AU ends relationship with Soapy Joe’s over poor customer service

HDP ends relationship with the laundry service after months of student complaints

AU ends relationship with Soapy Joe’s over poor customer service

AU terminated its contract with the Soapy Joe's laundry service after multiple problems with students. 

Soapy Joe’s, a local paid laundry and dry-cleaning service, left several AU students out to dry with improper charges to their credit cards and destroyed or missing clothing, and now the company is out of business.

AU has had a contract with Soapy Joe’s since 2013, but AU Housing & Dining Programs only heard of students facing difficulties with the company in March 2015 through a student’s post on the “American University Class of 2018” Facebook page, according to Sophia Benedicktus, the associate director of residential facilities in HDP. This was also the first time that AU learned that Soapy Joe’s had been purchased by Revolt Cleaners, Benedicktus said.

Following further investigation, HDP discovered that 29 students from the various schools Soapy Joe’s worked with approached the company with issues. HDP notified other Soapy Joe’s customers from AU about the issue on its own Facebook page in March 2015.

“In May 2015, I received a call from a parent stating that they were continuing to experience billing charges on their credit card from Soapy Joe's, and the situation was yet to be addressed,” Benedicktus said in an email. “After that phone call, we made numerous attempts to work with the new company, but it was too challenging.”

Natalie Hedden, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, said she used the service to dry-clean some of her business wardrobe and other pieces of clothing during her freshman year, from fall 2014 to spring 2015. After other communication issues with the company throughout the year, her trouble culminated in the spring.

“At the end of the [spring 2015] semester, I tried to use the leftover money deposited in my [Soapy Joe’s] account,” Hedden said. “I wanted to put through 15 pieces of clothing, and I even called to make sure it was okay. [Soapy Joe’s] told me that it was okay, but I only got four items back.”

After several phone calls with the company over the course of several weeks and an encounter with a rude delivery man, Hedden said she received all of her clothing back, except for one sweater for which she was never reimbursed. Hedden also lost the final $80 on her Soapy Joe’s account because the company charged her twice for the 15 items she put through in the spring, and she did not think it was worth it to continue the fight.

Similarly, Rachel Hopmayer, a sophomore in the School of Communication, used Soapy Joe’s dry-cleaning service only to find improper charges put on her account totaling over $1,000. Hopmayer also put sent in a large load at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester which was never returned. Soapy Joe’s told Hopmayer that the company had been purchased by Revolt Cleaners, and the transition to a new financial system resulted in some technical glitches.

“The dry cleaning, approximately $300 worth, was picked up and never returned,” Hopmayer said. “My regular laundry was never picked up. I put it out regularly for three weeks, no pick-ups. Over the month of September, I called them 25 times.”

When Hopmayer tried to reach out to AU Housing & Dining Programs for help, she was told that HDP could only try to call the same way she had been. Hopmayer turned to the student services at George Washington University after seeing a story in The GW Hatchet telling of other students’ similar experiences. GW staff members had been helping students try to recover lost clothing or seek reimbursement for prepaid funds. Their investigation led Hopmayer to an abandoned warehouse in Southeast D.C., but her clothing was not among the piles being picked through by homeless people.

According to The GW Hatchet, Revolt Cleaners went bankrupt and closed this past September without notifying students that had prepaid for service. The Eagle attempted to reach the company, but various phone numbers linked to the company were disconnected.

AU decided to end its contract with Soapy Joe’s after the debacle in March, but the company was still marketing to students on campus this past September. HDP threatened additional legal action if the company did not stop. However, the company was closed later that month. According to Benedicktus, HDP is searching for a new laundry vendor for the 2016-2017 academic year. There is currently no laundry service offered on campus.

“Students should be advised that any company using the Soapy Joe's name is not an approved vendor of AU, and the company is not allowed in our residence halls,” Benedicktus said in an email. “If students have been working with this company this semester, they should cancel their laundry plan immediately, report it to their credit card company, and block the company from making any other transactions on their account in the future.”

Despite the steps taken by HDP, Hopmayer does not think that AU did enough to help her, explaining why she turned to GW for help.

“I was never blaming them [Housing & Dining], but they should’ve helped me,” Hopmayer said. “A school filing a business complaint or tracking down a company is a lot more powerful than a crying 19 year old who just wants her business wardrobe and money back.”

jodonohoe@theeagleonline.com

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