In sponsored tweet, man slams Subway over bug in sandwich

Toronto resident Patrick Balfour noticed a cockroach in his sandwich 11 months ago, but was ignored because he hadn’t taken a photo of it. So he bought a Twitter ad—and got noticed.


Most people’s reaction to finding a dead cockroach in their sandwich would be to immediately throw the tainted food away, not take a picture of it. That’s what Patrick Balfour did after he found a bug in a turkey foot-long he ordered at a Subway in Toronto, where he lives. He did, however, complain to Subway Canada’s customer service on the phone and on Twitter. Balfour’s bug incident happened 11 months ago. Subway apparently didn’t give credence to his complaints because he didn’t have a photo of the sandwich. “I was [disgusted] and got rid of the sub as soon as possible,” he told The Daily Dot in an email. “I never thought it would drag on this long or that I’d ever need a photo of a dead cockroach.” When @SubwayOntario eventually did ask for Balfour’s contact information to talk to him further, he gave it, and then he didn’t hear back for 10 days, he said, so he reached out again. They asked for his contact information again. Balfour let the incident lie for a while, but when he noticed that Subway Canada started a promoted-tweet advertising campaign in January, he decided to respond in kind. First, he simply replied to the promoted tweet:

Then he asked why he was being ignored:

Eventually Subway Canada answered with a customer care phone number that Balfour said was a 24-hour voice mail, so he laid down $90 for a promoted tweet of his own:

If nothing else, Balfour’s tweet is proof that promoted tweets work. Most of his tweets about Subway received only three or four retweets, but his promoted tweet earned more than 120. The trouble for brands is that they’re fairly democratic. People willing to pay a little money to trash a brand can clearly do so.

Balfour said he wouldn’t have had to go the promoted tweet route if Subway had responded to his complaints in the first place. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to tell a story that they should want to hear. I don’t want money; I don’t want subs. All I know is that the way they currently use social media is not doing them any favors.”

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