For your convenience

August 19, 2007

It turns out, the infamous "pants suit" has legs - which is to say, it isn't going away anytime soon.

The whole thing began in 2005 when a Washington, D.C., dry cleaners lost the pants to a suit that had been brought in for alteration. The customer, Roy L. Pearson, said the owners of Custom Cleaners had not lived up to their posted sign promising "Satisfaction Guaranteed," and he sued them - for $65 million, later dropped to $54 million plus about $400 an hour in attorney's fees for defending himself.

You see, Mr. Pearson is a lawyer - in fact, he's an administrative law judge. In June, a more rational judge - the one hearing Mr. Pearson's case - ruled in favor of the cleaners owners, who last week offered to drop their demand that Mr. Pearson pay their legal fees. He responded by filing notice to appeal the court's ruling.

This could get serious. If Mr. Pearson ultimately wins because his "satisfaction" was not "guaranteed," think of the run on the courts from customers across the country, claiming they were misled by empty boasts:

"Coldest beer in town." This sign graces a modest watering hole in South Baltimore. But what if you found a colder one? Shouldn't that bit of false advertising, especially on a sweltering day, be worth a few million, at least?

"Rapid transit." Maryland wisely sticks to the bare facts with its Maryland Transit Administration. No promise of speed there, no wild-eyed optimism or even slightly raised expectations. However, if you get a slow ride in, say, San Francisco, can you sue BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)? Or how about a pokey bus in Dallas - shouldn't DART (you guessed it) ante up some cash?

"Home cooking." What do they do, whip up the food back at the house and bring it in through the restaurant kitchen? We doubt that! And the same goes for "homemade."

"Garden fresh." Just try asking to speak to the gardener before ordering that salad. What, no gardener? No garden? Maybe it's in the back yard of that elusive home where all the pies are made.

"Happy Hour." This could lead to a class-action suit - even if it is the coldest beer in town.

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