A lot of drycleaners and laundrymen/women are not taking advantage of education in our industry. As I see reported classes across the country I am somewhat surprised by the numbers becoming so few. It distresses me because there is so much education available. To start with, companies like A.L. Wilson Chemical Company does free seminars as does R.R. Street & Co. Inc. You notice I said free? Yes, and still the few that attend have not grown over the years. In fact, since I got into the education part of this industry in 1987 after spending the previous 17 years in a plant operation, I have not seen the student’s attendance grow. I watch the graduate numbers from the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI, formally IFI, formally National Institute of Dry Cleaners (NIDC) and beginning in 1926 as Dyers & Cleaners Association (DCA). These classes were full to the brim in the early days. They still have a fair number of graduates but not like the old days. Not to mention the state and local association’s class efforts. I never advocated giving a class for free and maybe that’s the reason they no longer do so well. Perhaps it is perception of cost vs. value?
Drycleaners Rarely Ruin A Garment-The Odds Are In Our Favor
It really gets down to the efforts of some people to equate drycleaning and professional laundry to home cleaning. Many a person has used the old saying, “I have been taken to the cleaners” as blame for our industry to be the reason for their every problem in life. Yeah that’s it, industry perception. They think we charge too much. How ridiculous! The reason discount cleaners (or any other type of cleaners) is successful is that we build a niche amongst our customers and loyalty becomes the by-word for guaranteed for life customer. Unless they move away or you get the grumpy customer who wants us to pay for every garment they themselves ruined (we rarely ruin garments). Yes, our success rate at cleaning is still better than what our customers think. Though it is not at the professional level it once was. It all started changing (like society) in the 1970’s. Drycleaners became complacent and frightened as we went through a serious customer drought brought on by synthetic wear. Woe me, was that a serious decade in many ways! Values starting with the post 18 group of the 60’s people already poisoned by the hippie movement and the ever still (I am entitled) bunch that’s still alive. You know “the government is here to take care of me” attitude. Fortunately, in our industry the serious and mature owners stuck their nose to the grindstone through the 70’s and made it through the obis.
Which brings us back to why there needs to be a serious look at education. Many of my peers and friends have made great classes in the past. It’s not the education that’s lacking or the teachers that maybe did not know how to teach and reach their audience, but it is the attitude by todays owners that since they were given a crash course by the previous owner or worse yet, no training by anyone, they think they can learn it. But with what credibility? Not the fella who thinks since he might be good at mechanics and thinks he knows everything when he does not. I am once again here to tell you it is not true. One must know what the standards are and how to reach them by educating one’s self. The DLI can provide those guidelines for you if you are smart enough to invest a small amount of money to them which will come back to you. That money goes towards so many great things as well as education; I’d have to write another 20 articles to tell you about it all. Easy enough. Call the DLI if you have staff that needs training and you want to join a group of drycleaners that know and have known for decades that better cleaners aren’t born, but trained.
Old Sid Was Right
Yes, someone once said, “A closed mind is a terrible thing.” Might have been the old cowboy, I don’t remember. As we speed into 2019, we must change our attitude about education or we will continue to shrivel up as an industry. If you don’t believe me, just study our history as an industry. We have dropped well below the standards we once had. Fancy hangers, tissue, bones for your customer’s dogs and all the other niceties are great and customer service is incredibly important, but that alone is not enough. We have to actually present a clean garment on time and with a smile. The late icon Sid Tuchman had it right, “Clean the clothes good and deliver on time.” Words of Wisdom Sid. We miss you.
I’m headin’ to the wagon now; these boots are killin’ me!