Blouse dry-cleaning bill raises woman's ire

Blouse dry-cleaning bill raises woman's ire

by Leslie Benson

Jill D'Antignac claims she fell victim to "gender pricing" after her Columbus-based dry cleaner charged her 25 percent more than a man to launder and press two button-down, cotton shirts.

Expecting to pay just $2.60 - the price Callander Cleaners charges to launder most men's shirts - D'Antignac was charged the women's blouse price of $3.25. "One of my shirts could've been mistaken for a man's shirt," the Angie's List member says. "Why should I have to pay more than a man?"

D'Antignac says she's been a loyal customer of the highly rated Callander Cleaners for 15 years and she's never been charged the higher amount before. She now plans to take her dry cleaning elsewhere.

Company president Ron Callander Sr. says women's blouses typically cost more because they require more care, but he admits that D'Antignac's shirts "are cut similar to men's shirts and will fit on the standard unit press." He says the employee who regularly assists D'Antignac was on vacation in June when she dropped off the shirts and another employee inadvertently charged her the higher price. "We're looking into this further," he says.

In the meantime, he says customers often don't realize the price difference reflects a variety of packaging costs, fabric care, tailoring and size adjustments. "A woman's blouse is cut differently than a man's shirt and won't fit on the regular press," Callander says. "The unit we use holds a typical man's shirt size 14 to extra large and finishes about 55 shirts an hour.

"It's not discrimination when we charge more to launder and press a woman's blouse" because of the time involved, he adds.

Daniel Bartosic, president of highly rated Bart's Cleaners Inc. in Clintonville, says his customers don't pay extra for shirt laundering, regardless of gender. Ruffled or pleated items, however, cost extra because they require more labor to clean. Bart's charges $2.24 to launder a regular button-down cotton shirt. For fabric that requires additional care, he charges $2.95.

Pricing differences don't just affect women, however. Men also pay more for laundering services in special circumstances.

"I wear a size 18.5 shirt that doesn't fit on most shirt units, so I have to pay extra," says Alan Spielvogle, director of technical services for the National Cleaners Association Inc. "The amount of time it takes to restore a garment and the level of quality in the work is reflected in its price."

David Norford, director of marketing for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, concurs. "Items that have care labels that say 'hand wash,' 'wash separately' or 'dry flat' need extra care," he says. "When garments are mispriced, it's likely to be the result of poor training, not a deliberate attempt to overcharge."

Norford urges dry cleaners to clearly display their pricing. Callander says he doesn't display his prices, but the information is provided if a customer asks.

D'Antignac says she'll be a more diligent customer in the future. "I'll ask if there is a price differential for services before I drop off my laundry," she says.

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