It. Was. That. Bad.
I had forgotten just how low the Mid-America Club, an otherwise very exclusive private club, can go. A number of years back I was at a 4th of July party up there and the food would have been improved by sending out to the local hot dog stand. This (while being something of a generic "hot mini appetizer" buffet) was nearly that disappointing.
Frankly, what was worse than the food was that there was NOBODY keeping things organized, and the appetizer buffet was set up for a particular traffic flow (with all the serving units facing one way, and with a very clear starting and ending item), yet both sides were going "against the flow" ... something that could have been simply handled with a couple of 8.5x11" computer-generated signs and perhaps a bus boy or two telling people to not be MORONS.
It was even worse when they began to open up the carving station. One end had plates, and forks, and rolls, and knives (and the carving boards) while the other had two serving units (continuing down the table), with rice and mixed vegetables. Again, set for one-way traffic, but the MORONS were busy rushing the back of line, piling up plates with rice and veggies long before the roasts came out (or the guy to carve them)! Once more, a little evident signage, or a bus boy or two could have made this a smooth operation, but nooooo. Obviously, there was also a question of there being "enough food" for the crowd, but that's a whole separate issue.
Of course, I'm a former CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) who has run many dozens of events in a wide array of facilities over the years, so I see this stuff where others might not, but one would think that SOMEBODY on staff at either the club or the host organization would have stepped up to the plate to ensure things were running as they were meant to.
On top of this, the info said "free drinks". Now, I quit drinking booze 24 years ago, so that "free drinks" tag doesn't do it for me the way it used to, but the "free drinks" that they had was one bar with free red or white wine, and one bar with free tap beer. If you wanted a wine at the beer station you had to buy a $7.00 ticket (from the very bored-looking lady sitting next to the bar with the cash box), and if you wanted a beer at the wine station you had to buy a $7.00 ticket (from their bored cash-box lady), and if you wanted something non-alcoholic like a soda you had to buy a $3.00 ticket. Thankfully they'd set up a few water pitchers which were free, if self-serve.
I hate to say it, but my confidence in the host organization has been deeply eroded by tonight's event. They had twenty co-sponsoring organizations (some of which being Very Large Corporations), and were charging attendees to be there. This group presents itself as a organization that provides help for those who are out of work, but after tonight, I'm thinking more that they're a bunch of "sharp guys" who figured out that this whole "unemployment" thing is a growth business and that if they play the angles right they can shake down not only the desperate job seekers, but sponsor organizations who either want in on the same scam, or legitimately want to help.
Aside from the "poor product" and the non-existent "management" of the event (hell, they started the much ballyhooed prize raffle right when the carving stations opened up on the other end of the room, and unless you were within the 1/3rd of the room where they were running the raffle, you couldn't hear anything, let alone one's number being called, so at least 2/3rds of the crowd "didn't have a chance", and probably more like 3/4 as the bulk of the folks were trying to get something to eat and had no clue the raffle was happening), it was an ugly sight. There were several hundred (I'm assuming that some of the 400 supposedly signed up for this got scared off by the snow) desperate, worried, and anxious unemployed persons all crammed in together. Just try getting useful networking done in that setting! Everybody was sending out their own plaintive cry for help, except for the ones that had worked up scams of the side (I know, I spent years doing network marketing, but there were lots of "I just signed up for something" folks in the room), or were there to drum up various sorts of "coaching" business. The concept sounded good on paper, but I should have realized what the crowd dynamic would have been and skipped it.
Oh, and for a final "how low can you go" moment ... I was leaving early, right? About half-way through the scheduled time. There was already a guy posted by the elevators to make sure that NOBODY left without handing back in their 15¢ plastic badge holder! Amazing! What a waste of time.