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Size Matters

What's in an Inch? Subway Comes Up Short

What's in an Inch? Subway Comes Up Short

Photograph by Ian Hanning/REA/Redux

Don’t be so literal; the “Subway Footlong” is a registered trademark, not an actual measurement. So wrote Subway Australia on its Facebook page on Jan. 16, after customer Matt Corby’s photo of an 11-inch sub sandwich, measured against a ruler, went viral.

According to ABC News, the Subway response, which is no longer posted on the page, read: “The length of the bread baked in the restaurant cannot be assured each and every time as the proofing process may vary slightly each time in the restaurant.” A representative told ABC News on Friday that while the bread is baked at each store, the company strives for each sub to be 12 inches long.

It might seem nitpicky to complain about getting cheated out of 1 inch, or possibly less than an inch, of Italian Herbs & Cheese bread. But an inch can mean everything. Take golf: In the 2004 HP Classic, Joe Ogilvie missed sinking his blast out of the sand trap by an inch, handing the victory and $918,000 of the $5.1 million purse to Vijay Singh. And to companies that deal in hundreds of thousands of transactions a day, that small measurement adds up fast:

• When Southwest Airlines (LUV) reduced passenger legroom by an inch (to 31 inches) to add six seats to each plane last year, it estimated the $60 million redesign would add $10 million per year in ticket sales.

Radio City Entertainment (CVC) raised the maximum height to be a Rockette in 2000 by 1 inch, to 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. That extra bit of leg might just help draw more viewers to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which brought in $72 million in ticket sales during nine weeks in 2004.

• In 1997, the Washington Post decided to shrink the width of the paper by an inch (to 12 1/2 inches) and the length by 1 9/16 inch (to 22 inches) to save “millions of dollars,” according to Michael Clurman, the Post‘s production vice president.

Subway customers, meanwhile, can take comfort that the “Five-Dollar” part of the slogan is holding firm.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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