As you may have heard, there's a dispute going on between Todd Layne Cleaners on 77th Street and one of the business' former customers, Evan Coyne Maloney. Maloney was vocal about his gripes with the cleaners and went as far as to post fliers and start his own website, toddlaynecleanerssucks.com to express his dissatisfaction. Todd Layne hit back with a $100,000 defamation suit.
I touched based with the Maloney to get his take on the whole ordeal.
78thand2nd: Am I correct with this general summary of what's happened to this point? You received less than stellar service on multiple occasions, you posted fliers around the neighborhood that read "Todd Layne sucks and is overpriced," you started the website ToddLayneCleanerssucks.com, then they sued you?
Maloney: Here's the exact sequence of events: After my last negative experience with Todd Layne Cleaners, I left their store in frustration. I was a bit angry when I got home, and in my anger I printed out a handful of fliers that said, "Todd Layne Cleaners Sucks and is Overpriced." I posted between 5 and 10 of them in my building only, on one afternoon on one day. That's it.
A few days later, I was served with papers saying that I was being sued for $20,000 for libel by Todd Ofsink, the owner (and presumably the "Todd") of Todd Layne Cleaners.
Of the statement "Todd Layne Cleaners Sucks and is Overpriced", their legal filing said, "Such statement is untrue and has caused damage to Plaintiff's business." Well, that statement is clearly my opinion, and as an opinion, by definition it cannot be "untrue." I admit that my word choice was juvenile and not my proudest moment, I admit is was intemperate phrasing, but it was born out of an anger that dissipated within an hour and was quickly forgotten...until I got served with the lawsuit a few days later.
If the statement is "untrue" as Todd Ofsink's lawyer brother Darren Ofsink says, then I would like to see how they plan to prove it untrue in court.
I imagine it takes quite a while to get to the point where you want to create/post fliers and build a website to voice your disapproval. What was the final straw?
Over the course of several months, my fiancee and I had gotten repeatedly bad service from them. They were a new business, everyone makes mistakes, so it wasn't until we had four negative experiences that we started avoiding them.
What made me annoyed the most was that after each and every mistake, there was never an apology. In fact, when I brought back a batch of laundry that they had given me sopping wet, I got such an attitude that I left the store half-convinced that there was something wrong with *me* for actually wanting my clothes to end up dry as part of the laundering process.
Now, right when they first opened for business, they posted fliers in our building saying that they would continue the courtesy of the previous business which had always accepted packages for everyone in the building. That was a nice, neighborly thing to do, and as building without a doorman, it was quite convenient. The previous cleaners on the premises accepted my packages for years even though I didn't use them. Still, I was always sure to be generous with them at the holidays.
So, around Christmastime, we gave them a "thank you" card with a $20 bill inside. Considering that they had accepted only two packages for us, I thought $10 per package was pretty generous. But apparently, Todd Layne Cleaners didn't think it was generous enough.
The very next package that was sent to us after we gave them the $20, Todd Layne Cleaners rejected the package. It ended up getting lost by UPS for days.
When I saw the UPS note on my door, I didn't look at it closely and went into Todd Layne assuming that they had our package. They told me they'd rejected the package. When I asked them why, they said it was because we were no longer customers. I was floored.
The reason we were no longer customers was because of the bad service and the nasty attitude. And despite the negative experiences, we STILL had given them a very generous "thank you" for doing the favor that they offered to do in the first place. When I reminded them about the fliers saying that they would accept packages, I got a brusque reply: "Well, you don't see those fliers up anymore, do you?"
If they had just accepted our package and when we came in to pick it up and kindly said, "Sorry, but we can't accept your packages anymore because you're no longer a customer," I would at least understand. It was after that experience that I printed out and hung the fliers in my building. To reject our package after our "thank you" gift, and then to blame us for not being customers when it was their rudeness and incompetence that drove us away to begin with--and then on top of it all TO SUE ME for expressing my displeasure with them--well, all I can say is, that guy Todd Ofsink is the embodiment of chutzpah.
When did the website launch? How many people have visited?
I put the website up after Todd Layne Cleaners sued me. (Sorry, I don't have access to the stats right now. I forgot the password for that part of the site and need to have it reset.)
At what point did the Todd Layne owners catch on to your publicity efforts? Did they confront you? (That's got to be awkward.)
After they discovered the website, they added it to their lawsuit against me. But I actually wasn't promoting the case at all. It wasn't until after they tried suing me for more money and raising it to a higher court that the New York Post found out. When I asked the reporter how he heard about the story, he said he saw it while going through new court filings.
So, they brought this all on themselves. If they had just taken the initial criticism quietly, it wouldn't have ended up in the Post and now in a whole lot of other outlets. But instead, they had to sue me, and then they had to try really putting the screws to me, and now the world knows. I guess their strategy backfired.
Even so, they're still sticking to their lawsuit. I have to spend hours and hours a week defending myself. And I'm representing myself because I don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending a right that is given to me by the Constitution.
Nevertheless, if they think they're going to pressure me into signing a document that says I will not criticize them--which they've now offered me twice, and which seems to be the real purpose of this lawsuit--then they are sadly mistaken. I will not stop fighting them until they lost. This is still America, and I'm still free to criticize businesses, even businesses that have the benefit of getting legal help from relatives.
I read that a judge barred you entering the store. Were you going back there for some reason?
No, I hadn't set foot in the store since they day they rejected my package. I don't even live in the neighborhood any more. If I never heard the name Todd Layne or Todd Ofsink again, I would be quite happy. But they insist on prolonging this harassment lawsuit against me, so I guess it will continue for the foreseeable future.
The owner of Todd Layne said you were "demanding unreasonable levels of service," according to the Gothamist. What is he talking about?
He means that I was demanding the level of service that they actually promised. The first time I went in there, I asked how late they'd be open so I knew when to get home. I wanted to pick up my laundry that night so I'd have my gym clothes and could go to the gym before they opened in the morning. They told me they closed at 8PM. I got there at 5:30PM and they were closed. When I picked up my laundry the next day, they just said they had to leave and nobody was around to keep the store open. No apology, no explanation, nothing.
Another time, I got my clothes back sopping wet. And they were folded, so they quite obviously knew they were wet when they put them in the bag, but they packed up the wet clothes anyway. When I went back and asked them why my clothes were given back to me wet, I was huffily told, "we dry clothes for a standard amount of time." Well, clearly their standard isn't high enough if the clothes are returned wet, but instead of an apology, I got attitude. I actually had to argue with them for a few minutes before they finally relented and said they'd finish the drying process.
And once after I asked why their services cost so much more than the other places on the block, I was told, among other things, that they used a special soap (which gave my fiancee hives) and that, among other things, they shook out the pockets of clothes so you wouldn't lose anything. Well, forgetful idiot that I am sometimes, I left my cellphone in the pocket of some shorts once. Guess what?! They didn't shake out the pockets like they said they did, because after I remembered where I left my phone, I ended up having to fish my now-dead cellphone out of the washing machine at Todd Layne Cleaners.
Now, I realize that I am the one who left the phone in the pocket, but they shouldn't tell customers they shake out pockets when quite clearly they don't. In short, I wasn't demanding any service beyond what they promised. And again, mistakes are forgivable, but there's no need for rudeness.
I read on your site that they are trying to sue you for $300,000? What exactly for?
For expressing my displeasure with their business.