‘Johnsons ruined my favourite suit jacket and won’t compensate me to buy a new one’

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 Dear Katie,

I regularly use the Johnsons located in my local Waitrose to dry clean the dress and jacket suits I wear for work. These are invariably bought at Hobbs with an average cost in the region of £300 to £450.

I dropped off two sets, one of which was a pale blue jacket with matching dress. A few days later I was called to be told the jacket had been damaged beyond repair. After lots of going to and fro between Johnsons and ­Waitrose, I was eventually sent a claims form. I submitted a claim for a similar suit ­currently available from Hobbs and priced at £450.

However, I was later told that I would be getting only £200 in compensation, plus a £24 refund for the cleaning. This was because I could not recall when I bought the suit and did not have the original receipt or proof of payment. The dress has been returned but as I have no jacket it is not much use.

I have tried eBay and Hobbs outlet stores in an attempt to find the matching jacket in my size, but to no avail. I trusted Johnsons, but now I feel I have been unfairly treated.

– SP, Kent

Dear Reader,

You were understandably upset to learn that your pale blue suit jacket was ruined. It was one of your favourites from a past season, meaning it was irreplaceable. However, as sad as this is, I’m afraid that when you take your clothes to the dry cleaner, irreparable damage is a risk you always run.

Your gripe was that you felt the compensation you had been offered was insufficient, and I can see why. The suit in question cost almost £500 new and, as you cannot now find a suitable replacement jacket to wear with the dress, you feel it is now useless, so you’ve effectively lost it as well as the jacket. However, Johnsons has already factored this into the £200 payment, as £100 of it is for the dress.

I wanted to understand Johnsons’ policy on compensation for damage so I visited its website, which was so unhelpful it made me laugh out loud. In the section entitled “terms”, it stated: “We’re here to provide you with great service and not endless terms and conditions.” Oh, the irony.

So I had to ask instead. Eventually it explained that it followed industry guidelines for compensation, which do not recommend replacing new for old. Instead the guidelines say compensation should be based on calculations involving purchase price, condition of the item at the time of loss or damage and the life expectancy of the item.

In the end I helped you prove your dress suit originally cost £467 and was bought in April 2018. According to industry guidelines it now has a 45pc compensatory value, equating to £210. Johnsons then boosted this payment by £100 so you were offered a higher sum of £334, which includes the cleaning fee. Despite this you still feel peeved, as it is not the full price of a new suit. I told you this was the end of my involvement in this matter and you accepted the payout.

I think your case raises questions over the dry cleaning industry’s compensation standards. I’d be interested to hear what other readers think about what fair redress looks like.

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