“What Difference Does It Make?”: The Footlong Sandwich Edition


Perhaps this week will go down in history as the Week of “What Difference Does It Make?”.

What difference does it make whether or not the Obama Administration misled the public for days about whether the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration over a video or a planned terrorist attack, indignantly asks Hillary Clinton. What matters is that four Americans died!

What difference does it make that Lance Armstrong doped to win his titles and lied about it for 15 years, poignantly ask Armstrong’s defenders. What matters is that his foundation helped cancer sufferers!

What difference does it make whether or not the version of Beyonce singing “The Star Spangled Banner” Americans heard during the Inauguration was live or studio-recorded, asks comic-turned radio pundit Dennis Miller. She’s hot! (By the way, my conversation about this issue with Bill O’Reilly before Miller issued his verdict—and referred to me as “Daddy Warbucks”—can be viewed here.)

Now we have a much ridiculed scandal over the fact that Subway’s vaunted “footlong” subs are in fact only around 11 inches, which has spawned viral videos and at least two lawsuits. Ethically-challenged Chicago Trib blogger Eric Zorn carries the flag for this latest army of “What difference does it make?” lie enablers. His argument, predictably, comes down to a cross between the Stephen Colbert-Jon Stewart  market-tested “Let’s exaggerate this real issue and make it look ridiculous” formula and the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It”…

“It’s tempting to side with the plaintiffs. Subway has been officious about protecting “footlong” as a trademark and casual about using tape-measure imagery in its advertising.

“On the other hand, a 2-by-4 cut of wood measures less than two inches by four inches. A “pint” in many taverns describes the size of the glass, not the amount of liquid-plus-foam placed on the bar. Footlong hot dogs often shrink in preparation to 10 inches or less. And, of course, in the fine print, McDonald’s reminds potentially aggrieved customers that “Quarter Pounder” refers to the weight of the meat before cooking.”

“Customers bothered by such generalities have every right to complain, though the cash register, not the courtroom, is the proper venue to bellyache.

“I noted online Thursday that Nestle’s 100 Grand (formerly $100,000) candy bar was worth only a buck or two at most, and I was thinking of suing. This led to the buffalo wings suggestion from a reader along with other ideas for umbrage opportunities: Banquet frozen meals bear little resemblance to actual banquet food. Life Savers neither float nor do they prolong a person’s life. Happy Meals sometimes leave you feeling depressed…”

Yeah, you’re hilarious, Eric.

The problem you neglect to mention is that thanks to that flat-out deceptive ruler ad and other misrepresentations, Subway customers have been laying out money for about 92% of what they thought they were paying for, and that 8% of around four bucks adds up to big money when you multiply it by a couple million “footlongs.” It’s fine to say that punishment should come at the cash register, but first a customer has to know he’s being cheated. This is like telling an faithful Armstrong fan that the proper punishment for the bully biker is to stop buying yellow bracelets. After making the risible defense that “Footlong” was only intended to be “a descriptive name … not intended to be a measurement of length”—never mind that the company used a measurement of length to advertise the sandwich, Subway, which was caught with its baloney down, agreed today that a footlong sandwich should be a foot long, and customers had a right to expect it to be so.

What difference does it make? Integrity and honesty, that’s what, just like Benghazi, Beyonce, and Armstrong. Zorn and his ilk, and there are some shockingly prominent and powerful ilk, want the American public to be like the proverbial frog, who would jump out of a pot of boiling water but will remain placidly comfortable in a pot of cool water slowly heated to a deadly boil. They think we should all allow ourselves to be slowly poached in a constantly intensifying culture of lies, in our government, our journalism, our sports, and our entertainment. Why? Because it makes it so much easier for them, you see. What’s a few days before the truth is told? What’s a little fudging? What’s a little cheating? What’s the difference between a live performance and a recorded one, if it sounds the same, and if it sounds the same, why not call the one by the other, more impressive name? What’s an inch of sandwich?

And then, of course, what’s two inches, or two and a half? In an earlier “What the difference?” moment, Oprah Winfrey actually argued (before negative public and media opinion rang her Oprah Alarms) that James Frey’s fake memoir “A Million Little Pieces” was just as valuable as a real memoir because the story was inspiring, and “what difference does it make” if it was all a sham? That attempt to raise the culture’s dishonesty tolerance failed, but the pot is still heating.

Integrity makes a difference, honesty makes a difference, and trust makes a difference. If we can’t trust our leaders, our products, our news and heroes then we are lost, and if we trust them knowing that they will lie to us because there are no consequences we are fools and worse. We are accessories to the corruption of our society.

The way a society encourages honesty is to insist upon it, and to make sure there are serious consequences when the society gets lies instead, whether the lies are large or small. Subway is seeing consequences of its lack of integrity; Armstrong is as well.

But the pot is still slowly heating, and the frog hasn’t jumped yet.


Pointer:ABA Journal

Facts: Chicago Tribune 1

Source: Chicago Tribune 2

21 thoughts on ““What Difference Does It Make?”: The Footlong Sandwich Edition

  1. I think you’re misreading Hillary. She didn’t mean deception doesn’t matter. She is certain that there has been no deception, and that what matters is who did it and how do we prevent similar things in the future, not what cover the killers had.

    • I don’t see how anyone can read it that way: The exchange:

      Questioning Clinton at the hearing, Johnson accused U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of “purposefully misleading the American public” about the episode and argued that the true nature of the attack could have been quickly determined by interviewing evacuees.

      “We were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that, and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn’t know that,” said Johnson at the hearing.

      “Her voice rising, Clinton replied: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

      “At this point”? As in, now that the election is over and the obfuscation was sufficient to keep the questions at bay? His question was why the story was misrepresented by Rice and others for so long. Hillary’s response was “What difference does it make?” I think that answer is telling, offensive, and frankly frightening. But a rare bit of candor from Hillary.

    • Please don’t excuse her behavior. She is an incompetent woman. Who willingly took a cabinet position with an equally incompetent president. Do not rationalize her statement. The Obama administration couldn’t care less about the deaths of 4 Americans. Their dishonesty, and the jailing of a man over a stupid film(freedom of speech!!!!), has made North Africa, and the rest of the world a safe haven for Islamic terrorists. The goals of these savages is to spread Islam and its totalitarianism to every corner of the globe. It looks like they are succeeding.

      • Their dishonesty, and the jailing of a man over a stupid film(freedom of speech!!!!), has made North Africa, and the rest of the world a safe haven for Islamic terrorists. The goals of these savages is to spread Islam and its totalitarianism to every corner of the globe. It looks like they are succeeding.

        That is what made this debacle aggravating. It was used to attack our freedom of speech.

  2. A “pint” in many taverns describes the size of the glass, not the amount of liquid-plus-foam placed on the bar.

    That’s a horrible example from Zorn. All non-blind Consumers can easily tell if their glass isn’t filled fully. A better parallel woud be bars passing off 14 oz glasses as pints, which is a violation for the local department of Weights and Measures

  3. This morning, one of our local radio talk show hosts read a piece by William Safire, written in 1996 and published in the New york Times, offering proof that Ms. Clinton (like her husband) is a congenital liar.

  4. I still cannot imagine the horror experienced by the 911 victims in the stairwells waiting to be rescued or die. I find it equally horrific that these four people suffered and died hoping/waiting/expecting to be rescued. And the difference? The Bush administration knew something might happen but didn’t know what or when; the Obama administration knew something actually was happening. And they watched and still did nothing. So people died and Obama/Clinton lied.

  5. Watched your conversation with O’Reilly — you done good. It’s important to have someone articulate the reasons ‘little’ things such as that really do matter.

    With regards to the current issue, here is my 12 inches worth. I wish that this could be handled with Subway admitting that some (I hope not all) of its footlongs were not a foot long, and document the procedures they intend to follow to ensure uniform and accurate sandwiches, rather than having to endure an endless class action lawsuit.

    I, as one of the potential victims in this case, feel sure that I would never be compensated for the supposed wrong done to me — what would I be likely to get, after all the litigation and fees and such, a half cent for each footlong I supposedly consumed during whatever period is specified.

    It is a pity that even if the wrong-doer is willing to admit fault and take corrective action, that our legal system cannot come up with a common sense and cost effective remedy — but I fear that it cannot.

  6. Everybody adds a couple of inches. What is the big deal? Everyone does it! It is practically a national pastime!

    I stand 5’11. That is what it says on my drivers license. That is what it says on my medical records (having been measured multiple times). Many people ask me “How tall are you? 6’2, 6’3? When I tell them my REAL height, they are shocked! EVERYONE is so used to be lied to about height, 5’11 has truly become the NEW 6’3!

  7. Jack: My recent work schedule has been murderous and precluded my even being near a TV the bulk of the time. That said; please remind me as to what day the Factor interview was and advise how I can access it. The things I have to miss in order to draw a paycheck!

  8. A 2 by 4 is actually 2 inches by 4 inches, and then it is sanded down to its finished dimensions of 1-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches. We don’t like to work with rough hewn wood, so we sand it down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.