Reasons why America ‘sucks’ (part 1 of a series)

As I’ve said before, customer service is an utter fallacy in America. There are fantastic waiters and shop assistants across the country, but in general their bosses couldn’t give a damn whether you’re fundamentally satisfied or not. And, in general, you’re not.

No more so than this morning. One of the perks I’ve given myself since moving the States is giving up ironing wherever possible, taking my shirts to be laundered and pressed instead. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but for the fact that each morning I see dozens of men walking to the subway carrying handfuls of shirts ready to be dropped off. It’s almost as if there has been some well-publicised ironing-related mercury poisoning scare in the New York area, or every bloke has been told that Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche (And They Certainly Don’t Do The Sodding Ironing Either).

Anyway, I’ve been infected too. But when I went to put on a nice crisp and fresh shirt this morning, the top button popped off in my hand. Of course, I don’t really use the top button (much to my mum’s chagrin – she’s still hoping I’ll get a job where I need a briefcase) so I pressed on down the shirt. But incredibly, every button fell apart pretty much as soon as I touched it.

It’s not the first time it’s happened either. I’ve lost the odd button or two on about five shirts so far, including three in the last week. And finally this mild-mannered janitor decided that enough was enough, and it was time to confront Armando.

Armando, as I’ve mentioned, is the Italian dry cleaner who will happily give you a smile and a pleasantry, as long as you don’t say anything that’s even vaguely contrary to his opinion. Step out of line, and it’s horse’s head time. But I couldn’t let the loss of seven buttons on three shirts go without comment, so after a jaunty hello as I walked into his Smith Street store, I related my tale of woe.

As you can imagine, Armando was very sympathetic, and immediately agreed that he would replace them. And charge me $1.50 for the privilege. For every single button.

Slightly flabbergasted, I protested that it was actually his fault that the buttons had been broken in the first place. But rather than a sheepish bowing of the head and a reluctant scratching out of the charge, Armando merely stuck to his position. Apparently, if he “replaced every button that fell off, it would mean closing down.” Such is his commitment to breaking buttons, he would “have to employ two people just to sew buttons on all day”.

Angered by now, I pointed out that it was unfair that he could break my property and then charge me for each repair. And that’s when he pointed out the smallprint on the receipt:

“We assume no responsibility for shrinkage, fading, trimmings, pads, buckles, beads, belts, buttons, or goods left over 30 days.”

And then (in capitals):


Now fire and burglary I can understand. Goods left over 30 days, maybe. Even removable things such as pads, belts and buckles. But buttons? I mean, a shirt without buttons is simply a perilously thin cardigan. A shirt is unable to fulfil its function without them. But dear old Armando can knock ’em off left, right and centre if he likes, safe in the knowledge that not only does the customer have no comeback when his shirt is left with no buttons, but he can even charge them cash just to put each shirt back to its rightful state.

My threat to never come back fell on deaf ears, and I left the shop knowing that the next time I returned, I’d have to fork out $26 for five shirts, three of which would probably have neon pink buttons placed on them out of spite.

When you think of it, the whole thing’s actually a genius money-making idea. No doubt Donald Trump or Siralan are signing Armando up even as I write.

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  1. Pingback: A Brit Out Of Water » Blog Archive » The Carroll Gardens cleaning curse

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