Olympic prize money, Indian iPhones, and Subway's foot-long cookie : The Indicator from Planet Money In this edition of Indicators of the Week: the new incentive for speed in cash prizes for Olympic track and field, growing iPhone assembly in India and the curious inflation puzzle of the foot-long cookies at Subway.

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What Subway's foot-long cookie says about inflation

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SYLVIE DOUGLIS, BYLINE: NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, “WAKING UP TO THE FIRE”)

DARIAN WOODS, HOST:

This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. I'm Darian Woods.

WAILIN WONG, HOST:

I'm Wailin Wong, and this is Indicators of the Week.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WOODS: Indicators of the Week with Planet Money's Amanda Aronczyk. Welcome.

AMANDA ARONCZYK, BYLINE: Hello. So happy to be here.

WOODS: Nice to have you here.

WONG: Amanda, we are thrilled to have you on this week because today, we are highlighting indicators in Olympic payouts, iPhone assembly and footlong cookies.

WOODS: All that after the break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WONG: Indicators of the Week - I am up first, and my indicator is $50,000. That is the prize money at stake for anyone who wins a gold medal in track and field at this year's Summer Olympics in Paris. Could that be you? It is the first Olympic sport to start offering prize money at the games.

ARONCZYK: When you said could it be you, I was like, is it me?

(LAUGHTER)

ARONCZYK: I am not ready.

WONG: No, you're not ready? You need to train more?

ARONCZYK: Yes.

WONG: OK, maybe 2028 - well, you know, I find this so interesting because it's like we're finally acknowledging that the Olympics in its modern form aren't really about amateur athletes competing purely for, you know, like, national pride anymore. They're a massive business. And actually, the head of the track and field governing body is a British gold medalist named Sebastian Coe. He competed in the '80s, and he said back then, he only got, like, a $1 meal voucher and train fare as compensation. But he said he was probably the last generation where that was the case.

WOODS: I feel like we've lost something here. You know, the joy of the sport and its amateur glory - but where is this money coming from?

WONG: Well, it's coming from the International Olympic Committee. The IOC makes money mostly from broadcast rights, and then every year, it funnels millions of dollars to the governing bodies for different sports. So the track and field group has decided to use some of this money for the prizes.

ARONCZYK: And is this just for gold? Like, what about if you get silver or bronze? Do they get to get anything?

WONG: Not this year - the prize money is just for gold medalists, but this track and field governing body is planning to expand the money to silver and bronze for the 2028 games in LA. So let me ask you guys, what track and field event do you think you would be the best at?

ARONCZYK: Oh, definitely hurdles - did that in high school. I'm sure I've still got it. I'm just going to get up and start running.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODS: OK, so just track and field - do you think this is going to pressure other sports to offer prize money, too?

WONG: Well, according to the Associated Press, the track and field organization is kind of uniquely flush. It gets most of its funding from other events besides the Olympics, and the AP says that some of the smaller sports might not have the money to set aside for prizes.

ARONCZYK: Thank you so much, Wailin. OK, now I'm going to hammer throw to Darian.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODS: Thank you, Amanda. My indicator is 1 in 7. That's how many iPhones are now being assembled in India. It's double what it was a year ago. This was reported by Bloomberg this week.

WONG: All part of Apple's big plan to diversify away from China, right?

WOODS: I mean, it seems like it. Though, of course, assembling is just one small part of making an iPhone. There's also the batteries and the sensors and camera lenses. A lot of components are still made in China. Still, this doubling seems like a milestone. It's indicative of a wider push by international business leaders to find alternatives to China. It's also symbolic of the Indian government's effort to grow advanced manufacturing in India.

WONG: Yeah, I remember you did a story on this, like, a year ago, and you ticked off a bunch of reasons why it's really hard for India to really compete with a country like China when it comes to manufacturing.

WOODS: Yeah, the roads across India aren't as good, literacy isn't as high as it is in China, and fewer people speak the same language. Now, the Indian government is dishing out huge subsidies for multinationals to come make stuff in the country, but overall, it is still quite restrictive on imports and on foreign investment, especially from Chinese companies. According to the Financial Times, one big Chinese iPhone supplier, Luxshare, didn't receive approval for expansion in India, so it expanded in Vietnam instead.

ARONCZYK: Which doesn't sound like the ideal conditions for a manufacturing renaissance.

WOODS: There's definitely some huge headwinds, but for a company like Apple, it's all in on growing India.

ARONCZYK: All right, Darian, are you ready for my delicious Indicator of the Week?

WOODS: Am I ready for the knife?

ARONCZYK: Yes.

WOODS: I don't know, am I?

(LAUGHTER)

ARONCZYK: It's going to be delicious, I promise you. So this past Wednesday, the latest inflation numbers came out. They were higher than expected. Consumer price index rose by 0.4%.

WONG: Yes, of course. We clocked that here at THE INDICATOR.

ARONCZYK: And I know, CPI - that is an inflation indicator. But I'd like to argue that the real indicator is actually the footlong cookie at subway.

WONG: That's a curveball. I thought you were going to say footlong sub, but you went cookie. Cookie.

ARONCZYK: I went with cookie. So allow me to explain. Subway made the footlong cookie a regular item back in January. There's also a footlong pretzel and churro. Those seem a little less exciting or surprising.

WONG: Oh, so this is, like, the sequel to the famous $5 footlong sub? I won't sing the song for you.

ARONCZYK: You don't have to sing the song because I brought it.

WONG: Oh, my gosh.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing) Five, $5, $5 footlong...

WONG: What an earworm.

ARONCZYK: Did you actually remember that song, Wailin?

WONG: Yeah, I did (laughter).

ARONCZYK: You did? OK. I wish that next time, you'll sing (ph).

WONG: I have a really good memory for commercials.

ARONCZYK: So a Subway sandwich for $5, but a $5 footlong is not inflation-proof. Like, so when they introduced it, Subway was trapped because if there was inflation and food prices went up - both of those things are things that happened - Subway could neither change the price nor the size.

WOODS: I mean, a footlong needs to be 12 inches.

ARONCZYK: Right, and they told you the price. So the $5 footlong disappeared a few years ago, but now I present you the spinoff, the footlong cookie.

WOODS: I think it's ridiculous, but, of course, it's so ridiculous, we are talking about it and giving Subway free promotion.

WONG: And we all went out, and got one. No? Let me get mine.

ARONCZYK: Not only are we promoting them, but we're eating them as well. So let me get mine.

WONG: (Laughter).

ARONCZYK: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOD WRAPPER CRUNCHING)

ARONCZYK: Here we go.

WONG: I brought a ruler too 'cause I feel like we should verify.

ARONCZYK: Oh, yes. Wailin, please measure the cookie.

WONG: Oh, my God, you guys. Mine is actually 11 3/4.

WOODS: Mine's 11 3/4, too.

WONG: What should we do? Should I write my congressperson? Should I go back to that Subway franchise and demand satisfaction?

ARONCZYK: I will say, in defense of Subway, like, the little tray is basically a foot. It's basically a foot, guys. Come on.

WONG: No, but they're not saying we're selling...

ARONCZYK: It's - I don't think this is shrinkflation.

WONG: ...Footlong trays with a cookie in it. They're saying the cookie is a footlong.

WOODS: I refuse to accept suboptimal Subway cookies.

ARONCZYK: Well, then give back the cookie, dear, and I'll eat it myself.

WONG: (Laughter).

ARONCZYK: It was all I could do to not eat some before I came in the studio. All right, so it's basically a foot. But the big difference between the $5 footlong and the footlong cookie - Subway is now campaigning on size and not price. If you look closely at the press release, you will notice that the $5 footlong cookie comes with an asterisk and a caveat which says prices and participation may vary.

WONG: You know what else needs an asterisk? - is footlong because mine is...

ARONCZYK: (Laughter).

WONG: ...Not a footlong.

WOODS: (Laughter).

ARONCZYK: You guys are distracted.

WONG: I have a grievance. Well, you know, it seems like Subway really learned the hard way - right? - that you can't lock yourself into a price and a quantity when there's going to be inflation.

ARONCZYK: Right. So all this is, is a footlong cookie. And I, in fact, paid $4.99 for it.

WOODS: Oh, well that makes sense given you weren't getting a full footlong.

WONG: (Laughter).

ARONCZYK: That's my Indicator of the Week, guys.

WOODS: Thanks, Amanda. Well, let's dig in.

ARONCZYK: All right.

WONG: Oh, I didn't bring a knife. I'm going to have to just break mine off like a barbarian.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WONG: This episode was produced by Corey Bridges with engineering by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Kate Concannon is our editor, and THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WONG: This is more like a cookie bar.

WOODS: I thought the texture was nice. There was a little crispiness and then softness on the inside.

WONG: I would say this is, like, OK.

WOODS: You heard it here first.

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