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Subway “Footlong” Lawsuit Is within Inches of Settling

Last year, the sandwich artists of Subway found themselves embroiled in a handful of legal battles and a potential class action lawsuit. However, it wasn’t over serving bad meat or food poisoning, but rather over the actual size of their subs that they tout as “footlongs.” As it would turn out, these sandwiches only measure up to be about 11 inches, exposing the chain to claims of deceptive sales practices.

subway footlong lawsuitAlmost instantly, business journals and news outlets started to cry “frivolous lawsuit.” After all, they’re sandwiches, who cares? This really can’t be important. Well, federal courts have clearly disagreed. And I have to admit, so do I.

Now nearly a year later, stories have begun to sprout up that a settlement agreement is approaching, with only attorney’s fees left to determine. So what was the big deal? The meat of these lawsuits are heavy allegations of “fraudulent, deceptive or improper advertising, sales and marketing practices.” But if that feels extreme, consider this: Subway averages about $2.85 billion in the sale of their footlongs, making the rough value of what that inch they have duped customers out of close to about $142 million. That’s a lot of dough.

Subway retorts that they use the same weight of dough in each sandwich, and how a loaf of bread bakes, grows, and conforms is difficult to guarantee every time. While that may be true, and it may be hard to get angry at a sandwich store for not always being accurate, if they are aware of discrepancies, they shouldn’t be advertising these subs as “footlongs.” Call them “the bigguns” or “subway cars” or anything other than something that purports to be an actual measurement. After all, I’m sure most people would have less sympathy for a bespoke chair maker who, having advertised as making a great fitting, 24” tall chair that was actually 22” and shoddily made, blamed the uniqueness of the wood for various imperfections. This would be especially true if those imperfections lead to them earning substantial profits off of unsuspecting consumers.

What these legal battles are really about is protecting consumers from companies short changing them in anyway. Regardless of how you feel about these lawsuits, one age old principal remains true: give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Or, maybe more accurately: give them an inch, they’ll take $142 million.


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