I have been asked many times if I believe in asking customers if they will sign a Release Form for troublesome and risky items to be cleaned. I agree with using them and yet I disagree also. It’s a tough call. I will try to explain this call of opinion from the most expensive drycleaners (Couture) through the medium prices on down to the Discounters (generally the lowest prices). I’ll begin with discounters. I hope I don’t scare anyone from this article because I believe and have learned that there is a market for all three price levels. Now for those who never attended and graduated from a State or our International Drycleaning School DLI, there is always material and bulletins and even correspondence classes that chart these price divisions. Naturally, you need to buy membership, which is money well spent, especially with DLI. Most State Associations are affiliated with DLI and have dual membership with their states anyway.
I Always Liked To Hitch My Wagon To A Star
Various training materials have long shown charts that explain the lowest price, to the medium price range to the highest priced drycleaners. I know some very good discount operators who do fine work, despite their low price. I would hitch my wagon to a star with a good friend of mine who owns and operates a plant in Fallbrook and Del Mar, California. Mike Monaghan is his name and he is as fine a fellow you will ever hope to meet. Does he take a beating on his profit margins, occasional yes. But a lot of drycleaners like Mike understand the value in talking to their customers from time to time about important items to dryclean. But operating a business on a personal level with your customers like Mike does, is gratifying. He will go the extra mile sometimes without requiring a signed Release Form. I might mention that Mike is also BBQ man like me.
A Signed Release Form Is Sometimes Not A Good Idea
While I normally would use Release Forms, I would use them with caution. Some of you may have experienced the aggravation of going to court to settle a troublesome matter, and judges tend to favor against the drycleaners on these matters. I think it all gets down to when to use the form as appropriate or not. If your policy is to buy items that were ruined in your process just to keep that customer happy, so be it. They are often using your business and bringing in a lot of revenue. Your company policy is all dependent on you, the owner.
Showing off your expertise, as is in the title of this article, can be an impressive and convincing view to the customer, especially if you are explaining professional drycleaning to your valued customers. Testing, and a discussion of the practices, trends and possible difficulties, should be demonstrated and explained about your operation. Naturally, heirloom items, drapes, rugs, delicate expensive items such as purses and shoes can pose a risk. It figures though that an experienced owner and drycleaning person should be educated on risks to certain fibers and damaged/rotten fibers. The same goes for household items, especially couch and chair covers. Sometimes the color after cleaning will not match your customers’ other items in their room. A lot of these types of items simply bleed color or are sun faded. Risky to clean but everything is cleanable if done right and with the appropriate amount of skill. If you or your drycleaner person are not educated, then I would suggest using release forms for sure!
As my old friend Ray Colucci once said, “Spell out the risk” to your customer when deciding how to handle this issue. What an industry icon Ray was. I learned a lot from this gentleman, older than me, and full of advice. One of my absolute gems he used to say when I asked him what quality in my early years of drycleaning was he said, “quality will forever be a voice in the wilderness.” Sadly Ray left us, like many other older and wise trainers.
Using a wholesaler to do your cleaning for a drop store, sub-station or satellite stores is okay, but monitor your wholesaler for quality. A great deal of plants today operate at the medium called “bang ‘em and hang ‘em,” with no inspections in their process. Sadly the customer loses in the end and eventually some plants go down for not maintaining standards for quality. Maybe print your own company logo release form instead of the lifeless mundane pre-printed forms. Make yourself stand out. As the late icon Stan Golomb would say, “No one has ever gone out of business doing real quality work.” Think about it.
I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me.