Survey: Dry Cleaners Sometimes Find Unique Items Remain in Customers’ Pockets

Bruce Beggs |

CHICAGO — Dry cleaners often find items that a customer has left behind in their garments. That isn’t surprising. What can be surprising is the nature of some of these found items.

What forgotten or abandoned items do you see most often in your plant? This month’s American Drycleaner Your Views survey asked respondents to choose up to three item categories from a group of six. Atop the list of items that dry cleaners find most often is paper currency or coins (59.1%), followed by pens or pencils (52.3%). Candy, gum or food (45.5%) is also discovered frequently, according to the survey results.

Other items of note are “other” (25%, of which receipts and tissues were mentioned most frequently) and lipstick/lip balm (20.5%). No one who took the survey mentioned finding lighters or matchbooks among customers’ things.

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 “garbage.”

Many dry cleaners say their staff is instructed to call a customer whenever they find a credit card, driver’s license, etc. For other items, it’s routine to record them on the order invoice, bag them, and attach the bag to the drycleaning order for customer pickup. Illegal drugs are turned over to local police or flushed down the toilet.

On average, dry cleaners say they successfully remove 96% 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:

  • “Ladies’ undergarments—in a man’s pants pocket.”
  • “Condoms and $1,200—self-explanatory.”
  • “When I had a plant, we found rosary beads in a jacket pocket. We put it in a baggy and attached to the invoice. Days later, the wife of the man who dropped off the jacket came in and asked why we put the rosary in the bag as they were not Catholic. We apologized. The next day, the husband came in and complained that we sent the rosary to him. He explained that the rosary was his girlfriend’s, who was Catholic.”
  • “A gun.”
  • “Crack cocaine in a county judge’s coat pocket.”
  • “Small glass vial of white powder with a rolled-up dollar bill.”
  • “One-karat cut diamond left in the pocket by a local jeweler.”
  • “...fake teeth and $2,100 in cash in the pocket of [a] well-known athlete’s mom’s clothes.”
  • “We have a three-way tie: Condoms, and the spouse didn’t know her husband had them. A hash pipe, and the customer refused to accept it and accused us of planting it in their pocket. A $6,500 cocktail ring; our employee refused a reward, so the customer sent a huge bouquet of flowers.”

While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Subscribers to American Drycleaner e-mails are invited each month to take a brief industry survey they can complete anonymously. The entire trade audience is encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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