Recasting the Cleaning of ...

NYT dining

I am an unabashed fan of The New York Times Dining section.

Whether it’s a donut drama or a importing mom to shape tagliatelle, some of the best storytelling in journalism takes place on these pages.

I love this example because few things are more unfulfilling than doing the laundry.

Yet, the Times manages to find an amusing story in the topic with this peg:

In 75 years of laundering restaurant napkins, tablecloths and aprons, W. H. Linen Rental has watched the fortunes of its industry rise and fall. But at least one thing has remained constant: the haul of items that come out in the wash, like fish pulled in by a net.

“We’ve seen green cards, meat thermometers, paychecks, cash, wallets, cellphones,” said Christopher Hermanns, president of the Clifton, N.J., company. Recently workers found a handbag. (“Nice, larger than a clutch,” he said.)

I’m proud to say that I know what a clutch is.

The subtle humor continues with other items that find their way into the laundry including:

“… a small bag of some herbal material that somehow withstood triple washing.”


whlinen facility

While we’re not the PR agency for W.H. Linen – though we do now have a foot in the hospitality business supporting OTG Management – one can imagine how this pitch to the Times would go without storytelling techniques:

How many businesses have survived for 75 years? We have, serving the restaurant industry in the NY area with a laundry service. There’s actually a sizeable business opportunity in washing for others, roughly $16 billion. We’d like to tell you more.

It’s OK, but doesn’t exactly grab one by the scruff of the neck.

On other hand:

We’ve been handling the laundry for NY area restaurants for 75 years. You can’t believe what comes out of the wash … dentures, handbags, “stuff” people smoke and the list goes one. We’d love to share more and think there’s enough fodder for a story to diversify the reviews in the Dining section.

You can imagine the drama as the reporter goes on site to see what “catch” will be pulled from the wash that day.

And that’s the point.

Company stories at the 10K-foot level tend to be vanilla.

You need to find the fresh angle into the story that allows for a dimension that entertains.


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