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When 11 Inches Equals a Footlong Problem

The headlines are clear. Subway got in trouble. It began with internet-viral pictures of an Australian teen, who measured his footlong Subway sandwich to be only 11 inches.

Since then (with the helpful urging of commedian Stephen Colbert), numerous complaints have been issued against Subway throughout the world. It seems everyone is bringing a ruler along with them for the meal!

In Chicago, Nguyen Buren has filed a lawsuit, based on his visit to Subway to get a "ll-inch" footlong sub. In his lawsuit, Nguyen claims a "pattern of fradulent, deceptive and otherwise improper advertising sales and marketing practices."

His attorney, Tom Zimmerman writes: "This is no different than if you bought a dozen eggs and they gave you 11 or you bought a dozen doughnuts, and they gave you 11...Here, you bought a dozen inches of sandwich and you got less than 11. It's no different, and yet you're paying for 12."

That same day, two men in New Jersey filed a similar lawsuit against Subway, seeking damages in excess of 5 million dollars. They hope to combine the lawsuits into a class-action effort across the United States.

So, how does Subway respond. First, in Austrailia, the Subway office claimed that "Subway Footlong" was a registered trademark used "as a descriptive name...and not intended as a measurement of length." Bad answer, it turns out!

Their new answer internationally: "We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve...Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location world-wide."

My take...isn't it great that young people are doing math without being in a math class...and that now, most young people know that there are 12 inches in a foot! My suggestion to Subway is that when fulfilling a Footlong order, they don't change anything except making sure that some part of the sandwich extends beyond the end of the bun to make it longer than 12 inches...then place a cheap see-through ruler on the prepared sandwich and trim the end until it is 12 inches long...and give the ruler to the customer.

One final odd thought...why is it that Subway does not adjust its menu or trademark terminology for different countries? That is, why is it still offering "footlong" sandwiches in metric countries such as Australia and England?

Source: Adapted from R. Manker's "Tofay's Talker," Bellingham Herald, 1/26/2013