For Subway's footlong customers, it's a matter of inches

Subway has been under criticism since an Australian man questioned its sandwich length.
Subway has been under criticism since an Australian man questioned its sandwich length. (AP)
Posted: January 25, 2013

Size matters.

Two New Jersey men from Burlington and Ocean Counties sued Subway on Tuesday after they said the fast-food company shorted them on their "footlong" sandwiches.

The company issued a statement of regret from its corporate headquarters in Milford, Conn., but would not comment directly about 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," the company said.

"Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide," the statement said.

The matter is in the hands of a Superior Court judge in Burlington County, who must first decide whether the allegations warrant legal action.

The lawsuit is the latest slam on Subway since a social-media posting last week by an Australian teenager who ordered a footlong Down Under and, before taking a bite, measured it at only 11 inches. Matt Corby posted a picture of the sandwich alongside a tape measure on Subway's Facebook page, asking for an explanation.

The post, before it was deleted by the company, turned Subway's apparent deficiency into an international faux pas. All of a sudden, customers were taking a closer look at their rolls.

That's when the two South Jersey men said they noticed that the franchises they patronized boasted more than they delivered.

Charles Noah Pendrak of Ocean City, a radiation therapist, and John Farley of Evesham, a bank manager, were so offended that they contacted Burlington County lawyer Stephen DeNittis, who specializes in class-action lawsuits.

Pendrak and Farley could not be reached for comment.

DeNittis said he sent a private investigator to 14 Subways in New Jersey and found the sandwiches consistently came up a half-inch to an inch short.

After the lawsuit was publicized, a customer in Philadelphia called to sue there, DeNittis said.

"Class actions are to correct mass wrongs that involve small damages," he said. "It's not about the money."

The lawsuit, however, asks Subway to pay triple damages, plus interest and attorney fees. DeNittis estimates that the franchise owes footlong customers about 45 cents a sandwich.

It appears the company is taking the allegations seriously.

"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," the statement said.

In 2007, Subway's "giant" sandwiches were advertised to be three feet, but when challenged in Arizona, came up as much as four inches short. The company then instructed workers to specify the number of servings rather than the length of the sandwich.

Subway has an application pending to protect "footlong" as its trademark. Other fast-food chains, including Long John Silver's and Taco Bell, have opposed it, arguing that footlong is a generic description.

 DeNittis said that Subway should measure up or stop advertising the footlong: "It's a slippery slope when a companies don't deliver what they promise."


Contact Barbara Boyer at (856) 779-3838, bboyer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @BBBoyer.

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