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Volume 72, Issue 63, Thursdsay, November 16, 2006


Ham and swiss, hold the legislation

Christian Palmer 
Opinion Columnist

A Massachusetts judge on Tuesday finally made the important distinction between a burrito and a sandwich -- apparently some were confused.

The court decision came as a result of a suit brought by Panera Bread, the delicious deli and bakery, when Qdoba Mexican Grill tried to encroach on its tasty turf. 

Panera claimed earlier in the suit that allowing Qdoba to open in the same mall as the sandwich shop would be in violation of the leasing contract that disallows the mall from granting a lease to another sandwich-selling establishment. In a ruling that probably demanded a chuckle, the presiding judge was forced to actually contemplate the definition of "sandwich." 

He put his faith in the Webster's Third New International Dictionary, which defines the word as "two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese or savory mixture) spread between them." It's a good thing there was no debate about the meaning of the word "is," or they would have been in a real pickle.

In a ruling destined to go down with the best of them, the judge said, "Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich' is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice and beans." 

While the entire situation is absurd, the fact that the opinion filled eight pages just makes it that much better. Now that the burrito-sandwich mystery is solved, we can turn our attention to more pressing issues.

Sensible people find it difficult to understand how this could have gotten so far in the judicial system. Somebody should have tossed it out somewhere along the way. 

People must have stopped to think, "Of course a burrito does not qualify as a sandwich." The judge even called that "common sense." People may find it equally difficult to remember the plaintiff and the only thing that allowed this mess to occur: a contract.

When looking at the suit it begins to appear as though Panera is hindering fair competition. It is merely trying to do everything possible to keep the largest amount of people coming to its eatery, however. That's always the main objective, but it is trying to defend its profits in the wrong way.

Even if Qdoba does sell sandwiches, which it clearly does not, the mere presence of such a clause in the leasing policy is filled with the same anti-competitive spirit. 

Other industries appear to understand this; it is a matter of common knowledge that one cannot happen upon an IHOP without seeing a Denny's around. The same principle goes for Wal-Mart and Target, Wal-Mart and Lowes and even Wal-Mart and McDonald's -- regardless of whether there is already a McDonald's in the Wal-Mart.

It's hard to get more American than sandwiches, but it just might be safe to assume that bringing ridiculous suits in hopes of being awarded rights to monopolize peoples' hunger -- even at the expense of common sense -- is even more in line with our way of life.

Palmer, a communication junior, 
can be reached at

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