Monday, April 30, 2007

Price Discrimination at Dry Cleaners

Well, this started my morning off all wrong: I went to a local drycleaners on my way to the subway. I've used this place ever since I moved and found them to be friendly and reasonably priced. But after today, I'm not sure if I'm going back.
This morning, in addition to wanting to have my winter coat drycleaned, I brought in a couple of shirts that I wanted laundered. Sometimes I am just a slob and wear slightly wrinkly shirts, but when spring rolls around, I like having them pressed and since I still don't have an ironing board, and hate ironing, I thought it was time to have some cotton shirts done at the laundry.
So I hand the girl my two shirts and she says "are these man shirts or lady?" I look at her blankly and she says, "oh, these are ladies blouse, so dryclean." I say no, that I don't want them drycleaned, just laundered, no starch. She says they only do that for men's shirts, and that women's shirts have to be drycleaned, at a cost of $2.50 vs. $1.50 each. I argue that that is ridiculous, as all collared cotton shirts are the same and they should charge based on the service rendered, not what gender wears the shirts. She doesn't budge, so I told her I would be taking all my laundry and drycleaning business elsewhere. (Unfortunately, this meant lugging them into my office, as I didn't have time to go elsewhere before work!)
The thing is, I thought New York had passed a law specifically prohibiting this kind of price discrimination. A little googling found me a NY Times article from 1998 about a new law, but I'm not really sure exactly where it stands now-- the article suggests that the law just prevents drycleaners from posting separate price charts for men and women, without necessarily preventing them from actually charging differently. I've been to many other laundry places that were perfectly happy to do my shirts at the normal price, even if in some cases their drycleaning prices distinguished between a "blouse" and a "shirt"-- which is fine with me. A women's silk blouse is often going to be more delicate, more embellished, etc. than a man's shirt, so I can see why it might require more careful handling. But the kind of shirts I am talking about are almost identical for men and women other than the cut and the collars being a bit softer.
I might have to call 311 about that law, and write a letter to the owner of that store. I'm going to be really annoyed if I have to go a few blocks out of my way to do my drycleaning, so I would like to continue to give them my business, but if they're going to be jerks about this, they've seen the last of me.


D said...

Was the counter person new? Cleaning is based on material or fabric, not sex.

I would tell the "call it a man's shirt, if it saves me money."

What do they have too much business?

RichC said...

First talk to the owner ... although the lady at the desk might be related?
Second evaluate your time in 'dollars and sense' in fighting this discrimination.
Third, being an irritate may not get your laundry done very well ... and you might end up with a pretty smelly blouse that you have to pay to get back. I'd go somewhere else and just pass the word.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for writing this post. You are not alone. I have been asked this question several times at many different dry cleaning places in Manhattan that will not launder my shirt and they insist on dry cleaning. They charge around $5 a shirt (trust me I envy my husband and father who pay a dollar or so to get their shirts laundered and put in boxes - why can't it be the same for women?).

I have asked the laundry people about why there is a difference and they said that the machines they used for laundering (washing as opposed to dry cleaning) can only take males sized shirts - what BS.

Please, Please let me know if you find anything about the laws. This so frustrating! I have started buying those non-iron machine wash shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt because of this.

Rich Minx said...

It does seem unfair. I feel that way about haircuts sometimes - especially if it's a trim which would take the same amount of time on a male or female head. And the price of clothes.

Anonymous said...

I use to work at a dry cleaner and there is a reason why lady's shirts cost more. The pressing machines are designed for men's dress shirts, so the machines can press men's dress shirts very quickly. Lady's dress shirts are too small for the machine and they usually have a fitted back (seams in the back) as a result these shirts have to be partially or completely hand ironed. Hand ironing takes longer and also requires a person instead of a machine.

KMull said...

Look at the opportunity to walk a few more blocks to get the dry cleaning done as time to get exercise. Positive spin, that's what it's all about. :)

In Recovery said...

That's insane! Do talk to the manager, especially if you've been a regular. Keep us updated!

Anonymous said...

I own a dry cleaner and a previous post was correct. Shirt machines are desgined for a mans shirt. A womens shirt is smaller and also has a differnt cut in the front for breasts. The machines just presses down and crushs the front and around the shoulders so someone has to take it and finish it by hand. This takes extra time that is why the extra cost. Pressing is the major cost in all dry cleaning because when done properly it time intensive.

meeralee said...

Seems to me there's a market for a better-designed unisex pressing machine. What an absurd problem to have.

Jim said...

You can fresh up clothes at home by using the dry cleaning alternative, FreshCloz, you can not only save cash, but save time.