I was on the road last week, and went with two other people to a popular (and not inexpensive) French restaurant, with plenty of awards hanging on the wall. Although we had reservations, and arrived perhaps five minutes before the actual time, our presence was not acknowledged for several minutes, presumably because there was no host at the door. Finally, a waiter—or possibly it was the maître d’—seated our party.
Drink orders were taken, and the drinks came quickly enough. Surprisingly, there was then no talk of specials. Instead, the dinner orders were taken.
The appetizers were delivered smartly, but then came the interminable wait for the dinners. No less than 45 minutes after our order had been placed, the main courses arrived. And, during this entire period, no wait staff appeared at our table. It was clear after a single bite that my fish had been sitting for some time, since it was barely above room temperature. Fortunately, my guests’ orders were all right.
When the waiter asked how I liked my meal, I informed him that it would have been much better had it not been cold, whereupon he removed the entire main course from my bill.
Just another bad restaurant experience? Maybe, but they seem to be far more common these days, and these experiences occur in fast-food establishments, all the way up through what used to be called “fine dining.”
I am afraid that we are witnessing the nexus of lowered expectations, increasing hype, decreasing shame, consumer ignorance, and ever-expanding greed. I wish that restaurants were the only arena in which this phenomenon is being played out.
While it has long been true that the most hyped criminal defense attorneys, such as F. Lee Bailey, usually lose their high-profile cases (as did Clarence Darrow), it took Mark Geragos to raise losing to an even more lofty level. In the Scott Peterson case, he achieved the amazing result of securing the death penalty for his client. Try searching California legal history for this outcome, in a first offense single homicide. You’ll garner few “hits” over the last 50 years.
And, in the Winona Ryder case, he kept telling the media to wait for the store videos. Naturally, everyone assumed that the tapes would be exculpatory. Far from it. They showed Winona grabbing merchandise off the shelves and stuffing it into a bag!
But, Geragos keeps the PR machine going 24/7. If he’s on TV, he MUST be great, right?
Then, there’s the whole matter of the “best” hospitals. You would think that the facilities would be rated on some sort of normalized scale, looking at outcomes of various procedures. Sorry. The biggest factors in landing a high rating are who is on staff, whether or not you are a “teaching” hospital, and how much high-tech equipment you have.
But this is cold comfort to the many (around 100,000/year) who have died of hospital-induced infections, or those who got endoscopic procedures with scopes soaked in elevator hydraulic fluid, rather than disinfectant. Yes, that actually happened at Duke University Medical Center a few months ago. Of course, that entire matter begs the question as to why it is OK to disinfect these devices, rather than sterilizing them, but that is an essay for another day.
I could also regale you with my limited experiences as an expert witness. In one case, opposing counsel engaged a pathetic blowhard, who thought he could cover up his appalling ignorance with an Ivy League PhD and arrogance. Are you surprised that expert witnessing is his main gig, and his fee was enormous?
The only way that we can reverse this trend is to simply demand better from others. In justice, though, we must also demand better of ourselves.