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Consumer Alert

Any redress when wedding gown vanishes from storage?

Q. After my wedding eight years ago, my friend dropped off my dress for me at what was then Esplanade Cleaners. After the store was sold, I checked and a record of my dress was still in the computer system. When my niece recently got engaged, she wanted to use the dress for her wedding. I couldn’t find the receipt and called the store only to find that they didn’t have any dresses in storage. I was told that they didn’t retain any inventory and that I needed to track down the former owner, who moved out of state. I should have been given the chance to pay the storage fee in full and retain the gown. Now, it’s gone. Do I have any redress at all?

Jacqueline Church

Boston

A. Your situation is unfortunate ­— and complicated. Nothing really went right, and a whole lot went wrong.

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Clothing cleaning and storage arrangements tend to be a bit more formal and shorter-term than what happened here.

Barbara Anthony, who heads the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, says the arrangement with the former business didn’t make much sense. Typically, you’d pay to clean a garment and either pick it up or arrange to have it stored for a period of time for a nominal fee. “I wouldn’t expect that they’d be holding on to it for years.”

At dry cleaners and shoe repair shops, it is common practice to either post or put on a receipt the period of time your items will be held before you risk them being removed from their inventory. That is usually a matter of months, not years.

Then, when the business changed hands, it further clouded a murky situation. Without a receipt, it’s not even clear what leverage you would have over the previous business owner, Anthony said.

In a typical situation, with clothes there for a short time, “more than likely, if it’s an ongoing business, you’d get all of your things back and the transfer of ownership would not affect it,” Anthony said.

Mitch Lipka also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. He can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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