Subway customers break out rulers and complain

The company's foot-long sandwiches are coming up short, and diners are posting the photographic evidence online.

By Jason Notte Jan 17, 2013 4:08PM
A Subway shop in New York City (Ben Hider/Getty Images)Subway took an inch, but photo evidence of its deceptively small sandwiches stretches for miles.

Because "$5 less-than-a-foot-long" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as Subway's catchy limited-time offering, the company is doing some damage control after an Australian man put a tape measure to a 12-inch sandwich that was about an inch too small. He posted the photo on the Subway Facebook page, got more than 100,000 likes, then watched as the photo was promptly removed.

By the time Subway scrubbed the undersized sandwich off its page, the New York Post had already done some investigating. The newspaper found that four out of seven Subway footlongs fell below the 12-inch threshold.

Subway's detractors have since lit up its Facebook page with criticism, including one of its 19.8 million "friends" who recommended that the $5 footlong's price be reduced to $4.58 for 11-inch models. On Twitter, meanwhile, repeated images of people's sandwiches and tape measures have become a meme bordering on pop art. 

A spokesman for Milford, Conn., Subway told The Associated Press that the length of chain's sandwiches can vary when its bread, which is baked at each Subway location, is made without following the chain's guidelines. What they didn't say is just how widely those lengths can vary, which is exactly what the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures and Phoenix's KNXV-TV determined in 2007 when they measured 3-foot subs and found them as much as four inches short. The boxes meant to store those “3-foot” subs, meanwhile, measured less than 2 feet and 11 inches.

Does Subway's shortfall matter? Of course it does. Read the comments field beneath any story related to a restaurant chain and its pricing. Restaurant chains, especially those of the fast-food variety, exist largely based on their value. When consumers feel a chain isn't offering enough quality or quantity for the price paid, they're not afraid to let companies know it.

When Applebee's and Chili's offer 2-for-$20 meal deals while Olive Garden put its dishes out there at two for $25, Olive Garden parent company Darden (DRI) took heat and lost sales. When McDonald's (MCD) shifted away from its Dollar Menu to focus on higher-priced Angus burgers and other premium offerings, U.S. customers hit it with its first sales loss in nearly a decade back in October.

"People look for the gap between what companies say and what they give, and when they find the gap -- be it a mile or an inch -- they can now raise a flag and say, 'Hey look at this,' I caught you," Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in New York, told the AP.

Subway's sandwiches came up an inch short on Tuesday, but the chain may have put a few miles between itself and the value-driven post-recession public's trust. If it doesn't react correctly, even Manhattan real estate won't cost the chain that much per inch.

More on Money Now

Tags: Food
Jan 17, 2013 5:03PM
The song also says "any any any," but the $5 price only applies to "selected" sandwiches, and not ANY sandwich.
Jan 17, 2013 10:13PM
12 inches?? I'm still waiting to get a sub that looks like the ones in their ads behind their counters.  Talk about coming up short??!!!! 
Jan 18, 2013 1:15AM
Well I don't know why everyone's picking on Subway and not all the other fast food joints... not a single one of them delivers what they advertise.  The photos on the menu board look truly delicious--  tall layers of fresh colorful ingredients and fluffy bread... but what they slap down on your tray doesn't even remotely resemble that photo.  It's false advertising and we let them get away with it!
Jan 17, 2013 10:42PM

I'm more concerned about the "sandwich artists" washing their nasty hands before they mangle my crappy sub.

Jan 17, 2013 11:28PM
Funny how they never measure MORE than 12" afterall bread  IS unpredictable when baking. 
Jan 17, 2013 7:15PM
Ask any worker at a fastfood restaurant how much their french fry serving should weigh.  They are probably short also.
Jan 17, 2013 5:24PM
Jan 17, 2013 6:29PM
I don`t want to be cheated out of one inch of anything.I want the whole 9 yards.
Jan 17, 2013 9:53PM
Well, 5" = 8", so 11" must = 12"  :o)
Jan 18, 2013 12:36AM

see how a 2 X 4 measures-up

the old bait and switch-ingrained

Jan 17, 2013 10:30PM
Go check foot long hotdogs at sonic.
Jan 17, 2013 9:46PM
This is silly. Isn't it wonderful that people have nothing serious to worry about?
Jan 18, 2013 11:43AM
Surely everyone knows that one of two things is happening all the time.  Either the price of a product is going up, or the size of the product is going down while manufacturers trumpet "Same great price!"....paying the same price for less product means that, once again, the price is going up.  This is nothing new.
Jan 18, 2013 2:38AM
Amazing how no one cared until some one took a tape measure and than posted the results. Subway should just now call it a large or small sandwich than and be done with this nonsense.
Or start a class action lawsuit and end up getting a coupon for 50% off your next sandwich.

Jan 18, 2013 1:18PM

Well, I don't really care too much if the bun is short an inch. Any less and then there's an issue. Too me it's just there to hold the good stuff.


They still use the same amount of meat and cheese. And they give me extras like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, etc with out extra charge. Plus they've never given me a hassle when I ask for a few more or less banana peppers or onions or what not. And I can go light or heavy with whatever dressing.


I pretty much get it the way I would make it if I had all of these ingredients at home...except I don't have to bake bread or prep toppings or throw them out when they go bad...and I don't have to clean up after making it. It's a classic recipe for success...take raw materials and make them into something people ultimately want.


I prefer a deli but Subway (and Blimpie, JJs, or others) are my preferred reliable fast food when I'm in a hurry.


PS. I preferred the 'V' cut for the bun - why did they stop doing that?

Jan 18, 2013 1:12PM
The dough is weighed out as is the meat, and the same number of cheese slices go on every sandwich. Nobody got cheated, the roll should have been stretched out a little before baking to allow for the normal contraction of the baking. Kind of hard to get it exactly on the 12" mark, + or - 9% seems reasonable to me.
Jan 17, 2013 9:14PM
Petty thinking. I think this is all making a big deal over nothing. In lumber 2x4s aren't 2"x4". Hand bake anything & it does not come out the exact  length / diameter as planned. Let's all take time out of our boring lives to measure every 6", 8", 10", 12"  subs sold at sub shops everywhere. I still go to Subway & order a footlong sub & be happy
Jan 18, 2013 1:59AM

So who was the disgruntled Sub-way sandwhich artist that revealed the truth .

     Is 60 minutes doing a segment on this?    Interviewed in disguise .

Jan 18, 2013 1:40PM
Fraud is fraud. A foot is 12 inches. Nobodys food looks like what they picture in the ads, either. Customer dis-service is taken to be an art-form at some of these places, too.
Jan 18, 2013 8:41AM
The subliminal message here is that we are in the richest country in the world and people are wasting time over an INCH of sandwich-very very petty!
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