When Raymond and I moved to the Manse a year ago, I was prepared for some variations in the cost of things between here in rural Ontario and very urban Montreal, where we came from. I knew that hydro, for instance, is a fair bit more expensive in Ontario than in Quebec – Quebec consumers being well-served by the huge water-powered operations of Hydro-Québec, which take full advantage of the province’s natural resources in that regard. I knew that car-insurance rates would be different, and braced for them to be higher. (Which they were.) I knew that wine prices at the LCBO are generally a few dollars cheaper than at the Société des alcools du Québec, which is a very good thing. I liked the fact that the sales tax is lower here in Ontario.
One thing I did not expect – that never would have entered my mind to expect – was the sky-high cost of dry cleaning here. What, people, is that all about? Is it really so much more expensive to operate dry-cleaning machines in Belleville than in Montreal?
I say Belleville because as far as I know there are no dry cleaners in our immediate area – that is, Madoc or Tweed. There are businesses in those two central Hastings County places where you can drop off and pick up your dry cleaning, but it is sent to Belleville for the actual work to be done, and my understanding is that the cleaning prices are set by those Belleville companies.
The first couple of times I took items to the cleaners in Belleville – taking advantage of the fact that I work in that small nearby city – I was surprised at the prices. Ten dollars to get a simple knee-length unpleated skirt cleaned seemed like an awful lot. In response, since Raymond in those early months was back in Montreal for one thing and another fairly often, I tended to send dry cleaning with him, so it could be done at the place that’s up the street from the house we still own (because it hasn’t yet sold; would you like to buy a nice Outremont condo?) in Montreal.
But now that we’re here in Queensborough almost all the time, and because the dry cleaning was starting to pile up a bit, I figured I’d better get some done locally. So last week I dropped off three items – a plain (i.e. unpleated, unfrilly) dress, a pair of men’s trousers, and a plain skirt. They were done and ready for pickup two days later, which was great. But my eyes bugged out of my head when I saw the price tag: $34.75!
People of Hastings County, perhaps you are used to paying these exorbitant dry-cleaning prices, and so perhaps they don’t seem exorbitant to you. But based on my experience living elsewhere – they are.
For comparison’s sake I tried to find a price list for my local dry cleaner in Montreal, but its prices, sadly, were not available online. I did, however, find a price list for another Montreal chain; it’s here, and it’s very comparable to what I’m used to paying. So using those prices, I calculate that the bill in Montreal for my same dry cleaning order would be $4.50 for the trousers + $8.75 for the dress + $4.50 for the skirt, which adds up to $17.75; when you add the taxes (a hefty 9.975% in Quebec sales tax, so $1.77, plus the 5% GST, 89¢) the final figure is $20.41. Which is about what I had expected to pay for my three items of dry cleaning the other day, and why I was so horrified when the price was almost $15 – 70%! – higher than that.
You know what this makes me feel like? Well, if you said it makes me feel like opening a dry-cleaning business, charging lower prices than the competition and probably making a bundle thanks to my satisfied customers, you’d be close. But I don’t think I have the time for that entrepreneurial enterprise, so sadly, that’s a non-starter. (Though if anyone else would like to try it, you will have your first customer in me.)
No, what the experience really makes me feel like is this: like I’ve been taken to the cleaners.