Ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover, New York Attorney General Letitia James is reminding New Yorkers to be careful of possible discriminatory price gouging at vehicle washes.
It has been reported to James’ office that vehicle wash charges have increased by as much as 50 percent for Jewish consumers looking for washing services near Passover (particularly in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City).
Monday, James issued a statement calling it “offensive, discriminatory, and completely wrong” to take advantage of someone’s religious observances and traditions.
“Passover is an important holiday for millions of New Yorkers and Jews all over the world, and businesses should not take advantage of their preparations. My office is ready to assist any New Yorker who feels they have been the target of religious, racial, or background-based discrimination.”
This year, Passover begins on the evening of April 5 and concludes on the evening of April 13. On this festival, Jewish custom dictates that all leavened grain products be avoided.
There is a custom that many people observe where they remove all leavened bread goods from their homes, vehicles, and other areas in preparation for the holiday.
According to the office of Attorney General James, several car washes offer deals for Passover cleaning, but then intentionally overcharge Jewish clients.
According to Gideon Taylor, vice president, and chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, a nonprofit organization, discriminatory price gouging was a serious issue last year.
“We’re hopeful that this statement by the attorney general will make individuals think long and hard before gouging people who are attempting to honor their heritage and faith,” Taylor said.
Taylor and New York State Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein agree that this issue has surfaced most prominently in Brooklyn in the weeks preceding Passover.
Pictures from a Brooklyn vehicle wash promoting a “VIP Detail” service for $79.95 was seen by NPR.
Photos show that a Jewish customer who claimed to have brought in their vehicle for this servicing was charged $125 for work labeled “Passover” on the receipt. They were the same kinds of services provided by a “VIP Detail,” just under a different name.
Representative Eichenstein for Brooklyn’s residential areas has published a video with a sharply worded warning to car washes about the dangers of using toxic chemicals. He labeled charging Jewish clients more as “bias and prejudice” and said it was against the law.
According to NPR’s reporting, Eichenstein alerted the Attorney General’s office about this problem last year and is pleased with the actions taken by James’ office once again this year.
According to accounts in the local media, this issue has persisted for quite some time. An article from NBC New York from 2011 detailed price hikes at multiple Brooklyn vehicle washes right before Passover.
James claims to have written letters to New York-based car wash owner groups, warning their members that price gouging is against the law and should be reported.
Anyone who has experienced discrimination because of their religion, race, or background, or who knows of a business that engages in such practices, is invited by James’ office to register a complaint with OAG via their website or by calling 1-800-771-7755, as stated by James’ office.