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Delegate wants parity in dry cleaning prices

January 31, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Delegate wants parity in dry cleaning prices

ANNAPOLIS - A shirt is always a shirt, at least that's what some might think.

But when Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington, takes her clothes to the dry cleaners, she said she ends up paying as much as three times more to have her shirts cleaned than she pays for her husband's shirts.

"It's something that has ticked me off forever," Stup said.

But instead of just grumbling and paying, she has done something about it. Last month Stup filed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that would prohibit dry cleaners from discriminating between men and women in their pricing.

"All we're trying to do is to make sure everything is a shirt for a shirt," she said.

The issue is not a new one; claims of disparities in gender pricing has been made for years. Dry cleaners said they have heard this complaint before, and insist that it is mostly unwarranted.

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"We come under fire for this quite a bit," said Linda Grimm, owner of Keefauver Dry Cleaners on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown.

Simply put, women's clothes generally take more time and effort to clean and press than men's clothes do, she said.

A man's cotton shirt can be washed and finished on a large press, but women's blouses, which are often made out of more-delicate fabrics like silk and rayon, require hand-ironing, Grimm said.

"There are some fabrics that you have to finish up by hand. You cannot do it on a press," she said.

Sometimes the difference requires up to 15 minutes extra work, she said. As a result, Grimm said she charges $2.35 for silk and rayon shirts, and $1.25 for cotton. Men would have to pay the same if they have a silk or rayon shirt, she added.

William Price, owner of One Hour Professional Cleaners on West Franklin Street in Hagerstown, said he knows all too well the hazards of trying to press a woman's silk blouse on a heavy press.

"We tried it one time and it just didn't work out. I had to pay for a silk blouse," he said.

Price said he charges $1.50 to $2 for silk shirts.

"We're not going to hand-iron it for $1.30," he said, referring to his price for cotton shirts.

Stup said she is aware of the need for different prices for different fabrics. She said there are already industry standards in place that dictate that pricing be based on fabric instead of gender.

She just wants to see a law passed that makes sure those standards are being enforced.

The legislation also asks that dry cleaners clearly post their prices, so that decisions on how much an item cost are not arbitrarily made when an item is dropped off to be cleaned.

The legislation (H.B. 155) has been assigned to the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee. No hearing date has been set.

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