Monica Buck

Situation: You take your new green dress to the dry cleaner to get a stain out. When you pick it up, the stain is gone; so is the green.

What should happen: Despite the waiver on the ticket that says the cleaner is not legally bound to accept responsibility for damage, most cleaners will―provided the mistake was theirs. (If the garment company supplied improper care labeling, it might not be the cleaner's fault; in that case, you should go to the store where you bought the blouse to complain about the label.) If the cleaner does accept the blame, the International Fabricare Institute ( has standardized values that determine how much you will be reimbursed.

If you're getting the runaround: In a situation where the store says it has never had a problem with the garment's care label, and the dry cleaner still won't admit fault, find out whether the cleaner belongs to a trade organization, such as the IFI or the National Cleaners Association, which can help mediate disputes.