THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Sunday 20 January 2013
Last update 20 January 2013 3:28 am
NEW YORK: Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, is facing criticism after a man who appears to be from Australia posted a picture on the company’s Facebook page of one of its famous sandwiches next to a tape measure that seems to shows it’s not as long as promised.
The footlong sandwiches are meant to be 12 inches, but the photo indicates the Australian’s sandwich is just 11 inches.
More than 100,000 people have “liked” or commented on the photo, which has the caption “Subway pls respond.”
By Thursday afternoon, the picture was no longer visible on Subway’s Facebook page, which has 19.8 million fans. A spokesman for Subway said that the company did not remove the posting. Subway also said that the length of its sandwiches may vary slightly when its bread, which is baked at each Subway location, is not made to the chain’s exact specifications.
“We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit,” Subway said in an e-mailed statement.
The photograph — and the backlash — illustrates a challenge companies face with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Before, someone in far flung local in Australia would not be able to cause such a stir. But the power of social media means that negative posts about a company can spread from small towns to locations around the world in seconds.
“People look for the gap between what companies say and what they give, and when they find the gap — be it a mile or an inch — they can now raise a flag and say, ‘Hey look at this,’ I caught you,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in New York.
Subway has always offered footlong sandwiches since it opened in 1965. A customer can order any sandwich as a footlong. The chain started offering 6-inch versions of the sub in 1977.
It introduced a $ 5 footlong promotion in 2008 as the US fell into the recession, which became a popular seller and continues to be offered today.
An attempt to contact someone with the same name and country as the person who posted the photo of the footlong sandwich on Subway’s Facebook page was not returned on Thursday.
But comments by other Facebook users about the photo ran the gamut from outrage to indifference to amusement. One commenter urged people to “chill out.” Another one said she was switching to Quiznos. And one man posted a photo of his foot in a sock next to a Subway sandwich to show it was shorter than a “foot.”
The Subway footlong scandal is just the latest in a string of such social media public relations headaches for big companies.
Last year, a Burger King employee posted a Twitter message or “tweet” with a picture of someone standing in sneakers on two tubs of uncovered lettuce. Domino’s Pizza employees posted a video on YouTube of workers defacing a pizza in 2009. And a KitchenAid employee in 2012 made a disparaging remark about President Obama using the official KitchenAid Twitter account.
The key to mitigating damage when a social media furor arises is speed and directness, said Adamson, the branding expert.
“In today’s market you have to be able to roll with the punches and be much more fluid, responsive and responsible than before,” he said.