Lana Vaughan

The Queen of Questions

Out, damned spot!

out damn spotOut, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Since Lady M there have been issues with spot removal. Today I stumbled upon one that so clearly illustrated what I consider to be a major social ill in America. Personal responsibility.

I have a regular neighborhood dry cleaner. I have been a steady customer there for almost a dozen years. I like the 1950’s wife feeling I get when I pick up my husband’s work shirts all freshly laundered and lightly starched. I take my winter comforter in to be cleaned each spring and my summer comforter in to be cleaned each fall. They are also my first stop after buying new jeans. They can do a hem that is undetectable from the original.

Today I was dropping off shirts and slacks and taking in a special project. As the shirts and slacks were counted and  the ticket printed out an older woman came in with her already cleaned items. Since I expected my special project to take a few minutes to explain and price, I let the nice woman behind the counter help the older woman while I waited. With a thick Russian accent the older woman demanded the dry cleaners re-clean her two skirts. She had picked them up, paid for the cleaning and didn’t look at them until she got home where she saw a stain on each skirt in roughly the same place. The dry cleaner explained in an equally heavy Asian accent that the stains had been spot treated but because they had been on the fabric too long they were deeply set before being brought in.

The customer became more agitated, accusing the dry cleaner of not telling her the stains would not come out when she brought them in the first time. The dry cleaner explained again that she had done all she could to remove the stains but offered to try again. The customer kept trying to blame the dry cleaner. Then she made the mistake of looking to me for support. She said “what am I supposed to do? Throw them away?” I said, “That’s up to you. You spilled something on both skirts. You waited until it was convenient to bring them in and now you expect the cleaner to fix what you ruined. It’s not her fault you stained them. She did everything she knows to remove stains. She’s even willing to try again to satisfy you. If you aren’t happy don’t wear them.”

At that point, I had the full attention of both women. I don’t think either had expected me to say anything. But if you know me at all, you know I will not stand by and watch someone berated for doing their best by someone who is taking no responsibility for their own actions.

The customer spoke first “She never told me it wouldn’t come out!”

“You stained them. She’s trying to clean the mess you made.”

“Well, if you think you can get it out….”

“I try. I try. Monday, ok?”

“It will have to be.” The customer took her receipt and left the two skirts.

The dry cleaner waited until the door closed and said, “Thank you so much. It’s hard to get some people to understand. Some stains don’t come out.”

We went on to discuss my special project. She was very knowledgeable and offered me a 20% discount on the job. She will call me if she has any problems with it. It’s a crazy cleaning request.

How often do we focus on the stain, refusing to take responsibility and expecting someone else to fix it?

How often do we say “no one told me”?

How often do we set impossible high standards for others with no room for grace?

How often do we push because we are the customer and “the customer is always right”?

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