5 On Your Side

$15,000 dry clean bill stuns Garner woman

Posted September 28, 2015 6:14 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2015 6:43 p.m. EDT

More than $15,000 for a dry cleaning bill?

Yolanda Sinclair admits she didn't know how much it would cost to clean and air out her clothes and linens after her Garner home was struck by lightning and caught fire.

Her insurance agent contacted CRDN, Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network, a division of Brothers Cleaners. Representatives arrived a couple days after to remove her things. Without fully understanding their contract, Sinclair signed it.

She expected the company would send an estimate. Instead, CRDN billed her insurance company for $15,720.

"In my mind, I was only thinking it was going to be about $3,000 to $4,000 dollars," Sinclair said. "They could have gave me $5,000 or $6,000, and I could have bought everything in my house brand new."

After all, Sinclair lived alone in the two-bedroom home.

The CRDN contract does not mention providing an estimate, Sinclair's insurer, State Farm, sent the company an email saying "We previously requested all policyholders receive an estimate."

Sinclair said she never had the chance to decide which items would be cleaned and which simply thrown away.

CRDN charged more than $12 to clean a pair of 9-year-old flip flops, $40 to clean an old cap and gown, almost $18 each for shower curtains. THe company cleaned 46 tote bags, including reusable grocery bags, at a cost of $12 each.

"If they had given me an estimate, I would have told them don't do anything," she said.

Asked about the lack of an estimate and whether they consider the cost effectiveness of cleaning vs. replacing, Bob Hilker, owner of CRDN provided 5 On Your Side with a statement saying, CRDN is "a restoration company"... "not insurance claim consultants."

State Farm provided agent Chad Richards to talk about the claims process, even though he wasn't involved in Sinclair's case. 5 On Your Side asked him about cleaning items of little value.

"It 100 percent seems like a waste of money," he said. Adding, "I don't see things cleaned most of the time."

He advises homeowners to take it slow in deciding what to do after a disaster like Sinclair's fire.

"You have time," he said. "You have time on your claim. There is no reason you should ever have to feel rushed."

Sinclair wishes she hadn't rushed even though State Farm gave her a check to cover the $15,000 cleaning cost.

"It is very overwhelming, the whole process," she said.

State Farm initially told Sinclair the dispute was between her and CRDN. After 5 On Your Side got involved, the insurer decided to investigate the claim. So far, Sinclair has not paid Brothers.

"Although the insurance company is paying for it, that's not right. I still have to stand by what is right," she said.