National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Preventing the gratuitous insult
Sometimes all it takes for a drycleaning customer to be angry is to look at their receipt. If the price is wrong or deemed too high, that often leads to a confrontational customer service situation. But, now it seems, business owners have something new to worry about: receipts that contain inflammatory comments and insults.
In late August, a customer of a Virginia cleaning plant was treated to a rude shock when he noticed on his receipt that, instead of his name “Alex D—,” the printed piece of paper featured the disrespectful moniker “Alex A**hole.”
Yes. That actually happened. Of course, the story made the Internet rounds in a heartbeat. It was quite popular because, for the most part, it’s an unusual incident. Unfortunately, other media stories suggest the trend of secretly insulting customers may be growing. For example, in July an Asian couple noticed their takeout receipt from a Hooters restaurant in Queens, NY, contained the ethnic slur “Chinx.” As a result, the recipient filed a lawsuit with the Brooklyn Federal Court. At least the Virginia drycleaning plant was more fortunate: the customer complained to the owner, received free cleaning and even said he wasn’t looking to get anyone fired. Regardless, he has said that he will never set foot in there again.
In such cases, whether a lawsuit is filed or not, the major damage comes from losing big in the court of public opinion. These types of situations spread like wildfire on social media and it only needs to happen once for a company to garner a reputation of slinging hate-filled speech at its clients. Most people find those actions reprehensible and will make it a point to avoid such places in the future.
The irony is that such situations should be relatively easy to avoid. This form of passive-aggressive behavior might not be happening terribly often yet, but now that the stories are making headlines, some CSRs will have the idea planted in their minds the next time they deal with an angry or impatient customer. That means it is crucial to make sure your employees are made aware that their receipts will be monitored and any attempts to insult customers will be met with an immediate dismissal. It’s possible some staff members may defy such rules but, hopefully it goes without saying, anybody who fosters that type of personality probably should not be behind your front counter in the first place.
An opportunity for better care labels
Last year the Federal Trade Commission was considering the possibility of doing away with its care labeling rule which for more than 40 years has been in place to advise consumers how to care for their garments. Cleaners have relied on them, too, since the label instructions are supposed to describe a safe method of care for each garment. Despite problems with the rule, it is worth having those labels to guide consumers and professional cleaners. The FTC heard that loud and clear from many people and wisely decided to keep the rule in place. It also heard many suggestions for improving the rule. Some of those suggestions were followed by the commission in proposed revisions to the rule that were released last month. Others were not.
Most of what the FTC proposes updates the rule to reflect current technologies. One big change would add professional wetcleaning as an accepted care method. Back in 1999 when this was first proposed the FTC decided there wasn’t enough information or enough wetcleaners to merit using this care instruction. Things have changed in the last 10 years and now the commission is ready to go along with allowing “professionally wetclean” as a care instruction. The wetcleaning process is well known in this industry, but not so much among the general public or the garment makers and importers who are ultimately responsible for placing the care labels, so it remains to be seen if this new option will be used on labels and understood by consumers. Still, it represents progress for wetcleaning proponents.
Unfortunately, the FTC chose not to address other issues, like the fact that the instructions “Do not wash. Do not dryclean” are allowed under the rule as is the dubious “spot clean only.”
We also are sorry that the commission seems to be missing an opportunity to simplify the rule as recommended last year by GreenEarth Cleaning. Instead the rule would become more complicated with two sets of symbols being allowed and a new definition of drycleaning that includes an array of new solvents with a wide range of cleaning profiles. The simpler approach would have rectified this.
More than 70 cleaners gave the FTC their professional opinion of the care label rule last year. With these proposed revisions now out for comment, there’s a chance to try again.