Does Size Matter? Subway Footlong Brouhaha

Yahoo Contributor Network

Internet posters are up in arms over the length of Subway submarine sandwiches. Nominally billed as "footlongs," the sandwiches often don't measure up, the critics say. According to ABC News, the brouhaha began when an Australian Subway customer posted a photo of his sub on a Subway Facebook page alongside a tape measure indicating the actual length of the nominal footlong was 11 inches. That post spawned a New York Post investigation in which four of seven Subway sandwiches sold as footlongs came up short.

The original photo showing the too-short sub disappeared after receiving more than 100,000 likes. A Subway spokesperson told the Associated Press the company did not remove the post.

Do Customers Care?

Customer reaction to the news Subway is shorting at least some buyers on sub length is mixed, according to the Associated Press. AP noted some Facebook commenters felt the shorter sub length was an outrage while others suggested the brouhaha was much ado about nothing.

Subway's Explanation

After the New York Post declared four of seven sandwiches tested less than the advertised size, Subway defended itself in the press. The Hartford Courant reported the company attributing the shorter subs to the failure of individual stores to follow baking directions correctly. The company pointed out the bread dough is delivered in standard portions to each of the 38,000 Subway outlets. That means customers are not being shortchanged on bread quantity when sandwich lengths differ, the company contends.

Discrepancies Happen

While Subway's 11-inch-and-counting footlongs caught customers by surprise, it's not unheard of for products sold to differ from advertised size. In some cases, the discrepancy does mean a customer is not getting the product paid for. In England, a look at packaged smoked salmon sold in groceries last year revealed 25 of 32 packages investigated by a consumer group came in underweight, the Daily Mail said.

In November, Hyundai and Kia admitted their cars didn't get the advertised miles per gallon, leaving customers with unexpectedly high fuel costs. The companies agreed to provide debit cards to the shortchanged customers to compensate for their losses, the Los Angeles Times said.

Nominal v. Actual Size

With some products, a discrepancy between nominal and actual size is the standard. Many construction products such as lumber and tile fall into this category, to the consternation of do-it-yourselfers grappling with measurements.

But when the dust settles, the more relevant analogy for the shorter than expected Subway footlongs may be the warning label on boxed foods that product is sold by weight, not volume. Selling by weight takes into account product settlement during shipping, but the warning doesn't preclude customers from feeling shortchanged when they open a box and find it half empty.

Carol Bengle Gilbert writes about consumer issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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