Why would you allow your dry cleaner to destroy your buttons and other hardware?

The importance of protecting buttons and other hardware

A  new client (or, better still, a potentially new client) walked into our facility recently with a Canali suit and a David Donahue white dress shirt. He told us that he was referred to us by a salesperson at a high-end department store.

After asking some basic questions about our cleaning and hand ironing processes, he inquired about price.

We informed him of the price to clean and hand press the suit. We also told him that the price quoted included removing all the corozo nut buttons on the suit and replacing those buttons after cleaning -- using the identical color of thread, the identical stitch configuration (crowsfoot, cross stitch, parallel or square stitch as appropriate) and the identical shanking technique.

The client was shocked.

He responded that, in his opinion, removing and replacing those buttons was unnecessary.

Based on his response, we informed him of the risks associated with wrapping corozo nut buttons versus removing/replacing those buttons. We also informed him -- politely and professionally -- that, in the event he concluded that it was unnecessary to remove and replace the corozo nut buttons, we could not accept the suit for cleaning.

At that point, shock turned to anger.

He demanded that we clean the suit without removing and replacing the buttons.

And that's not all.

He also threatened to hold us responsible for replacing any chipped or cracked buttons if any of those buttons chipped or cracked during the cleaning process.

We informed the client that we are experts in evaluating the risks associated with cleaning garments adorned with all types of buttons and other hardware and that we would NOT accept his suit for cleaning UNLESS we removed the corozo nut buttons prior to cleaning and resewed those buttons after cleaning.

We suggested that he should find a value, ordinary or wannabe dry cleaner who was blind to the risks and who would, therefore, be happy to clean his suit without removing and then replacing the corozo nut buttons.

As he exited our facility, he muttered that he was one of the high-end department store's "best customers" and that we would "regret" our decision not to accept his suit for cleaning.

Two weeks later, that same individual strolled into our facility with his Canali suit. He informed us that another dry cleaner had cracked some of his corozo nut buttons, stated that the high-end department store from whom he bought the suit could not supply replacement corozo nut buttons (as those buttons had been custom dyed to match the color of the fabric used to construct the suit), and asked, with no hint of embarassment, if he could purchase a new set of corozo nut buttons from us.

We informed him that we are in the garment care business and not in the button supply business, and that we reserve our supplies of corozo nut buttons for clients who appreciate the quality of the work we do.

The moral of the story

The moral of the story is simply this: If you've invested in a quality wardrobe, select a dry cleaner whose puts their quality standards are in writing and who has a national and local reputation for quality work.

That cleaner will know how to protect the buttons and other hardware that are integral to your garments.

When a new client walks into an ordinary cleaner, the cleaner will greet them, accept their garments, ask them if "tomorrow after 5" is ok and provide a receipt.

By contrast, when a new client walks into our facility, we always ask 4 questions:

  • What prompted you to walk into RAVE FabriCARE?
  • Are you aware of our quality standards and the nature of the work we do?
  • Are you familiar with our pricing structure?
  • Are you familiar with our turnaround time?

In response to the first question, a new client will typically tell us (a) that they've grown tired of ordinary dry cleaners destroying their fine garments, household textiles and accessories and, (b) that they located us through a referral from a friend or associate, a referral from a high-end department store, boutique or custom tailor or an internet search.

In response to the second question, we find that the best way to introduce a new client to our quality standards is to point out the obvious damage exhibited by the specific garments they've just brought in.

Typically, this involves pointing out:

Fabric issues

Pressing issues

Stain and color variation issues

  • Common (but often difficult stains) such as various types of inks, old blood, etc.
  • Unusual stains such as blood, urine, dye transfer from another garment, etc.
  • Old yellow or brown caramelized sugar stains and oxidized oil stains
  • Crocking (whitish streaks on darker colored fabrics)
  • Dye bleed
  • Color loss and/or sheen loss due to rubbing or wiping of the fabric using water, club soda, lemon juice and other “miracle potions”
  • Color loss due to chemical interaction with perspiration, deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Color loss caused by ordinary dry cleaners who are unschooled in stain removal techniques and who compensate for this fact by attempting to "remove" stains by "treating" the garment with a "little of this" and a "little of that"
  • Color fading due to exposure to artificial or natural light.

Button, hardware and trim issues

  • Chipped, cracked or scratched metal/trocas shell/mother of pearl/corozo nut/branded/monogrammed/ leather-covered buttons
  • Missing buttons
  • Scratched metal/plastic/leather-covered logos
  • Discolored/shrunken/bleeding leather logos
  • Scratched/missing/bent metal zipper pulls
  • Scratched metal/plastic/leather-covered buckles
  • Missing or loose sequins, beads and other trims
  • Discolored or de-lustered sequins, beads and other trims.

Awareness of non-obvious and obvious damage

We find that many new clients are often not even aware of the non-obvious damage.

In many cases, the damage can be reversed with the application of skill; in other cases, the damage is permanent.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Why would you not insist that your dry cleaner protect your fine garments by removing/replacing or covering any hardware (buttons, metal logos, metal zipper pulls, metal buckles, leather brand logos, etc.)?
  • Does your dry cleaner know when buttons and other hardware should be removed and replaced and when they can be covered?
  • If your buttons and other hardware are removed and replaced, does your dry cleaner know that it's critical to use identical color of thread, the identical stitch configuration (crowsfoot, cross stitch, parallel or square stitch as appropriate) and the identical shanking technique?
  • If your buttons and other hardware are covered, do they know when the buttons and other hardware can be covered in foil and when they must be covered with a "basted cushion" (a cushion with fiber fill sandwiched between 2 layers of cotton muslin)?  
  • Why would you not hold your dry cleaner responsible for damaging the buttons, logos, zipper pulls, buckles and other hardware on your fine garments?

The last question is, by definition, a rhetorical question.

Most consumers know that dry cleaners won't take responsibility for damage to their buttons and other hardware.

Typically, these consumers demonstrate their dissatisfaction by taking their business elsewhere -- to another ordinary dry cleaner who, in all probability, will take even less care with your garments than the cleaner they just jettisoned.