What The Subway Lawsuit Tells Us

By Brad Thomason, CPA


A Chicago man has filed a $5 million lawsuit against Subway because he received a “foot-long sandwich” that only measured an actual eleven inches.

No, I am not making this up.

This case highlights a number of things which have become part of the American business landscape and which are, please pardon my language, horse sh_t.

First we have the matter of people nitpicking over nothing.  This is a distraction for all involved.  And while I will be the first to stand up and defend the notion that baby food shouldn’t have ground up glass or accidental blobs of gear grease, I have to say that this is one of the most absurd product-related claims I can remember.  Anyone who has ever baked a loaf of bread (or even paid attention to a loaf of bread that they purchased) knows that they do not always turn out exactly the same.  Bread dough rises and bakes differently from one loaf to the next.  That’s just reality.

Moreover, it’s a reality with no practical problems.  It’s one thing if your fuel injectors aren’t manufactured to exact engineering tolerances.  But how is a variance in a loaf of bread something that leads to harm?

Harm, by the way, segues us to our second point.  As a society we seem to have forgotten that in order for a civil case to be a civil case, there has to be damages.  This guy wasn’t damaged by bread being bread.  And he certainly wasn’t damaged to the tune of $5 million!

Then again, no one involved with this case expects he will get $5 million.  Why?  Because the third point is that lawyers today are quite comfortable filing lawsuits that they know going in have no chance of ever resulting in a judgment.  That is to say, this lawsuit like many others is a lawsuit that was designed from the start to be settled.  Which is really not an OK way to misuse the legal system.  But it has become de rigueur.

Meanwhile, Subway is going to have to spend millions of dollars in damage control to respond to NOTHING.

Folks, this is not a game.  It’s not any more OK to go screwing around with a large company just because you are bored than it is to do it to another human being.  When we cause our country’s businesses to have to divert their attention from running their operations and delivering the goods and services we demand from them, we are ultimately just hurting ourselves.  The pendulum has gone way too far.  In vilifying these organizations (which satisfy our demands and employ our neighbors) for every little perceived misstep or failure to be perfect, we show ourselves to be petty and ignorant.  When stuff like this comes down the pike it is hard to counter the notion that we are becoming a nation of childish brats.

Economic prosperity comes from business profits.  Period.  To the extent that we want places to work and goods to consume, we need to get out of the way and let the business community supply them.  So much of the narrative today talks about all of these things that corporations are supposed to be doing for individuals.  Where’s the counter-point to all of that rhetoric?  Where is the understanding that tearing down our economy’s engines of productivity over invented offenses violates the societal obligation that we have to them, to stay out of the way so they can give us what we are clamoring for?

Here’s a quick acid test:  If your grandmother handed you a roll which looked a hair shorter than the one she gave you at last week’s Sunday lunch, would you take out a ruler and get onto her for a variance in length?

Then why is OK to do it to Subway, and in the process cause them to have to waste millions of dollars in PR, damage control, and executive distraction in response to the growing chorus of voices who think that capitalism is inherently evil, and success is a crime?

Speaking as the foster grandmother of that misguided soul in Chicago: you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

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