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 10:30PM
Go check foot long hotdogs at sonic.
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 17, 2013 9:53PM
Well, 5" = 8", so 11" must = 12"  :o)
Jan 17, 2013 9:46PM
This is silly. Isn't it wonderful that people have nothing serious to worry about?
Jan 17, 2013 9:31PM
This is not a big deal as they are making out to be.  What the problem is they either did not proof the bread properly or the dough they purchased from the manufacture had a problem which I was in the owner of Sub Shoppe for over 12 years and no it was not a Subway Franchise. I baked our own bread and not very often you could get a batch of dough that does not rise and proof like it should . The meat and cheese would be the same if it were 11 inches or 12 inches. My subs were 8 inches or 16 inches. there was seldom any problems with dough I purchased from the dough manufacture. I would say the problem is with a improperly trained employee.
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 17, 2013 8:35PM
why would anyone buy nasty meat by the foot anyway?

(cue the porn jokes in 3.., 2.., 1...  GO!)

Jan 17, 2013 8:22PM
Jan 17, 2013 8:03PM
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 6:29PM
I don`t want to be cheated out of one inch of anything.I want the whole 9 yards.
Jan 17, 2013 6:04PM
I'm so sorry, my love. I only have 11 inches and not one foot!
Jan 17, 2013 5:48PM
Forget Subway, if you want a real foot long...
Jan 17, 2013 5:47PM
Jan 17, 2013 5:43PM
(To Someone)-----I have the dream!!
Jan 17, 2013 5:24PM
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.
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