Customers seek help after clothes trapped inside closed dry cleaning business

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 5:18 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - For nearly a month customers of One Price Dry Cleaners off Laburnum Avenue in Henrico have been trying to get the clothes they say are locked inside the business. Felicia Green says she has been a regular customer of the pre-paid dry cleaning service for over a decade and was surprised to find that the business had abruptly closed its doors.

“This comes as a shock because I was here one week before all of the signage went up; I got me and my husband’s clothes out and a week later I come back because I realized there were two pieces missing from what I picked up the week before and this is what I find,” Green said.

Green says besides the business owners' recent behavior, One Price Dry Cleaners has been an exceptional business that has always treated its customers right.

“He was a very nice guy, the staff was nice, my clothes were always done on time when they said that they would be ready, they would be ready, I never had a problem,” Green said.

According to the signs posted on the outside, One Price Cleaners officially had its last day on August 21, 2020. The signs on the windows say that the owner Hector Gonzales says he would be at the business between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to return clothes still left on the rack to customers.

But Green says she has spent weeks going back to the business and has never seen Gonzales at the store at the time disclosed on the signs to distribute clothes to any customer.

“Literally every day for a month I have either I called, I have even come by and sat in my car, I even brought my laptop to work just to see if I could see someone coming in and I’ve seen nothing,” Green said. ”Because the business is pre-paid, not only do they have our clothes they have our money."

Green says what’s most concerning is that she sees fewer clothes hanging on the racks every few weeks despite not seeing any customer come to pick their clothes up. She adds that attempts to contact the owner have been fruitless.

“We have people who’re coming here saying that they can’t get in touch with him that their clothes are in there, but every day there are fewer clothes and it concerns me that something has happened to my clothes,” said Green.

Green says she is not the only customer experiencing these problems. Thursday evening a small group of people formed in the parking lot overlooking the business, waiting for Gonzales to show up so that they can receive their clothes, to no avail.

“Today has been my sixth trip up here waiting to see if somebody would open the door," Marlo Crittendon said. “My grandfather always told me when I was a young boy, don’t ever pay a man first before he finishes the job.”

“I’ve come at seven in the morning I’ve come between five and seven like the thing says and still nothing," Erica Garris said.

“I got my receipt right in the care hoping he will open the door,” Crittendon said.

The customers say they’ve also come up short reaching Gonzales by his business phone. They say days after Aug. 21, when they would call the business line, it would either go to a message or someone on the other end of the line would hang up the call as soon as it was answered.

Over a month later the business line appears to be completely disconnected with an automated message telling callers that the number they are trying to reach is out of service.

“There have been so many people, especially the seniors who are coming for their clothes and watching them be confused, experiencing their frustration, my fear is that we’re not going to get the clothes, I just don’t know,” Green said.

After weeks of failed attempts to contact the owner customers called 12 On Your Side, frustrated and looking for help. Investigators were eventually able to get in contact with Gonzales who says after years of business he had to close his doors because of financial hardship adding that the pandemic slowed his business down.

Gonzales also claims that he put signs up about his business closing as early as late April, alerting customers that his business would be closing for good. He says in the months leading up to the drycleaners closing, he would come to the outside of the business after 5 pm to return clothing back to those who need it.

“I put up signs for almost two months. I told them we were not taking any clothes, just pickups,” Gonzales said. “The only reason that I closed my business is that there was no business anymore because people didn’t come back to pick their clothes up.”

Gonzales says he also owed nearly $30,000 in back rent back to the shopping strip where the business is located.

“We cleaned the last clothes and I was there every day for almost a month for two hours a day, not trying to do business, but trying to give the clothes away that were still on the rack,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales also claims that he tried contacting the customers he had numbers for before the cleaners closed and have been at his business every day to help his customers get their clothes, but Green claims that isn’t the case.

“We have been so diligent to come to these cleaners give him our business our money and this is what we get. this is unacceptable,” Green said.

Gonzales says he is working to get his customer’s clothes back, but since he no longer leases the building, he has to get permission from the building owner before he can distribute the clothes still on the rack back to his customers.

According to the State Corporation Commission if you find yourself in a similar situation with a business you may be protected under the state’s Consumer Protection Act and that your best course of action is to file a complaint through the Office of Attorney Generals.

For further assistance, people can call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area or from outside Virginia.

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