Subway's "3 Foot" Subs Are Shorter Than 3 Feet

Apropos of our post on new Subway Super-Stuffed Subs, the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures sent us this KNVX investigative news clip into sandwiches that weren’t quite measuring up…

We got a complaint about six months ago concerning six-foot subs that weren’t six feet long. Subway’s response was to change its advertising – in Arizona at least – but not address the issue that its six-foot subs were about four inches short of the advertised length.

Our favorite part is when the calipers show Subway’s three-foot sub box isn’t even three feet long.

Sub-Standard [KNVX]

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  1. Trowble (XBL/PSN) says:

    I wonder if Jared can get them out of this pickle. ZING!

  2. mantari says:

    From a previous Consumerist report, we’re told that we should engage our local department of Weights and Measures, who has the authority to investigate such mismeasurement and then to take forceful action to address the situation.

  3. ptkdude says:

    The best part of the video was finding out the Subway box can’t even hold a 3-foot sammich!

  4. doodbugboodles says:

    Does anyone have a link of the video on the site. I can’t get this to play well or find the video on the news site.

  5. timmus says:

    This is why you should ALWAYS have ironic quotes around your product names, e.g.:
    “Starbucks Coffee” or Starbucks “Coffee”
    “Time Warner 256 KBPS Internet”
    “Rose’s Grenadine” (ever look at it? no pomegranate, just corn syrup)

  6. superlayne says:

    Dough shrinks as it bakes, right? I honestly don’t expect any sandwich sold by the inch to be exactly the length its advertised as. D:> And in the grand scheme of things, is this really that important? I would be a little more disgruntled if the sandwiches were 2’6” or 2’5”.

  7. Scuba Steve says:

    2 or 3 inches isn’t gonna make me cry as much as these guys, but I’d guess something thing needs to be done for regulations.

  8. jodles says:

    @superlayne: dough expands as it bakes. and as they noted, it is important when you paid $20 for a sub that doesn’t serve as many people as it could if they made it properly.

  9. kidnextdoor says:

    I run into this problem all the time. My online profile boasts 8 inches, but many seem to disagree.

  10. Ozyman666 says:

    I think that’s why Sonic dropped the “foot-long” cheese coney down to “extra-long.”

  11. jamesdenver says:

    The reporter is right about one thing in his intro: “It never crossed my mind”.

    Yes it’s not a foot long. Subway’s a good place – I buy the six inch special for 2.79 on occasion. They’re nice, it’s fast – sure it’s a bit bready – but who cares. They’re not taking thousands from old ladies in roofing scams.

  12. bpotterr says:

    You’d think that if you’re advertising something to be a certain length, that you’d shoot for a little over that length just in case. I wonder why Subway didn’t seem to have any concern when they were designing their boxes…

  13. not_seth_brundle says:

    This is silly; sandwiches are three-dimensional, so criticizing the fact that they fall short in one dimension is kind of meaningless. Maybe they weigh the dough to a standard weight and sometimes the sandwich comes out a little shorter, but wider. Would people prefer they got a sub that is 36″ long and 1/2″ wide? ‘Cause that would be as advertised…

  14. Husker-fan says:

    As someone who works in the restaurant business I think this one can be explained, not justified – only explained, as the result of trying to maintain a price point.
    As the cost of ingredients goes up, a lot of businesses will reduce the amount of product rather than increase the price consumers see.
    Examples would be getting less paper towels on a roll, or slightly less mayonnaise in a jar.
    If they’d list the change with some kind of asterisk and a notation at the bottom of the menu they’d probably be within the law. The sub places probably figure you’re having a party, not whipping out the tape measure to check up on them so it’s worth the risk.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    @not_seth_brundle: Interesting point, but that’s not how the law works. They didn’t advertise the sandwich by cubic volume.

  16. uricmu says:

    I think that the problem here is that they specifically call them “6 inch” or “footlong” subs, rather than “medium” and “large” the way Quizno’s does. So whereas Quiznos can make their subs smaller over time (as Papa John’s does with its pizzas), it’s not legitimate from Subway.

  17. not_seth_brundle says:

    @Ben Popken: IAAL and I still think it’s silly. The advertisement itself is rather meaningless.

  18. Scuba Steve says:

    The practice of slowly making your product smaller in relation to price paid is a horrible one in my opinion. It’s everywhere now, save for servings of fast food.

    Just this morning I found my “Zest” bar of soap curved, yet not any longer or wider to compensate for what was obviously a third of the bar missing.

    Combine that with all the air in a bag of chips, and the toilet-paper/ Cadbery cream eggs and you’ve got yourself a pandemic.

  19. Thrust says:

    This article rides a fine line between informative consumer alert, and cranky perfectionism. I worked for a pizzaria, our sizes were 6:, 9″, 11″, and 13″. The dealio was that it was a specific-weight doughball, stretched to fit a specific-size pan. Dough is fickle and not very cooperative, and when it was high quality dough, it would not stretch to fit.

    Here’s your options. 13.5oz of crappy dough will give you a full-size 11″ sheet-out. It will not rise all that great, but with minimal shrinkage in the oven. The same 13.5oz of a well-rolled fresh doughball will often shrink away from the pan edges before it’s even dressed, then shrink a little more when cooking. What you get is a well-risen thick crust that tastes great, but usually only ends up 10″. It will still have been dressed with the same weight of toppings/cheese, its just more compressed than spread out. You choose which you want.

  20. pine22 says:

    i used to work at a bakery and not every loaf of bread would turn out to be perfect even with baking pans. some longer, some shorter, some risen too high, some too low, however each bread loaf contained an equal amount of initial dough.

    i think its a bit ridiculous to cry foul over a 2-3 inches of bread, perhaps 4-6 inches would be a problem. i imagine the more important part of the sub would be meat and vegetables in that sandwich. i would easily overlook a shorter sandwich for one with more meat.

  21. Ben Popken says:

    It isn’t an issue of .0000001 under 3 feet.

    Ehrhard says in order to meet regulations, a 36 inch sub must be at least 34.92 inches.

    “These are shorter than the maximum allowable variance,” Ehrhard says.

  22. j-o-h-n says:

    @pine22: Hence the origin of the “bakers dozen” — better to give your customers a little more than advertised.

  23. Thrust says:

    Wah wah wah. The only one here worth whining about is Subway. If the box cannot fit what they advertise, they are fudging cheaters. The rest, call the whaaaambulance.

  24. ShadowFalls says:

    I think the most troubling fact is even though the regulations require it to be at least 34.92 inches long, Subway’s box is not even big enough to fit the size of sub they advertise.

  25. Falconfire says:

    @Thrust: You really dont get it, even by state standards, which are a inch and change shy of 3 feet, these places STILL didnt meet the standard.

    Thats a major issue, though granted on a minor thing like a sub. But to put it differently, if you cant even get a sub that you ordered to be right from these companies, how can you expect anything else you buy to be right.

    As for Subway? Your a frigging idiot if you buy your subs from a chain. Like Pizza, you should be going to your local bakery or sub shop, not these chains. For one thing a local shop owner whos name and life depend on their shop, would be less likely to dick you over. Also they just TASTE better.

    I have never even seen a Subway sub thats the least bit appetizing, and the freaking training center for the nation is half a mile away from the one Subway I have been to.

  26. EtherealStrife says:

    Wow that is ridiculous. To all those defending these places, it’s FRAUD. If I ever go to a sub place I’ll be sure to bring a tape measure. 3 feet means 3 feet.

    Department of Weights and Measures…you won’t see em coming!

  27. OnceWasCool says:

    I agree, it is fraud.

    Sure we are just talking about a sandwich, but what if you paid 3 dollars per gallon of gas only to find out it was actually 3/4th of a gallon. Tank full would be a total rip off.

    This is the point, you pay good money for something that they planned on cheating you when they had the boxes made. Years ago they set out to screw us and have been getting away with it for year.

    More Meat…Left in the store

  28. Major-General says:

    @Ben Popken: @Scuba Steve: A fun story. At my first job in Oklahoma, for a west coast burger chain that bought an east coast chain, they used to advertise 1/4 and 1/2 pound burgers. But they used 4.4/1 meat (4.4 patties per pound), and 9/1 for kids burgers. I was told when I pointed this out that we were to tell anyone who might bring this up that the quarter pound weight referred to the whole sandwich, despite clearly being advertised as pre-cooked patty weight.

    Baker’s Dozen specifically referred to a law in the City of London requiring that rolls sold to the public by the dozen be a certain weight. And as it can be hard to guarantee this, the thirteenth was added to ensure that the weight was above the legal minimum.

    @Falconfire: Taste better? Rarely, in my experiance, especially locally owned pizza joints. Excepting a sub shop in Waynesboro, PA and their White Russian.

  29. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Thrust: If you get a delicious 10 inch pizza from 35.5 oz of dough, what’s stopping the business from making a batch of 42 oz of dough? If they’re advertising 11″ and still want it to taste good, the only excuse for settling for less dough for a smaller pie is to short-change the customers. Period. If they mess up the dough and are able to get it out to 11″ with only 35.5 oz of dough and it SUCKS they wouldn’t get repeat business, would they?

    If a serving of pizza is 10 square inches, considering an 11″ pie is 95 square inches while a 10″ is 78. That’s a serving and a half!

    Or just advertise 7″, 10″, and 13″ pies. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

  30. mst3kzz says:

    The best part is the dramatic music as if they were reporting that the bread wasn’t bread at all, but instead…

    …dead babies.

  31. LionelEHutz says:

    @jamesdenver: “They’re not taking thousands from old ladies in roofing scams.”

    True, but they are probably making hundreds or thousands, if not millions, a few dollars at a time.

  32. Thrust says:

    @Falconfire: Are you blind, or just illiterate? I SAID “The only one here worth whining about is Subway. If the box cannot fit what they advertise, they are fudging cheaters.” It is a big deal with subway because they cannot ever provide what they advertise. For the others, like the blimpie, a 2″ shortage is just how that bun cooked, get over it.

    @Applekid: It was 13.5oz for the 11″ Medium, not 35.5oz. And again a case of not reading, it was the same 13.5oz that could make the one that fit 11″ or the one that would shrink to 10″ but taste better.

    Here’s how she works. The dough is pre-measured portions set out by corporate’s test kitchens. We are not allowed to change the recipie or weights any more than a McDonalds employee can change how many patties go in a cheeseburger. The dough is made in large-quantity batches (something to the effect of 15lbs), then each batch of dough is cut into doughballs at one of four specific weights. 4oz for personal 6″, 8.5oz for Small 9″, 13.5oz for Medium11″, and 19oz for Large 13″. These doughballs must then sit in the cooler for a minimum of 8 hours before being usable.

    It is not a simple matter of using more dough, after they have sat for the 8 hours, adding more dough to the doughball doesn’t work. Won’t stick, pizza won’t cook right.

    So as I said before, here are the two ways for this to work. If we use that doughball between 8 and 16 hours after it was made, it will shrink in the pan because it is so elastic at this point. It’s STILL 13.5oz, but its more compressed so you get a thicker pizza crust. Or if the dough is used around 16-24 hours after it was made, it’s now less stiff and will fill out the pan pretty well, and won’t shrink much, but it’s not going to taste as good as the one made after 8 hours. Again its still 13.5oz of dough. Now foryou real picky bastards who just cannot live with a 10 or 10.5″ pizza when you ordered 11″, we have a solution. Dough which is on its third day will fill out the pan perfectly, and will not shrink in the oven. In fact, its now so old that the yeast gives it a bitter-beer smell and it won’t really rise all that much. Doesn’t taste as good, and very dry, but hey, at least it’s 11″.

    Take your pick, I’m sticking with the fresh dough.

  33. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Thrust:
    I think you missed my point. I’m not saying anyone in the kitchen is wringing their hands at scamming people. I’m saying the company behind you guys (the test kitchen) are wringing their hands at scamming people.

    Adjusting the numbers, if 13.5oz fresh dough yields a 10″ pizza, then 14.5oz of fresh dough would yield a full 11″ pizza. The massive 15 lb batch would have a 14.5oz chunk cut out of it instead of a 13.5oz (and understanding you can’t just add an ounce of dough and have it work). So, why doesn’t Corporate Pizza Chain, Inc. want to give customers what is on the menu?

    Easy, and for the same reason as the sub shops in the video: Profits.

  34. @Major-General: Waynesburg? I shudder for you.

  35. Thrust says:

    @Applekid: 1oz more dough won’t fix the problem. You’d need at least 2 or 3oz. Problem is now that it may cook to about 10.5 or 11″ when the dough is fresh, but older dough won’t fit into the pan, it would be bunched up at the edges and won’t cook right.

    The company isn’t cheaping out on the customers, as I said way up in the earlier posts we still dress the pizza as a full 11″, not 10″. You still get your 13.5oz of dough, what is the big deal here. (from the legal perspective we advertise as Small, Medium & Large, but you have to actually ask to find out the size)

    Take a pizza from a cost perspective.
    Dough (including labor to make the dough) – 5%
    Sauce (Again including labor to make) – 5% or less
    Toppings (average selection) – 25-30%
    Cheese – 40%
    Labor + Packaging – 20-25%

    If you are going to get ripped off, we’d do it wit h the cheese.

  36. Seacub says:

    The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures reads Consumerist? Awesome!

  37. Helvetian says:

    I feel hungry all of a sudden but nevertheless they need to fix this. Makes me wonder if the 6″ and foot long subs are actually accurate as well. Sometimes my 12″ looks like an 9″ sandwich so who knows.

  38. MrEvil says:

    Any time you sell a product advertised as a certain length or width you’re within jurisdiction of the Department of Weights and measures (or In Texas, the Department of Agriculture). Weights and measures are standardized for a reason. It seems trivial, but someone advertises a 2′ 8″ sub as being 3′ then the standard is worthless.

  39. Elviswasntmyhero says:

    Too bad Joe Ducey and the crack squad of savvy-motivated investigators at channel 15 weren’t available to search for weapons of mass destruction in IRAQ.

    Let’s see…

    A link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden? Whatever.

    Getting a smaller hoagie than advertised? Those Bastards! SEND IN THE MARINES!

  40. Frogs says:

    That part about “bring your ruler when you buy a sub” made me wonder.
    I can imagine those types of customers–the ones that never tip over a quarter, and still bring out the measuring cup on drinks and the rulers on their foot-longs. After all, they did pay four dollars for this meal…

  41. SJActress says:

    I used to work for a Subway, and since we didn’t use a box but a HUGE board to do our subs, I can’t comment on that, but I will tell you how a “3 foot” sub is made.

    First, you thaw out 12 frozen sticks of “footlong” bread dough (yep, that’s how the bread comes there). Then you weave four pieces at a time. Then you put the three “footlong” weaves in the proofer (that’s what makes the dough rise), then you put it in the oven. It’s pretty hard to make the lengths ABSOLUTELY perfect.

    I see both sides of the story here, don’t get me wrong, but regardless if the “3 foot” sub is 1 foot or 3 feet or 4 feet long, you’re getting the exact same amount of bread.
    You’re also getting the exact same amount of meat, cheese, veggies, etc. That’s all weighed/counted before it’s put on the sub.
    Of course, I can only speak for Subway (and a Subway ten years ago at that), but I thought it was good food for thought.