CHICAGO — In a people-centric industry like dry cleaning, all kinds will come through the front door over time. Some of these encounters over the counter are positive and memorable — the kind that make a cleaner glad they got into the field. Then, there are the others….
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at some of the uplifting experiences cleaners have had, and in Part 2, we heard some, well, not-so-uplifting tales. Today, we’ll conclude by recounting some interactions that fall under the category of, shall we say, a bit peculiar.
Calling the Bluff
Many dry cleaners have a liberal policy when it comes to paying claims of damaged or lost garments. And almost inevitably, there will be customers who attempt to take advantage. Brian Butler, president of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, Ohio, remembers a client who pulled that trigger once too often.
“My CSR comes to tell me that we have a two-year, good-volume customer who has been nickel-and-diming us for claims, and now he wants a big one,” Butler says, “and she’d like me to take it because it’s a higher dollar amount and the pattern of abuse isn’t going well.”
Butler quickly looked up the customer’s record and saw that he had put in five claims in two years. This would be No. 6.
“He wanted $750 for a Jos. A. Bank sports coat that was way over the hill,” he says. “The customer said we tore the lining. It was only frayed where it matched up to his right hip of his waistline and belt area, and other than appearing well-worn, it was otherwise OK.”
Butler knew the coat was only worth about $250 new.
“I get him on the phone and let him deliver his speech,” Butler says, “you know the one they rehearse: ‘Favorite jacket, it’s in great shape, how could this have happened, blah, blah, blah.’ I then tell him this is his sixth claim in two years.”
The customer disputes that he had made that many claims, but Butler offers to let the man look at the records. Butler then issues his own terms.
“I said that if he truly believes we are causing this much damage, he should have fired us two or three claims ago,” Butler says. “I then said I would repair his lining, but I expect it to wear back out because he’s either carrying a phone or a pistol on his right hip. I was hoping for the phone because we were at the end of the line on claims.”
Butler told the customer that he would accept losing the man’s business because he would never pay another claim of his again. “I told him that we were now six deep in two years, and I don’t have a 25-year client with half that many.”
The bluff called, Butler said the man’s request changed to wanting a standing discount, which he promptly and firmly refused. Despite this outcome, Butler reports that the man has remained a route customer for the past 15 years and to this day sends good volume.
“He’s tried to sneak some claims by us,” Butler says. “We just ignore him when he does.”
Good Dogs and Nearly Naked Men
A good drycleaning store makes visitors feel relaxed while there — which can have its ups and downs.
“We give out dog treats when a customer comes to our drive-thru or into the store,” says Tom Zengeler, president of Zengeler Cleaners, headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village. “At one of our stores, a customer came in on a Monday morning with her dog. She explained to the manager that she had lost the dog over the weekend. They looked all over the neighborhood and just couldn’t find it. They finally came to our store — we’re closed on Sundays — and they found the dog, sitting at our drive-thru window, waiting for a treat, and nobody was there. That was a very smart dog.”
While that dog was pleasantly comfortable with Zengeler’s store, some human customers can feel a bit too comfortable when they visit.
“We had a customer who would put all of his dry cleaning in a hamper, and then bring in everything at one time,” Zengeler says. “He would come in just a couple of times a month. He was so particular about making sure that he gave us all of his dry cleaning during that visit. And then before he left the store, he left his pants and shirt that he was wearing and walked out of the store in his boxers and T-shirt.”
And believe it or not, this type of visit isn’t an isolated incident.
“A few years ago, we were having this special where if you brought in 10 shirts, you got them done for a particular price,” Zengeler says. “A guy brought in nine shirts, and he needed that 10th shirt for the special. So, he took off his shirt and walked out of the store with no shirt or undershirt on. We’ve had people change in their car or whatever after picking things up, but some people are a little more direct than others.”
For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].