Does Subway size matter? Ask McArdle

Foot-long fibs, 60 planes full of gold.

mcardle main 03Is it true that Subway’s foot-long subs are only 11 inches? Can I trust that other chains are playing fair?

The tragedy of the recent Subway kerfuffle, in which a photo of an Australian diner’s shorter-than-promised sandwich sparked a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey, is that it could besmirch the good name of sandwich merchants everywhere. Imagine if “sandwich artist” became a synonym for deceitfulness, just as once honorable professions like snake oil salesman and ambulance chaser did in previous decades. Not content to rely on scuttlebutt, Mrs. McArdle and I set forth to conduct an investigation of our own. Sadly, Subway again came up short. My supposedly six-inch sandwich was a mere 5½ inches while Mrs. McArdle’s foot-long was, indeed, one whole inch short. But take heart, Canadian compatriots! Our dining experience at the Toronto-based Mr. Sub was far more gratifying. Not only did Mrs. McArdle get the full 12 inches she craved (Why are you blushing, kind sir?), my six-inch proved to be a full seven inches in length.

Now, it may seem foolish to fuss, or even litigate, over a missing inch of BLT, but there are ethical implications to consider. Subway defended itself by claiming “foot-long” was a “descriptive name” and “not intended to be a measurement of length.” To be fair, it’s unreasonable to expect each piece of bread bakes to an exact size. So how much room for interpretation does the chain have before it is lying to consumers? Very little, says Andrew Crane, professor of business ethics at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s the expectations that count in advertising.…If a reasonable customer would believe it to be true, then they have to deliver with relatively limited wiggle room,” he expounds. “So a can of Red Bull does not have to deliver on giving us wings, but it does have to deliver on giving us 12 ounces.” Should I ever meet this Mr. Sub personally, he shall be on the tipping end of my hat.

How does a country move its gold reserves?

If it’s wise, it lifts with the knees. Guffaw! I assume the inquiry stems from Germany’s decision to repatriate 674 tons of gold stored in New York and Paris. The lucre was squirrelled away during the Cold War, but amid allegations the Bundesbank was not sufficiently monitoring its migrant wealth, the German central bank decided to return some of the ingots to its own coffers. The Germans have not divulged how they intend to move the US$36 billion in gold bars, but it is unlikely they will match the flamboyance of Venezuela. When President Hugo Chavez called for the repatriation of 160 tons in 2011, the gold moved from the airport in a televised convoy of armoured trucks; a banner reading “Mission Accomplished” greeted the final shipment at the central bank’s vaults. According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, moving Germany’s gold back from France would require 31 trucks. The American deposits, meanwhile, will likely be flown in three- to five-ton shipments—the largest quantity an insurance company will cover. That equates to a minimum of 60 flights. Total cost for this venture? As much as $10 million—or 15 German gold bars.

Should I accept every LinkedIn connection?

I accept nearly all requests, but eject with swift vengeance anyone who proves to be a boor. I find it helpful to think of LinkedIn connections as business cards. Collect them without thought but shred them without compunction.