Whoops: Subway’s ‘Footlong’ Doesn’t Quite Measure Up

Hey, what’s an inch between friends?

If it contradicts the selling point behind your signature product, it can be a big deal. So when a curious Australian Subway customer discovered that his “footlong” sub sandwich was, in fact, only 11 inches long, he decided to vent his frustration in the most modern way: he took a picture of the offending item beside a ruler and posted it on the company’s Facebook page along with the simple request “subway plz respond.”

And then, of course, everybody went nuts.

So is this a PR mess, or what?

Yes, it’s a little ridiculous to hold a brand to its taglines–we don’t think anyone would be too upset to learn that America does not actually “Run on Dunkin’“. Still, we’ll go ahead and state the obvious: this little incident wouldn’t have created such a headache for Subway had the company not built many of its ads and promo campaigns around the indisputable fact that its sandwiches really are a foot long.

It’s a worldwide problem, by the way: an informal New York Post cover story found that a significant majority of Subway sandwiches were only 11 or 11.5 inches long and that the amount of meat in each sandwich had decreased in recent years thanks to a distributor’s decision to  “[increase] the food cost on the individual owners by 4 to 5 percent every year” while providing them with less food.

The lesson, in PR and business as in life: don’t make specific claims you can’t back up. An inch can add up to a whole lot more.

Subway has yet to respond to the “controversy”, but their team had better figure out how to control the damage soon, because the pic inspired more than 100,000 likes and thousands of comments. And unlike George Costanza, Subway has no excuse: