On the eve of Passover, which begins sundown on Monday, business is booming at car washes across the city. Also up — according to one Brooklyn City Councilman — is alleged price gouging for Jewish customers who are patronizing the businesses for their ritual cleanings.
Jewish law requires a thorough cleaning to remove all traces of leavened products from homes, offices, and cars.
“Before the Passover holiday, the Jewish religion requires people to go through basically a 'spring cleaning',” City Councilman David Greenfield explained to NBC New York.
“And so people clean their homes, your cars. And it's very difficult to clean your car yourself, so many people go to a car wash and unfortunately, they've been getting ripped off," said the Democrat whose district includes Midwood, Boro Park and Bensonhurst.
Many car washes in Greenfield’s Brooklyn — with many clustered up and down Coney Island Avenue -- offer a “Passover special." And he alleges that these businesses are actually ripping off customers.
"The most egregious thing that we found, and this was really shocking, was that in some cases -- for the simple fact that you were Jewish -- they were charging between 25 and 50 percent more,” he said.
Greenfield’s office made calls to dozens of car washes in his area; he says many asked him specifically if he was Jewish. When he answered yes, he was given one price. When the businesses were called later, they gave a different, lower price when he answered “no.”
NBC New York visited Hollywood Car Wash, which Greenfield said was one of the “worst offenders.”
Drew Gershowitz, who works at the car wash, explained the price differences between the Passover special.
“I…take out all the seats, shampoo the car. I gotta put two guys on every car,” he says. “It takes me about two hours. A regular shampoo takes me one hour.”
When asked if he charged Jewish customers higher prices, he said he charges the “same price for everyone.”
“I don't even do regular customers,” he said. “Only Jewish people, for the next three, four days.”
A video published on Yeshiva World News, though, shows varying prices for different customers at Hollywood Car Wash.
Greenfield says the Division of Human Rights is looking into the matter.
“It's not just a finance issue but also a religious bias issue,” he says.
Any further complaints can be referred to the council member’s office at 718-853-2704.