Share This Page

Subway 'crisis': Is footlong sub really 11 inches?

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

NEW YORK — What's in an inch? Apparently, enough missing meat, cheese and tomatoes to cause an uproar.

Subway, the world's largest fast food chain with 37,000 locations, is facing criticism after an Australian man posted a picture on the company's Facebook page of one of its famous footlong sandwiches next to a tape measure that seems to show sub is just 11 inches.

More than 100,000 people have “liked” or commented on the photo, which has the caption “Subway pls respond.” Lookalike pictures have popped up elsewhere on Facebook. And The New York Post conducted an investigation that found four out of seven footlong sandwiches were shy of the 12 inches that makes a foot.

By Thursday afternoon, the picture was no longer visible on Subway's Facebook page, which has 19.8 million fans. A spokesman for Subway, which is based in Milford, Conn., said Subway did not remove the posting. Subway also said that the length of its sandwiches may vary slightly when its bread, which is baked at each Subway location, is not made to the chain's exact specifications.

“We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit,” Subway said in an e-mailed statement.

The photograph — and the backlash — illustrates a challenge companies face with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Before, someone in far flung local in Australia would not be able to cause such a stir. But the power of social media means that negative posts about a company can spread from small towns to locations around the world in seconds.

“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,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in New York.

Subway has always offered footlong sandwiches since it opened in 1965. A customer can order any sandwich as a footlong. The chain started offering 6-inch versions of the sub in 1977. It introduced a $5 footlong promotion in 2008 as the U.S. fell into the recession, which became a popular seller and continues to be offered today.

The Subway footlong scandal is just the latest in a string of such social media public relations headaches for big companies.

Last year, a Burger King employee posted a Twitter message or “tweet” with a picture of someone standing in sneakers on two tubs of uncovered lettuce. Domino's Pizza employees posted a video on YouTube of workers defacing a pizza in 2009. And a KitchenAid employee in 2012 made a disparaging remark about President Obama using the official KitchenAid Twitter account.

The key to mitigating damage when a social media furor arises is speed and directness, said Adamson, the branding expert.

“In today's market you have to be able to roll with the punches and be much more fluid, responsive and responsible than before,” he said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.