Subway Sandwich Shop Inc. is currently facing a class action lawsuit over the length of their “$5 Footlong” sandwiches. Complainants allege that Subway’s supposedly footlong sandwiches are coming up short. Size really does matter…when a company premises their entire ad campaign on the length of their sandwich.
Subway’s ads claim that customers can buy a footlong sandwich for five dollars, but in a complaint filed Thursday in a Burlington County, N.J., Superior Court, John Farley and Charles Pendrack alleged that footlong sandwiches ordered in 17 different Subway shops all measured less than 12 inches in length, according to reports by ABC News and the Associated Press. The class action lawsuit is seeking more than $5 million in damages.
“Despite the repeated use of uniform language by Subway stating that this sandwich is a footlong, the product in question is not, in fact, a foot long,” the New Jersey class action lawsuit states. “Rather, this product consistently measures significantly less than 12 inches in length.” The measured footlong sandwiches were mostly between 11 and 11.5 inches although some were even shorter.
Plaintiffs further allege that since, on the corporate level, Subway Sandwich Shop Inc. sets precise standards for producing these footlong sandwiches that therefore they know that the footlong sandwiches are not 12 inches. This sort of logic is rather circular and shows little understanding for how a franchise is structured. Subsequently, Subway defends their footlong sandwich’s shortcomings by blaming individual franchises for failing to follow corporate bread making standards.
The lawsuits followed in the wake of a viral photo originally posted to Subway Australia’s Facebook page by Matt Corby. The photo pictured the teen’s Subway footlong sandwich under a measuring tape and showed that the sandwich was only 11 inches long. Then Facebook users around the globe began posting photos of their own experiences with the inadequacies of the Subway “$5 Footlong.” Word got around and about a week later a pair of New Jersey natives filed the current lawsuit, which has gained class action status.
Regarding the missing inch, Subway made the following statement to the Chicago Tribune, “We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve.” They declined to offer comment on the suits specifically, but did add. “Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide.”
Later, Subway followed up with an official response to the lawsuit:
“For 47 years, customer satisfaction has been our top priority. We regret any instance where we did not fully deliver on our promise to our customers. We freshly bake our bread throughout the day in our more than 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide, and 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 worldwide.”
Could Subway have handled this better? Possibly. Mark Babbitt of Huffington Post believes Subway dropped the ball on a great chance to leverage this sub measurement fiasco into a real social media boon. However, they opted for a formal response, which of course became necessary after the filing of several lawsuits. This is certainly an issue to track for anyone interested in class action lawsuits.
For more on class actions in advertising law stay tuned for AdNauseum.org Presents: Advertising Trends in Consumer Class Actions on April 2nd.