2007

How attached are you to eating at Subway? I work in a smaller sandwich restaurant (albeit still a chain), and we will definitely cater to special dietary concerns. I think everybody above is right that no, you can't expect this from Subway. But if you go to a smaller, less chain-y restaurant, I don't think your concerns are necessarily unreasonable.

If possible, I would find a place that lets you tip (I don't think Subway does?). If you're generous in your tipping the employees will be more than happy to accomodate you -- and soon enough you'll be known as "that vegan guy that asks us to change our handcover" and it'll cease to be an issue. I think the key is to find a place where you can establish a relationship with the employees so they don't see you as a random jerk. Subway isn't designed for that kind of employee-customer relationship, and so you're not going to make much headway.
posted by lilac girl at 8:40 PM on March 26, 2007

If the store allows you to tip, definitely tip. When I worked at Subway, I made some people's sandwiches as soon as I saw them walking down the sidewalk -- all because of the tip.
posted by acoutu at 9:40 PM on March 26, 2007

It is not common, and it is not reasonable in the context of Subway being a fast food chain with a staggering probability of cross-contamination.

The cutting boards, knives, and toasters all have great chances of cross-contaminating your food.

If you insist on doing it, please say "gloves" as noone, especially the teens at Subway, are going to understand what you are saying with "handcovers".
posted by Ynoxas at 10:58 PM on March 26, 2007

"I'm really allergic to meat/dairy/eggs, is there any way those can be avoided in this dish"

I think claiming a fake allergy is a bad idea, especially when food allergies are rising; if people suspect this is happening it's possible they'll end up less sympathetic and decide that allergy really means fussiness.
posted by 6550 at 11:16 PM on March 26, 2007

On Sunday I ate at a Subway for the first time in about a year. My friend ordered a turkey sub first, and then I ordered one with just vegetables and cheese. After making my friend's, the woman working asked me if I wanted her to change her gloves. So it might be more common and less unreasonable than is being suggested.

That said, while I don't eat meat, I try to be realistic about cross-contamination: It's happening whether I see it or not, and I'd be asking someone to change their gloves knowing it would have very little effect on whether any part of my sandwich at some point touched meat.

Depending on the location, it could be a pretty common request; depending on the time of day, it could still be unreasonable. Go when it's slow, be polite, and don't even think of calling them "handcovers." I've had people ask for crazier things when I worked at restaurants, and my reaction was always based more by how the person asked than what it was they asked for.
posted by antigreg at 11:38 PM on March 26, 2007

Sorry for the rant.

There are two types of people:

People who have worked in food service and people who haven't.

The second type of people seem to imagine that food is transported into their mouths via pixie dust and unicorn pubes.

I'm sorry for jumping on the train but this question is completely naive on multiple levels.

If you're not prepared to acknowledge that your food has been dropped, swapped, spat on, mixed up, microwaved and partially nibbled on then you should grow your own vegetables hyproponically in a sealed room.

My GF used to be a veggie, but she would never be an inconvenience about it. In Europe she'd eat fish, in Mexico she'd eat things cooked in lard. Her take was that vegetarianism was her choice and her sacrifice. Veganism is your choice whether its through religion, morality or fashion.

Don't bust some poor kid's balls over some illusion that your food will be less dirty because of the way it's handled in the last 2 minutes of it's predigested existence.

I'm sympathetic to the reasons for becoming a vegetarian/vegan but I dispise the attitude some vegetarians take. My favorite Cuban restaurant no longer serves traditional cuban rice or blackbeans because the vegetarians hassled them so much about having lard in their "vegetarian" items. They now serve bland steamed rice and lentils. They kept a vegetarian clientelle but sacrificed the quality of their product. Small restaurants can't afford to offer 3 versions of the same item to appease everyone.

If you choose to be a vegan, eat at vegan restaurants or pack your own food. If you have to hassle other people, make sure you tip. It's your job to be flexible in this situation, not the other way around.
posted by Telf at 11:56 PM on March 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

In the real world, if you make requests such as this at a place such as subway, regardless of the reasonableness or not of the request according to assorted standards, you are going to have problems, constantly.
posted by londongeezer at 1:36 AM on March 27, 2007

I'm a vegetarian. And OP.. you're just being ridiculous. I'm sorry. I know what that's like and I personally wouldn't mind going the extra mile for you and others like you. But in reality, you need to just get over it or don't go there. I was like that once upon a time. Years ago when I attempted to go vegan. Yeah. I got over it. I often get subs. Not from subway(yuck.) But it's still a non-vegetarian place where I buy from. It crossed my mind that "cross contamination" was happening. But I shrugged it off. Oh well. So long as I'm not actually eating the flesh itself. That's what matters for me. To expect "pure" food in a dominantly omnivorous society is.. insanely unreasonable.
posted by VegaValmont at 1:37 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Who cares what they think of you? They're hardly able to refuse the request, and the extent of your interaction with them will be about 60 seconds. I say this as a vegetarian who couldn't care less about the gloves, but also as someone who often gets to the third time of saying "more olives, please" - I want it covered in olives, damnit.
posted by reklaw at 1:54 AM on March 27, 2007

I'm a former vegan and a fairly picky eater (no corn syrup, etc.). I think you're being unreasonable. More importantly, the Subway workers and the people waiting behind you in line are going to think you're being unreasonable, and sooner or later (I hope sooner), they're going to make your ordering experience a lot more uncomfortable than it is already.

Then again, I'm another one of the people who orders extra black olives. In fact, sometimes I insist on extra extra black olives. I also ask for no lettuce. Since Subway employees are programmed to load a pound and a half of lettuce on each sandwich as a matter of course, this usually sounds like this: "No lettuce...I SAID NO LETTUCE!"

And yet, if you were in front of me in line, and you asked the sandwich-maker to change his gloves, I would hope and pray that he would refuse.
posted by bingo at 2:59 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Common = No
Reasonable = No
Me = Vegan

If you're actually making this request for religious reasons, you should not eat at Subway. If you're simply vegan, you need to accept that cross contamination happens at all levels of food processing and that absolutely nothing you do or eat is free of animal products. Focus on the useful and achievable act of not eating meat and dairy; give up on the pointless and ineffective attention to minutae.
posted by beerbajay at 3:19 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here in Leeds (UK), a good proportion of staff actually ask you 'Shall I change my gloves?' when you ask for a veggie sub, but as other posters point out, contamination happens a lot, it's just that you can actuallly see it happening at Subway whereas many other food establishments it would be happening in the kitchen at the back.
posted by razzman at 3:28 AM on March 27, 2007

Everyone is focusing on the "no gloves" part, but Tom123 also says that he asks them to not "intermix" his order with non-vegan orders. If that means "please don't let my sandwich touch the chicken sandwich next in line," that's cool. But if he means, "please make my sandwich in an inefficient one-person way, rather than quickly and efficiently handing it down the line of workers like with every other sub made during the lunch rush," that's not cool, at least during the busy times of the day. You are slowing things up, and making the workers' lives more difficult.

Maybe I'm parsing the question too closely, but from the writing I'm guessing Tom123 may be a non-native English speaker. If so, that could play a real role in how an odd request ("no gloves," "no sandwich touching") is received. How, I'm not sure -- maybe the workers will be hostile about a foreigner making odd requests, or maybe (as often happens to me when I travel) they will bend over backwards to be hospitable to the person who has special needs due to their foreignness.

Really, I think the easiest solution is to eat (when possible) at non-chain sandwich shops, where the workers are hopefully under less time pressure, and you can explain your odd requests in a less pressured environment. But if you are driving long distances, or walking down the street in a new city, Subway is often the only option visible that would have decent vegetarian choices. When I was vegetarian, I would eat there often for that reason; I still eat at Subway on long drives because it is one of the only places where you can get food that isn't fried and has some actual vegetables here and there.
posted by Forktine at 3:40 AM on March 27, 2007

You guys are being waaay too uptight if you think changing a pair of gloves is a problem - the OP is a paying customer - the whole vegan, Subway thing is irrelevant to this.

Plus, its obvious to me at least that the OP does not speak English as a first language so surely they deserve a little slack on the whole "separate handcover" issue.
posted by SpacemanRed at 5:46 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know, this thread made me go to Subway for lunch, and make them put a mountain of olives on it. Oh yes.
posted by reklaw at 5:48 AM on March 27, 2007

You're question has been asked and answered many times over, but for some reason I really want to point out that the sandwiches are not called 'subways'. They are called 'submarine sandwiches', and most people shorten that to just 'subs'. 'Subway' is the name of the restaurant, not the food.
posted by Kololo at 6:30 AM on March 27, 2007

Strangely, I also felt an inexplicable need to pop into Subway this lunchtime...

For the record, I got 11 olive slices (that's just "olives, please" not "extra olives"). I would've got a couple more but they fell on the floor. I'm sure they'll sweep 'em up though and, you know, stick 'em in an occurd vegan's sarnie tomorrow.
posted by dogsbody at 6:43 AM on March 27, 2007

You're question has been asked and answered many times over, but for some reason I really want to point out that the sandwiches are not called 'subways'.

And for some reason I want to point out to you, Kololo, that when used as a possessive pronoun the word is "your" as in "your question," not "you're question." I look forward to the inevitable error in this comment being pointed out.

posted by grouse at 7:48 AM on March 27, 2007

tom123, let me also strongly urge you to not show exasperation with the counter help in a fast food restaurant. Many people who work in the foodservice industry in the US feel like they are overworked and underpaid. Some even come to despise their customers, and would look for any kind of abuse as an excuse to surreptitiously contaminate food with, uh, un-hygienic items. This is especially the case in a restaurant that you will visit over and over.

In most of the US, vegetarians are a barely-tolerated minority. Often a menu will have a single vegetarian item on it. If you are in a large coastal city, you will find much more to choose from. Can you tell us what city you're in, so that we can help you find other dining options?
posted by popechunk at 8:22 AM on March 27, 2007

A teensy town with a Subway (like mine) often also has only one worker and isn't busy, so they might also be more open to honoring your requests.

My mom was in Subway last week and the lady in front of her coughed, (one of those nasty, phlegm-filled coughs) all over the counter by the register, and my mom asked the Subway employee to wash the counter when she left. The employee looked at her weird.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:35 AM on March 27, 2007

Grouse: I know that I used the wrong form of 'your'. It's a typo. Glad you pointed it out though. Helpful!

If your point was to point out that my comment was ill-purposed, I say this: using a weird word for the food you're ordering is just as odd as using a weird word for the item covering the sandwich-preparer's hands. Speaking in a natural, normal, non-weird way will help the OP get across their point, if they do indeed choose to continue making it.
posted by Kololo at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2007

I know that I used the wrong form of 'your'. It's a typo. Glad you pointed it out though. Helpful!

You're very welcome, and helping is why I'm here. Writing in a natural, normal, non-weird way will help you get across your point.
posted by grouse at 9:12 AM on March 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to all who responded. Appreciate it. After seeing your responses, decided not to request for hand gloves during peak time and during non-peak make a request and if they do it, great, otherwise learn to live with it.

I live in Bay area.
posted by tom123 at 11:51 AM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

After seeing your responses, decided not to request for hand gloves during peak time and during non-peak make a request and if they do it, great, otherwise learn to live with it.

tom123, that's impressive. People here often ask such questions seeking validation for their original position (and pepper the green with "Best Answers" that reinforce the ideas they walked in with). Good on you for asking a genuine question, and receiving the responses in good faith. Kudos.
posted by hot soup girl at 2:29 PM on March 27, 2007

I think claiming a fake allergy is a bad idea, especially when food allergies are rising; if people suspect this is happening it's possible they'll end up less sympathetic and decide that allergy really means fussiness.

Except that after being a vegan for many years, it's true: I get extremely sick when I eat or drink something with dairy in it. My body just can't digest it, and so I end up running to the toilet every 10 minutes. Is that a 'fake' allergy? I haven't tried eating meat, but why run the risk?
posted by cmonkey at 9:56 PM on March 27, 2007

Unreasonable, annoying and definitely pointless. As most everyone else has said, new gloves don't protect you from the deli-meat-water on the cutting board and the piece of tuna on the knife. Save yourself and the minimum wage workers some trouble and eat at home.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:52 AM on March 28, 2007

A good friend of mine who is vegetarian once asked me how I would feel if he told me "It's only a little bit of rat" in something he cooked. Excellent point.
posted by tbird at 1:25 PM on March 28, 2007

tbird writes "A good friend of mine who is vegetarian once asked me how I would feel if he told me 'It's only a little bit of rat' in something he cooked. Excellent point."

Agreed. We've all probably eaten our share of rat shit and offal. It's really no big deal.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:33 PM on March 28, 2007

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