Many New York cleaners are unfairly charging women higher prices than men to launder their shirts.
"Men's shirt $2.05, woman $5.50." one clerk said.
Fox 5 had a producer with a hidden camera bring a man's shirt, size 15 and a half, and a woman's shirt, size 14, into 10 different dry cleaners in Queens and Manhattan, asking to have each of them laundered and pressed. Eight out of 10 cleaners charged a higher price for the woman's shirt.
"A woman's shirt, $6.50. Men's, $2," a clerk at one of the stores said.
Why the huge price difference? Many cleaners said women's shirts have to be hand pressed. Why can't they be machine pressed the way men's shirts are?
"Woman's shirt does not fit on it [the pressing machine]. So they have to do hand press."
For years, many cleaners have been telling women that their blouses will not fit on the pressing machine, but that is not true. Before doing our survey, we brought our woman's size 14 shirt to Dollar Cleaners in Portchester, where they showed us that it does in fact fit on the machine.
According to the Neighborhood Cleaners Association, a man's size 14 and a half and larger and a woman's size 12 and larger can usually be machine pressed. But if it is not the proper fabric, is tapered, or has pleats or ruffles, it may have to be hand pressed.
"It's a blouse by blouse decision."
But most of the cleaners we went to never even looked at the blouse to see if it could fit on the pressing machine. They simply said it needed to be hand pressed or dry cleaned, both of which cost much more. And that is illegal, says New York City's Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Jonothan Mintz.
"A woman should not have to pay a higher price to get her shirt laundered than a man," Mintz said. "Their price list should reflect that shirts that are not of a certain size are charged a different price. It's really very straightforward."
The two cleaners that did not charge us more for the woman's shirt are Symphony, on First Avenue, and Unpiece Cleaners, across from the United Nations. "People just do it because they want the extra money. But if I see it does fit, why should I charge it," the owner of Unpiece Cleaners said.
We later spoke with the dry cleaners who charged more for women. Green World Cleaners, Triple 8, Ching and Alps said they did not realize the blouse would fit on the machine. "He didn't look at the size," one owner said.
Eastmore Kelly Cleaners in Manhattan and Laundry City in Queens say they send the shirts out to a wholesale cleaner, which does not machine press women's blouses.
At JYA Cleaners in Manhattan, they said it is up to the customer to decide if she wants machine pressing. "Customer want it, we do it," the cleaner explained. "We give the choice. All cleaners give the choice."
No they do not. JYA told our undercover producer, "For men's $2, for woman's $6.50."
Cleaners say women are unhappy with the results of machine pressing- that the blouse does not look as good as when it is hand pressed. That may be true, but it should be the customer's decision. Right now, at most dry cleaners, women are not even told they have a choice.