Pressed By Cost Of Dry Cleaning?

When it comes to dry cleaning, Randy Lievan says it's not your clothes, but you getting taken to the cleaners. So, as CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, he's joined a growing breed of flat-rate cleaners.

"Dryclean Depot charges only $1.75 for any garment and only 99 cents for all laundered shirts," says Lievan, the company's founder.

CBS got a tour of his factory in Sterling, Va., where his $1.75 service was put on the spot.

He put the jacket in the machine and before long it was done.

Fifteen miles away, in a pricier suburb, the same jacket will take four days and costs a lot more: $6.70.

William E. Fisher, the CEO of the International Fabricare Institute - the Association for Professional Dry Cleaners - says you get what you pay for.

"There are different quality levels of dry cleaning service, just as there are different quality levels in almost everything," Fisher said in a statement. "In dry cleaning, you might pay $3-4 for a suit at a discount cleaner, $10 at a typical dry cleaner and $25 or more at a 'carriage class' dry cleaner. The quality that you get is different —- and if it isn't, you're not using the right cleaner."

But Robert Krughoff disagrees.

"In dry cleaning you really don't get what you pay for," says Krughoff.

Krughoff's consumer group has surveyed thousands of dry cleaners and customers.

"There are some very high quality shops that have very low prices," says Krughoff

But flat-rate cleaners obviously aren't winning points with the competition.

In the Washington D.C. area, a consortium of Korean Americans dominates the market. They pooled their money and clout to keep Dryclean Depots out of local neighborhoods. They insist there's no great mystery to their pricing methods.

"You go inside the stores and ask the storeowners, 'Give me the price list,'" says Jeff Ahn, president of the Korean-American Drycleaners Association of Greater Washington.

And even though the list is kept behind the computer and looks like it's a big secret, Ahn insists, "it's not a big secret."

Taking Ahn's advice, CBS News visited a dry cleaner and asked for the price list. Sure enough the, store owner showed it to us.

A skirt is $5.45. It's extra if it's knit or corduroy. It's also more if it's red or white. Also, women's clothes may cost more.

"Fancy clothes or evening dress is little more complicated than regular clothes and they may have a difficult spot to remove," says Ahn.

At flat-rate cleaners, that argument doesn't wash.

"If you look at how much labor it takes her to do that skirt versus how much labor it takes to do those men's pants, you're going to see the men's pants actually take more labor," says Lievan.

With Lievan spilling the industry's secrets, many customers are giving flat-rate shops a try hoping to clean their dirty laundry without cleaning out their wallets.
  • Jaime Holguin

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