Professionalism Is the Real Alternative

Everett Childers |

Let’s look at how many “alternatives” we have for cleaning clothes: There is perc, hydrocarbon, GreenEarth, Rynex and liquid CO2. Wetcleaning, Dry-Wetcleaning and other options are available. But you’ve heard that word—“alternative”—tossed around for years.
Is any one of these really the “alternative” your business needs? Take a good look at your operation, and I think you’ll see that the solvent you choose is not the weakest link in your business. You’ll find that competence, friendliness and service are, by far, your business’ most important aspects.
Let’s go back and look at some of the basics. The “alternative” to a dirty, messy drycleaning shop is a clean shop. Too many times, retail areas are dirty, dusty and cluttered. There are too many signs that absolve us of responsibility, and too many customer-service people who won’t get off the phone to help a customer.
There are customer-service people who look like death warmed over or refugees from a used-clothing store. And please don’t ask a counterperson anything of a technical nature. Some of the answers a customer hears should be in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
If your plant still uses metal staples shot through the care label, stop. You are damaging the label and covering up the care instructions, which really do have a purpose in a professional cleaning plant. Plastic tags are better for holding marking tags in place, and they won’t damage customers’ garments. And make sure to place them properly.
And how about removing marking tags after assembly? I see few cleaners who inspect garments thoroughly, assemble them with the correct orders, and then remove the tags so that the garment is ready to wear.
The latest fad is to leave the tags on, so the customer has to remove them in order to wear the garment. It’s common to see customers walking down the street with marking tags still on their garments. Have you ever bought a new suit and had it altered or pressed for wearing? Did you see tags still sewn onto the sleeve or the waistband?
One “alternative” we should look at is using the correct cleaning procedures for garments. When you buy a cleaning machine, know that its technical specifications will allow you to clean clothes thoroughly for years—don’t go for price alone. Things like pump capacity and distillation rates are very important.
If you buy a machine with a filter pump that’s too small, you won’t get a thorough cleaning. Couple this with a six- or eight-minute wash cycle, factor in how many cleaners among us try to save a fortune by shorting loads on detergent and sizing, and you have a recipe for destroying customers’ confidence.
The “alternative” that’s evolved to professional finishing with sharp creases, perfectly rolled lapels and straight pleats is simply steaming. Irons aren’t a high-tech, end-all method for finishing a garment. Puff irons aren’t finishing devices, either—if used correctly, they are pre-finishing tools.
A wealth of finishing knowledge has been lost. Garments are supposed to be dry when taken off the press, and any touch-up done with a hand iron is done with the vacuum pedal depressed (and with the fabric on the buck, not on a hanger).
The “alternative” to learning spotting is to slap a “Sorry, but...” tag on the garment. Look at your outgoing orders and see how many of those tags are hanging there.
The “alternative” to some of these negatives is to get a thorough technical education from instructors who have earned a paycheck in the industry and can relate information to be understood and remembered. Unfortunately, those who have been teaching the fine art of cleaning, spotting and finishing are getting older, and there aren’t many new ones coming along.
If we are going to be professionals, we need to act professionally and do a professional job of cleaning clothes—it’s the only “alternative” that matters in performing our chosen life’s work.

About the author

Everett Childers

Childers & Associates

Industry Consultant and Educator

Longtime industry consultant and educator Everett Childers is the author of the Master Drycleaners Notebook.


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