National Clothesline
National Clothesline
William Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin' Donuts, made the following statement, “Show me a
person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything.”
Consider what this brilliant man said and think about the goals you set for 2013.
Was there a goal you wanted to
accomplish last year, but you were
fearful about starting the project?
Does the fear of making a mistake
prevent you from dunking your
I received an email that stated the
following: “I am new to the industry.
We misplaced a suit coat and I want
to know how to handle the claim.”
Handling claims can be difficult.
Your first goal is not to lose the customer.
I handled claims in the following way. First would be the completion of a garment inquiry form
that included the customer’s name and information pertaining to the lost or damaged garment.
Either kind of claim adjustment would be handled in a similar fashion.
In the case of a lost suit coat, keep the pants or skirt. The reason for this is the customer
oftentimes overstates the purchase price of the garment and when the garment was bought.
In the process of filling out the garment inquiry form, I would request the customer bring in
the sales receipt indicating the purchase price of the suit.
Frequently the customer will tell you, “I purchased the suit this year and I no longer have the
receipt, but I remember I paid X number of dollars for it.”
This is the reason you keep the trousers or skirt. If the garment does not have a retailer’s
label in it, you are going to ask where the suit was purchased. You will then have the ability to
go to the store to verify the age and selling price of the garment.
To keep the customer happy, and as a demonstration of good will, I recommend you give the
customer a store credit.
I would then tell the customer that if we cannot locate the suit coat in 30 days we would make
restitution. You will now have a 30-day window to search the plant or store. If the garment is
not found, you have a better chance that another customer will return it.
If the coat shows up, the customer will be happy. If the coat does not appear, the only issue
is whether there is a sales receipt for the purchase of the garment.
If there is no receipt, you should visit the retail merchant that sold the suit sometime in the
30-day period. I hate to tell you the number of times the retailer has said that they have not
sold the garment for X number of years, and it turned out that the selling price was half of what
the customer stated.
The damaged garment presents an entirely different issue. Adjustment is extremely difficult if
you do not know the cause of the damage. In the event you know that your spotter pulled color,
or the garment was mishandled in some fashion to cause physical damage, there are no issues
with the customer other than settling on the value of the garment.
In the case of damage where the cause cannot be immediately determined, you have a
problem. The claim can go in one of three ways: the manufacturer made the mistake, the
customer caused the problem, or the drycleaning plant did the damage.
Depending on the information that you have gathered on the garment inquiry form, you might
decide to pay the customer immediately.
As a member of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute or the National Cleaners Association,
you can use their laboratory to determine the cause of the damage.
If you do not belong to a national trade association, join now. Joining a trade association is
not only for handling claims, it is to educate yourself and your staff.
Should the lab analysis point the finger at the manufacturer, do not send the customer back
to the retailer. Sending a customer back to the retailer is one of the biggest mistakes a member
of the drycleaning industry can make. The retailer will inevitably say, “We sold hundreds of
those garments and never had a problem!” Whom is the customer going to believe?
It is your job, as the business owner, to take the garment and lab analysis to the retailer in
behalf of your customer. Do not speak to a salesperson; request to speak to the department
manager. You will be conversing with somebody who, you hope, has some knowledge about
garment care and garment damage.
Your customer will be most appreciative of you taking this kind of affirmative action. You have
gone to bat for your customer, and the customer will tell friends about this “Wow” situation. You
cannot beat word-of-mouth advertising.
To handle claims efficiently, what you must initially do is design a garment inquiry form. Most
of the better operators have a form such as this in place. It does not have to be fancy because
the goal is information gathering.
Consider including a section “For Office Use Only.” You could enter the number of visits in the
previous 12 months and/or the amount of money spent by the customer. That information will
establish the value of the customer. This is another benefit of having a comprehensive point-of-
sale computer system.
If the garment is more than one year old, the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute has a Fair
Claims Guide. The guide will assist you in determining the depreciated value of the garment.
The suggested adjustments are not written in stone, so you have to consider the customer
value. As a businessperson, it is incumbent upon you to use good judgment so as not to anger
the customer.
The most difficult situation for a counter or route person to handle is a customer who is yelling
and screaming because a garment is lost or damaged. As a training book for business owners, I
recommend Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne. Dr. Berne’s book was a best seller when it
came out many years ago.
When you read the book, you will learn how to deal with a customer’s anger. Dr. Berne puts
the information in such a simple format that I used it for my counter and route training
You and your staff will learn how to calm the customer and take the person out of the child-
like behavior that is being demonstrated.
By the way, you will also learn how to get along better with your spouse or partner.
If you need a question or questions answered, do not hesitate to send me an email or call my
cell phone. As you have read, I will respond to most questions, no matter the subject matter.

How do you handle claims?
Harvey Gershenson
operates Sterling
Drycleaning Consulting
and is a former owner of
Sterling Dry Cleaners. A
drycleaner, he has been
in the industry since he
was in high school. He
has served as president
of the Cleaners and Dyers
Guild of Los Angeles and
has served on the boards
of directors of the
Drycleaning and Laundry
Institute and the
California Cleaners
Association. He is also a
guest lecturer for the
California Department of
Corrections. He can be
reached by e-mail at
consultme@msn.com or
phone at (310) 261-
2623. His web site is