January 26, 2013

Subway's sandwiches may start to measure up

'Footlong' sandwiches soon may be more consistently a full 12 inches long, owing to complaints by customers.

Chicago Tribune

Subway customers may soon be seeing "footlong" sandwiches that are more consistently a full 12 inches long, according to a company statement issued in the wake of lawsuits filed against the sandwich chain.

Complaints that Subway's "footlong" sandwiches don't quite measure up have stretched all the way from Australia, across the Internet and this week into courts in New Jersey and Chicago. Subway responded Thursday with a statement saying it would work harder to achieve sandwich-length uniformity.

"We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve," the statement said, while declining to offer comment on the suits specifically. "Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide."

A picture of an Australian teenager measuring his "footlong" Subway sandwich to be only 11 inches went viral last week, sparking a wave of similar online posts by other Subway eaters around the world claiming their sandwiches also came up short of a foot. This week, lawsuits were filed by separate plaintiffs in Chicago and on the East Coast, each seeking damages over a missing inch or more.

The Chicago lawsuit was filed by Nguyen Buren, who alleges that he visited a Subway near his home Sunday but didn't get the final fraction of his sub. Buren's suit, filed against Subway parent Doctor's Associates Inc., claims his sandwich was less than 11 inches long and alleges a "pattern of fraudulent, deceptive and otherwise improper advertising, sales and marketing practices."

"This is no different than if you bought a dozen eggs and they gave you 11 or you bought a dozen doughnuts and they gave you 11," said attorney Tom Zimmerman, who is representing Buren. "Here, you bought a dozen inches of sandwich and you got less than 11. It's no different, and yet you're paying for 12."

Buren's lawsuit was filed Tuesday, the same day two men filed a similar suit in New Jersey state court, and seeks damages in excess of $5 million. Both suits are seeking class-action status. Zimmerman said he expects to talk with the attorneys in the New Jersey case and hopes that suit will be withdrawn and moved to federal court so the suits can be combined. Zimmerman described the attention surrounding the Australian teenager's sandwich photo as the "inspiration for moving forward" with Buren's case.

Subway Australia had previously responded to the original complaint from Down Under. In that situation, the chain said the "Subway Footlong" was a registered trademark used "as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length."

Subway has faced challenges over the "footlong" name before, including in 2011 by convenience chain Casey's General Stores. Subway had ordered Casey's to stop using the "footlong" name to describe its 12-inch sandwiches and even threatened to sue, prompting Casey's to counter that "footlong" is a generic term that anyone should be allowed to use. Casey's withdrew its petition before the matter went to court.


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