Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Snub Steams Urban Dweller

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Snub Steams Urban Dweller

Article excerpt

GLORIA ROSS was still steaming when I returned her call.

"I'm really upset about this," she said. "It's as if I'm being redlined."

The object of Ross's ire was not an insurance company, though. Instead, it was Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaner.

Ross, who needed her carpets and sofa cleaned, had seen a commercial for the company and had called to find out more about it.

"The woman who answered the phone told me all about the excellent quality of the company's services and how they took pride and care in their work," she said. "I asked them if my not living on the first floor was a problem and she even assured me that it wasn't, that the company went everywhere necessary to do a good job."

Everywhere, it turned out, but Ross's ZIP code.

"I decided I wanted them to come clean, and she asked my ZIP code," Ross said. "When I told her I lived in 63112, she told me that the company didn't serve areas in the city of St. Louis. I wasn't in the company's service area. And when I asked who served my area, she said no one.

"I was astounded. There are some very nice homes here."

Ross, who lives in the DeBaliviere Place area, bristled when she was told that the company - which only minutes before had been described to her by the saleswoman as very accommodating - would not come to her home.

When Ross asked questions, the saleswoman let her speak with the manager. He explained to her that service areas are based on average incomes. Apparently the average income of her ZIP code wasn't high enough to attract the cleaning company.

I took a look at a ZIP code map and saw that the 63112 area code is a broad one. It stretches from an area just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard to Forest Park Parkway on the south. It stretches between Union Avenue on the east and Skinker Boulevard on the west. It includes both tony mansions on Lindell Boulevard and run-down housing near the city limits that border on Wellston.

"At first I was shocked," Ross said. "Then I was in utter disbelief. And then I was angry.

"What difference does it make how much money the ZIP code makes? I'm the one paying for the work, not the ZIP code . …

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