I was shocked to discover that the price of the banh mi thit at Alpha Bakery in the Hong Kong City Mall had gone up, but my reaction was downright civil compared to the guy in line behind me. Sandwiches were only $1.85 a couple of years ago, with the usual Vietnamese sandwich shop policy of "Buy 5, Get 1 Free." Now the sandwiches are $2.50 each. When an Asian guy in a Longhorns cap ordered five sandwiches and they told him there was no more sixth sandwich free anymore either, he started yelling and stomped off down the mall. He seemed to believe that "Buy 5 Get 1 Free" is one of those inalienable rights that's worth fighting for. I asked him if he was planning to organize a larger protest outside. He said he would take all of his business to another sandwich shop where "Buy 5, Get 1 Free" is still observed.
"It's an awfully good sandwich," I observed with one in my hand. "But it's not free," he pointed out.
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I figure $2.50 is still awfully cheap for an Alpha Bakery banh mi thit. Think about, Subway and Quizno's are advertising $5 sandwiches like that's some unbelievably cheap price, while at Alpha Bakery you get the same size sandwich on a crunchy Vietnamese French bread roll that's baked on the premises, spread with butter and pâté and stuffed with roasted pork, shredded carrots, cukes, cilantro and jalapeño, then showered with fish sauce -- all for half of the price of the chain product. Subway hasn't got any sweetened coconut rice desserts either.