SubwayHow much could failing to keep your customer service promises cost you? Quite a bit it seems.  From losing customer goodwill to possible legal costs – so goes Subway’s lesson from last week.

When a customer in Australia measured his sub sandwich and learned to his chagrin that it was only 11 inches, he posted a picture of the shrinkage to the company’s Facebook page with the comment: “subway pls respond.”

The post quickly garnered more than a hundred thousand “likes”. Soon other jilted customers began outing their sandwiches.

The company waited a day to respond. BIG MISTAKE.

subway 11 inchA lawsuit has been filed in Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., seeking compensatory damages and a change in Subway’s practices. The company should either make sure its sandwiches measure a full foot or stop advertising them as such, according to the suit. Stephen DeNittis, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the New Jersey suit, said he’s seeking class-action status. He said he has had sandwiches from 17 shops measured, and every one came up short.  The lawsuit claims it is a “deceptive practice for Subway to advertise its large sandwich as a ‘footlong.’”

Subway Australia finally responded, “Subway’s ‘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.” Later, Subway representatives said the problem stems from inconsistencies in the process used to bake bread fresh in stores.

Whatever the truth may be, the first tenet of customer service is delivering on what you promise. Truth in advertising has never been so important than in today’s social media-obsessed world. Breaking a promise to even one customer is the same as breaking it to millions.

What do you think?  Should Subway be held accountable to the letter of the brand law?