SCOOP: FlyCleaners, the large NYC laundry service, is leaving customers out to dry

FlyCleaners, an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service with tens of thousands of paying customers, has left a swath of New Yorkers wondering what happened to their clothes.

August 8, 2019

FlyCleaners, an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service with tens of thousands of paying customers, has left many New Yorkers wondering what happened to their undies — and all the rest of their clothes.

The Hustle spoke with nearly a dozen customers who claim the company picked up their laundry — thousands of dollars in clothing, collectively — and never returned it. Their queries to customer service have largely gone unanswered.

A promising start

Launched in 2013 by co-founders David Salama and Seth Berkowitz, FlyCleaners raised $2m in capital and established itself as an early player in the billion-dollar on-demand laundry space.

FlyCleaners is essentially a logistics company: It sends employees (“FlyGuys”) to pick up customers’ laundry, partners with vendors to do the actual cleaning, then drops it back off when it’s done (typically the next day). For this service, users pay between $1.55 and $1.65 per lb.

To date, FlyCleaners reports processing more than 5m lbs. of laundry — some 500k articles of clothing.

But not all of this clothing makes it back to customers.

Dude, where’s my cashmere sweater?

In recent months, FlyCleaner’s Twitter feed, Yelp page, and Better Business Bureau profile have been flooded with complaints from customers claiming that the company “went dark” with their laundry. 

The Hustle spoke with around a dozen who are collectively missing more than $20k of clothing — suits, dresses, and cashmere sweaters.

Peter Wang, who works in finance, paid $67.75 to have $2k worth of clothes cleaned; 10 days and many emails later, he’s still without his clothes.

“Their phone support line goes straight to voicemail, and none of my queries have been answered,” Wang told us. “Everything is in limbo.”

Rachel Cantor, a digital marketing assistant, started using the app in January when her local laundromat closed shop. Now, she’s wondering where a significant portion of her wardrobe is. “Clothes have been held hostage for weeks at a time,” she said.

“Where are my clothes?” asked one Twitter user. “These are business clothes, replacement value is over $4k. I need my stuff back.”

‘It’s a mess’

FlyCleaners has struggled with quality control since 2015, when increased demand led to partnerships with 12+ vendors. After a sharp increase in missing and damaged goods, the company sacked 5 executives and hired a new COO.

Then last month, FlyCleaners laid off 116 workers, including most of its support staff.

FlyCleaners CEO David Salama told The Hustle that the company is now in the process of passing over much of its business to a competitor, NextCleaners. He maintained that “no one’s clothes have been stolen,” and attributed missing clothing to “systems and process issues.”

A FlyCleaners ex-employee, who wished to remain anonymous, countered this: “The company is a complete mess,” she said. “The support team was reduced from 15 reps down to 4 [and] from what I understand, there are nearly 1k emails pending responses.”

Some customers, like Sarah Marlowe, who has yet to get back $1k worth of clothing, have had enough.

“Honestly, I love tech I work in tech and I am often an early adopter but this has made me rethink the instinct to try things out,” she says. “I’ll be sticking to regular laundromats for now.”

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