News & Features

I’ve lost my mind, but not your pants

Commentary: Business is Personal

Recently, the news has covered Judge Roy Pearson’s $54-million lawsuit against a dry cleaning store in Washington, D.C.

The basis for Pearson’s lawsuit was a pair of lost pants. Later the pants resurfaced and the lawsuit was altered, accusing the cleaner of violating the D.C. Consumer Protection Act. Pearson contended that the presence of a sign saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed” meant you should be able to get anything you want.

The “big” news last month was that Pearson lost the lawsuit and got nothing.

The bigger thing for me is the dry cleaning industry’s failure to take advantage of an obvious marketing opportunity and turn this into a big win.

Dry cleaners all over the country have been thrust into the spotlight over this lawsuit, yet I’ve not seen anyone take advantage of it. National publicity is expensive but this makes it almost free. Maybe dry cleaners figured they’d just wait for a verdict, or hoped it’d go away. What they should’ve done was use the daily buzz to bring attention to their stores, their guarantees, and even making a little fun of the whole situation. Now, the opportunity’s gone as the trial’s over.

Let’s talk specifics.

You need to let your clients know that their satisfaction is guaranteed, tell them what to expect and make sure they understand that your store keeps track of their clothes “as if they were a suit-happy judge.”

How many ways can you use the word “JudgeMENTAL?” OK, maybe that one isn’t a good idea.

You need to make sure any paperwork hanging in motel closets is updated to reference your guarantee and note that you’ll ship clothes to their home or some other destination of their choice – on your dime – if something unfortunate happens.

Issue a press release and a Q&A to local radio stations, letting them know you have a sense of humor about it – it might generate a brief interview during drive-time shows.

Contact each of your clients via e-mail and/or print newsletter – depending on what contact information you have (you’d better have some – if not, get it). Make sure they understand that you have a better guarantee. Have a, “I’ve Lost My Mind But Not Your Pants” promotion.

Update your signage. Update the paperwork handed out to your clientèle. Let them know you’re aware of the lawsuit and your clients’ valuable clothing is safe, then elaborate on the steps you take to keep track of their clothing, what your guarantee covers, and why they should continue to use you over anyone else.

Remember to mention it when you introduce yourself at service club meetings. Even if you just toss in a funny little comment, it’ll make your intro memorable.

In your ads, press releases and elsewhere be sure to use testimonials from your existing clients and include comments from people who have never lost anything and from people whose clothes you lost yet “made it right” and they still use your cleaners years later. These testimonials should be a core part of your existing marketing and “customer-facing” paperwork.

Do a mailing to the local judges and lawyers that includes a coupon to have cleaning done on “a lawsuit and two pair of pants,” or have “Attorney/Judge Appreciation Week,” where you pick up and deliver for free as a way of “degreasing the gears of justice.”

In “honor” of the lawsuit, offer to dry clean pants for judges for 54 cents if they have the jackets cleaned too. Create an offer for “A lifetime dry cleaning for a family for only $54 million,” just for fun.

In other words, use the news to bring attention to your business. Take advantage of the silly things going on in the world. “We’ll clean Paris Hilton’s prison jumpsuits – and regular Carhartt ones too.” Paris is all over the news, why aren’t you using it?

Got a business or marketing question you’d like Mark to write about or just want more info about him? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com