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Survey: Cash, Drugs, Sex Toy Among Forgotten Items Found by Dry Cleaners

CHICAGO — It’s not unusual for a dry cleaner to find items that a customer has left behind in their garments, but the interesting nature of some of these items just might surprise you.

What forgotten or abandoned items do you see most often in your plant? This month’s Wire survey asked respondents to choose up to three item categories from a group of 11. Atop the list of items that dry cleaners find most often is pens or pencils (76.7%), followed closely by candy, gum or food (60%). Lipstick or lip balm, and paper currency, is also discovered frequently, according to equal shares of 40%.

Other items of note are lighters or matchbooks (23.3%), “other” (23.3%), makeup items besides lipstick (10%) and keys (6.7%). While they do turn up from time to time, wallets or pocketbooks and USB memory sticks are not among the items discovered most often by today’s cleaners, based on survey results.

The average cleaner has a policy regarding return of such items, although guidelines vary from business to business. Some cleaners return absolutely everything—even used tissues—while others return everything except “obvious trash.”

Many dry cleaners say their staff is instructed to call a customer whenever they find anything of value, including jewelry, credit cards, driver’s license, keys, etc. For other items, it's routine for cleaners to record them on the order invoice, bag them, and attach the bag to the dry cleaning order for customer pickup. One cleaner draws the line, however, at returning underwear. Any drugs are turned over to local police.

On average, dry cleaners successfully remove 95-99% of abandoned or forgotten items from customer pockets before processing, according to the survey results.

Here are some of the more interesting finds reported by respondents:

  • “One order had a revolver in it. We called the customer, and they said they had stuck it in the clothes bag while moving and had forgotten it. They came right back to retrieve it.”
  • “A check for $20,000.”
  • “$1,200 Christmas Club fund found in a man’s sports coat pocket. This man had saved all year and had no idea he had left his money in his pocket. He was so happy to get it back.”
  • “A 2-karat engagement ring.”
  • “Vibrator.”
  • “Love letters to his girlfriend. He was married.”
  • “Two kilos of cocaine, $12,000 in cash and an additional $10,000 in bearer bonds, all sewn into the lining of drapes.”

While the Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.

Subscribers to Wire e-mails are invited to take a brief industry survey anonymously online each month. All dry cleaners are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define opinions and industry trends.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .