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Does Subway's 11-Inch Response Measure Up?

January 28, 2013

In case you missed the news on the Subway $5-footlong brouhaha, here's what's happened: Subway has come under fire after a couple skeptical diners, sniffing something fishy about the chain's $5 Footlong promotion, decided to actually measure the sandwiches. They were only 11 inches. (A Washington Post blogger, it's worth noting, measured his "footlong" BMT at 12 1/8 inches.) One consumer, a Chicagoan, is actually asking for $5 million in damages supposedly caused by Subway's "fradulent, deceptive" practices. Even Stephen Colbert weighed in: The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive Subway Australia first responded by claiming that the "footlong" moniker had nothing to do with length. When that, unsurprisingly, blew back on them, a Subway rep came back with a more thoughtful response that promised they'd do whatever they could to make sure the footlongs are 12 inches long at every franchise around the world. But is it a realistic response? No one--not even McDonald's--can ensure that there won't be some slight variations in the millions and billions of food items it serves. Isn't Subway just setting itself up for a fall? Would a better response have been to acknowledge that there will inevitably be some very slight differences in the sizes of its sandwiches, but that they're an unavoidable consequence of the freshness of its store-made ingredients, at which point they could use the opportunity to put on a PR spin and play up the chain's supposed, health-conscious strong points? Followed, of course, by a promise to make it right for individuals who are unhappy with their sandwiches, but on a case-by-case basis? And what about the guy who filed the $5 million lawsuit? Look, if you go to Subway that much, an inch of sandwich is not a tiny detail--the company's essentially gypping you out of a whole sandwich every 12 times you go. But have you really been cheated out of a million $5 sandwiches since the promotion began? Have you really gone to Subway 12 million times since 2008? Aren't consumers supposed to use a little common sense in taking certain claims from restaurants with a grain of salt, kind of like the way you can't sue a mediocre pizzeria for claiming it has the "best" pizza in Anytown, USA, because no reasonable person is expected to take such self-promotional hyperbole seriously? What's your call on Subway's footlong fiasco?

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