Soapy Joe’s Mistakenly Overcharged Students
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 02:02
Soapy Joe’s, a D.C.-based dry cleaning and laundry service, overcharged 35 Georgetown students throughout the fall 2012 semester.
According to Matt Sternberg, president and co-owner of Soapy Joe’s, a technical error was to blame for the incorrect charges and the company is working to refund customers.
Many students were alerted to potential billing errors through a Facebook post on Jan. 15 by Alex Orndahl (COL ’16).
“I noticed at the end of the semester that they were definitely overcharging,” Orndahl said. “Seventy-five pounds over [the weekly limit] was a little bit impossible.”
After seeing the post, user PJ Barry (MSB ’16) was prompted to look at his bill and saw that he had been charged twice for some weeks. One week, his statement stated that he had 100 pounds of laundry — 80 pounds over his limit.
“I said, ‘this is ridiculous — there is no way,’” Barry recalled.
Students who use Soapy Joe’s register for either a semester or year-long plan of 15, 20 or 25 pounds of laundry per week. Bags are weighed and scanned each time they go into the facility. Students are billed $1.50 for every additional pound over the limit specified in the purchased plan. Thus, Barry was overcharged $120 during the one week he cited.
According to Sternberg, students are notified of overages halfway through and at the end of the semester.
Some students who were overcharged, however, received no such notification.
“They never give you any notification. They just charge you straight to your credit card,” Daniel Sandoval (SFS ’16) said.
When PJ Barry called Soapy Joe’s to inquire about the overage charges, he was told the scanner must have been broken.
Sternberg now acknowledges that the problem was not caused by employee error. “It was 100 percent a programming error on the inside,” he said.
According to Sternberg, many of the overcharges were due to mistakenly designating some students as going over their pound limit. In addition, some students who gave Soapy Joe’s laundry did not appear to be signed up for a plan and were therefore charged $1.35 per pound for all of their laundry in addition to overcharges.
While just over 10 percent of Soapy Joe’s 275 Georgetown clients were affected, students at The George Washington University were also overcharged due to the software malfunction. Sternberg said he was unsure of the exact number of GW students who overpaid.
The three other college campuses where the laundry service is offered — Villanova University, the University of Southern California and the University of Pennsylvania — were not impacted.
“This is the first time we’ve had a serious logistical problem with our service and with Georgetown,” Sternberg said.
He added that although he does not know how much his company overcharged customers, Soapy Joe’s is currently making changes to its computer program to correct the billing mistakes.
“[Soapy Joe’s is] working [quickly] and furiously to try to get people refunds,” he said. “I take full responsibility.”
In addition, Sternberg said the Soapy Joe’s will not charge extra for exceeding the pound limit this semester.
“We want to keep the trust of our Georgetown customers,” Sternberg said.
Orndahl does not plan on using Soapy Joe’s in the future and said that students who do continue with the service should be cautious.
“As long as you are careful and check your overage history, it should be fine,” he said.
Barry said that he is still waiting on a full refund. He and Sandoval, who are both locked into a year-long plan, say they will be doing most of their laundry themselves to avoid overage charges.
“If you have zero clue what you’re doing with laundry, then use [Soapy Joe’s]. But be careful,” Barry said.