Before moving to Aiken, I lived in Salinas CA, Sewanee TN, Atlanta GA, Charlotte NC, and Columbia SC. In every one of those cities, I took clothes to be dry-cleaned. I even patronized a dry cleaner in Osaka, Japan during my semester abroad. Each cleaner had their own method for attaching the little paper tags to my clothes. Some used safety pins, some used straight pins, some even used the plastic dealies used to attach price tags. But until I moved to Aiken, SC, I never encountered a dry cleaner who stapled their tags to my clothes.
The first time I got a bunch of clothes back from the cleaners with tags stapled to them, I decided to switch cleaners. But the next place I tried did the same thing, and the next, and the next. Eventually, I settled for the place that at least delivered next-day service (all the other cleaners took two or more days; another Aiken thing, I guess). My friends here, who have mostly lived here all their lives, do not think this is at all unusual.
Why am I so upset about the staple thing? Next time you see a staple, look closely at it. Its ends are blunt and square; it’s designed to punch through paper and stay put. Now look closely at a safety pin. Its end is sharp and tapered, designed to slide between the threads of fabric so it doesn’t leave a permanent mark. Same with a straight pin. When the cleaners put staples through fabric, the staple doesn’t slide between the threads, it tears right through them, leaving permanent holes. And then the process of prying the staples loose makes the holes bigger, even if you use a staple remover.
Granted, they usually put the staples into the garments’ tags. But the kinds of clothes I usually take to be dry-cleaned are my nicest things, the ones too special or delicate for the home Dryel treatment. Some people collect state quarters or Ladro figurines, I collect dresses. And I don’t want the dresses in my collection to have a bunch of holes in their tags or anywhere else.
So for now, I will be taking my nice things to be dry-cleaned in Columbia during my weekly trek there. I just don’t trust Aiken’s cleaners anymore.