“If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for FREE.” This sign, which you may have seen circulating in some corner of the Internet, sounds like a scam. Shockingly, however, it’s real.
The placard is posted prominently in the window of two Plaza Cleaners locations in Portland, Oregon and has been since 2010, when owner Steve Young was inspired by a similar sign he saw at a New York City establishment. Since then, Plaza Cleaners workers have cleaned everything from suits and skirts to bathing suits — “Who are we to say?” joked manager Kathey Butters — for job seekers who need a little extra help before a big interview.
“It doesn’t matter what they bring in,” Butters told the Huffington Post. “My staff knows it’s not just another black skirt. Yes, we may have seen five black skirts that day, but for that customer, it fits. They feel good when they’re in it. If they could feel good in that clean, freshly pressed skirt or suit, they might sit taller or present themselves better. That little push might help.”
Over the years, Butters says customers have come in to thank them for their kindness, especially when they get the job. But for Butters, the thanks truly belongs to the paying customers, without whom they wouldn’t be able to offer free cleanings.
As for that viral photo that has been circulating the Internet — often accompanied by a caption that claims that Plaza Cleaners has helped more than 2,000 unemployed workers to the tune of $32,000 — well, Butters says that part of the story is not true. No one at the business kept track of how many customers have taken them up on their offer, nor do they know how much it has cost them. Because to Butters, Young and the other workers, it doesn’t matter. “How can you put a dollar figure on something like that?” Butters says.