A few months ago, I started taking my shirts to a cleaner rather than laundering and ironing them at home.
One thing I’ve noticed in that time: it costs anywhere from 99¢ to $1.25 to have a shirt laundered and pressed. But pants cost between $4-5, depending on the cleaner.
Why the price difference? More specifically, why is it four or five times more expensive to have pants cleaned and pressed than it is to have shirts cleaned?
My two theories: shirts are somehow easier to clean and press well; or shirts are a loss leader, and when you notice how nice your shirts look, you’ll have them clean your pants, too, regardless of the cost.
Actual facts to replace these theories would be appreciated.
You’re comparing apples and oranges. The $0.99 shirts are laundered (as you note). The $4.95 pants are dry cleaned. Dry cleaning’s always more expensive than laundering. Why? Maybe it really is tougher; maybe the (often more delicate) fabrics typically dry-cleaned are harder to handle; maybe environmental compliance, or the chemical costs, really make the cost of operating higher. Even if they didn’t, dry cleaning is perceived as a more gentle/deluxe service, so they could charge a premium for it even if it weren’t more expensive. Your laundered shirt is dumped in a huge washer with hot hot water. You’ll notice that while they get clean that way, they do tend to wear out somewhat quicker.
They don’t seem to offer laundering-and-pressing for pants (even when they’re cotton and could take it); it’s a choice between dry cleaning (best for wool or synthetic, anyhow) or “wash and fold” (which you can indeed get for general laundry for about $0.75 a pound – at times, it works out to be cheaper than feeding the machines at the laundromat yourself, but you won’t get razor sharp creases). But hey, YDCMV, so ask them if they will just launder and press for you.
Also – you can get shirts dry cleaned (as opposed to laundered), though cotton doesn’t really need it. You might choose to do this b/c dry cleaning (sometimes) has a turnaround time (it can be done on premises in shops that do their own drycleaning). For some reason, most actual shirt laundries (IME) seem to be regional operations where shirts are trucked from your neighborhood store to some massive central place, adding to the time (but also leading to the economies of scale that allow cheaper bulk pricing). But – if you do ask for dry cleaning on your shirt – you’ll find they charge you about $3.95, right in line with the trousers price.
Drat – I don’t have a receipt to check. You could be right about the laundering vs. dry cleaning, in which case the price difference certainly makes sense. I thought my pants were getting laundered, but dry cleaning is certainly a possibility.
I have had some shirts dry cleaned – not many, non-cotton only, only when the label calls for it – and that service runs in the $3-4 range.
I haven’t noticed the shirts wearing out more quickly – almost the opposite, in fact – but I’ll start keeping an eye out. Regardless, they look much better than I can get them with a washing machine and an iron.