How a group of internet vigilantes got Subway to change its sandwiches forever

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Subway's $5 Footlong Only 11 Inches?


Subway is making a major change to its sandwiches, all because of a photo that an Australian teen posted to the company's Facebook page years ago.

The photo was posted by Matt Corby. It showed a Subway footlong sub next to a tape measure that indicated the sandwich was only 11 inches long and the caption "Subway pls respond."

Within a matter of days the photo started going viral, with more than 130,000 likes and thousands of shares on Facebook.

People were outraged, feeling cheated out of an inch of their sandwiches and accusing Subway of false advertising.

How could a sandwich called a "footlong" be only 11 inches in length?

"If I'm paying for a footlong sub that they so annoyingly advertise, then I want a footlong sub," someone named Reggie Martinez wrote on Facebook at the time, according to the Huffington Post. "And to all others, yes it does matter."

Subway at first claimed the sandwich was an anomaly.

"We have seen the photo you referenced of a Subway sandwich that looks like it doesn't meet our standards," a spokesman for the company told the Huffington Post. "We always strive for our customers to have the most positive experience possible, and we believe this was an isolated case in which the bread preparation procedures were unfortunately not followed."

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How a group of internet vigilantes got Subway to change its sandwiches forever
Amin Chakma puts up new menus featuring calorie counts at a Subway restaurant, Friday, June 29, 2007, in New York. New York is the first city in the country to require certain fast food restaurants to list calorie counts next to menu items in type that is at least as large as the price. New York City ushered in a new era of healthy eating on Sunday July 1, 2007 as a ban on trans fat-laden cooking oils in restaurants took effect. But not all fast-food eateries were following another new rule requiring them to post calorie counts on their menus. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)
Liverpool FC Striker Daniel Sturridge prepares a sandwich for a fan at a SUBWAY� Restaurant on Friday, July 25, 2014 in Boston. (Photo by Gil Talbot/Invision for Subway/AP Images)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SUBWAY - SUBWAY Global Ambassador Pelé, (right), the greatest footballer of all time, holds up his favourite SUBWAY tuna sandwich as Liverpool FC legend Robbie Fowler (left) looks on, at a SUBWAY Restaurant in London, Friday, March 20, 2015, prior to the Liverpool FC v. Manchester United football match. SUBWAY Restaurants is the Official Training Food Partner of Liverpool FC. (Photo by Mark Allan/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SUBWAY - Marcus Mariota, 2015 draft prospect and newest SUBWAY Famous Fan, poses with a life-size food statue made of SUBWAY sandwich ingredients in his likeness, including new SUBWAY guacamole, and a custom jersey with his signature number 8, on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Honolulu. Mariota joins a roster of SUBWAY Famous Fans including Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, Russell Westbrook, Robert Griffin III, Justin Tuck, Nastia Liukin and Pelé. (Photo by Marco Garcia /Invision for SUBWAY/AP Images)
2014 draft prospect Anthony Barr poses for a picture with a food sculpture of himself at a Subway restaurant in New York, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former U.S. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps, right, and Brazilian soccer legend Pele prepares sandwiches at a SUBWAY restaurant, during a event organized by SUBWAY, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Nelson Antoine/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SUBWAY - Linebacker Jarvis Jones, 2013 draft prospect and newest Famous Fan of SUBWAY, admires his hair on the life-size "Smokehouse BBQ Chicken" sculpture to announce Jones' official SUBWAY Famous Fan title, Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in New York. The sculpture is an artistic representation of the football star from the chest up, standing approximately three feet tall and made of almost entirely SUBWAY Smokehouse BBQ Chicken. Jarvis joins a roster of fellow Famous Fans that include Robert Griffin III, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, Blake Griffin and Michael Phelps.† (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for SUBWAY/AP Images)
COMMERCIAL IMAGE - Apolo Ohno takes a break from his hectic schedule and visits a local SUBWAY location to enjoy his training food of choice on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 in London. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision for SUBWAY/AP Images)
Customers join Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine as he announces that he will be eating avocado every day of Avocado Season at SUBWAY® at the Universal CityWalk SUBWAY® restaurant on Friday June 8, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Casey Rodgers /Invision for SUBWAY® /AP Images)
US sandwich maker Subway co-founder and chairman for the world, the self-made billionaire Fred DeLuca, poses with a sandwich in a Parisian Subway restaurant on June 17, 2011 prior to attend a meeting with the press as part of the 10th anniversary of Subway France. Subway has seen its number of restaurants balloon to 33,749 across the globe as of January 1, making it the world's largest fast food chain ahead of McDonald, with 32,737 restaurants, as reported on March 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 29: A new Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap is seen December 29, 2003 in Chicago. Subway restaurants today started to offer two Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.-endorsed low-carbohydrate wraps. The Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap with Monterey cheddar cheese and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap with Swiss cheese. Both Atkins-Friendly Wraps are available in the U.S. and Canada and have 11 grams Net Carbs or less. The wrap itself, which is made with wheat gluten, cornstarch, oat, sesame flour and soy protein, has only 5 grams Net Carbs. Subway Restaurants is the first quick serve restaurant to partner with Atkins Nutritionals Inc. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 29: A new Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap is seen December 29, 2003 in Chicago. Subway restaurants today started to offer two Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.-endorsed low-carbohydrate wraps. The Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap with Monterey cheddar cheese and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap with Swiss cheese. Both Atkins-Friendly Wraps are available in the U.S. and Canada and have 11 grams Net Carbs or less. The wrap itself, which is made with wheat gluten, cornstarch, oat, sesame flour and soy protein, has only 5 grams Net Carbs. Subway Restaurants is the first quick serve restaurant to partner with Atkins Nutritionals Inc. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 29: Subway restaurant store owner Shirish Dave prepares a new Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap December 29, 2003 in Chicago. Subway restaurants today started to offer two Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.-endorsed low-carbohydrate wraps. The Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap with Monterey cheddar cheese and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap with Swiss cheese. Both Atkins-Friendly Wraps are available in the U.S. and Canada and have 11 grams Net Carbs or less. The wrap itself, which is made with wheat gluten, cornstarch, oat, sesame flour and soy protein, has only 5 grams Net Carbs. Subway Restaurants is the first quick serve restaurant to partner with Atkins Nutritionals Inc. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
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A couple days later, Subway Australia responded on Facebook and said that the label "footlong" was not meant to be a measurement of length.

"With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, "SUBWAY FOOTLONG" is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length," the company's post said.

The company's response failed to placate customers, and a couple weeks later, two New Jersey men filed lawsuits against Subway for false advertising.

"It's no different than if a wireless company is profiting on a 14-cent hidden fee," one of the plaintiff's lawyers, Stephen DeNittis, told Today at the time.

Several more lawsuits were filed in state and federal courts that were eventually combined into a class action lawsuit against Subway.

After two years of litigation, Subway has finally agreed to settle the case by making its sandwiches bigger.

As part of thesettlement agreement, Subway will start requiring franchisees to measure the bread they serve to ensure that footlong subs are 12 inches and 6-inch subs are no less than 6 inches.

Subway will also start compliance inspections to make sure restaurants are adhering to the new rules, according to the agreement.

The restaurant chain will edit its training materials and franchisee protocols, "which had previously allowed for a small tolerance in the size of a footlong sandwich," to require that a footlong must be at least 12 inches.

A hearing for final approval of the settlement is scheduled for January, according to Subway.

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